To Advance in IT, Speak the Right (Programming) Language

When in Rome, you’re supposed to do as the Romans do, but that is difficult if you don’t speak Italian. Success depends on expressing yourself in the most appropriate way. If you have an information systems degree, that means knowing the programming languages that potential employers are most likely to require.

Luckily, there’s a guide to understanding the programming languages that are in the greatest demand, the TIOBE Index. Put together by TIOBE Software BV, it is an indicator of how popular programming languages are. “The index is updated monthly based on search activity on Google, MSN, Yahoo, Wikipedia and YouTube,” says Dan Randall, professor of computer science at American Sentinel. “In addition to current ratings, the index contains years of historical data and information on languages that have fallen out of fashion.”

At the very top of the list are such workhorses as Java, C, C++, and C#. “Any of these languages make an excellent first language or a valuable addition to a professional programming repertoire,” Randall says. “American Sentinel University uses C++ as a primary teaching language because C++ is parent to both Java and C#, but also shares common syntax and techniques with C.” C++ offers a better path than its predecessor, C, because it incorporates object-oriented features and techniques on which the IT industry relies.

But C++ isn’t enough, because there are other languages in wide use. For example, American Sentinel also offers other languages and technologies, including Java, C#, and JavaScript. Java is currently the most popular programming language, used in corporate applications as well as Web and mobile development.

JavaScript is primarily used in Web development, although it is also widely used in other areas. C# was intended to be an alternative to Java, with the number of jobs calling for it having increased by 77 percent between June 2009 and December 2010, according to job search engine SimplyHired.

  C# trends C# jobs  

And, according to SimplyHired, the average annual salary for a C# programmer is $75,000.

Whether using one of these popular languages, up-and-comers such as Perl and PHP, or even more specialized languages such as ActionScript (for Adobe Flash and Web development), remember that programming is far more than writing code, just as literature is more than stringing words together. Any good computer science master’s degree curriculum should focus on algorithms and techniques to address common needs and problems in software development.

In an increasingly competitive job market, staying relevant is no longer an option, which means maintaining competencies consistent with or above industry standards. This means being able to “speak” the language while also saying something employers will find valuable.