Which programming languages pay the most?

There is seemingly endless debate about which programming languages are the most popular and a plethora of sites that are all dedicated to trying to work it out from the Tiobe Index, Redmonk, Github, PYPL, IEEE Spectrum to the yearly Stack Overflow Survey.  We’ve even dabbled in the debate ourselves with our Most Popular Programming Languages among Developers 2018 blog (it seemed rude not to).

While it’s great to see which languages other developers like using because they’re lovely to work with, have fabulous documentation, a huge helpful user community or are less prone to sanity sapping errors -  there’s only one major issue

If businesses aren’t looking for your favourite language then you’re a bit stumped.  If you want to learn and use the language in your spare time then good for you.  But if you want to pay the bills and lead the life you dream of then you’ve got to keep an eye on what is happening in the market too. 

The best developers often have a suite of programming languages under their belts and it would be sensible to include a few that are guaranteed to earn you a good salary but also have enough demand to give you a variety of different jobs and companies to work for

We've taken the Top 50 most popular programming languages from the latest Tiobe Index as a base and have then sorted them by either Average Salary or Day Rate Advertised in the last 6 months in the UK (using ITJobsWatch data).  We've also added in the number of Perm and Contract jobs so you can sanity check if there is enough demand for those skills too and that they're not just anomalies.

Caveats - 1) The salary and pay data is based on jobs advertised which isn't always the same as the final agreed pay rate 2) The number of jobs advertised is based on the particular skill/language being mentioned in an advert.  This will be skewed more towards skills/languages that regularly appear alongside other skllls/languages

Permanent UK jobs that pay the most

Language Perm jobs in last 6 mths Average Salary Advertised
Rust 44 £77,500
Scala 3302 £70,000
Go 1390 £65,000
Haskell 183 £65,000
Kotlin 509 £65,000
Clojure 289 £65,000
R 2030 £60,000
Swift 152 £60,000
Apex 924 £60,000
OpenCL 30 £60,000
Julia 26 £60,000
Python 15982 £57,500
ABAP 562 £57,500
Java 26714 £55,000
Perl 2658 £55,000
Bash Shell 3496 £55,000
Ruby 5428 £52,500
Powershell 5385 £52,500
SAS 1198 £52,500
Lisp 41 £52,500

Contract UK jobs that pay the most

Language Contract jobs in last 6 mths Average Day Rate Advertised
Rust 14 £625
Clojure 98 £613
Scala 1862 £550
Go 685 £525
R 801 £525
Python 7160 £525
C++ 2055 £525
Dart 9 £525
Kotlin 300 £510
Swift 140 £500
Apex 239 £500
Java 13776 £500
Bash Shell 1852 £500
Ruby 2037 £500
Ada 77 £495
Julia 3 £488
Perl 1347 £488
Haskell 69 £475
ABAP 303 £475
C 1631 £475
TypeScript 1142 £475
Erlang 39 £475
Awk 37 £475

Languages that pay well and are in demand


Scala is a high level general purpose language that companies use for all types of things from machine learning to web apps and it scales incredibly well (hence the name?).  It includes functional and object-oriented programming and relies on the JVM runtime.

Some believe that Scala is complex and hard to understand and even dangerous at times but if written well it should be easier to read and understand than most other languages


Go or Golang is best known for being the language from Google that is used for Docker Container systems and has leapt in popularity over recent years although the rise appears to be slowing down now.  It is popular in startups but also big corporations and is easy to use with low level features and is really fast and can compile down to a static binary that doesn’t have any dependencies – so no dependency conflicts or mad installs


R helps data analysts and mathematicians (it was actually built for mathematicians) solve data issues in a simple and efficient way.  It allows you to do your data acquisition, cleansing and analysis all in one place and its visualisation tools are great too.  Employers particularly like R skills because it may mean that they can save by not having to buy proprietary statistics packages



Everyone is talking about Python in 2018.  It's hugely popular with developers and there are lots of well paid jobs - it seems like the perfect match.  Much of the rise in demand for Python developers can be attributed to the changes in data science and machine learning in recent years and Pythons applicability and versatility to data analysis


Java has been around for ever and is still incredibly popular but it is slowly starting to lose ground.  But let’s face it – Java is in everything and everywhere so it’s not going anywhere fast and there are tons of jobs around


Perl is implemented in a vast amount of companies, often on legacy systems admittedly, but where you need to work on something related to text (especially in Asian languages) it comes into its own.  It remains popular with system and network admins and web developers but maybe if you’re looking for a new language to focus on it shouldn’t be at the top of your list

Bash Shell and PowerShell

Bash is a Unix shell and a command processor often used for Linux distributions, Windows10 and the macOS.  It is arguable as to whether it's really a language as usually only a few lines of script are used but it is used regularly on all types of systems and can be really productive.  It is especially handy in an emergency where other tools aren’t available and is super useful for DevOps working in Unix like environments for deploying, managing, repairing and automating systems.  If you’re a serious developer it is considered to be something you should be able to use

Bash Shell and PowerShell are both popular currently but Bash is faster with a limited syntax whilst Powershell has a more consistent syntax structure.  Bash Shell therefore may be easier to get to grips with initially


Ruby is still in high demand in the Webdev world and a significant amount of DevOps tools such as Chef and Puppet are written in it.  It probably isn’t the language that everyone is talking about currently and isn’t in a period of huge growth but don’t let that put you off – Ruby developers often love Ruby and find it ‘beautiful’ to use.


SAS is used in statistical analysis which is certainly not an area that is going to diminish anytime soon, however, Python seems to be more the preferred route these days and SAS is not quite the confident market leader that it once was.


This is a key language for the Contract market and has remained in high demand especially with large companies.  It has been around a long time and is still popular due to being a highly efficient and flexible language used typically for developing desktop and mobile applications. Its complexity may go some way to explaining why demand is often centred around experienced Contractors who can really make a difference to a company


C is a ‘portable assembly language’ which works with pretty much everything and is the most popular language for operating and embedded systems used in all of the modern tech that we use today from mobiles to cars.   That is why its popularity is huge and the demand for experienced well paid contractors continues to grow


Typescript is a Microsoft language which is a superset of JavaScript used for the development of large applications.  If you’re working in a team and need to build something that has to be scaled and maintained for a long time then TypeScript is often the preferred option by companies.  It is a rarer skill than JavaScript hence the demand for experienced Contractors being high

Added 29-May-2018