Main image of article Top 10 Programming Languages of 2020 Included Python, SQL

Which programming language will you learn next? As you consider your options, it’s worth reviewing which languages proved most popular among employers in 2020—some, including SQL and Python, are in massive demand.

In order to determine companies’ hunger for certain programming languages, we turn to Burning Glass, which collects and analyzes millions of job postings from across the country. Here are the languages that popped up most frequently in those postings over the past 12 months:

That SQL topped this list isn’t a shocker. Throughout 2020, SQL popped up again and again as a language that employers desperately needed, driven by the need to manage databases. For those new to SQL, it allows you to modify a database’s index structures, retrieve information, and generate new tables. It’s the foundation of many companies’ data-based functions—which, given the ever-increasing importance of data to every aspect of companies’ operations, makes it more vital than ever. 

For those interested in learning it, SQL can also prove pretty lucrative. According to Burning Glass, SQL developers earn a median salary of $92,504, with the profession projected to grow 11.5 percent over the next decade. Database administrators, who utilize SQL quite a bit, make nearly as much ($89,561) with exactly the same projected growth.

Java, which has been incredibly popular for nearly the entirety of its 25 years of existence, is also a favorite of companies everywhere. Those firms not only need technologists who can build new applications and services in Java, but also maintain mountains of legacy code. Even if you don’t necessarily want a job programming Java, it’s an interesting language to learn, because its “write once, run anywhere” (WORA) design means it can run on any device with a Java Virtual Machine (JVM). Learning Java, in other words, can teach you how to program on everything from servers to mobile devices (whether you should earn Java certifications is another question entirely. though).

As we’ve reiterated whenever we’ve done these programming-language breakdowns, it’s clear that employers want their technologists to know commonplace languages such as Java, Python, and JavaScript. Again, that’s because a lot of development and engineering jobs involve working with legacy code, and these companies have built their existing products and backend platforms in these languages. 

While it’s fun and informative to learn up-and-coming languages such as Kotlin, which draw a lot of buzz on developer forums, it may take years before those languages reach the ubiquity of, say, Java or Python. Keep that in mind as you plot your learning strategy over the next year; you can’t go wrong with learning the mainstays.