The top programming languages you need to learn for 2022

With hundreds of coding languages out there, which ones will earn you the most?

A screen showing Python code

The IT industry has long faced a skills shortage with one of the most sought-after skills being programming. Software developers and software engineers are commonly in high demand without the talent available to adequately meet the demands of the job.

It is, in part, why they are paid so well, with full-stack engineers attracting the top remuneration packages thanks to their wide and seasoned skill set. But many developers stick to one or two languages, especially in the early stages of their careers. It can be difficult to determine which is the best language to learn but data from the previous few years have singled out a select few languages best suited to the current job market.

Software development is an appealing career alternative for many looking to pivot into tech due to jobs not requiring a degree. There are a number of routes into a technology career but many decide to either enrol in a short, intense coding boot camp, or self-tech using online resources if they don't follow the computer science degree pathway. Below you'll find the best languages to learn in 2022, to kickstart a career in coding or simply bolster your CV in line with the current market demands.

Average salary information is provided by PayScale, and is correct as of January 2022

Python

Python is widely considered among the easiest languages to learn, largely due to its simplified syntax, so it's not surprising that it's one of the most popular. It has become especially popular in the past few years thanks to its capabilities in applications such as machine learning, a fast-growing field. However, it's useful in a range of other areas too such as robotics, AI and big data, so it can be a valuable skill even for experienced devs. What's more, Python was dubbed the 'language of the year' for the second year running by software testing firm Tiobe in 2021. 

Python's relative simplicity makes it the perfect skill for new developers to learn, as it provides a great way to get to grips with the basic fundamentals of programming whilst still offering a tangible benefit to earnings potential. Like Java, Python has access to repositories of pre-written codes that will work on most operating systems. This makes it an excellent teaching tool, allowing new coders to think about problem-solving rather than learning a complex language from scratch.

Average salary: £41,000

C#

An offshoot of the original C language, C# (pronounced 'C sharp', like the musical note) is a combination of the best features of C and C++. It's built specifically for Microsoft .NET, and is thus one of the best options for developing code for Windows systems. As such, given Windows' prevalence in the enterprise world, C# developers are rarely likely to be out of work for too long.

The language uses XML and SOAP to include elements of object-oriented programming, which gives developers additional speed when coding. C# is particularly great for developing lean applications; it has a minimal runtime, and it runs incredibly close to the bare-metal it's running on. This makes it a good choice for embedded systems like IoT devices. It's also versatile enough to handle back-end and front-end development.

Average salary: £35,000

Java

Not to be confused with the similarly-named but unrelated JavaScript, Java is actually a slightly younger and completely different language. While JavaScript is used almost exclusively for web-based programming, Java is more versatile. It's often used for back-end and server-side tasks, for example, and will run across a huge variety of different environments. It's used by around 9 million developers on some 7 billion devices and PCs, even propping up some of the most viewed websites in the world, including Netflix and Amazon.

One of Java's main benefits is that it's a highly-scalable language, so is well-suited to enterprise applications. It's also been in use for many years, so is already a key part of many organisations' environments. It was designed to allow programmers to run their code on different machines and operating systems with minimal fuss, so long as there is a Java Virtual Machine (JVM) installed. This allows the code to speak a common language and is an ideal choice for developers working on cross-platform networks.

Average Salary: £37,000

SQL

One of the most venerable programming languages still in mainstream use, SQL was first developed in 1972. Nevertheless, it's retained its popularity and is still an essential part of modern business IT. This is because it's designed for managing large databases from the likes of Oracle, Microsoft and IBM, which still power a plurality of enterprise applications.

While SQL may seem a bit old-fashioned, it's actually surprisingly versatile, and can run big data applications as well as more traditional databases. It's one of the most reliable languages out there - which is part of the reason behind its enduring popularity.

Average salary: £32,000

JavaScript

Another language that has remained in pretty much constant rotation despite its advancing age, JavaScript powers a phenomenal amount of the web. Built specifically for web development, it's the technology that powers things like rich media, online video, dynamic pages and much, much more. It also has a number of associated frameworks, such as React, which can be used for other applications like building cross-platform mobile apps.

There are very few pages that don't include various elements of JavaScript, and it's absolutely integral for building contemporary looking and feeling web-based applications. HTML and CSS simply no longer live without JavaScript, or 'JS' as it's so often abbreviated, and it also benefits from being one of the most widely-recommended languages for coding novices to pick up as their first.

Indeed, it's the fundamental foundation of virtually all browser-based SaaS applications, which makes JavaScript programmers highly sought-after. 

Average salary: £35,000

Swift

Developed by Apple for creating iOS apps, Swift is an open source language that's designed to be simple to pick up. Like Kotlin's relationship to Android, Swift is the preferred language for writing apps for any of Apple's platforms, including iOS, macOS, watchOS, tvOS and iPadOS. It has also enjoyed a period of growth in the past few years, in part due to its ease of use and also the increased confidence in its long-term viability which leads to more developers learning the language.

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This makes it an essential tool for any app developer, but it does limit its usefulness outside that arena. It's not particularly widely-used within enterprise IT, and it's not an especially versatile language in terms of its applications. If you're planning to develop for mobile devices, however, it's well worth knowing. It has enjoyed a rise of several places in the past few years in the Tiobe index and may well further increase in popularity in years to come. 

Average salary: £36,000

C

C is another easy-to-learn, multi-purpose language in this list that is hugely popular in the Windows, Linux, and UNIX communities for its powerful capabilities in system scripting applications. It's a general-purpose language that can be used for a variety of applications in the enterprise all the way through to the gaming space.

C also plays a hugely important role in the heart of most major operating systems, with the kernels of Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and most of Linux all written in C. It could be argued much of the world runs on C which makes it an ideal, versatile language to add to your arsenal.

Average salary: £37,000

C++

C++ has consistently ranked among the most useful programming languages in the world and is an extension of the aforementioned C language. Often relied upon by major system processes like operating systems, graphical user interfaces (GUIs), embedded systems and more recently, VR applications, it's another multi-purpose language that's likely to put you in work for many years to come. 

Because the language can make direct changes to the hardware on which it runs, C++ is a great choice for developers looking to build fast, efficient applications that require limited resources. Developers have a significant amount of control over the tuning of their C++ code, making little tweaks to efficiency easy to accomplish. 

Average salary: £35,000

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