10 Most Popular Programming Languages Today

by Elise Milburn - over 7 years ago

The list changes regularly. The last update was October 2020.

There are hundreds of programming languages available, and there are now more than 400,000 programmers and software developers in the UK alone. The number of web developer jobs is constantly on the rise every single year. Despite these numbers, there’s still an IT skills shortage, and companies are constantly looking for the best tech talent to come in-house.


You may already be well-versed in coding, or you may be at the beginners’ stage, wondering which language to start with. No matter what stage you’re at, it’s worth knowing what’s what when it comes to code. Software development has some of the best tech salaries in the UK, ranging anywhere between £30,000 to £100,000, depending on your level of experience and your location. 

Whether you’re already up to speed with Java and PHP, or you don’t know your Python from your Ruby, find out the top 10 most popular programming languages below. Don’t forget - this isn’t ranked in any particular order, but rather a menu of languages to choose from, if you’re thinking about upskilling in time for 2021.


As one of the original programming languages and most popular codes to learn, JavaScript continues to be in demand in 2020. The reason for its popularity is mainly due to it being used for both front-end and back-end programming, but also because it works so well with other languages, and it’s updated every single year.


Some of the world’s most popular sites, including YouTube, Facebook, Gmail and Twitter, all rely on JavaScript for their interactive pages. Why? Because JavaScript is a core technology and powers things such as online video and dynamic pages. Plus, if you’re looking to learn code for the first time, JavaScript works across all major browsers and is known for having a forgiving, flexible syntax. This is why it’s one of the favourites amongst beginners.


In a nutshell, we can’t see the world wide web without JavaScript anytime soon.


Can you believe that SQL was first developed in 1972? Despite it being almost 50 years old, SQL is still one of the most popular languages and doesn’t seem to be going out of fashion any time soon.


The reason behind SQL’s popularity is it being essential to so many large databases that companies rely on. The likes of Microsoft, Oracle and IBM, that power numerous enterprise applications, all rely on SQL’s existence. 


To some newcomers in the world of coding, SQL may seem a bit outdated in comparison to some of the more recently established languages. However, it’s more versatile than you might think - not only can it run big data applications, but it powers a lot of the more traditional databases, too. 


Coders will tell you that it’s one of the most reliable languages out there, which is why it’s still popular - not only with database experts, but with businesses hiring IT staff to work in-house.


Did you know that PHP is the code behind sites such as WordPress, Wikipedia and Yahoo? That’s because, to put it simply, it’s mainly used on websites to get data out of a database. 


It has been one of the most popular languages to learn amongst coders due to it integrating easily with other languages, as well as being one of the easiest to use. Not only this, but it’s also easy to debug, meaning it won’t keep you awake at night wondering how you’re going to solve another code problem.


PHP is one of the older languages, meaning that it actually benefits from a large network of users who have produced frameworks and automation tools to make it easier to use. Despite less coders learning PHP than previous years, businesses are still hiring PHP developers in large numbers.


Python has always been, and continues to be, a favourite programming language amongst tech experts. It’s known for its versatility, and is perhaps the most user-friendly programming language available. Coders identify Python’s syntax as clear and intuitive - similar to that of JavaScript - making it another popular choice for those starting out in coding.


You can create pretty much anything using Python, including simple scripts, applications and even neural networks for AI. Plus, it also has numerous applications for you to choose from. So if, for example, you’re interested in back-end development, then the open-source Django framework (which is written in Python) is simple and straightforward to learn. And, it’s been used to develop some of the biggest apps and sites in the world, including Spotify and Instagram.


Python will always be a good choice when it comes to coding, but take note: Python 2 was discontinued in 2020, so make sure you choose Python 3.  


C# (insert well-known hashtag pun here) is built specifically for Microsoft .NET, and is a combination of the best features of C and C++. It’s one of the best, if not the best option, for developing code for Windows systems. It has a minimal runtime, making it great for developing lean applications, and its versatility means it can handle both front-end and back-end development. 


Although it’s the most technically complicated of the C languages, this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the most difficult to learn. A lot of coders praise C# for being the best language to program bespoke software, which is why a lot of in-house IT teams are hiring C# specialists.


If that doesn’t sound interesting enough for you, don’t forget that C# is what’s used in VR development, and is the recommended language for all 3D and 2D video game developers. 


It may come as a surprise to you that Java and JavaScript are nothing alike. Java is widely used for Android applications, which is why it’s been a long-standing contender for the most popular programming language amongst tech experts. The “write once, run anywhere” motto refers to Java’s versatility and cross-platform abilities, and is used by more than 9 million developers around the world.


Due to it being owned by Oracle, Java is made for applications that run on the server as opposed to the cloud, is highly scalable, and very well suited to enterprise applications. But don’t let that put you off - it’s one of the most sought-after programming languages out there, being used on more than 7 billion devices, and even holds up websites such as Amazon and Netflix.


Following on from Java is the latest signing to the team, Kotlin - a language that is 100% interoperable with Java, runs on JVM and even works with JavaScript. It might sound too good to be true, but it might just be the best full-stack language out there at the moment.


Due to Kotlin being one of the newest programming languages, it’s making huge waves in the development community, and coders who are well-versed in this language are demanding some of the highest salaries in tech. (Newcomers, take note.)


It’s used primarily in Android development, but because it is so simple and easy to maintain, it’s also a top choice for non-Android tasks as well. Some coders are wary when it comes to new languages in case their popularity is temporary or they’re discontinued, but by the looks of things, Kotlin isn’t going anywhere any time soon.


Another follow-on from Java is its more modern relative, Scala, which is a programming language known for combining Java’s best features but with a more up-to-date twist. It’s a strongly typed language, which means it might not be the easiest to learn at first, but when you’re well-versed in Scala you’ll never look back. Companies all over the world are on the lookout for Scala experts, and as it stands, there’s still a huge skills shortage.


If you’re up for the challenge, coders have said it’s fun to learn in comparison to other languages, so Scala may be the best choice if you’re looking to start out with a new coding language to put on your CV. Plus, it’s one of the best in terms of salaries and day rates. 


Some web developers decide which code to learn based on what they’ll be able to do with it, as opposed to how long it’ll take them or how easy it is. The good news is, Swift is one of the easiest to learn, and if you’re interested in Apple products and mobile app development, it’s the perfect option for you. 

Swift was first announced by Apple in 2014, meaning it’s one of the newest programming languages out there, and is used to develop iOS and macOS applications. This means that not only does it run on all iPhones and iPads, but it’s also the basis for other operating systems, including watchOS and tvOS. 


When it comes to learning the language that powers one of the tech industry leaders, you can’t go wrong with adding Swift to your list of contenders.


Last but certainly not least, Ruby is still one of the most popular languages amongst coding beginners, because its simple syntax makes it very flexible and easy to write. This is why Ruby has always been a favourite with startups, due to its well-known simple and intuitive code. Some of these startups include AirBnB, Shopify and Bloomberg, who all built their websites using Ruby to begin with.


Plus, it's also known for saving time. It’s used as the basis for the popular Ruby on Rails web application framework, and developers who use Ruby on Rails build applications up to 40% faster than professionals using other technologies.


Ruby has a huge active online community, so if you ever need a helping hand, there are thousands of coders waiting to help you fix the problem. 

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