If you’re thinking of getting into coding or if you’re already fluent in one of the top programming languages and want to expand your skillset, you’ve got more than a few choices.
There are over 250 recognized programming languages currently in circulation, so it can be tricky to pick a discipline, especially when career opportunities can depend on a specific combination of coding skills.
When it comes to ranking the top programming languages in the world, we’re bound to upset a few people. Most coders are very passionate and defensive about their favorite coding language and we understand that, but every programming language has their pros, cons and market popularity. This can translate to an attractive salary, especially when you are proficient in two or more disciplines. At Kofi Group we interview hundreds of software engineers each month and partner with start-ups that are rapidly scaling their engineering teams; this allows us to keep a pulse on which languages are most needed. This list takes into consideration many factors including complexity, popularity, functionality and how in-demand these coding languages are in today’s future-tech world.
So, what are the 10 top programming languages of all time?
#10 – KOTLIN
For number 10 on our list, we’re going with Kotlin, the open-source, cross-platform, general-purpose programming language developed by Russian company, JetBrains. While not as widespread as some of the others on this list, Kotlin was recently announced by Google as the preferred language for Android app developers.
But it’s the cross-platform functionality and interoperation with Java that makes Kotlin an emerging programming language to keep an eye on.
Kotlin was designed to be an upgrade to Java, an industrial-strength object-oriented language built around accommodating mixed-language products. One of Kotlin’s major advantages over Java is a reduced amount of boilerplate coding required. This translates to an overall 20% reduction in code, a heaven-send for programmers.
With Kotlin, you can avoid pesky errors like “NullPointException”, even when derived from Java itself. The compiler is designed to auto-cast mistakes, avoiding nullable types, even if you have checked a type as right.
Kotlin doesn’t come without its drawbacks though. The “it” parameter can be ambiguous and incorrect use can create spaghetti code. Other users complain that the absence of primitive types and ternary operators can create confusion – but this can come down to preference.
As of Dec 3, 2020 the average annual pay for a Kotlin Developer in the United States is $127,541 a year.
#9 – RUST
Next on our list is the developer-favourite, Rust. Voted the most loved programming language among developers for the fourth year in a row in the Stack Overflow’s 2019 Developer Survey, Rust is built around speed and security.
Rust was developed by Mozilla, the company behind Firefox and is used by programmers to build game engines, operating systems, file systems, browser components and simulation engines for virtual reality.
At its core, Rust is a multi-paradigm system programming language that runs both C and C++ but offers the programmer significant security protection and memory benefits.
Unlike other programming languages that have runtime or use garbage collectors, Rust gives you the ability to store data either on the stack or on the heap and determines at compile time when memory is no longer needed and can be cleaned up. This unique process allows efficient usage and performance of memory. With direct access to hardware and memory, Rust is an ideal language for embedded and bare-metal development.
On the negative side, Rust is notoriously one of the more difficult programming languages to master. It’s also prone to errors when compiling your code although the error messages are slowly being improved to give coders a better indication where the syntax errors are.
As a relatively new programming language, Rust doesn’t have decades of technical libraries like others, but it does have a vibrant, welcoming and supportive community of developers and rich documentation to help solve any issues you may have.
Rust developers can command an average annual salary in the US of $150,000.
#8 – RUBY ON RAILS
Named after the valuable gemstone by Yukihiro “Matz” Matsumoto in 1995, Ruby is still one of the top general-purpose programming languages used today.
Launched in 2004, Ruby on Rails, also known as Rails or RoR, is a server-side web application framework written in Ruby. It’s an MVC or model-view-controller framework and at the time of its release, it was the only programming language that operated in this way.
Ruby on Rails became synonymous with startups as it was geared towards fast software development and quick version releases. It’s enjoyed popularity amongst database devs, web developers, and application engineers. In fact, its framework principle was so popular, Python and PHP both borrowed elements from Ruby on Rails’ framework in their own framework.
Ruby on Rails is easy to learn with vast resources of helpful tools, libraries and a huge active community for support.
But it’s not everyone’s favourite. Ruby on Rails is notorious for having slow framework boot time when compared to programming languages like Java and C.
For experienced Ruby on Rails programmers, workers can expect a US salary of around $100,000 per year in the US.
If your considering joining a startup then Ruby on Rails can be a powerful tool to have in your toolbox. Check out our article on “The Truth About Being a Software Engineer at a Startup” to see if it’s really the right career move for you!
#7 – PHP
Despite being one of the top programming languages for more than two decades, many people, some coders included, don’t know what PHP stands for. It used to mean “Personal Home Page” but has since evolved into a recursive acronym that stands for PHP Hypertext Preprocessor and enjoys the status as one of the top programming languages today.
Developed in 1995, PHP is an open-source, general-purpose scripting language widely used for server-side web development. It’s historically been seen as an essential coding language for web developers with more than 80% of all websites being built with some form of PHP coding.
As an older language, PHP benefits from a large ecosystem of users who have produced frameworks, libraries, and automation tools to make the programming language easier to use. PHP is also a relatively easy language to learn for beginning developers and easy to debug when compared to other programming languages.
PHP is unfortunately not very secure and has poor error-handling when trying to support a large number of apps. It’s also not suited for large, resource-hungry applications. And although PHP is used by the vast majority of websites, its use is declining as newer programming languages are developed.
As of Dec 3, 2020, the average annual pay for a PHP Developer in the United States is around $86,000 a year.
#6 – GOLANG (GO)
Developed by Google in 2007 for APIs and web applications, Golang, also known as GO is fast becoming one of the top programming languages in the world.
Golang’s popularity is due, in part to its simplicity, as well as its ability to handle multicore and networked systems with massive codebases.
Designed to meet the needs of programmers working on large projects, Golang is famous for its simple and modern structure and syntax familiarity. It’s also reliable when it comes to processing massive amounts of data and for that reason, Golang is one of the top programming languages used by tech giants like Google, Uber, Twitch, Dropbox, and many others.
Data scientists also find value in Golang due to its agility and performance.
Despite this, Golang doesn’t have a lot of uptake outside of Silicon Valley and one of the main user gripes is the lack of a library for graphical user interfaces, which are the most common ways that end-users interact with any device that has a screen.
Golang developers, depending on their region can earn an impressive wage, with the average annual pay in the United States sitting at $128,736 a year.
#5 – C / C++
We’re bound to upset a few coders at #5 but we’ve chosen to combine C and C++ for the next top programming languages on our list.
C is famously known as one of the “core” coding languages alongside Python and Java, recommended for any developers looking for a good foundation for writing more modern languages such as Python, Ruby, and PHP.
C++ is an enhanced version of C and many developers skip learning C altogether, opting to dive straight into the more complex coding language.
Both programming languages have their pros and cons. While C is great for programming hardware, since it’s an older programming language, it’s not suitable for more modern web or mobile applications.
C++ on the other hand is more versatile, able to program the systems that run applications, as opposed to the applications themselves. It also works well for multi-device and multi-platform systems in everything from computer games to mathematical simulations.
C and C++ programmers can expect to earn anywhere between $71,677 and $118,076, with the average salary in the US sitting at around $95,000.
#4 – C#
C# was developed in 2000 by Microsoft as part of its .NET framework to be a faster and more secure variant of C that supported the development of applications for Windows, browser plug-ins, and mobile devices.
As you’d expect, C# is rooted in the C programming language, so it’s easy to pick up if you’re coming from a C background.
C# is best suited for applications on Windows, Android, and iOS operating systems but it’s also the language mobile developers use to build cross-platform apps on the Xamarin platform
It’s also popular amongst mobile developers, VR engineers and people interested in 2D and 3D video game developers using the Unity engine. C# is used extensively, even serving the back end of commercial websites such as Bing, Dell, Visual Studio, and MarketWatch.
Just like any of the top programming languages, C# has its drawbacks. C# can have a steep learning curve, especially for resolving errors and is notoriously less flexible than languages such as C++.
According to a survey conducted in November 2020, the average C# Programmer salary in the United States is $103,677.
#3 – JAVA
Today, it’s one of the most commonly-used coding disciplines with over 3 billion devices running Java-built applications worldwide.
Java is used extensively in web development, application development and cross-platform portability. In fact, it’s so robust on the server-side, Java code forms the back-end of several popular websites including Google, Amazon, Twitter, and YouTube.
Java, too, has its limitations. It’s not the greatest for cloud-based applications and the parent developer company, Oracle, charges a licensing fee to use the Java Development Kit.
Java is easily one of the top programming languages and demand for competent developers can attract average salaries of $105,000 per year in United States.
#1 – PYTHON
And finally, we arrive at our number #1 pick as the top programming language as of right now. Python.
Out of any of the coding languages on this list, Python is probably one of the most user-friendly ones available. Similar to Java, the language used is clear, intuitive and especially familiar if you’re a Native English speaker.
Described as the “batteries included” programming language due to its comprehensive standard library, Python allows easy integration with web services, user-friendly data structures, and GUI-based desktop applications.
Python’s many uses and integrations are fear reaching; it’s popular for development of deep learning applications, 2D and 3D image rendering, artificial intelligence, financial services, video games and data science.
You’ll find Python everywhere, from Instagram to Pinterest to Spotify and YouTube. Python was even used to create games like Civilization IV and Battlefield 2.
But even the most popular programming language has some downsides. Despite the power of Python, its not natively supported on mobile without the use of emulators and re-compilers. Also, upgrades from Python 2 to Python 3 mean that some legacy apps are not completely compatible with the upgrade. Python requires developers to keep up to date with version updates and new libraries.
An entry-level Python developer in the USA can earn an average salary of $88,000. Middle developers earn $100,000 while experienced Python developers are paid $113,000 per year.
When choosing the programming language to dive headfirst into, it’s important not to follow trends or immediately jump onto the latest coding language to be released. Keep in mind that dozens of programming languages are created every year, and most of them fade into obscurity not long after.
The most successful and career-building programming languages have longevity, history and probably won’t change that much over the next 5-10 years. Although the world of technology changes very rapidly, the core programming language should, for the most part, remain fairly constant.
Pick a programming language that matches your problem-solving style and compliments your workflow, while at the same time, pursue the technology that excites you the most, whether its game development, website design or powerful application engineering.