Main image of article 20 Highest Paid Programming Languages

Which popular programming languages pay the most? Technologists are always interested in the answer to that question.

The latest edition of Stack Overflow’s annual Developer Salary crunched the data (from 37,960 respondents, in the case of this particular question) and discovered that the top-paying programming, scripting, or markup language is… Clojure, followed by Erlang, F#, and Lisp.

Wait, what? It’s true (at least according to this data). Here’s a partial list of the most lucrative languages, for your perusal:

Meanwhile, ultra-popular programming languages such as Python, Java, and JavaScript ranked significantly lower. There’s a reason for that: Many millions of people have mastered these languages, creating a huge pool of talent—and when there’s a huge pool of talent for a particular language or tool, related salaries tend to dip. Certifications also follow this principle; as more people obtain a particular certification, its pay premium can dip.  

But if organizations need technologists who’ve mastered a particular language or tool, and the related talent pool is small, then salaries will rise. That might be the case with Clojure, Erlang, F#, and the other programming languages on this list. (We saw an extreme version of this phenomenon during the pandemic, when state governments and contractors were willing to pay enormous amounts to contractors who’d mastered COBOL, the language that powers many mainframes.)

In other words, mastering more esoteric languages and tools can get you paid—so long as they’re in demand. But it also never hurts to learn ultra-popular languages such as Python, Java, JavaScript, TypeScript, and their ilk. No matter what the job market, the huge number of organizations relying on these languages means you’re likely to find work of some sort, provided you can demonstrate you actually have the necessary skills.