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Top 10 Programming Languages for Master’s Grads

Learn about 2024’s most popular coding and programming languages and get your questions answered by a current computer programming expert.

Author: Brenda Barron

Editor: Kim Zaski

A person is seated at a desk, focusing on two large computer monitors displaying lines of code. They wear glasses, have short hair, and hold their hands together in front of their face, appearing deep in thought. Various office supplies are in the background.

If coding and creating programs, designing apps, and researching high-level programming concepts sounds like a career you’d be interested in, you should consider working within the computer science industry. With a median annual wage of $90k and projected growth rates as high as 32% for industry positions like IT analysts, the field is ripe and ready for knowledgeable computer programmers and coders.

But how do you set yourself apart from the competition and land a high-paying coding or programming job in the computer science field? The first step is to gain an understanding of the top coding and programming languages used today and then learn one or more of these languages. And while a master’s degree isn’t always necessary, it is one surefire way to set yourself apart in today’s job market and prove you have the programming skills needed to excel.

To help you get started, this guide covers today’s top 10 in-demand coding languages, their uses, and value in today’s job market — especially for computer science master’s degree holders.

10 Most In-Demand Computer Programming & Coding Languages

While all coding and programming languages offer unique value based on their field and application, some are more desirable than others. To help you cut through the noise, we’ve compiled the 10 most in-demand coding and programming languages, reported by recruiters and developers in the field.

#1: JavaScript

JavaScript is used to create dynamic website content like image carousels, games, and interactive quizzes. It accomplishes this by adding new HTML elements or modifying existing ones. According to Codecademy, it is commonly used when developing front-end, back-end, game, mobile, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence (AI) programs.

  • Where it’s used: Microsoft, Google, Paypal
  • Who uses it: Front-end Developers, Software Engineers, Web Developers
  • Why it’s valuable: With 98.8% of websites using some form of JavaScript, it is far and above the most popular computer programming language today, making it the most desirable to employers, as well.
  • Related online master’s program: Master of Science (MS) in Software Engineering
JavaScript Career Spotlight: Software Developer

As the name implies, software developers build software programs from start to finish. Duties include analyzing and meeting users’ software needs, upgrading software, designing application or system components, ensuring software functionality, and creating documentation/use manuals. For some software developer positions, employers may prefer that applicants have a master’s degree.

Job Title Median Salary (50%) Top Salary (90%) Projected Growth (2022-23)
Software Developer $124,200 $198,100 25%

Source:The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 2023

#2: Python

Python is a versatile and widely used programming language, known for its readability and concise syntax. While it’s a popular choice for web and software development, it is also used in data analysis, machine learning, and scientific computing.

  • Where it’s used: Google, Spotify, OpenAI
  • Who uses it: Data Scientists, Back-end Developers, Machine Learning Engineers
  • Why it’s valuable: Python is one of the leading programming languages in the fields of machine learning and data science, with 93% of data scientists using Python.
  • Related online master’s program: MS in Machine Learning
Python Career Spotlight: Machine Learning Engineer

Machine learning engineers develop intelligent applications that learn from data. A master’s degree in machine learning can assist you in developing AI algorithms or conducting high-level research in the field.

Job Title Median Salary (50%) Top Salary (90%) Projected Growth (2022-32)
Machine Learning Engineer $160,235 $245,221 23%

Source: Indeed, 2024; BLS, 2023

#3: Java

Java is an object-oriented programming language ideal for cross-platform uses. It’s widely used for web and mobile app development, big data, and in enterprise systems.

Java Career Spotlight: Web Developer

Web developers are in charge of the backbone of websites and apps, focusing on server-side logic, database management, and application building. A master’s degree can set you up for a leadership role overseeing advanced projects.

Job Title Median Salary (50%) Top Salary (90%) Projected Growth (2022-32)
Web Developer $92,750 $176,490 16%

Source: BLS, 2023

#4: C#

C# is an object-oriented, type-safe programming language developed by Microsoft. C# is widely used for game and desktop app development alongside the .NET framework.

  • Where it’s used: Microsoft, Stack Overflow, Unity
  • Who uses it: Game Developers, .NET Developers, Mobile Developers
  • Why it’s valuable: C# is the primary language for Microsoft applications, most notably the .NET framework.
  • Related online master’s program: MS in Computer Science
C# Career Spotlight: Game Developer

If you dream of making your own games, either through Unity or in a custom engine, then C# is the best language for it. A master’s degree can provide you with specialized knowledge that could put you in senior technical roles at major studios.

Job Title Median Salary (50%) Top Salary (90%) Projected Growth (2022-32)
Game Developer $89,898 $152,941 25%

Source: Indeed, 2024; BLS, 2023

#5: PHP

PHP is a popular general-purpose scripting language especially suited to web development. Many web developers, especially WordPress developers, rely on PHP for their backends.

  • Where it’s used: WordPress, Facebook, Wikipedia
  • Who uses it: Web Developers, WordPress Developers, PHP Developers
  • Why it’s valuable: 76% of all websites use PHP. It’s a fundamental technology in web development.
  • Related online master’s program: MS in Software Engineering
PHP Career Spotlight: PHP Developer

PHP developers are responsible for building websites, and as a PHP developer, you’ll mostly focus on the backend. A master’s degree can enhance your skills in software engineering and project management, allowing you to become a leader in your field.

Job Title Median Salary (50%) Top Salary (90%) Projected Growth (2022-23)
PHP Developer $86,575 $134,279 16%

Source: Indeed, 2024; BLS, 2023

#6: C/C++

C and C++ are powerful programming languages known for high performance and granting full control over system resources. These are used in a variety of applications from game to software development.

  • Where it’s used: Adobe, Apple, Google
  • Who uses it: Systems Programmers, Software Engineers, Game Developers
  • Why it’s valuable: C and C++ are critical for systems programming, and are used by 19-22% of all developers.
  • Related online master’s program: MS in Systems Engineering
C/C++ Coding Career Spotlight: Computer Systems Engineer/Architect

Systems engineers and architects design and develop solutions to complex applications problems, system administration issues, or network concerns. A master’s degree provides in-depth knowledge of software and hardware integration essential for high-level roles.

Job Title Median Salary (50%) Top Salary (90%) Projected Growth (2022-32)
Computer Systems Engineer/Architect $104,920 $174,300 10%

Source: ONET OnLine, 2023

#7: Ruby

Ruby is known for its elegant syntax that is natural to read and easy to write. It’s preferred by web developers and is the foundation of the Ruby on Rails web framework.

Ruby Career Spotlight: Full Stack Developer

Full-stack developers work with both the front and backends of websites/applications. A master’s degree in computer science or software engineering helps you master any Ruby project you spearhead.

Job Title Median Salary (50%) Top Salary (90%) Projected Growth (2022-32)
Full Stack Developer $124,785 $192,216 16%

Source: Indeed, 2024; BLS, 2023

#8: Go

Go, aka Golang, was developed by Google. It’s a statically typed, compiled language known for its simplicity and efficiency. It’s used for backend development, cloud services, and networks.

  • Where it’s used: Google, Uber, Twitch
  • Who uses it: Backend Developers, Systems Programmers, Cloud Engineers
  • Why it’s valuable: Go’s use in cloud infrastructure is growing rapidly – it’s currently ranked #7 in the TIOBE index.
  • Related online master’s program: MS in Cloud Computing
Go Career Spotlight: Computer Network Architect

Computer network architects design and deploy computer and information networks, create plans and layouts for data communication networks, document processes, upgrade hardware, and research new technologies. With a master’s degree, you can deepen your expertise in computer architecture and network management.

Job Title Median Salary (50%) Top Salary (90%) Projected Growth (2022-32)
Computer Network Architect $129,840 $195,000 4%

Source: BLS, 2023

#9: SQL

SQL is the standard language for relational database management, and a majority of databases use SQL. It’s so common that “NoSQL” databases are a category of their own.

SQL Career Spotlight: Database Administrator

If you prefer working with raw data, database administration is the ideal career. You’ll set up and maintain databases in the backend, keeping data secure. A master’s degree will teach you how to design complex data models essential for management roles.

Job Title Median Salary (50%) Top Salary (90%) Projected Growth (2022-32)
Database Administrator $117,450 $157,710 8%

Source: BLS, 2023

#10: Scala

Scala combines object-oriented and functional programming in one concise, high-level language. The versatile, general-purpose language can be run on a Java Virtual Machine and is interoperable with Java.

  • Where it’s used: LinkedIn, Twitter, Sony
  • Who uses it: Backend Developers, Data Engineers, Software Engineers
  • Why it’s valuable: Scala is particularly valued in big data processing with tools like Apache Spark, providing powerful capabilities for data analysis.
  • Related online master’s program: MS in Data Analytics
Scala Career Spotlight: Data Scientist

Data scientists construct systems for collecting, storing, and analyzing big sets of data, and Scala is the ideal language for this. A master’s degree provides a deeper understanding in this complex field.

Job Title Median Salary (50%) Top Salary (90%) Projected Growth (2022-32)
Data Scientist $108,020 $184,090 35%

Source: BLS, 2023

Computer Programming Language FAQs

Is pursuing a master’s degree in IT or computer science worthwhile?

While a master’s is not strictly necessary, advanced degrees can help those aspiring to leadership roles within specialized computer science fields. For example, if you’re looking to become a CTO or lead researcher at a major firm, these roles often require a master’s degree. And when studying difficult topics like artificial intelligence, data science, and cybersecurity, you may benefit from extra education and networking opportunities. A master’s degree can also pave the way for a lucrative career in IT.

Which programming language has the best business application over the next 10 years?

Python has seen widespread adoption in various industries, advancing technology in fields like generative AI.

Python has been the top programming language since 2018 according to the PYPL Index, and similarly maintains its status in the TIOBE Index.

Which programming language has the best salary outlook?

According to Code Platoon, while Python ranks first in number of job postings, it’s third in average salary behind C# and C++.

How will AI impact the career outlook for computer coding/programmers?

AI already has a major impact and is expected to significantly influence the computer science industry.

Those behind AI can expect to see more career opportunities, but AI can automate basic programming jobs, making it difficult for those who can’t pivot out of the industry. This is where a master’s degree and advanced skills can help.

How important is industry experience vs. academic achievement for developers?

In the tech industry, practical experience often weighs more heavily than academic achievement alone. Hands-on experience is crucial for developers. Combining your foundational academic studies with a clear demonstration of knowledge is the best way to influence recruiters.

Coding & Programming Language Resources

Along with the scholarships in this guide, there are other resources to help you fund and get the most out of your degree. The ten highlighted below may be essential during your graduate journey.

  • Codeacademy
    Offers interactive coding classes for a variety of languages, including Python, Go, and Ruby.
  • CodeWars
    Improve your skills by training with others on real code challenges.
  • Coursera
    Partners with universities and organizations to offer courses in a multitude of programming languages.
  • edX
    Provides university-level courses in computer science and programming languages from institutions like MIT and Harvard.
  • Udemy
    Hosts a vast selection of courses on nearly every programming language.
  • freeCodeCamp
    A community that teaches coding through building projects.
  • GitHub Learning Lab
    Offers hands-on learning projects and courses on Git, GitHub, and other tools.
  • Pluralsight
    Technology-focused platform with courses on C#, JavaScript, Python, and more.
  • MIT OpenCourseWare
    Free course materials from MIT’s programming and computer science courses.
  • LeetCode
    A platform for improving coding skills and preparing for technical interviews.

Interview with A Computer Programming Expert

Cache Merrill

Cache Merrill is an accomplished entrepreneur and technology leader. He is the founder of Zibtek, a Salt Lake City-based company that provides businesses with teams of U.S. managed international developers specializing in custom software development.

What factors do you think most contribute to the demand for specific programming languages in today's job market?

The demand for specific programming languages in today’s job market is primarily driven by technological advancements, the popularity of certain development platforms, and specific industry needs. For instance, the rise of data analytics and machine learning has spurred demand for Python, while the growing importance of web applications has bolstered the relevance of JavaScript and its frameworks.

Could you highlight some of the emerging trends in programming languages that you see gaining traction?

Currently, we see a strong emergence of functional programming languages like Elixir and Scala, which offer benefits in building concurrent and fault-tolerant systems. Additionally, languages that support cross-platform development, such as Kotlin and Swift, are gaining traction as businesses seek to optimize development efforts across mobile platforms.

From your perspective, which programming languages do you foresee experiencing significant growth in demand and salary potential in the near future, and why?

Python and JavaScript continue to dominate and will likely see ongoing demand due to their versatility and broad applicability across emerging fields like artificial intelligence and web development. Moreover, Go and Rust are set to experience significant growth in demand and salary potential due to their efficiency and safety features, making them suitable for system-level programming in large-scale, high-performance environments.

Are there any particular industries or sectors where certain programming languages command higher salaries or are in greater demand?

In the tech sector, particularly within companies focusing on web and mobile development, JavaScript and its frameworks command higher salaries. Similarly, in data-driven industries or those focusing on AI and machine learning, Python and R are particularly lucrative. The finance sector often values Java and C# due to their performance in backend processing.

How important would you say it is for programmers to continuously update their skill set to align with market demands?

Staying current is crucial. Programmers who continually update their skills to include newer languages and technologies position themselves as valuable assets in the job market, capable of adapting to new challenges and opportunities.

In addition to academic degrees, are there any specific certifications or training programs you would recommend for maximizing earning potential?

Certifications and training programs are crucial for boosting earning potential. These are particularly valuable in the tech industry, where technology evolves quickly, and staying current is crucial. For example, certifications from Microsoft, Amazon, or Cisco in specific technologies like Azure, AWS, or networking can significantly enhance a programmer’s appeal in the job market.

Intensive coding bootcamps focusing on practical, hands-on training in specific programming languages or stacks can also be incredibly beneficial. These are often seen as effective, especially for gaining practical skills quickly.

  • AWS Certified Solutions Architect or Google Professional Cloud Architect certifications can be particularly lucrative.
  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) or Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) are excellent for those looking to move into the growing field of cybersecurity.
  • The Data Science MicroMasters program from edX, offered by institutions like UC San Diego and MIT, can be a powerful credential.

What advice would you offer to aspiring programmers who are looking to optimize their career paths in terms of both salary and job satisfaction?

Focus on mastering languages that are fundamental to the type of development work you are interested in. Build a robust portfolio with diverse projects that showcase your skills. Consider contributing to open-source projects to gain visibility. Additionally, prioritize soft skills like communication and problem-solving, which are increasingly important in collaborative development environments. Balancing technical proficiency with practical experience will optimize both your salary prospects and job satisfaction.