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The top programming languages (and how to learn them) according to more than 100,000 developers

Shane Schick
Technology journalist w/experience writing about Agile, DevOps, SOA, microservices architecture, APIs, open source, etc. Starting a new magazine about CX in 2020.
・2 min read

JavaScript may be the best-known programming language for the second year in a row, but a survey of developers shows that only 5% learned it as their first language.

The report from HackerRank was based on answers from a large sample of 116,648 developers and students about their current skill set, what hiring managers are looking for and how the next generation of developers are educating themselves.

For those who have already been in the field for a while, to learn Javascript is a no-brainer. Only Python and Java came close in the ranking, but it's interesting that, like JavaScript, only 13% of those surveyed said Java was one of their first languages.

Not surprisingly, full-stack developers were cited as the most in-demand talent pool among hiring managers, but maintaining that level of expertise requires ongoing effort. In fact, 60% of full-stack developers were required to learn a completely new framework in the last year—more than any other role polled, the HackerRank report said.

What's interesting is how traditional approaches to studying software engineering are changing, particularly among a younger demographic. Here's an excerpt:

"Gen Z is more likely than any previous generation to utilize bootcamps. Nearly one in six say they’ve leveraged bootcamps to learn new skills," the report said. "On the flip side, they’re less likely to learn coding skills from older generations’ go-tos, like books and on-the-job training. As Gen Z comes to rely more heavily on non-traditional education sources like bootcamps, they’re poised to become a key talent pool."

The good news is that the industry seems more than comfortable with computer programming courses that are more focused, shorter-term and don't necessarily give students a formal degree.

In fact, the research showed that close to one in three hiring managers have recruited someone who had graduated from a bootcamp (Juno College and Lighthouse Labs are examples here in Canada, where I'm based). Better yet, the majority of hiring managers said bootcamp grads are either just as equipped or even better equipped than those coming from more traditional schools.

It's great to see this data, because it suggests that not only are developers finding a way to learn that works for them, but that it's working for employers, too. It's going to become more important to talk about this shift, the report concluded:

Companies will have to become experts in developer hiring—not by relying on developers’ pedigrees or resumes, but by objectively evaluating their skills and placing them strategically throughout the organizations they work for.

Discussion (1)

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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard 🇫🇷🇩🇪🇬🇧🇪🇸🇨🇴

Companies will have to become experts in developer hiring—not by relying on developers’ pedigrees or resumes, but by objectively evaluating their skills and placing them strategically throughout the organizations they work for.

In practice though most companies very vague idea how good you are when you do the job interview.

Lots of work to be done in this area for developers :)