Main image of article Top 12 Programming Languages Employers Want, Early 2021

It’s a new year, a time when many technologists are considering which new skills and programming languages to learn. As you figure out the best ways to expand your skillset, it’s worth looking at which programming languages enjoyed the highest demand from employers over the past 60 days; that might help influence your decision-making.

In order to create this list, we turned to Burning Glass, which collects and analyzes millions of job postings from across the country. As you can see, SQL topped the rankings, followed by Java, Python, and JavaScript. Other well-known languages, including C++ and Ruby, also made it into the top twelve:

SQL (structured query language) is essential to database work (and backend programming); it was designed for managing and querying relational databases, which were invented in the 1970s and popularized by Oracle. In recent years, companies in even the oldest-school industries have recognized the power of organizing and analyzing data, leading to an increasing need for technologists who can build and maintain databases—hence the need for SQL skills.

Like SQL, Java benefits from years’ worth of heavy corporate usage. As companies roll out more and more products that utilize Java, they must continue to hire developers skilled in the language in order to iterate and repair those products. Java is also ubiquitous in multiple contexts, including the web and mobile, so it’s not going away anytime soon (despite Google’s recent push to have more developers embrace Kotlinwhich is positioned as something of a “Java killer”).

If you’re new to Java, there are lots of resources online, including InfoWorld’s dedicated pageOracle (which purchased Sun Microsystems, which created the language in-house) maintains a forum where you can ask questions and review what others are doing, in addition to a tutorial site. There’s a subreddit, of course, for those needing help and tutorials.

And then there’s Python, recently named the top programming language of 2020 by the TIOBE Index, which tracks the relative popularity of programming languages. Python’s increasing use as a specialty language makes it well worth studying; start your journey by heading over to, which offers a handy beginner’s guide. If you’re more of a visual learner, Microsoft also has a video series, “Python for Beginners,” with dozens of lessons (most under five minutes in length; none longer than 13 minutes). And keep in mind all the extensions and frameworks that make programming in Python that much easier. 

No matter what language you’re thinking of learning, keep one thing in mind: Employers will want to see examples of your coding proficiency. It’s always a good idea to maintain a portfolio of projects and code samples so that a hiring manager can learn what you’re capable of doing. Even a simple website or game can make all the difference as you’re trying to make yourself stand out in the applicant pool.