According to how frequently language tutorials are searched on Google, Java is the most popular programming language. While Java has consistently maintained popularity over the past 7 years, Python has grown the most at 10% over the past 5 years, with PHP losing the most at -5%. By the way, my entire career, I've heard nothing but hatred for PHP and Wordpress. However, knowing PHP still makes you very bankable as 25% of websites still run on Wordpress.
The following data reveals the rate of popularity of programming languages over the last 7 years based on "[language] tutorial" searches, worldwide.
The following chart reveals which programming languages are most popular by job posting. This will come in handy for when you want to know which programming languages companies are looking to hire for. C is the most popular programming language, based on this criteria.
Over the last 10 years, I've programmed as a Web Developer, Software Engineer, Systems Administrator, and QA Automation Engineer. As a manager, I've worked as a Web Development Lead, Director of Software Development, and Vice President of Engineering. I've also worked at 2 New York startups, as a manager at an enterprise sized company (500+ empoyees), and as a remote contractor.
Java was actually the least popular, with only one organization relying on a Java/Scala backend. C# was also the least popular. Both companies were either enterprise level or handled heavy amounts of traffic, so these where large, scalabale, backends. This just goes to show that throughout your career, you may never be exposed to certain languages, regardless of popularity.
My advice for anyone deciding on their first programming language is to choose the language that gives you the highest return for the time you put into it. So if you want to work for a certain company or you want to make a certain amount of money and a specific programming language will get you there, learn that language. But over the life of your career, you'll have more opportunities to provide value knowing a language that has wider applications.
You'll be the one to step up with a programmatic solution when a unique problem in the workplace arises (which it most often will), and that's what catapults you up the ladder.
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