What Lanaguage(s) To Learn?

top10.gifBeing a one-language programmer isn’t good enough any more. In today’s world you need to have the right “product mix” to stay in the job market. Here is a story from eWeek.com highlighting the ten most popular languages along with how many jobs are available for each based on the current jobs out on dice.com, one of the more popular tech job sites.

Java and C# rate the highest with a total of over 19,500 jobs. Keep in mind that C# is the “Java” as part of Microsoft Visual Studio. If you learn Java and you’ll be able to easily write code in either language. Another hot language to know right now is VB.NET with 2,090 jobs.

What the article doesn’t cover is the future… In the next 10 years 30-50% of the COBOL programmers in the USA are going to retire. When I first heard these numbers, several years ago, I thought that the mainframe companies would convert over to the languages that are now common on the PC platforms, but this is not proving to be the case. According to the IT people at Wells Fargo Bank, COBOL be around for a long time to come.

Chad Fowler, the author of “My Job Went to India – 52 Ways to Save Your Job” adds to this discussion. He points out that “Java and .NET programmers are a dime a dozen in India. As a .NET programmer, you may find yourself competing with tens of thousands of more people in the market than you would if you were, for example, a Python [or Ruby On Rails} programmer.” He points out that, “You don’t find mainstream Indian offshoring companies jumping on unconventional technologies. They aren’t first-movers. They generally don’t take chances.”

He recommends competing in the job market in which there is actually lower demand globally and focusing on niche technologies such as COBOL in the banking industry or Ruby-On-Rails, which is the cutting edge (right now) in web programming.

Does this mean you shouldn’t take Java or VB.NET? Not really. These languages are considered the base knowledge for today’s programmers. And, once you understand how Java and VB.NET works you can pick up other languages like Ruby On Rails much more quickly.

The key is not to focus on any particular language but to learn the concepts that are common to all programming languages. Once you have that base you can adapt quickly and easily to the changing needs of the job market, now, and in the future.


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