Ready to begin your journey toward a career in programming? First off, you’ll need to decide which programming language to learn. Consider a few things:
- Which language is best suited to the kind of projects you want to work on?
- Which language do you feel most comfortable coding in?
- And, of course, which programming language will help you find high-paying jobs?
Not all programmers need to choose a single specialty – many successful tech workers learn a whole host of languages. However, you will often see companies looking for specialized roles like Java Programmer or Python Developer. Below, we’ve compared the average salaries that you can expect to earn in different kinds of programming jobs.
Keep in mind that average salaries for these roles vary according to your location, your level of education, your past job experience and the kinds of responsibilities you will be expected to perform in the role. For example, a Java Programmer working independently may not make the same amount as a Java Programmer managing a team of 12 Junior Programmers.
If you’re curious about how salaries vary across different locations, you can browse our list of U.S. cities with significant opportunities in the tech job market.
Now for the rankings! We’ve based our breakdown on data from Glassdoor. Our analysis is confined to jobs in the United States.
The most lucrative programming job is R Programmer, which brings in, on average $111,079 a year. Meanwhile, C Programmers and C++ Programmers are on the lower end, netting, on average, $73,269.
A Note About Programmer vs Developer
From the data above, you’ll see that developer roles tend to be more senior and pay more. Programmer roles, on average, pay slightly less. However, some organizations may use these two titles interchangeably. Don’t put too much stock into the idea that a developer role is higher up.
Zooming out, we’ve grouped these programming roles by the language used and ranked the languages by average salary. R still takes the lead.
Which Programming Jobs Are Most in Demand?
Apart from salary expectations, it is also important to consider the number of jobs available for a potential career. Jobs that are most in-demand often pay well since employers are willing to offer a high salary to bring in employees with lucrative skill sets. However, well-paying roles are sometimes quite niche and don’t offer abundant opportunities for entry-level programmers.
To examine how highly demanded each of these programming roles is in the labor market, we have devised a metric called the Availability Index based off of the number of job openings listed on Glassdoor. In our index, a score of 100 is assigned to the role with the most listings and all other scores are calculated as a percentage of the maximum. We found 30,060 listings for Java programmer jobs so this role receives an Availability Index of 100. A role with half as many listings would receive a score of 50.
Below we’ve plotted programming languages by their average salaries and Availability Index. All data is from Glassdoor and is specific to the United States.
Popularity of Programming Languages Over Time
The popularity of every programming language waxes and wanes over time as new languages come to being, updated versions are released, and the tech industry overall experiences gradual shifts. Once the hottest new language on the market, C++ has been eclipsed by Python. SQL, meanwhile, has maintained a relatively steady level of popularity as it is widely considered the primary language for data querying.
Below we’ve charted the popularity of eight different programming languages over time – from 2004 to 2021.
For this graph we used Google Trends data for the volume of monthly searches in the United States for each programming language matched with the word “learn” – “learn Ruby,” “learn SQL,” etc. This was to avoid, as much as possible, capturing irrelevant data – about python snakes or ruby gems, for example.
Which Programming Job is Right for You
When choosing a programming job, consider the different kinds of projects you’ll be involved with in each role. Will you be working on a website or an application? Will you be in charge of an entire project or focusing on a small element? Programming is a vast field that can involve all kinds of tasks and projects. As you learn to code and complete practice projects, keep track of the types of coding you enjoy most. This will give you a hint about what kinds of jobs to seek out when the time comes.
Here we’ve included a brief discussion of each language and it’s career applications. For more information, check out our Subjects page, where we have a number of comprehensive guides.
R is a statistical programming language and, as such, most R jobs involve data analysis and statistics. There are many opportunities for R programmers in healthcare and analytics, where companies collect and analyze large amounts of data. In these roles, R programmers will be responsible for cleaning and manipulating data. Sometimes they will also be asked to take on more analytical tasks and produce reports about their findings.
As you can see from the chart above, Python has quickly become the most popular language in tech. Since so many industry players use Python, the job opportunities are extensive. The majority of Python jobs are involved in software development, with a focus on the back-end. Python programmer jobs may focus on writing code following plans laid out by more senior members of a development team. Developers may be tasked with full stack or back end responsibilities and often work with a team of other Python developers to complete projects.
Most Ruby programming and developer roles you find will be in software and web app development. Many of the developer roles available for Ruby pros will also leverage Ruby on Rails framework. Like many development jobs, Ruby jobs often involve teamwork or pair programming and plan projects with Agile methodology. More advanced Ruby developer roles may be in charge of creating a new software from scratch or executing a full revamp – along with their team of course! More junior-level Ruby programmers and developers may be tasked with implementing product updates at a steady cadence or working on smaller elements of a large software project.
Other skills that are sometimes required for Ruby jobs include HTML, knowledge of Agile, jQuery, CSS, APIs, and deployment.
Like Python and Ruby jobs, many C and C++ jobs are in software development. C++ is specifically useful for projects involving 3D imagery or 3D mapping. This means that many C++ development and programming roles are in the video game industry and visual effects. Experience with related technologies like GPUs and graphics drivers can be useful for these roles alongside C++.
C programming is a more general purpose language similar to Python or Ruby. It is not as popular as a team standard in the present industry but is a good base language for developers to know. Notably, Apple is a major employer of C++ and C developers.
Java developer and programmer jobs may be involved in software development, web app development, or managing databases. Java was the industry default programming language for a period and, though Python is surging in popularity, Java is still a standard language at many software and tech companies, meaning there are bountiful job opportunities for those who know Java.
Most SQL jobs work with databases. SQL roles are tasked with building databases or querying data. They may use the data themselves and perform analysis or they may pass the data along to analysts to use for their own purposes. Many SQL roles work closely with database administrators.
Familiarity with cloud databases and ETL tools are useful supplementary skills for those who work with SQL.
How to Get a Programming Job
To get a programming job, you’ll need to learn how to code! You might choose a certain language to learn and then find a bootcamp that covers that language. If you’re baffled about the difference between all of these languages, check out our Resources page where we compare and contrast languages like Python and Ruby.
Alternatively, you could compare different bootcamps and choose based on other criteria like the program structure and sample projects. Virtually all coding bootcamps teach coding languages that are relevant in-industry.
Many bootcamps offer career services that will help you find job openings, practice your technical interview skills, and polish your resume. When interviewing for programming jobs, many employers will want to get a good idea of how advanced your coding skills are. You may be asked to complete sample projects or demonstrate your skills with past projects you completed.
Finding Coding Jobs Online
Employment websites make it easier than ever to job-hunt from home. Indeed, LinkedIn, ZipRecruiter, Monster, and Idealist are all great general resources for finding job openings across industries. However, to narrow your search to programming and related tech jobs check out these tech industry-specific job boards:
Stack Overflow is not exclusively a jobs site. It began in 2008 as a public knowledge-sharing and collaboration site for coders. To this day it remains a virtual hub for the coding community and now has a dedicated jobs posting page laid out in a similar fashion to the recruitment sites we mentioned above.
Benefits of Stack Overflow for job hunters are that they exclusively list coding jobs – software engineering, full stack development, etc. The site also offers a number of useful filters that aren’t common across job sites. These allow you to filter for specific perks like Number of Vacation Days, Gym Access, and Tuition Benefits. You can also filter for specific skills and languages and even filter out technologies that you don’t want to work with. Another great tool is Stack Overflow’s “Be One of the First to Apply” options that returns results that aren’t yet swamped with applicants to help you slide in with a first-mover advantage.
Dice is a fully career-focused website for tech professionals. It began at the height of the Dot Com boom to allow tech-savvy contractors to find opportunities in up-and-coming Silicon Valley. The company’s name is an acronym for “Data-processing Independent Consultant’s Exchange”. Today, it allows employers to list both contracted and full-time work opportunities. It also offers a rich deposit of resources about job markets and career planning.
While Stack Overflow allows job hunters to filter for specific tech skills using a drop-down menu, Dice offers an extensive number of pre-filtered lists categorized by Skill or Job Title. If you’ve just mastered Node.js and want to browse the career opportunities now available to you – you can open Dice’s Node.js jobs list. Within this narrowed list you can then apply filters for things like Location, Full-Time vs Contracted, and Remove vs In-Person.
Dice also offers a number of handy tools like a salary predictor that factors in your experience-level and location to deliver accurate results.
Mashable is a wide-ranging media and culture publication but one of their top areas of focus is modern-day tech and their readership base is highly tech savvy. The Mashable jobs board contains a broader range of jobs across industries than the two sites we discussed above, but all of their postings seek applicants who are highly versed in the digital world and favor tech innovation. On this site you’ll find programming jobs as well as similarly techy jobs in digital marketing, product management, sales, and HR.
Mashable is a great spot to look if you love tech but don’t want to limit your job search exclusively to developer and programming roles.
CrunchBoard is the jobs posting platform hosted by TechCrunch, an online technology publication. Geared toward their tech-enthusiast readers and advertisers, CrunchBoard lists opportunities for developers and programmers across industries.
The companies behind each programming language want people to find jobs using their technology! That’s how they expand their user base and remain lucrative in the constantly evolving tech industry. Some of these organizations, like Python, host their own jobs posting boards to help match skilled programmers with jobs using the specific language.
Things to Consider When Planning a Career in Programming
When planning a career in programming, make sure to pursue a language that you enjoy coding in! Try out a few to begin with and then deepen your working knowledge and skills in one of your favorites. Make sure though, that your chosen favorite is highly relevant in today’s programming job market. Some once-popular languages, like Perl, are no longer much of an asset for job-seekers as they aren’t used by many teams. And finally, it’s a good idea to consider the eventual salary you may earn. If you pay for a bootcamp or coding course, you want to make sure you will be able to recoup on your self-investment and pay back any education loans you may have taken out.
Data Table – Highest Paying Programming Jobs
Below are a couple of handy charts containing all of the data we’ve discussed throughout this article. Salary data is from Glassdoor and the Availability Index is a metric we have calculated based off of the number of available jobs posted for each role on Glassdoor. The role with the most listings receives an AI score of 100 and each subsequent score is calculated as a percentage of the maximum, for example, 50 for a job with half as many listings on Glassdoor as the maximum.
|Job Title||Average Yearly Salary in U.S. (2021)||Availability Index|
|Ruby on Rails Developer||$94,463||4|
|C / C++ Developer||$89,736||23|
|C / C++ Programmer||$73,269||4|
Data Table – Highest Paying Programming Jobs, By Language
|Language||Average Yearly Salary in U.S.||Availability Index|