Main image of article Which Tech Skills Pay the Most?

Which tech skills will earn you the most money? For many tech professionals, that’s an important thing to know, as it can help guide how they spend their time and attention.

Stack Overflow’s latest Developer Survey, which queried 89,184 developers from 185 countries, assembled a list of the “highest-paying technologies.” As you can see from the following list, the top of the list is dominated by technologies such as Zig (a language with some similarities to C) and Erlang (another general-purpose language) that aren’t exactly ubiquitous; before we break that down a little more, take a look at the fuller list:

It’s helpful to compare Stack Overflow’s list to the latest Dice Tech Salary Report’s breakdown of the highest-paying technologies. Dice’s highest-paying tech included MapReduce (average annual salary: $146,672), Golang ($145,672), Elasticsearch ($143,619), and Chef ($143,188), many of which are used by tech professionals to build out organizations’ cloud and data infrastructure—but aren’t as widely used as some other technologies and languages, such as Python and JavaScript.

And therein lies one of the central conundrums in tech: the more important a tech skill, the more companies are willing to pay a hefty premium for those who’ve mastered it; but when enough people master it, companies no longer need to pay that premium, since there’s sufficient supply. For example, major cloud platforms such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure are absolutely critical to organizations everywhere, but the pool of cloud-trained tech professionals is deep—which is why AWS and Azure never top these kinds of “top paying skills” list.

By contrast, tech such as MapReduce or Erlang might be absolutely critical for select organizations and industries willing to pay big bucks for the necessary talent; and because they haven’t been mastered by as many tech professionals, that demand is keeping compensation high. (We’ve seen a similar phenomenon with certifications, the “value” of which tends to drop as more people earn them.)

If you’re curious about which skills to focus on, keep in mind that learning ultra-popular ones (such as the aforementioned AWS and Azure, as well as programming languages such as Python) can open up lots of opportunities in a variety of industries. Specializing in something more esoteric can absolutely lead to higher compensation—but you may also find fewer open positions.