Top tech skills employers want going into 2020

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Soft skills matter in the tech world, but if you don’t know the right programming language or platform, you probably won’t get the job. 

With so many tech skills out there (Indeed’s Hiring Lab currently tracks 500+), which ones are the most in demand across the US? That’s what the Hiring Lab analyzed in a new report on tech skills in the US.

A team of economists and researchers looked at millions of tech job postings on Indeed.com in the five-year period between 2014 and 2019 to uncover which programming languages (and other tech skills) companies need most over time. 

Play around with your tech skills using our interactive tool to see how much they’ve changed in the last five years. We’ll dive deeper into the the top ones below. 

Top programming languages and tech skills employers want the most

To help you grow your career in the right places (and focus your job search), here are the top five trending programming languages and skills across ​all tech jobs.

5. JavaScript

A front-end staple, JavaScript appears in 14.5% of all tech job postings on Indeed. Not only is it a highly sought-after skill, but it’s also the most-used programming language, with 69.7% of professional developers coding with it regularly. 

The language has seen constant evolution, particularly when it comes to its libraries and frameworks. Angular is the most widespread, edging out Ajax in late 2016 and jQuery in mid 2018. In fact, in the last five years, jQuery’s popularity fell by 33% and Ajax fell by 55%.

It’s not all on the decline, though: React.js, Vue.js and Node.js have all seen strong, steady growth since 2014. 

JavaScript isn’t specific to one industry or role: Check out our guide to the top-paying JS career paths. 

4. Linux

Appearing in 14.9% of all tech job postings, it’s no surprise why Linux is the #4 most in-demand tech skill. Linux serves up most of the websites and apps people use on a daily basis (it even has a stronger presence on Microsoft Azure than Windows). And it probably doesn’t hurt that it lives on every Android phone and tablet in the world. 

As the most secure OS available (due to its open source development model), companies across all sizes and industries are looking for tech pros who understand the Linux ecosystem to cut down on the time (and cost) it takes to develop products and services of all kinds.

In fact, Linux is now finding its way onto smart TVs, drones, refrigerators, thermostats and even supercomputers (all 500 of the world’s fastest are powered by Linux). Automakers are even seeing the potential. Automotive Grade Linux (AGL), for example, is an open source project for developing in-vehicle technology for connected cars, including Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai and Toyota. 

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3. Python

As of September 2019, Python appears in 18% of tech job postings, making it the third-most popular skill on the list. The language also boasts the fastest growth of any major tech skill the Hiring Lab looked at. In 2014, Python was the #15 tech skill, but by 2019 it has risen to #3 (an increase of 118%). 

A new mix of jobs, including data scientists and associated roles, like data engineers, data analysts and machine learning engineers, partially explains this growth. Since December 2013, for example, data science jobs skyrocketed by 256%. And as companies produce more and more data, Python is likely to continue this high-growth trajectory, especially since the language has been a data scientist favorite for years.

It’s not just the rise of data science jobs contributing to Python’s success, either. Software engineers, full stack developers, QA engineers and several other roles increasingly use Python for its versatility, ease of use and speed of development. And for the first time, Python outranked Java as the second most loved language in 2019 (behind JavaScript).

2. Java

Java shows up in 21% of tech job postings, making it the second most in-demand skill. Not just a mainstay of Android mobile development, Java has also been a popular skill for software engineers for almost 25 years. Since it’s a “write once, run anywhere” (WORA) language, it works cross-platform, allowing companies to develop Java code on one system and run it on any other Java-supported machine.

Because it’s designed for projects that can scale up in size, the bulk of enterprise companies—including large players like Facebook, Netflix and Airbnb—and startups alike use it to build everything from ecommerce back-ends and machine learning environments to cloud apps and IoT tech. As a result of its versatility, rich ecosystem of tools and strong community, there are now 13 billion Java-enabled devices worldwide—which means demand for Java talent isn’t likely to fade anytime soon. 

Have an upcoming Java interview? Boost your game by knowing the three main types of Java interview questions.

1. SQL

SQL is the top tech skill of 2019, appearing in 22% of all tech job postings (and just squeezing past Java by about 1%.) Why? All companies rely on data and need to organize, understand and visualize it to make important business decisions. And SQL is the most universal database language, powering database engines like Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL, PostgreSQL and SQLite.

All kinds of tech pros use it, from developers who access databases to write a program to engineers who design databases to data scientists and analysts who turn thousands (or billions) of rows of data into insights that fuel business growth. Even non-tech teams, like marketing and sales, leverage it to inform decisions (without having to wait on the dev team). 

But despite taking Hiring Lab’s top spot, SQL’s share has actually slightly declined by 7% in the last five years, which could be partially explained by the rise of alternative database querying tools like NoSQL. Even still, as tech job descriptions show, SQL dominates the market and doesn’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon.

Want to jumpstart a career in SQL? Our guide to the top five SQL careers will help you SELECT the one for you.

The rise and fall of the most in-demand programming languages and tech skills

The top five languages and tech skills employers are looking for in 2019 aren’t necessarily the ones growing the fastest (or at all). Tech is never static, so let’s take a look at which skills are experiencing the biggest growth and which are quickly falling out of favor so you can stay ahead of the latest trends. 

Note: Some of the languages and skills discussed in this section don’t appear in the chart above since they weren’t top 10 skills over the entire 2014-2019 period.

Fastest-growing tech skills

Stand out to employers by learning the following fastest-growing tech skills. Already know them? Highlight them on your resume to get a jump on the competition.

fastest-growing tech skills

Docker: Docker has had an impressive trajectory over the last five years. The containerization software was almost nonexistent in job descriptions on Indeed in 2014 (since the first production-ready version was released late that year). But in 2019, Docker has risen more than 40-fold, with employer demand actually outweighing job seeker interest.

IoT: IoT (Internet of Things) as a skill shot up nearly 2,000% in the last five years, fueled by the sheer number of physical devices connected to the internet, including smart homes, connected cars, smart cities and wearable tech.

Ansible: The IT automation platform that makes apps and systems easier to deploy only appeared in 0.1% of tech job descriptions in 2014, but now appears in 2.8%—a remarkable growth of nearly 1,300%.

Kafka: Apache Kafka, an open-source platform for building real-time streaming data pipelines, is also experiencing explosive growth, up over 1,200% in five years. This reflects the soaring popularity in data science and the tech jobs accompanying it, including several rising quickly, like DevOps, data scientist and full stack developer.

Fastest-declining tech skills

As newer technologies, languages and standards enter the mainstream, older ones are being pushed out of the rankings (or even retired). Consider leaving these skills behind in 2020.

Clojure: As a dialect of the Lisp programming language, Clojure is a cult classic with a small but passionate fan base, rather than a mainstream language. And due to its steep learning curve, lack of a strong library ecosystem and the fact that it requires higher CPU utilization (which drives up hiring and operating costs), employer demand for Clojure has dropped by 80% since 2014. 

EJB: Although Java is one of the top tech skills of 2019, EJB (short for Enterprise JavaBeans) is down 73% since 2014. One potential explanation is that other modern Java-based frameworks like Spring Boot (up 58% in the past year) are open-source, easier to use and less resource intensive.

Servlets: Servlets are another Java-based skill fast becoming a legacy technology. Why? Developers using servlets have to write a lot of utility code to support their web applications, while other frameworks, like Spring MVC, automate the manual work, making it faster and easier to build web apps.

JSP: Similar to what’s happening with EJB and servlets, JSP (JavaServer Pages) is falling out of fashion as new choices for building dynamic web pages mature and become popular. While JSP is limited to simple, fixed interactions, newer JS frameworks like Angular, React and Vue.js offer richer web apps with lots of user interactions.

Are you keeping your tech skills current?

In the fast-moving tech world, keeping your skills up to date is critical for both finding a new tech job and investing in your career development. But it can be difficult to figure out what’s a passing fad and what’s here to stay, especially when it seems like new technologies are getting released (and older ones are being phased out) on a daily basis.

So how do you adapt, pick up the right skills to power your career and stop falling for the latest short-lived craze or familiar name that’s fading? Five years of steady (and sometimes explosive) growth signals that a language or skill is likely here to stay, at least until the next Python, Java or SQL comes along to disrupt the rankings again.

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