Some programming languages more highly prized than others

4 Mar 2014

You don’t have to be ‘hot’ to be in demand in 2014. When it comes to programming languages, you might be surprised at some of those that are the most highly sought after, says IT recruitment specialist Robert O’Donoghue.

First of all, if you have come here for advice on which programming languages will earn you the most money over a career, you’ve come to the wrong place. After trawling through stats of trends in languages for the last 10 years, the only thing that one can deduce is that salaries for software engineers follow the principles of economics – supply and demand. So I’m going to run through the languages that I am seeing in demand at Hays IT for 2014.

I’ll start with one that might surprise some readers. Being in demand is not just about mastering the hot technologies like Android or HTML5. For example, if you are a QBasic or COBOL programmer, you may earn more than someone working on Objective-C because your skillsets are rare nowadays. So the good news is there is still room for movement in your career if you’ve been working on an old technology.

And then there’s software that has been able to stay relevant for years. Java has been around since 1995 and is still crucial in relation to web technology, applications and devices that power our day-to-day lives. Subsequently, Java developers are consistently in demand and that has become more acute recently. Java and the J2EE development platform is going to be in high demand throughout 2014.

Skills barometer

A useful barometer is Jobs Tractor, which releases a monthly league table of the most sought-after languages by employers on Twitter. .NET was created in 2000 to rival Java and developers still debate which is better. However, .Net (C# and ASP.Net), is only in eighth place in comparison to Java, which is in second place. Objective-C, which forms the core of development for both of Apple’s operating systems and is at the heart of iOS, is in third place. As Apple’s sales in both tablets and smartphones has exploded, so too has the demand for developers who can build apps for the iOS ecosystem.

This year should see increased popularity in web and mobile technologies, such as Ruby, which currently sits in seventh place. Ruby has been around for 20 years but has seen a resurgence in its use in the last few years coupled with the rise of Rails. There has been some commentary that Ruby on Rails is just a fad, but that remains to be seen.

Another popular language is PHP, which is used for server side scripting. It runs on more than 20m websites including Facebook, Wikipedia and any site that uses WordPress or Drupal.

Primary and secondary skills

If you’re looking to progress your career, it’s useful to have a set of primary and secondary skills. For example, an employer may be looking for a .Net or Ruby developer but they’ll require Javascript, HTML and SQL as secondary skills. While the upsurge in the use of tablets and smartphones has led to the death of Flash, there is a growth in trendy frameworks like jQuery, which are highly desirable for employers right now.

HTML, ie, providing ‘The Building Blocks of the Web’, is still as prominent as ever with employers, despite mobile apps and cloud technologies gaining ever-increasing popularity.

For a quarter of a century, the relational database (RDBMS) has been the dominant model for database management. But, today, non-related, ‘cloud’, or ‘NoSQL’ databases are gaining a reputation as alternative models for database management.

If you’re thinking of learning a new software language, these are the ones I am seeing employers asking for at Hays IT. And while a deep understanding of these languages is the most important skillset, there are other less tangible, interpersonal skills that are being requested.

Companies want developers who can stand in front of their staff and customers and explain projects in layman’s terms. So communication and presentation skills are coming more to the fore, as are leadership and adaptability, like learning a new language to complete a project.

However, the bottom the line is the industry will keep changing at an incredible pace and software developers will always be in demand. So stay curious and never stop learning.

Robert O’Donoghue

Robert O’Donoghue is a senior consultant for Hays IT, with recruiting expertise in the area of software engineering. Starting his career recruiting qualified accountants for off-shore clients, O’Donoghue soon moved into specialising in IT development. He is skilled in boolean searching and social recruiting.

Programming language image via Shutterstock

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