Traditional Programming Language Job Trends

PLEASE REVIEW THE MORE RECENT VERSION FOR FEBRUARY 2010.

I recently wrote about what programming languages jobs are currently requiring. In the comments and other venues, people mentioned it would be really interesting to see the job trends over time. So, I decided to see what trend information I could find. Thankfully, Indeed and SimplyHired both have excellent trend information.

First, I looked at Indeed for Cobol, Java, Perl, C++, C# and Visual Basic. Indeed provides over 4 years of trend information. This provides an interesting perspective as it allows you to look at long term trends. Let’s take a look at the trend graph below.

cobol, java, perl, C++, C#, visual basic Job Trends graph

As you can see, Java job postings have been growing for quite some time. Most of the languages seem to be flat this year, except Visual Basic which is finally trending down. C# is seeing continued strong growth and looks to overtake C++ on the Indeed job postings. Perl looks to be growing over the past year or 18 months after looking fairly flat for a while. Lastly, Cobol (provided to show a long term baseline) is very slowly trending downward.

In order to get some idea of whether the trends are skewed in one site, I also took a look at the same languages on SimplyHired. SimplyHired does not provide the same long term view, but the short term graph shows more of the recent fluctuations.

Cobol, Java, Perl, C++, C#, Visual Basic trends

The most important thing shown in this graph is the obvious dip in job postings at the end of last year and the beginning of this year. The long term graph from Indeed does not allow you to really see the depth of the drop. Both graphs show a slight dip heading into mid summer, but that is fairly typical as many job postings are geared towards hiring recent grads once they finish school in May. Overall, you can see that all of the languages, except Cobol, have shown some level of growth over the past 18 months. Granted, Visual Basic shows the least growth here, but it is not the strictly downward trend shown by Indeed. Both sites show Java to be growing at a steady pace. SimplyHired does show a similar growth trend for C# and it is closing the gap on C++ here as well. However, Perl does not show as much growth on SimplyHired, though it is still growing. Cobol looks flat at best, with a possible downward trend.

What does this tell us? There is still a lot of demand for Java and that demand is still growing. C# is finally starting to replace C++ in many development shops and that trend looks to continue. Perl continues to show strong demand, contrary to the typical tech hype machine. Lastly, Visual Basic and Cobol look like they are heading out to pasture. Could you get a good, stable and well paying job with Visual Basic or Cobol? Absolutely. However, it looks like the number of those jobs will continue to decrease, and you should learn a new language to increase your own demand.

I am sure I will get some complains about these “traditional” programming language job trends. I used the word “traditional” because I wanted to categorize them differently than languages like Ruby and Python. Basically, this post got long enough without going into the same number of languages as my other post. I am planning to have another post for “Web 2.0” programming language job trends for Ruby, Rails, Python, PHP and Javascript.

All data provided by Indeed.com and SimplyHired.com. My apologies to both for my slight resizing of the images and poor layout.

6 thoughts on “Traditional Programming Language Job Trends

  1. We do have to be a little careful in how we interpret job posting information.

    For instance, by now most COBOL programmers know each other, so they don’t often have to go hunting in public for qualified candidates. Also, to some degree while postings represent new jobs, they also represent “turnover”. So, the low COBOL numbers may just be showing that people in those positions are happier and stay longer, while the Java people might just be skipping around an awful lot. Since in some areas, putting out a job offer into the public is actually the “approach of last resort” for finding people, it may also mean that there are far more “undesirable” Java jobs than most other languages (they’re not getting filled by contacts).

    Unfortunately, these types of stats aren’t really all that clear in what they are saying.

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  2. Paul,

    I understand your point about referrals really not being accounted for, but I am not sure if they can be. Given that most companies do not post information on referral jobs filled vs. new postings vs. turnover, we do what we can. I highly doubt that there is a significant difference in “job satisfaction” among the various programming languages, or that the data would really skew the statistics that much. The idea that this is the “approach of last resort” is true, but also very common. In many cases, jobs are posted at the same time as referral candidates are looked for.

    The statistics are meant more as a barometer of the current conditions, and I also made no conclusions except for the direction the trends are taking.

    As they say, “There are lies, damn lies and statistics.” 🙂

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