The Top 10 Highest Paying Programming Languages of 2023

Software Engineering
Anthony PellegrinoAnthony PellegrinoLast updated
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Are you considering starting or expanding your software engineer or developer career?

Naturally, you'll need to learn one or several new programming languages.

Still, with hundreds of different programming languages out there, you may be wondering which you should choose to maximize your time!

Don't worry! Stack Overflow publishes an annual Developer Survey highlighting the top tech trends of the year.

Stack Overflow Developer Survey 2022
In May 2022 over 70,000 developers told us how they learn and level up, which tools they’re using, and what they want.

One of its many exciting insights is the top salaries that several programming languages earn.

So, to help eliminate the guesswork, we'll dive deeply into the top 10 highest-paying programming languages today.

These are:

  1. Clojure - $106,644
  2. Erlang - $103,000
  3. F# - $95,526
  4. LISP - $95,000
  5. Ruby - $93,000
  6. Elixir - $92,959
  7. Scala - $92,780
  8. Perl - $90,073
  9. Go - $89,204
  10. Rust - $87,047
These figures are the median salary of those who responded to the Stack Overflow Survey.

As a result, you may find open positions for these programming languages with higher or lower salaries than these stated figures.

The Top 10 Highest-Paying Programming Languages of 2023

Clojure - $106,644/yr
Source: Clojure

Of all the highest-paying programming languages on the list, the first is Clojure.

Clojure is a dynamic, general-purpose programming language that integrates scripting languages' approachability and interactive development with an efficient and robust infrastructure best for multithreaded programming.

Clojure is a dialect of another programming language on our list: Lisp. As such, it shares Lisp's code-as-data philosophy. This means that Clojure allows the computer to treat instructions in the language as data handled by a running program.

Clojure is primarily a functional programming language that includes many immutable, persistent data structures.

In practice, Clojure is often used to handle large amounts of data. Companies may use Clojure developers for data mining and AI.

While the median salary for Clojure developers reported by Stack Overflow is $106,644, according to ZipRecruiter, some developers can command salaries as high as $150,000 - $200,000 yearly.

Erlang - $103,000/yr

Erlang (programming language) - Wikipedia
Source: Erlang

Erlang is a general-purpose, functional programming language designed to develop scalable real-time systems that need to be highly available.

Traditionally, it's been used most in telecommunications but is also used for banking and e-commerce.

Many companies such as Cisco, Ericsson, Klarna, Goldman Sachs, T-Mobile, WhatsApp, and Amazon rely on Erlang for much of their technical architecture.

When people say "Erlang," they often use the term synonymously with Erlang/OTP or the Open Telecom Platform (OTP). In short, this is a collection of middleware, libraries, and tools written in Erlang.

The median salary in 2022 for Erlang developers reported in the Developer Survey is $103,000. However, according to ZipRecruiter, some Erlang developers can command salaries as high as $130,000 - $180,000 a year.

F# - $95,526/yr

F Sharp (programming language) - Wikipedia
Source: F#

F# is a general-purpose, strongly typed, multi-paradigm programming language.

While it is considered a multi-paradigm language, functional programming is one of its central features. As a result, many developers consider it a functional-first programming language.

Even so, F# still supports other programming paradigms, such as imperative and object-oriented programming.

F# is routinely ranked among the top paying programming languages and has topped the Developer Survey for many years.

However, as we'll get to later in this article, it is not a commonly used programming language amongst developers.

The median salary in 2022 for F# developers reported in the Developer Survey is $95,526. According to Payscale, the national average salary is similar at $94,000 per year.

LISP - $95,000/yr
Source: LISP

Lisp (or LISP) is a family of programming languages with a long history. Initially developed in 1958 by John McCarthy, Lisp is the second-oldest high-level programming language that is still regularly used by professional developers and one of the oldest programming languages in general.

However, Lisp has grown and evolved over the years and spawned many dialects, such as Racket, Common Lisp, Scheme, and Clojure, which we discussed earlier.

Despite being the oldest programming language on our list, by a long shot, knowing LISP can still be highly lucrative for software engineers, especially those working with machine learning and artificial intelligence.

The median salary in 2022 for Lisp developers reported in the Developer Survey is $95,000. However, according to ZipRecruiter, many Lisp developers make around $81,000 - $140,000 yearly.

Ruby - $93,000/yr

Ruby (programming language) - Wikipedia
Source: Ruby

Ruby is another popular high-level, dynamic programming language. Ruby was designed to support multiple programming paradigms and make developers more productive.

Software engineers will often use Ruby to build desktop applications, for web development, data processing services, automation tools, and much more.

Not only can Ruby developers command high salaries, but, because of the popularity of the programming language, many jobs are available.

The median salary in 2022 for Ruby developers reported in the Developer Survey is $93,000. However, according to Indeed, the national average salary is around $122,000.

Elixir - $92,959/yr

The Elixir programming language
Source: Elixir

Elixir is a functional, general-purpose programming language that runs on the BEAMvirtual machine, also used by Erlang. Truth be told, Elixir is built on top of Erlang and the two languages share many characteristics for developing software.

Despite its similarities to Erlang, it is a significantly more popular and beloved programming language. Nearly 75% of Stack Overflow Survey respondents said they loved the language and want to continue using it in the future, compared to Erlang's 54%.

The median salary in 2022 for Elixir developers reported in the Developer Survey is $92,959. However, according to ZipRecruiter, some Elixir developers can command salaries as high as $116,000 - $154,000 a year.

Scala - $92,780/yr

Source: Scala

Scala is a general-purpose language designed to support functional programming and a robust static type system.

The name Scala is short for "scalable language," suggesting that it was developed to grow and evolve as the scale of its users (and their needs) change over time.

Scala is a notable addition to our list because it was designed to be concise. In fact, many of Scala's features were aimed at addressing common complaints about the Java programming language.

Unlike Java, Scala has many features of functional programming languages (like Scheme, Standard ML, and Haskell), including currying, immutability, lazy evaluation, and pattern matching.

The median salary in 2022 for Scala developers reported in the Developer Survey is $92,780. However, according to ZipRecruiter, some Scala developers can command salaries as high as $140,000 - $200,000 a year.

Perl - $90,073/yr

Perl - Wikipedia
Source: Perl

Perl is a highly powerful, feature-rich general purpose programming language with over 30 years of development. Initially developed by Larry Wall in 1987, Perl now runs on over 100 platforms - from portables to mainframes.

Technically, "Perl" is a family of similar programming languages. Perl 6 (also called "Raku") is the latest addition to the Perl family, released in 2019.

Nevertheless, don't be confused: Perl 6 (Raku)is a distinct programming language with its own development team.

Given how old Perl is, there is a lot of discussion surrounding whether or not it is a dead language and still worth learning. But, as the 2022 Developer Survey demonstrates, Perl developers still command some of the highest salaries.

The median salary in 2022 for Perl programmers reported in the Developer Survey is $90,073. However, according to ZipRecruiter, some Perl developers earn as much as $117,000 - $174,000 per year.

Go - $89,204/yr

Go (programming language) - Wikipedia
Source: Go

Go is an open-source programming language that was developed by Google in 2009. It is similar to the C programming language but includes many other features such as memory safety, garbage collection, and structural typing, among others.

The central idea behind Go was to create a language capable of building simple, reliable, but highly efficient software.

Of all the highest paying programming languages on our list, Go is the most popular, with 11.15% of developers saying they have used it extensively in 2022.

So, suppose you're looking to learn a new programming language with the highest number of open positions available. In that case, Go may be the way to go.

The median salary in 2022 for Go developers reported in the Developer Survey is $89,204. However, according to ZipRecruiter, many Go developers earn salaries as high as $123,000 - $160,000 a year.

Rust - $87,047/yr

Rust (programming language) - Wikipedia
Source: Rust

Like Go, Rust is a newer programming language developed at Mozilla between 2006 and 2009. It is a general-purpose multi-paradigm language designed for highly efficient memory and high performance.

Since its development, Rust has been used (and continues to be used) by major tech companies such as Google, Meta, Amazon, Dropbox, and others.

It is also one of the most popular programming languages on our list, with 9.32% of the Stack Overflow Survey respondents reported having used it extensively in 2022.

Interestingly enough, of all the highest paying programming languages covered, Rust was the "most beloved." Over 86% of respondents said they love the language and want to continue using it in the future.

The median salary in 2022 for Rust developers reported in the Developer Survey is $87,047. However, according to ZipRecruiter, Rust developers make up to $130,000 - $195,000 per year.

Which Programming Languages Should You Learn?

Abstract by Oleg Shcherba

As you can see, there are dozens of programming languages to choose from that could potentially help you land a lucrative software engineering or development position.

Even so, this doesn't necessarily mean the highest-paying programming languages, such as Clojure or Erlang, are necessarily right for you.

As you've probably already noticed, many of the most popular programming languages, such as C++, Java, and Python, did not make the top 10 in the Developer Survey.

This doesn't necessarily mean you can't find open positions offering comparably high salaries for these general purpose programming languages.

Many of the programming languages we listed above can be relatively niche compared to more popular languages. As such, you may, for example, have fewer potential job listings to choose from for Erlang compared to C++.

Fortunately, the 2022 Developer Survey also listed the most widely used programming languages.

The top 10 of which are:

  1. Javascript - 67.9%*
  2. HTML/CSS - 54.93%
  3. SQL - 52.64%
  4. Python - 43.51%
  5. TypeScript - 40.08%
  6. Java - 33.4%
  7. C# - 29.72%
  8. Bash/Shell - 29.47%
  9. PHP - 21.42%
  10. C++ - 20.17%

*Number shown is the percentage of respondents who responded to the following question: "Which programming, scripting, and markup languages have you done extensive development work in over the past year?"

The percentage of respondents who reported that they used Clojure, Erlang, and F# (the top 3 highest paying programming languages on our list), in contrast, was:

  • Clojure - 1.66%
  • Erlang - 0.98%
  • F# - 1.08%

So what does this mean?

Before jumping into a software engineering career, you'll need to decide what kind of developer you want to be.

Would you prefer a more niche and specialized (and likely highly paid) skillset, such as learning Clojure or Erlang, or learn more traditional and generalist languages such as Java or Python?

It would certainly be easier to find open Python developer positions compared to something like F#. Yet, the 2022 Developer Survey found that the median salary of Python developers was $71,105/year compared to F #'s $95,526/year.

At the end of the day, you'll have to decide for yourself whether you prefer more job opportunities for potentially lower pay or niche but highly lucrative positions.

Nevertheless, it's generally recommended that software developers learn at least three programming languages, if not more.

So perhaps you can have your cake and eat it too by learning both niche and popular languages to give yourself the best job opportunities possible.

How to Ace the Software Engineering Interview

Abstract by Maria Shukshina

Once you've learned these or other in-demand programming languages, you'll still need to ace the software engineering interview before you can start your dream job in tech.

Software Engineering interviews tend to be tough, especially at Big Tech companies like Apple or Google.

They almost always involve several rounds of meetings, challenging coding questions, and behavioral questions.

But, (besides becoming the best possible developer you can be) there are several things you can do beforehand to give you the best chances of impressing every hiring manager that comes your way:

Use the Whiteboard

In many software engineer interviews, you'll notice that you will have an opportunity to use the whiteboard. Sometimes, a hiring manager may explicitly ask you to use it to outline a technical answer or solution.

Nevertheless, many candidates make the mistake of underestimating the importance of this simple tool.

Ultimately, there is virtually nothing else that has the potential to illustrate and outline your thought process and problem-solving abilities than a whiteboard and marker.

To learn more about how to use the whiteboard in SWE interviews effectively, be sure to check out our video below:

Make a Software Engineering Cheat Sheet

There's no way around it: software engineering is hard.

The entire software development process is incredibly complex. Engineers must consider and understand countless factors to produce a successful software product.

As such, being evaluated on their knowledge of software engineering concepts during an interview can feel very intimidating for many candidates, no matter where they are in their careers.

Because of this, one of the most impactful things you can do to prepare for an upcoming software engineering interview is to make a cheat sheet.

List all the most essential SWE principles you will likely experience in an interview.

If you're unsure where to start, be sure to check out the software engineer interview cheat sheet we put together below:

Software Engineer Interview Cheat Sheet: Tips, Tricks and Advice
Even if you have years of software engineering experience under your belt, the technical interview can be daunting! Luckily, we’ve put together a coding interview cheat sheet of all the major principles you can expect to see in your technical interviews.

Complete Some Mock Interviews

You know what they say: practice makes perfect.

Completing several mock interviews before your upcoming interviews can be one of the most influential and consequential interview prep tools at your disposal.

After all, tech interviews can be nerve-wracking. Even if you have the skills and experience for a particular job but can't perform well in interviews, you'll lose out on possible job offers.

How to Get the Most Out of Mock Interviews
Interested in using mock interviews to help you practice for the real thing? We don’t blame you. Here’s how you can make the most out of them.

But mock interviews can help build your confidence, make you comfortable with the tech interview format, and help you put your best foot forward during the real thing.

If you're interested, be sure to check out Exponent's peer-to-peer mock interview tool to get started.

Take the Exponent Software Engineering Interview Course

After coaching hundreds of clients, we've developed a comprehensive software engineering interview course to help you review the most critical data structures, algorithms, and system design principles with detailed questions and mock interviews.

Complete Software Engineering Interview Prep Course

Our software engineering interview course helps you review the most important data structures, algorithms, and system design principles, with detailed questions and mock interviews.

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After taking this interview prep course, you'll have all the tools you'll need to master the most common software engineering interview questions, including system design, data structures, algorithms, and behavioral questions.

You'll also get a detailed review of the most critical SWE concepts, proven interview frameworks for challenging technical rounds and practice answering real-world questions.

More Resources

Here at Exponent, we have numerous different interview prep resources you can use to ace your software engineer interview:

💬 practice with sample Software Engineer interview questions

📖 Read through our Software Engineering interview guides

👯‍♂️ Rehearse your behavioral and interpersonal skills with our interview practice tool.

👨‍🎓 Take our complete Software Engineering interview course.

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