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The 10 Best Programming Languages Based on Earnings and Opportunities

You’ve always had a knack for computers and are ready to take the leap into a technology career that will reward you for your skills and hard work. It’s clear that technology is—and will continue to be—a major economic driver, so naturally a career in computer programming sounds enticing.

But there are a lot of programming languages out there. How do you know which ones are worth taking the time to learn and add to your technical repertoire?

One solid way to narrow it down is to find out what languages are in-demand. After all, you don’t want to invest time and money into learning something that won’t pay off.

To help with this, we analyzed nearly a million technology job postings advertised in 2016.1 This analysis helped us identify the 10 best programming languages based on average advertised annual salary and job openings.

The best programming languages based on employer demand

How much do computer programmers make? How many computer programming jobs are available? It all depends on which programming languages you have in your arsenal.

Whether you’re more concerned with earning potential or job opportunities, this list should give you some clarity on which languages are the most sought after by employers. Keep reading to get acquainted with these programming languages in order of most job opportunity to least job opportunity.

1. SQL

Advertised jobs in 2016: 765,626

Average annual salary: $95,0002

SQL (structured query language) is a special-purpose language used for database management. SQL is one of the few declarative programming languages, so there’s a learning curve for programmers used to object-oriented or imperative languages. But the numbers don’t lie—SQL is an in-demand programming language that’s worth the time it takes to learn.

2. Java

Advertised jobs in 2016: 387,533

Average annual salary: $111,0002

Java is a general-purpose language that shares much of its syntax with C and C++. It is class-based, object-oriented programming that’s used to develop many of the apps we use on a daily basis. Many websites won’t even work properly without Java apps. Java is a good option for someone new to programming thanks to the plethora of tutorials and learning resources available online.

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3. JavaScript

Advertised jobs in 2016: 366,476

Average annual salary: $104,0002

JavaScript is a dynamic programming language used most often with internet browsers. You can also find it in game development, PDFs and both mobile and desktop apps. With its plentiful job opportunities and an easily managed learning curve, some programmers argue JavaScript is the ideal programming language for beginners.

4. Python

Advertised jobs in 2016: 247,958

Average annual salary: $120,0002

Python is a general-use programming language known for its readability and straightforward coding philosophy. Complexity is not a good thing to a Python programmer. It’s used by both Google and YouTube, is easy to learn for newcomers and was named after Monty Python. What’s not to love?

5. C#

Advertised jobs in 2016: 232,179

Average salary: $100,0002

C# (pronounced “C sharp”) is a language developed by Microsoft for use within .NET, meaning it’s one of the primary languages for programming in Windows. C# takes its cues from C++ and Java while adding a focus on simplicity and flexibility. C# plays a key role in programming for the internet, which means this language isn’t likely to fizzle out in the foreseeable future.

6. C++

Advertised jobs in 2016: 186,364

Average annual salary: $111,0002

C++ is a compiled language designed for system programming, though it’s also used in desktop apps and e-commerce servers. It was originally created to improve upon C by combining efficiency, flexibility and object-oriented programming. C++ is notorious for being a bit complicated, but anyone familiar with C will have a leg up in learning C++.


Advertised jobs in 2016: 127,893

Average annual salary: $110,0002

Perl is a scripting language most often used for CGI scripts, systems administration and network programming. Much of Perl’s source code is available online, giving aspiring programmers the chance to learn by example. Despite its perks, many programmers think Perl is unappealing and unwieldy. Perl’s “ugliness” is a byproduct of its flexibility. In fact, one of the guiding mottos of Perl programming is “There’s more than one way to do it.”

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8. PHP

Advertised jobs in 2016: 98,021

Average annual salary: $100,0002

PHP is a general-purpose scripting language designed for web development. It’s used to beef up basic HTML—forums, surveys and login pages are all created with PHP. It can even be used to develop desktop apps. PHP is an ideal choice if you’re seeking a future in web development.

9. Ruby

Advertised jobs in 2016: 80,389

Average annual salary: $120,0002

Ruby is the ultimate blend of simple and functional programming. This flexible, object-oriented language is used in text processing and middleware programs. It can also be used with larger software apps, such as the Ruby on Rails app for web development. Ruby was designed to be simple and intuitive, making it a good option for beginning programmers.

10. Objective-C

Advertised jobs in 2016: 24,701

Average annual salary: $120,0002

Objective-C is a programming language used to create software for Apple platforms OS X and iOS. It’s an object-oriented language that builds upon the C programming language. Some programmers find Objective-C daunting to learn, but anyone who has a basic understanding of C should have no trouble adding Objective-C to their repertoire.

Which is the best programming language for you?

Now you have all of the info needed to decide which of these is the best programming language for you. You can’t go wrong with one of these 10 in-demand options.

It’s time to live up to your potential and earn what you’re worth. Take the next step toward this tech career by finding out if you have what it takes to become a successful computer programmer. (analysis of 959,061 technology job postings, January 1 to December 31, 2016). (analysis of advertised salary in technology job postings based on skill, January 1 to December 31, 2016). Salary data represents national, averaged earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries and employment conditions in your area may vary.

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