Programming languages: Go and Python are what developers most want to learn

A huge developer survey reveals trends in developer education, job prospects, skills acquisition, and salaries.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

The top programming languages that developers want to learn next are Go and Python, according to a survey by developer skills-matching platform HackerRank. 

HackerRank surveyed over 116,000 developers from 162 countries to come up with this year's results about developer education, job prospects, skills acquisition, and salaries. 

Google-created Go isn't in the top-10 list of the most widely known programming languages, but it does come top for languages that developers are keenest to learn. Some 36% are eyeing Go as their next language, followed by 28% who nominate Python as the next target. 

SEE: Six in-demand programming languages: Getting started (free PDF)

Other languages high on the learning priority list include Kotlin, which is popular among Android app developers, the Microsoft-created JavaScript 'superset' language Typescript, and R, a popular language among data scientists. The remaining top 10 desired languages are Scala, Swift, Rust, Ruby, and JavaScript. 

The programming language C, created in the 1970s by Dennis Ritchie at Bell Labs, registered a resurgence in popularity among developers in Tiobe's most recent index where it is the second most popular language, behind Java but ahead of Python. 

HackerRank found that C is used by nearly 40% of Gen Z respondents to learn how to code, making it by far the most popular language to cut your teeth on for that generation. 

Just over 30% of millennials started out with C. Gen X and Baby Boomers mostly started out learning BASIC, which was created in 1964 by John Kemeny and Thomas Kurtz, who released it at Dartmouth College in 1964. 

Do developers need a degree? Apple CEO recently said the skills needed to code could be achieved by teaching kids at an earlier stage in high school. Job seekers without a degree can also get jobs at Google, IBM, Home Depot, and Bank of America.     

HackerRank found that most developers hired at companies of all sizes do have a degree. But it found that small businesses with between one and 49 employees are the biggest source of employment for developers without a degree. 

It found that 32% of developers at small companies lack a degree compared with 9% of developers who work for firms with more than 10,000 employees. 

The top recruiting priority, with 38%, for hiring managers in 2020 is finding full-stack developers. The second and third most commonly sought after categories are back-end developers and data scientists. 

However, full-stack developers face more pressure than other groups, with 60% tasked with learning a completely new framework and 45% required to learn a new language last year.

That proportion is higher than all other categories, including front-end developers, back-end developers, data scientists, DevOps engineers, and quality-assurance engineers. However, across all groups no less than 40% said they have had to learn a new language in the last year. 

While developers do often seek out the languages that help them gain employment, HackerRank found that 20% of hiring managers in the Americas region don't really care which language a developer knows when searching for new recruits. But only 10% of hiring managers in the Asia Pacific region are language agnostic. 

Across the Americas, APAC and EMEA, JavaScript is the top language skill that recruiters are looking for, followed by Python, Java, C#, C++, PHP, C, Go, and Ruby. 

The most widely known languages among developers roughly reflect the sought-after languages. The top is JavaScript, followed by Java, C, Python, C++, C#, PHP, TypeScript, Pascal and R. While JavaScript is the best-known language, HackerRank also found that only 5% of respondents say it is their first programming language. 

SEE: Know Python language and up for a 'hardcore' coding test? Get in touch, says Tesla

HackerRank also delved into the languages associated with the highest pay, but it's not clear that developers can use this information to help get a pay rise. 

For example, developers who know Perl make 54% more than the average developer, but only 2% of junior developers know Perl, while 10% of senior developers do, so it could just reflect senior developers tending to be paid more than junior ones. Nonetheless, the languages associated with the highest average salaries are Perl, followed by Scala, Go, Ruby, and Objective-C. 

The country where developers can find the highest salaries is of course the US, where developers on average earn $109,000. Within the US the highest salaries are paid in San Francisco, Seattle, and Los Angeles. The top-five highest-paying national markets behind the US are Australia, Canada, Netherlands, the UK, and Germany.

More on programming languages and developer pay

  • Java or C++, Full stack or Front end: The programming languages and developer jobs that pay you the most  
  • Developers love Rust programming language: Here's why  
  • Google reveals new Python programming language course: Scholarships for 2,500  
  • Microsoft boosts programming language Python's popular VS Code extension  
  • Programming language of 2019? Python beaten by trusty old C  
  • Programming language Python's popular extension for Visual Studio Code revamped  
  • Programming language Python 2.7 code is now frozen: Last release coming in April  
  • Netflix: Our Metaflow Python library for faster data science is now open source  
  • Microsoft: We're creating a new Rust-like programming language for secure coding  
  • Tech jobs: Python programming language and AWS skills demand has exploded  
  • Programming language Python 2's end looms, so why will many miss the deadline? 
  • Google: As Go programming language turns 10, here are the big names using it
  • Python programming language creator retires, saying: 'It's been an amazing ride'
  • Programming languages: How Instagram's taming a multimillion-line Python monster
  • Salesforce: Why we ditched Python for Google's Go language in Einstein Analytics  
  • Python-inspired Nim: Version 1.0 of the programming language launches
  • Google: Take our free Kotlin programming language courses to build Android apps
  • Facebook: Microsoft's Visual Studio Code is now our default development platform
  • Microsoft: We want you to learn Python programming language for free
  • Google: Dart 2.5 programming language SDK will 'supercharge' developers
  • Raspberry Pi gets MIT's Scratch 3 programming language for Raspbian
  • Julia programming language: Users reveal what they love and hate the most about it
  • Is Julia fastest-growing new programming language? Stats chart rapid rise in 2018
  • Python vs R for data science: Professor rates programming language rivals
  • Programming languages: Python predicted to overtake C and Java in next 4 years 
  • Netflix: Python programming language is behind every film you stream
  • JPMorgan's Athena has 35 million lines of Python code, and won't be updated to Python 3 in time TechRepublic
  • Mozilla's radical open-source move helped rewrite rules of tech CNET
  • Editorial standards