Computer science languages provide instructions for modern life. From mobile phones to factory machinery, computer programming languages set parameters for how devices function around the world. These languages also make it possible to use multiple mobile apps and software packages without conflict. Programming experts are needed to keep an estimated 1.3 billion personal computers, 5 billion mobile phones, and countless other machines operational.
The prevalence of programmed devices means plenty of opportunities for computer science graduates. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimated a 21% growth in software development jobs from 2018 to 2028. Available jobs for computer research scientists responsible for advancements in programming languages are expected to grow 16% over the same period.
Prospective professionals in these fields should be curious about computer programming languages and their uses. This post helps explain how languages are used in different career paths open to computer science graduates. Baylor University’s Online Master in Computer Science helps leverage knowledge of these languages with degree tracks in cybersecurity, data science, and software engineering.
What are the most popular programming languages?
Determining which computer science languages are the most popular, useful, or in-demand can be a difficult proposition. Programming languages are constantly evolving to reflect the needs of end-users and designers. New languages join the fray to fill in the gaps left by legacy or niche languages.
The shifting ground underneath programmers, engineers, and designers makes having a strong base, in at least one language, essential. We can use multiple surveys and industry reports to piece together a list of programming languages.
Most commonly used programming languages
A good indicator of a language’s importance is its frequency of usage. Computer science languages that are not used frequently typically lack applicability to current technology and usefulness to programmers. The history of programming is littered with archaic languages that were tied to outdated technology.
Statista surveyed 88,883 software developers around the globe in 2019 to find out their fluency in programming languages. The following languages formed the top five responses to this extensive survey:
- SQL: 54.4%
- Python: 41.7%
- Java: 41.1%
Most commonly requested by employers
Computer programming experts develop language proficiency to improve their career prospects or pursue their own projects. Every language is not created equal and employers are not impressed with mere language proficiency. Prospective employees need to demonstrate that they are on the cutting edge of the programming world through hands-on experience.
Job listing platform Hired offered an interesting metric for language demand in its 2020 State of Software Engineers report. The company looked at the number of interview requests per candidate with listed computer programming languages. The top languages based on this metric were:
- Go: 9.2
- Scala: 8.5
- Ruby: 8.2
- Typescript: 7.9
- Kotlin: 7.1
- Objective-C: 6.8
- Swift: 6.5
- PHP: 6.4
- Java 6.4
Most popular languages among practitioners
The reasons why professionals enjoy computer science languages are important to understand. Hired listed the following results from asking engineers why they love their favorite languages:
- Language ecosystem: 73%
- Resources available for learning and development: 70%
- Fun to program in: 68%
- Familiarity: 62%
- Community support: 60%
Most searched programming languages
Search result trends for computer science languages can also illuminate which languages are most valuable to engineers. The TIOBE Programming Community publishes a monthly index of the most searched programming languages in the world. This index draws on total searches for select languages across 25 search tools including Google, Yahoo, and Wikipedia.
The February 2020 index provides an example of where programming languages rank in terms of search results. The following languages form the month’s most searched languages:
- Java: 17.3% share of results
- C: 16.7% share of results
- Python: 9.3% share of results
- C++: 6.1% share of results
- C#: 5.9% share of results
How are programming languages used in the professional world?
Searching for answers to the question “How many computer languages are there?” leads to conflicting responses. There are hundreds of programming languages in use at any given time. Computer science languages pop up to communicate between different devices using incompatible languages. There are also proprietary languages used for devices and software that value specific performance metrics over compatibility.
We can narrow our focus to the computer programming languages that combine marketability and utility. These five languages are found in the previously referenced best-of lists because of their applicability to modern technological problems.
C Programming Languages
The C family of computer programming languages originated in 1972 at Bell Labs. Dennis Ritchie and Ken Thompson needed a simple but effective language for an operating system. C is the base of the Unix operating system at the core of modern computing. Unix was licensed to multiple companies after its creation, showing the flexibility of C in dealing with myriad devices and proprietary languages.
C remains at the foundation of operating systems used by millions of people every day. Many computer science languages also use similar syntax and processes as C. The language has been built upon by C++ and C#. C++ is a popular programming language for cloud storage systems, video games, and databases due to its efficient operation. C# (or C Sharp) was created by Microsoft for application development. This variant is considered more challenging than C or C++ but uses features like automated garbage collection to create effective applications.
Indeed’s study of C programmer salaries shows that understanding these languages can be good for your career. In February 2020, the average salary of a software engineer with C knowledge was $107,858. C++ developers earned average salaries of $105,876 per year. Senior programmers ($111,233) and senior software engineers ($131,387) exceeded these averages thanks to years of experience. The ubiquity of C, C++, and C# makes these computer science languages invaluable to employers.
Java sprang to life in 1991 with the intention of revolutionizing consumer technology. A Sun Microsystems development team called Green Team was looking for a way to bring computing technology to other aspects of day-to-day life. Java was designed to connect remote controls, personal computers, and other devices within a household. The demo version of Java was presented to cable companies as the driving force within a digital remote controller.
Sun Microsystems - now known as Oracle - didn’t realize their original intent with Java. The company’s pivot into online browsers, however, provided a new outlet for the computer programming language. Java was the language behind the Netscape Navigator browser that premiered in 1994. The Netscape Navigator was an early success but ultimately lost ground to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer in the race for widespread browser adoption. This trend did not harm Java’s reputation for functionality.
Java’s ability to handle myriad requests without slowing down makes it a frequently used tool for phone app development. The financial services industry uses Java language to handle high-frequency trading and exchanges because of its high level of security. Current usage of this computer science language brings to life Green Team’s five design goals for Java:
- Simple, Object Oriented, and Familiar
- Robust and Secure
- Architecture Neutral and Portable
- High Performance
- Interpreted, Threaded, and Dynamic
Java programmers are in high demand due to the industries that frequently use this language. Glassdoor places the average salary of a Java programmer at $79,137 per year. The jobs site places bonuses and other compensation above $10,000 on average, providing a nice boost for practitioners of this computer programming language. Java’s popularity also provides expedited paths to managerial and senior positions because expertise is always needed in leadership.
The early history of web browsers featured text-based pages that were difficult to customize. Internet users would find pages loaded with text or basic images that were not visually appealing. Mosaic - later named Netscape - created the Navigator web browser in 1994 and achieved dominance over the browser market in the mid-1990s. The team behind Navigator realized that the next step was to improve web page design for better user experiences.
“We aimed to provide a ‘glue language’ for the Web designers and part-time programmers who were building Web content from components such as images, plugins, and Java applets. We saw Java as the ‘component language’ used by higher-priced programmers, where the glue programmers - the Web page designers - would assemble components and automate their interactions using JS.”
Python’s development is different from other prominent computer science languages in its development outside of a corporate environment. Dutch computer scientist Guido van Rossum created the language in 1991 during his time at Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica. Python replaced the ABC programming language created at the institute a decade earlier.
The language’s founding principles - articulated in The Zen of Python - included phrases like “Simple is better than complex” and “There should be one - and preferably only one - obvious way to do it.” Python’s practitioners also focused on keeping the language fun for users. The language’s name was taken from the British comedy group Monty Python. The Python Steering Council created in 2018 includes van Rossum, who received the tongue-in-cheek title Benevolent Dictator for Life after Python’s creation.
Python remains a favorite of computer programmers because of its flexibility. The language is designed to be compact but capable of extensions and other additions depending on the user’s needs. A built-in library and garbage collection mean that a Python programmer has access to helpful resources and doesn’t need to worry about old files. These features make it a favorite for designing desktop applications and websites.
Python developers fare well in Indeed’s survey of 2,081 professionals in February 2020. The average salary for a Python developer is $118,895 with an average cash bonus of $5,000. Employers like Bank of America and Capital One significantly exceeded this average with salaries of $156,944 and $141,215, respectively. Python’s breadth of applicability makes experts in this computer science language attractive to employers.
Software programmer Yukihiro Matsumoto designed Ruby in 1995 to create “a better Python than Python.” Matsumoto used the birthstone of a fellow programmer as the inspiration for this computer programming language. He used the principles of conciseness, consistency, and flexibility in Ruby’s development, according to the 2000 book The Ruby Programming Language. Similar to van Rossum and Python, Matsumoto wanted Ruby to be enjoyable for programmers.
Ruby strips away a lot of the complexities that make computer programming languages inaccessible to new programmers. Matsumoto said that an average Ruby program is smaller than a comparable Python program. This concise approach to programming comes from making all values objects and simplifying features like data types and indentation. Ruby is frequently used for prototype and server development.
A notable use of Ruby is the Rails framework that deploys the language for websites like Airbnb, Hulu, and Square. High demand for Ruby on Rails developers translates into lucrative careers for computer science graduates. Indeed surveyed 1,273 developers through February 2020 and found an average salary of $123,188. These salaries included above-average positions with Intelletec ($203,403) and New Relic ($185,095). The emergence and widespread adoption of Ruby on Rails makes this computer science language a great choice for programmers,
How can you get the most out of computer science languages?
After learning more about computer science languages, you might be interested in continuing your path to a better career. The rise of online courses and language boot camps might be attractive for professionals hoping to gain proficiency in a hurry. These options are great for personal projects but lack the depth and reputation of a graduate program.
Baylor University is a nationally renowned university that boosts earning potential for its graduates. Graduates of the Online Master in Computer Science receive the benefits of the Baylor name without on-campus learning requirements.
U.S. News & World Report placed the university No. 79 in its National Universities rankings for the 2019-2020 school year. The publication went further in highlighting the school’s value to students with a No. 75 in Best Value Schools and a No. 42 in Most Innovative Schools. Baylor University turns promising students into professionals ready for the rigors of the 21st century workplace.
Comparing the average graduate salary for Baylor University to national averages confirms the school’s Best Value distinction. The National Association of Colleges and Employees (NACE) found an average college graduate salary of $50,944 in 2019 across 350 institutions. PayScale found an average Baylor graduate salary of $66,000 in March 2020. A master’s degree in a high-demand field like computer science only adds to this salary premium.
Getting started at Baylor University
The Online Master in Computer Science combines academic rigor with the benefits of virtual learning. Successful applicants hold GPAs of at least 3.0, three recommendation letters, and are familiar with one of the languages mentioned above. Baylor University does not require GRE scores or on-campus attendance for any portion of the program. If you are ready to leverage your knowledge of computer programming languages, click here to contact an enrollment advisor today.