Based on data provided by employment websites Glassdoor and Indeed, web developers in the US make around $70,000 a year, while the paychecks of software developers and engineers often exceed the $90,000 mark. Of course, these are just average figures, and real salaries can vary based on multiple factors. These include the location of the job, the size and type of company, and, most importantly, the skill set and experience of the developer.
One of the most important assets of a developer’s skill set is the programming language(s) they have learned and mastered. Although these are often already picked out by accredited institutions that offer IT-related study programs, you can still choose which courses to attend or self-study any language you like. But choosing the right programming language is not just a matter of its difficulty, popularity, or practicality. When developers enter the job market, it also directly affects the size of their salary.
What are the highest-paying programming languages?
Thanks to Stack Overflow’s Developer Survey conducted in 2022, we can get relevant insights into the developer job market, backed by over 73,000 responses from programmers worldwide. One of the fields analyzed in the survey is the technology used in the developer workflow and how it's projected onto their paycheck. The sums in their list represent the median yearly salary (including bonuses) before taxes. So, let’s take a closer look at the first 5 top paying programming, scripting, and markup languages identified by the survey:
1. Clojure - $106,644
Clojure leads the list as the highest-paid programming language. It's part of the Lisp family of languages, typical for its code-as-data approach and powerful macro system. It runs on Java Virtual Machine, and since it is a functional language, all of its functions are compiled to JVM bytecode. As with many other languages on the list, the higher paycheck can be attributed to the limited number of programmers who know how to use it and the seniority of those who do. But even though it sports a smaller fanbase, it’s still very likable (being the third most-loved language within the survey) and useful - it's implemented in big companies such as Apple, Netflix, and Walmart.
2. Erlang - $103,000
Erlang is an older functional language developed originally for telephone switches and telecommunication systems. Today, it has found its use case in scalable, concurrent systems that require high availability. While it may not be as popular as modern programming languages, it is still used today to power applications such as WhatsApp, where a fast and stable connection between millions of users is a must.
3. F# - $95,526
This universal programming language is part of the ML family and allows you to write robust, functional, and performant code. It's maintained not only by the F# Software Foundation but also by Microsoft and other open-source contributors. It’s mainly viewed as a back-end language, useful for data processing, web APIs, and one-off scripts. Compared to C#, for instance, the code is much shorter since it has less “noise,” and its functions can stand alone because the language doesn’t force the developer into the OOP paradigm.
4. Lisp - $95,000
Lisp, or LISP (List Processing Programming Language), is one of the oldest high-level languages and was made primarily for easy manipulation of data strings. Its inception can be dated all the way back to 1958. Since then, many different dialects of Lisp have been formed, such as Clojure, which sits at the top of this list. Nowadays, Lisp is used in diverse fields, such as AI, thanks to its self-modifying programs, which give applications some learning ability.
5. Ruby - $93,000
Ruby is a high-level open-source programming language suitable for both front-end and back-end development. Its main goal is to boost developer productivity with its clear syntax. Ruby’s simplicity is great for both beginners and devs looking to scale their programs. It's primarily used in the back-end with the Ruby on Rails framework to build web applications and automation tools or to create web page templates and write server-side code. Unlike other languages in this list, Ruby is among the top 20 most popular programming languages, so finding a job offer for a Ruby programmer should not be a chore.
6. Elixir - $92,959
Elixir is a dynamic and functional language primarily used for building scalable and maintainable web applications. It builds upon the 2nd highest-paid language - Erlang, and runs on the BEAM virtual machine, which implements the aforementioned language. It was created in 2012 with the purpose of reintroducing 1980s tech like Erlang, which is used to build distributed, fault-tolerant systems. It is, therefore, prominent in telecommunication, finance, and e-commerce industries.
7. Scala - $92,780
8. Perl - $90,073
Perl, also known as “Practical Extraction and Reporting Language,” is a family of two languages: Perl 5 (released in 1987) and its 2000s redesign known as Perl 6, which was recently renamed Raku. In syntax it's quite similar to languages such as C or Shell. Still, in the context of speed, iterative implementation in C can be up to 56 times faster than the algorithm implemented in Pearl. But this comparison is mainly relevant in mathematical tasks, and Perl still shines in the context of text manipulation, system administration, or web development.
9. Go - $89,204
This statically-typed open source language was made by Google engineers in 2009. Although Google built it, its development was reminiscent of a community project from developers to developers. It was created to be simple to learn and easy to read. But this may also be its biggest drawback since its limitations result in a smaller set of features, especially when compared to languages such as C++, with which it bears similarities. This language is implemented in cloud and server-side applications and other network interfaces.
10. Rust - $87,047
Rust is a low-level statically-typed language. It was released in 2020 and has gained popularity for its performance and safety, which is why it's often used in the back-end for system development and building operation systems or microcontroller applications. It is quite a complex language to learn, with the shift being easier when going from more challenging languages such as C++. But compared to C++ (which is in the bottom half of the list), Rust is ranked as the no.1 most-loved language in Stack’s survey. So, in the end, it may just be worth the effort!
Which programming language is worth learning?
While learning one of the languages above is sure to narrow down your possible job offers to only the best in financial compensation, it might narrow your search a little too much. These languages are often either rare in the modern industry, need a very specific level of expertise, or are aimed mainly at senior developers.
Can coding be a side gig?
If you’re in school or just want to make some extra money on the side, there are many ways of monetizing your coding skills. You can freelance and take on smaller projects, work part-time, or publish your code on various platforms such as Apify. With Apify, you can monetize your code by creating a web scraping or automation service and offering it in Apify Store, charging your users a monthly subscription fee to have access to it. You can also join our rapidly growing Discord server, where you can not only meet and collaborate with web automation enthusiasts from around the world but also take on projects offered by companies and individuals alike as a freelancer.
So, choosing a programming language should be based not only on the average paycheck that comes with knowing the language but also on its popularity and prominence in the job market. Only after you take the first step and find a job in coding is when it’ll be much easier to make decisions about the future of your career based on certain salary expectations.