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In-demand programming languages devs should get to know

Experts weigh in on which in-demand programming languages offer the best job prospects.

For application developers just starting out, it can be tough to choose one programming language to start with when several hundred languages exist. However, few are more suited to developing applications and systems for organizations than in-demand programming languages Java, JavaScript and C#.

The key is to choose one language and stick with it, because once a developer learns one language, it's relatively easy to learn another, said Anders Hejlsberg, technical fellow at Microsoft, during a panel discussion at this year's Microsoft Build, the company's annual software and web developer conference.

"The first one is always the hardest," Hejlsberg said.

Some of the easier-to-learn languages like Ruby and Python -- or even low-code/no-code platforms like Appian, Google AppSheet or Mendix -- are also options for dipping a toe into the code pool of bits, loops and scripts.

Java

Java is a safe bet for enterprise development, said Mauricio Lopez, CTO at Jobsity, a developer talent company based in New York City. "The language has evolved so much that it is practically unrecognizable from earlier versions. It is stable, mature and, in some ways, modern," he said.

Java is still the kingmaker as a foundation for further languages and employability.
Holger MuellerVice president and analyst, Constellation Research

Learning Java makes it easy to move to JavaScript and other Java-compatible languages such as Scala, said Holger Mueller, vice president and analyst at Constellation Research. "Java is still the kingmaker as a foundation for further languages and employability," he said.

Java's popularity is expected to stay strong, placing at No. 3 for future adoption trends, according to RedMonk's 2022 programming language rankings report.

JavaScript

JavaScript, an object-oriented programming (OOP) language, is unrivaled for constructing a front end for websites, applications or programs, said Andrew Dale, technical director at CloudTech24, a managed IT support provider.

"JavaScript is the king of the front end," Dale said. "It's one of the greatest tools for creating dynamic website elements."

JavaScript's dominion over web development means the market is hot for JavaScript developers. It is currently in high demand from employers, said Christy Schumann, senior vice president of talent operations at Toptal, a tech talent company. Several other closely related languages are also hot commodities, she said, including the JavaScript library React and open source platform Node.js, which is used for executing JavaScript code server-side.

JavaScript's popularity is expected to remain stable, reigning at No. 1 for future programming language adoption trends, according to RedMonk.

C#

C# is one of the few languages that supports a full spectrum of applications, ranging from low-level applications that can be read by system hardware to high-level mobile apps, said David Fowler, partner software architect at Microsoft, during the Microsoft Build panel discussion.

WebAssembly, released in 2017, was responsible for turning C# from a back-end application to one that can be used for full-stack development, Fowler said, because WebAssembly allows for C# to run in the browser. Prior to WebAssembly, different languages were used for front end and back end, but now C# can span the full stack, he said.

"You can build applications that span the full matrix of front end and back end with C#," Fowler said. "That's pretty cool."

Once a developer grasps the semantics of a language like C#, then it's easy to adapt to other programming languages, said Kris Silvey, software engineer and owner of review website Elevated Coffee Brew.

"Being able to adapt to any language, new or old, at your job is a key to being a dependable and versatile computer programmer," Silvey said.

In-demand programming languages that are easy to learn

If the thought of learning a language from scratch seems daunting, Ruby -- an open source OOP language, which placed at No. 9 on RedMonk's list -- is relatively easy to learn, making it ideal for people who are new to programming, said Morshed Alam, founder and editor at Savvy Programmer.

Python, also an OOP language, appeared at No. 2 on RedMonk's list of trending languages and was ranked as the No. 1 most popular language in use by developers, according to a 2022 DigitalOcean survey.

Although Python is largely geared toward data analytics and machine learning rather than general enterprise applications, its syntax is easy to read compared with other languages, said Matt Post, co-founder of WCAG Pros, a web development service that specializes in auditing and fixing websites for ADA compliance.

"[Python] is often described as 'English-like,' and it's a great choice for beginners," Post said.

Low-code/no-code

Another way to dive into the world of programming is by using low-code/no-code platforms, where the coding is accomplished through configuration in a graphical interface like Visual Studio.

Low-code/no-code lowers the barrier to entry, said April Dunnam, partner technical architect at Microsoft, during the recent Build conference. It enables users with PowerPoint and Excel skills to start building applications.

Low-code/no-code platforms are not included on RedMonk's list of future trends, because it isn't a programming language per se. However, low-code/no-code tools have gained popularity with developers who want to focus more on innovation and less on coding, according to the DigitalOcean survey. In addition, 30% of entry-level developers reported that low-code/no-code tools make their jobs easier, which might make it the ideal choice for aspiring developers who want extra support in those early career years.

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