DevOps, machine learning dominate technology opportunities this year

Latest Stack Overflow survey of 100,000-plus developers finds the highest salaries and interest levels in DevOps methodologies and artificial intelligence
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

If you want to boost your income and visibility in the software game, start pointing your work toward DevOps and machine learning. Languages and frameworks associated with these methodologies and technologies are on the rise, and developers working in these areas command the highest salaries.

Photo: HubSpot

This is a key takeaway from the latest survey of more than 100,000 developers worldwide, conducted by Stack Overflow. The survey finds DevOps specialists and engineering managers have the highest salaries in the field, averaging between $70,000 and $90,000 a year worldwide. (Within the United States, salaries for these two range between $110,000 annually for DevOps specialists and $137,000 for engineering managers.)

The survey also shows that DevOps specialists and developers who code for desktop and enterprise applications have the most experience, averaging eight years of professional coding experience. "DevOps as a discipline and professional identity is relatively new, but the people working in this field are highly experienced," the survey's authors report. "Game/graphics developers and mobile developers have the fewest years of experience."

The survey finds developers are overall optimistic about the possibilities that artificial intelligence offers, but are not in agreement about what the dangers of AI are. Seventy-three percent answered affirmatively to "I'm excited about the possibilities more than worried about the dangers. Only 19% say they are more worried about AI's dangers.

When asked about the specific dangers they worry about, 41% are concerned about the increasing automation of jobs due to AI. Another 24% say they worry about algorithms making important decisions, and 23% say artificial intelligence surpassing human intelligence ("the singularity") is a real threat. Twelve percent say bias in decisions is the main risk with AI.

Developers, for the most part, are willing to assume the primary responsibility for the potential ramifications of AI: 48% say they, as developers, need to consider the outcomes of their work. Twenty-eight percent say a governmental or other regulatory body needs to be charged with weighing the ramifications of AI, while 17% say industry leaders need to making such considerations.

The survey also explored the methodologies, platforms and languages now in use by the world's developers.

Respondents were asked about their most "loved" and "dreaded" platforms for development. Linux gets top honors, loved by 71% of the crowd, followed by serverless offerings at 75% and Amazon Web Services at 69%.

Topping the platforms regarded with the most dread are Sharepoint at 72% and Drupal with 70%. Another 70% also regard Salesforce with dread, the survey finds.

Visual Studio Code is the most popular development environment, used by 35%. Visual Studio is the choice of 34%, and Notepad++ is used by 34%.

Agile reigns as the collaborative methodology preferred for software rollovers, cited by 85%, followed by Scrum at 63%. Other popular development methodologies include Kanban (35%), pair programming (28%), and extreme programming (XP, 16%).

Among languages, Python is the fastest-growing programming or scripting language in use. For the sixth year in a row, JavaScript is the most commonly used programming language, used by 70%. HTML follows at 69%, and CSS at 65%. Python, used by 39%, has risen in the ranks, surpassing C# this year (34%), much like it surpassed PHP last year (now used by 31%). Python has a solid claim to being the fastest-growing major programming language.

In terms of frameworks, Node.js (50%) and AngularJS (37%) continue to be the most commonly used technologies in this category, with React (28%) and .Net Core (27%) also important to many developers.

The salary ranges for respondents worldwide are reported as follows: (converted to US dollars)

  • Engineering manager -- $89,000 globally; $137,000 US only
  • DevOps specialist -- $72,000; $110,000 US only
  • Data scientist or machine learning specialist -- $60,000; $102,000 US only
  • Data or business analyst -- $59,000; $90,000 US only
  • Embedded applications or devices developer -- $59,000; $98,000 US only
  • Full-stack developer -- $59,000; $100,000 US only
  • Desktop or enterprise applications developer -- $57,000; $100,000 US only
  • Back-end developer -- $56,000; $102,000 US only
  • System administrator -- $56,000; $93,000 US only
  • QA or test developer -- $55,000; $83,000 US only
  • Database administrator -- $51,000; $90,000 US only
  • Front-end developer -- $51,000; $93,000 US only
  • Designer -- $46,000; $85,000 US only
  • Educator or aceademic researcehr -- $44,000; $88,000 US only
  • Mobile developer -- $43,000; $101,000 US only
  • Game or graphics developer -- $40,000; $90,000 US only
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