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These programming skills will earn you the most money

This post has been corrected

If you want to provoke an argument among computer programmers, ask them to pick their favorite coding language or framework. But even more contentious in an environment where engineers literally have agents, is which is the most lucrative.

Quora threads on the subject have inspired dozens of essay-length answers debating the merits of C, Javascript, Python, and Ruby on Rails.

We looked at data, compiled by Burning Glass with Brookings Institution economist Jonathan Rothwell in July, from thousands of American job ads. We separated out programming languages from a broader list of tech skills we looked at in an earlier piece.

The dataset isn’t perfect, it’s missing newer but increasingly popular languages like Erlang and Haskell, likely because they don’t turn up all that frequently on job ads and resumes. A large number of the ads also don’t list salary. But this gives a good sense of what employers are paying for different skills:

There’s some pretty prescient advice on Quora for aspiring or early career computer scientists. Though a language currently in high demand like Ruby might get you the best salary, it might not be the best way to make a career, and might peter off over time. It’s better is to focus on being well rounded, with a firm grasp of algorithms, design principles, and the ability to pick up new languages and concepts rapidly.

Others emphasize starting with something like C or C++, a language that you probably won’t work with every day, but helps you learn others more quickly and understand the structure behind systems.

Correction (Nov. 20): An earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to HTML5 and Ruby on Rails as programming languages.

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