Java, JavaScript, or C#? Which programming language earns you the most?

Demand for tech contractors continues to rise, but some skills are more sought after than others.
Written by Steve Ranger, Global News Director

Demand for technology contractors continues to grow with day rates increasing by an average of 2.8% in the past year, up from 1.8% the year before. 

According to the survey by recruitment firm Hays, developer roles have seen pay grow across almost all UK regions. For Java developers, demand is often outstripping supply, it said, noting that development roles in digital technology have seen pay rise by 4.9% since last year.

SEE: How to build a successful developer career (free PDF)
It said functional testing roles, such as test analysts and senior test analysts, have also seen significant day rate increases, as have QA analysts. It said contractors working in cloud computing and infrastructure roles saw a 3.8% average day rate increase.

A junior web developer -- by which Hays seems to mean back-end web developer -- with PHP, Ruby or Perl skills can expect a typical day rate of £350 while a senior web developer could expect £525, it said. A senior front-end developer with JavaScript, HTML and or CSS skills could expect £500 as a day rate, according to the Hays Technology Contractor Day Rate Guide. It said an iOS or Android mobile developer could expect £550 a day on average.

Image: Hays

A junior Java developer can typically expect £350 a day, rising to £500 for a Java developer, £600 for a technical lead and £700 a day for a software architect. Developers with C#, VB.net or ASP.net skills out-earned Java developers by £50 a day at each level, according to the report. 

The highest paid development role was development director, earning £900 a day. 

All of these rates are for London; outside the capital rates are lower; in the case of Northern Ireland a development director would make £450 a day, a junior web developer around £150. However, because of variations in the cost of living, some tech workers may be better off outside of London.

There are also healthy pay rates on offer for some cloud computing skills. An AWS architect can expect £650 a day.

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Continuing demand for contractors reflects an ongoing struggle to find staff with the right skills to support digital transformation projects and other initiatives. For some companies, being able to use expensive contractors for a short period is more cost-effective than having them as permanent staff. According to Hays, 61% of organisations said that skills shortages are impacting their ability to deliver projects, and 54% say they have affected organisational productivity.

"Over the last couple of years we've observed a rise in usage of languages like Python, R and Scala, but according to our research last year, the highest proportion of respondents (73%) worked with JavaScript followed by HTML (70%) and CSS (68%). Microsoft Visual Basic 6 is one of the least preferred programming languages to work with, along with Cobol, CoffeeScript and VBA," James Milligan, director of Hays Digital Technology, told ZDNet.

Senior developers in JavaScript, HTML and CSS have seen the largest salary increase over the past year at 6.2%. Developers in C#/V.net and ASP.net have also seen an above average increase of 5.7%, according to the Hays data he said.

"Skills shortages look set to continue throughout the next year as almost two-thirds (65%) of employers cite a shortage of suitable candidates as the primary challenge they anticipate when engaging with contractors over the next 12 months."

While contractor rates are often a lot higher than salaries for these roles, contractor roles can be much shorter in duration.

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