Which programming languages pay the most? That’s a key question for many developers. Stack Overflow’s latest developer survey suggests that, in the United States, developers who predominantly use Scala, Go, and Objective-C tend to have the biggest paychecks; Kotlin, Perl, and Ruby developers are also handsomely compensated.
The survey’s data is based off 7,920 responses. In an interesting twist, some of the world’s most-used languages, including Python, are midway down the list—however, even these lower positions still translate into six-figure salaries. Check out the visualization:
What conclusions can we draw from this? Scala is in use at many huge and well-monetized companies, from Twitter and Apple to Airbnb and Verizon, so its presence at the very top of the list certainly makes sense, especially if those developers skilled in its use are being paid to build and manage mission-critical applications. Objective-C is likewise an expected presence on this list; although Apple has aggressively promoted Swift as the new and improved language for building iOS and macOS apps and services, there’s still a ton of legacy Objective-C code that must be managed.
It’s worth comparing this list to Stack Overflow’s lists of most-loved and most-hated languages. “Interestingly, Perl is amongst the top most dreaded languages, so it’s possible that this high salary is to compensate for the dearth of developers who want to use that technology,” Stack Overflow suggested in a note accompanying the data.
Of course, it pays to remember that most developers don’t utilize just one skill or language in the course of their average workday; all sorts of projects demand a variety of skillsets in order to successfully accomplish. For example, developers who ascend to more of a management position within their team must utilize their “soft skills” such as communication to ensure that things get done. Languages and frameworks also evolve, while some fade away; developers must stay current with the latest and greatest (such as the aforementioned Objective-C-to-Swift transition) if they want to stay in demand.
According to data from Burning Glass, which collects and analyzes millions of job postings from across the country, a software engineer (irrespective of skills and experience) makes a median annual salary of $101,235. That’s pretty good! Those just starting out (i.e., with between zero and two years of experience) make a median salary of $83,600.
It’s clear that experience and specialization in certain skills can make a developer or engineer salary increase at a healthy rate. Keep that in mind as you’re plotting out your next career move.