Top 9 computer languages to know for 2020

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Why computer languages are as important in the tech universe as spoken language, and what you should know for the new year.

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In some circles in life, being monolingual is a distinct disadvantage. In computer language, it renders you nearly obsolete. 
 
While you may have an expertise in one programming language, it’s critical you be at least rudimentarily familiar with programs that potentially new-to-you companies require. It will have a direct impact on not only your first job, but subsequent ones, and may also directly correlate to your salary potential.

The very nature of IT work means keeping up on the latest tech advances, and, for many, this means an additional form of study, in the form of certifications, courses, and training. Whether you’re looking to move forward and on or to secure your current position, you’ll want to know what employers will be looking for in programming languages for 2020.  

Coders are in demand, and jobs, for the skilled, are plentiful.

Good coders are logical geniuses,” said Matthew Carswell, CEO of the software development company JumpModel Inc. “Coding is as much a language as spoken language.”

Diversify

“It’s important to have a wide array of knowledge in order to cover all of your bases,” said Justin Rodenbostel, VP of Delivery at the digital tech company SPR. “Knowing languages in order to code for web, write services, and manipulate large datasets are essential. For web coding, I recommend a JavaScript derivative and a framework to match, such as JSX and React, or JavaScript and Vue.js.”

“For service writing,” Rodenbostel continued, “C# and .NET Core are the dominant choice amongst our clients. Finally, to manipulate large datasets, Python and Spark appear to be the tools of choice in this space.” 

Rodenbostel is not alone in his assessment. 

“Technology is always changing and advancing at a rapid pace, and, as such, so is the world of a developer,” said Pravin Vazirani, assistant vice president of operations at the software development services company Chetu. “A developer should always be looking to broaden and hone their skills to ensure that they are on the cutting edge of software development.”

If the experts interviewed, as well as web tech sites, including TechRepublic, are to be believed, there seems to be a general consensus of the best languages: 

  1. Python
  2. Java
  3. JavaScript
  4. Swift
  5. C#
  6. C/C++
  7. React
  8. Node 1
  9. Ruby

SEE: How to build a successful developer career (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

What TIOBE said

One of (if not the) best source for computer language popularity is the software quality company’s TIOBE index, which releases a new list monthly; the November list was recently released. 

The yearly TIOBE, which TechRepublic has covered, at least annually, reveals the No. 1 most popular computer language for the year. This year, No. 1 and 2 are consistent with 2018, but No. 3, 4, 5, and 6 have switched. 
 
Programmers use the index to determine if their skills are current or which programming language should be adopted when building a new software system. 
 
While those are the most popular, individual companies and businesses may have a different need/requirement. 

  1. Java (1. In November 2018)
  2. C (2. In November 2018)
  3. Python (4. In November 2018)
  4. C++ (3. In November 2018)
  5. C# (6. In November 2018)
  6. Visual Basic .Net (5. In November 2018)
  7. JavaScript   (7. In November 2018)
  8. PHP (8. In November 2018)
  9. SQL (9. In November 2018)
  10. Swift (12. In November 2018)
  11. Ruby (16. In November 2018)

Different strokes

“For front-end developers, there is a strong demand for Angular and React developers,” Chok Ooi, CEO and co-founder of the Kenzie Academy, a tech and code school, said. “For back-end developers, languages like Python, Java, C# and Node are in vogue.”
 
Ooi added: “Since we are in the middle of a tech famine across the country, having knowledge in one or multiple of these programming languages, coupled with the ability to solve problems and communicate effectively, will land you a high-salary job.” 

Monetary value

Ooi notes recent grads are being offered $55K to $90K, while in “expensive tech hubs like San Francisco and New York, you can easily land six-figure starting salaries. As you gain more experience, your salary growth in tech typically outpaces many other industries.”
 
“A software engineer could make about $128,000 a year with a firm knowledge of common coding languages and procedures, while some with knowledge of machine learning languages and programming can earn $152,000 a year,” Vazirani said.

Change is good

“Things can change in the world of the developer nearly every day, however the magnitude of these changes varies,” Rodenbostel of SPR said.  

“There is a constant stream of “shallow” changes that occur every day. These types of changes are minor and easily adjusted to, for example, a new tool is released or a new feature set is added to an existing tool. 

A seasoned developer can consume these changes on the fly or after minimal investment in a tutorial or blog post.

However, once every year or two, deeper changes occur that introduce new paradigms and break trends. These updates require much more investment on the part of the developer to acquire.”

Rodenbostel added, “For example, an updated version of .NET Core with new capabilities would not require much adjustment for the developer, so it would be considered a shallow change. However, the rise of functional programming as a response to the demands of data-intensive applications is a greater change as it requires much more learning and research on the part of the developer.” 

To each his own

Again, while there are generalizations of what programming languages are currently in vogue, many companies have their own preferences.

Chetu’s Pravin Vazirani said, “We are seeing a lot of traction and momentum in areas such as cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI), robotic process automation (RP), data analytics, mobile computing, augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) and internet of things (IoT) solutions.”

“The languages involved in these areas would be a must-know and will have a lot of demand going forward as the technologies become more mainstream. In particular, JavaScript-related technologies that with both front and back-end programming should be one of the must-know languages for any developer as it serves a bedrock for modern software development. This would involve languages such as Angular, React, Golang (Go), and Node.js,” Vazirani said.

“Additionally, the DevOps-related technology, such as Docker for cloud computing would also be a must-know language, as more and more businesses are turning to the cloud for data storage. Other languages and processes, such as embedded programming for IoT development, Unity for AR/VR, and cross-platform hybrid mobile programming languages such as Flutter, Xamarin and React Native would all be ideal languages to know.”

JumpModel’s Carswell said: “There is really only one and it’s JavaScript … if you are building something that will be used in a browser, 99% of the time, the best way is with some kind of JavaScript. The next step is that you need to have experience with dynamic single page libraries like React or Angular.”
 
On the other hand, Carswell added: “.NET web forms is completely done. Also if you are a custom developer but have not used any Cloud platforms for the back-end or hosting, you are in a bad spot. The days of having a defined client server on prem relationship are over.”

Predictions 

David Armendariz, general manager of the technology division for Lucas Group, who leads a nationwide team of IT recruiters, said, “[I]t seems like Python, React, Angular, machine learning, and Docker will be the five most popular tech skills in 2020.”

Bobby Reed, CEO of  Capitol Tech Solutions, a web design firm, recognized the need to match goals with language skills and said: “It depends on the type of coding you want to do. For web application development, Java and C# are popular right now, and both are popular. On the front end, understanding JavaScript is crucial as most front ends use a framework based on JavaScript. 

“We recommend Angular.js or React. If you want to build apps, Xamarin or React Native are both frameworks that push to both iOS and Android. And
SQL fundamentals
are also key if you’re building web apps, as nearly all applications need to store data somehow.”

New year, new language

What will it be for 2019? Here are the most popular programming language of each year, according to the TIOBE Index: 

  • 2013: Transact-SQL 

  • 2012: Objective-C 

  • 2011: Objective-C 2010: Python 


According to TIOBE’s website: “TIOBE will announce the programming language of the year next month (Jan. 2020). There are four candidates for this title: Java (+1.3%), C (+1.8%), Python (+1.9%) and C# (+1.4%). These four languages are all in the top 5. Only C++ lost some ranking points in 2019. Python is top favorite for the title.”

While it clearly depends on the type of job you’re looking for, you can expand your skill set (and raise your salary) by turning your attention to learning new computer languages.

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