Main image of article 29 Skills and Programming Languages Essential for Software Developers

So you want to become a software developer/engineer. Which skills and programming languages will prove the most valuable to learn? 

That’s an important question, and fortunately there’s a lot of data out there to help you make the right decisions. As with any other technologist role, learning highly specialized skills can boost a software engineer’s salary—but many of those skills take quite some time to learn. 

We relied on Burning Glass, which collects and analyzes millions of job postings from across the country, to assemble the below list of skills and languages, along with projected growth rates over the next two years. Whenever you’re evaluating a skill or language to learn, it’s one thing to estimate its current popularity; you should also look at its potential growth to ensure you’re learning something that will stick around for the long term. 

As you can see, Java, SQL, JavaScript, and Python are the languages that top the list of job-posting mentions, although there’s quite a bit of variability in the projected growth for each over the next two years. Their presence is logical, given the number of companies that rely on them for new apps and services as well as legacy code. 

This list also makes it clear that mastering best practices for software development and project management (including Agile and DevOps) is key, especially if you want to eventually manage your own team or even ascend the corporate ladder to the C-suite. As you apply for new developer jobs, always keep in mind that employers want candidates with a mix of technical and “soft skills,” who can not only write and maintain code but also convey issues and problems in an engaging way to non-tech folks. 

While the longer-term demand for some of these skills is variable, it’s important to keep in mind that growth for software developer jobs overall is expected to hit 30.7 percent over the next decade, according to Burning Glass. For those just starting out (i.e., those with zero to two years of experience), average salaries can range anywhere from $66,000 to $99,000 per year. Meanwhile, those software developers and engineers with more than a decade of experience can comfortably make six-figure salaries, especially at large tech firms such as Google that pay out a combination of base salary, bonuses, and stock options.