Written By Ryan Loftus | December 13, 2022
There’s a lot of information about what specific programming languages developers use. But language popularity doesn’t necessarily translate to employer demand. To get an unbiased, unparalleled view into the dynamic world of in-demand programming languages, HackerRank undertook an intensive study of our platform data.
We found that, despite recent uncertainty in the tech industry, demand for skilled tech talent hasn’t slowed down. But demand for key skills and competencies isn’t distributed evenly. Heading into 2023, we have some key projections on how demand for certain skills is changing.
No matter how you measure it, 2023 is on track to be a pivotal year for developer skills. From the rise of Go and TypeScript to the decline of Swift and Ruby, here are a few of those key trends.
The Most In-Demand Programming Languages
Java is a high-level, object-oriented programming language used to create complete applications. The language is platform independent, allowing it to run on any device that supports its environment.
In terms of growth relative to the market, demand for top-ranked Java is actually growing slightly slower than the market. But Java still leads second-ranked Python by a strong margin. Its first-place ranking is secure for the foreseeable future.
Python is an interpreted, high-level, general-purpose programming language, and one of the most popular languages for rapid development. Python usage is widespread, with companies including Intel, IBM, Netflix, and Meta using the language.
Demand for Python is catching up to demand for Java. While Java is growing slower than the market, Python grew relative to the market. While Python’s growth may mean that it narrows Java’s lead, the wide gap between them means we’re unlikely to see any place-trading.
SQL is an industry-standard structured query language for creating, defining, implementing, accessing, and maintaining relational databases. In 2022, demand for SQL grew at a steady rate and managed to surpass C++. It’s also growing faster relative to the market.
But while SQL improved its demand ranking, it decreased in its popularity ranking. SQL’s third-place demand ranking is noticeably higher than its sixth-place popularity ranking. The source of this gap in supply and demand is unclear. Interest in the SQL vs NoSQL debate has risen steadily over the last decade. Developers turning toward non-relational database systems could be a contributing factor.
C++ is a general purpose, compiled, and statically typed programming language. Known as “C with Classes,” C++ is an extension of C with the functionality of user-defined data classes. The high performance of C++ has made it the top language for use cases requiring fast rendering, including browsers, banking applications, and motion design software.
In 2022, C++ fell from third to fourth place, overtaken by SQL’s steady growth rate. Demand for C++ is also growing slightly slower relative to the market. However, demand for the language isn’t going anywhere. C++ skills are vital for maintaining existing applications and infrastructure.
Bash is a command-line language for Unix operating systems. The language allows developers (or anyone who works with data) to work with computer files directly instead of using a graphical user interface (GUI). This makes it a useful skill to learn for cloud engineers and data scientists.
Bash stands out on our list as the only in-demand language that did not rank in popularity with developers. It will be interesting to see how this misalignment between supply and demand will affect the job market. Will an abundance of opportunity and demand inspire developers to learn the language? Or will a small talent pool of developers skilled in the language force employers to pay a premium for their skills? In 2020 Bash was already correlated with higher compensation than popular languages like C, C++, C#, Python, and Java.
Demand for C# sits in the middle of the language family. C++ far exceeds C# in demand, but C# holds a notable lead over C.
Go is an object-oriented programming language that Google created in 2009 for networking and infrastructure. But since launch it’s evolved into a general-purpose language used in a wide range of applications.
Go has been gaining popularity with developers for several years. In 2022 it was the second fastest-growing language, with its popularity increasing at a rate of 190%. And that popularity is translating into hiring demand. Demand for Go grew by 301% in 2022.
One potential side effect of Go’s success is that it might affect the growth of larger languages. Developers looking to learn a new general-purpose language might start choosing Go over languages with weak demand. (We’re looking at you, Ruby.)
It will be interesting to see if Go has the momentum to challenge the rankings of other languages on our list. While demand for Go is growing at 140% relative to the market, C# is only growing at 10% relative to the market. Though momentum is on Go’s side, the gap between the two languages might be too large to overcome in just a few years.
TypeScript has been gaining popularity for years, and ranked 4th in GitHub’s 2022 language rankings. Like Go, we’re seeing that popularity translate into hiring demand. At 392%, TypeScript had the highest growth in demand of any programming language.
R is an open-source programming language for statistical computing and data analysis. Researchers and scientists use R for data visualization and statistical analysis in a number of industries, including academia, research, fintech, retail, government, healthcare, and social media.
While it ranks low on our list, demand for R is growing. At about 60% relative to the market, it posted the fifth-highest growth in demand.
What’s interesting is that growing employer demand for R is misaligned with its falling popularity with developers.
From 2021 to 2022, R dropped from the thirteenth to the fifteenth most popular language – dead last on our list. And while R grew by 59% in 2022, most other languages we ranked grew two to four times faster.
How will this conflict between supply and demand play out in the job market? Like Bash, we’ll be watching closely to see if growing demand inspires developer interest or raises the compensation for R skills.
PHP is a widely-used open source and general-purpose scripting language that is especially suited for web development. PHP’s popularity is owed to the fact that it was one of the first server-side languages that developers could embed into HTML.
While demand for PHP is low compared to other general-purpose languages, its growth rate is actually quite high. Demand for PHP grew at about 180% relative to the market, making it the second fastest-growing language, surpassed only by TypeScript.
PHP might have enough momentum to challenge R and break into the top ten. PHP’s volume is only slightly lower than R’s, but it’s growing about three times faster relative to the market. This rise in demand may help correct PHP’s lagging compensation, which Stack Overflow ranked second to last in 2020 and 2021.
C is a general-purpose, statically-typed, and compiled programming language. A foundational programming language, C has become known as the mother of all languages.
While it ranks low on our list – third to last – demand for C is still growing. At about 70% relative to the market, C posted the fourth-highest growth rate out of any language. While it doesn’t have the volume or growth to surpass PHP in the near future, its place is secure against the two struggling languages that appear next on our list.
Swift is an open source, general-purpose programming language with a focus on performance, safety, and design patterns. Created by Apple to replace Objective-C, Swift is the go-to language for Mac, iPhone, and iPad iOS development.
In 2022, Swift had the second-largest decrease in demand. Its volume in 2022 was only 80% of what it was in 2021. Swift’s popularity is also limited, demonstrated by its drop from nine to ten in our list on language popularity. Taking both of these figures into account, we can see that Swift is in a state of decline. This can be attributed to the fact that Swift never quite caught on as a general-purpose language, and has had to settle for specialization in iOS development.
Ruby is an interpreted, dynamic, open-source programming language with a focus on simplicity and productivity. Ruby has a diverse range of use cases, including data-driven web apps, marketplaces, and desktop apps.
In 2020 Ruby ranked fifth in Stack Overflow’s list of highest paying programming languages. But despite high compensation, demand for Ruby is declining. Its demand in 2022 was only 66% of what it posted in 2021. It’s also growing the slowest relative to the market out of any language on our list. Developers have gradually shifted away from Ruby over the past several years, and it’s not surprising to find its demand fading as well.
Ruby is already dead last in demand. If it continues at this rate, another language will inevitably take its place.
- Python and Java rank first and second in both employer demand and popularity with developers. It’s interesting to note that supply and demand for these key languages are aligned.
- The gaps in volume between languages are significant, effectively dividing the list into four tiers:
- The first tier consists of the top five languages (Java, Python, SQL, C++, and Java Script), which have enough volume to stand in a league of their own.
- The third tier (Go, TypeScript, R, and PHP) have similar demand levels and are growing the fastest.
- Rounding out the list is the fourth tier (C, Swift, and Ruby), whose languages barely post enough volume to rank on the list.
Our ranking of the most popular programming languages draws from our 2023 Developer Skills Report. In that report, we used exclusive data from the HackerRank platform to understand employer demand, developer preference, and candidate engagement.
We tracked the demand for languages by analyzing the number of tests requiring developers to use a specific language. For some languages we also reference their popularity with developers, which is based on the languages candidates chose to use on assessments with multiple options available. The rates of change for data are based on the difference between volume in 2021 and 2022. In total, our analysis is based on tests taken by 700,000 developers.