What kind of future awaits fresh Java developers who just started learning Java in 2020 or not so long before? This is something the majority of people beginning to learn Java or considering doing so are reasonably wondering, trying to understand if Java is still the right choice. After all, the tech market is evolving and changing at a fast pace, with trends and new technologies emerging constantly. Back to the Future. Is Java Still the Right Bet For New Coders in 2020? - 1
from the movie "Back to the Future" (1985)
So, is there still a bright future for Java developers in the tech industry and the best coding language to learn, or that ship has already sailed and Java, being a programming language that is now more than 25 years old (quite an old age for a tech industry), is just not that relevant anymore?

Spoiler alert!

Let’s get this out of the way right from the start though. Despite having somewhat controversial opinions on this matter in the developer community (with controversy mostly related to Google making Kotlin a preferred programming language for Android app developers instead of Java), we definitely think there is a bright future for Java developers, still. In fact, we tend to believe that today, in 2020, Java coders have more opportunities than ever before. And here is why.

Tech industry loves Java

According to a recent State of The Developer Nation report by Slashdata, based on a survey of thousands of software developers around the globe, Java is the most stably growing programming language in the world. Currently, the total number of Java developers is slightly over 8 mln, with about 0.5 mln new coders becoming a part of the Java community each year. Java is currently the most popular programming language in mobile development (Android, primarily), as well as it is very common is backend-development, cloud-based solutions, and in a number of hot and trending tech niches like IoT and Big Data (we will talk about them in more detail later in the article). According to the TIOBE index, measuring the popularity of programming languages among developers based on a number of criteria, Java is currently the second most popular coding language in the world, just slightly behind C.

Coders can’t live without Java

But for the majority of coders, it’s not ratings and popularity indexes that really matter. The real demand for Java developers, and their salaries, is what’s actually important, right? Well, according to PayScale, the average salary for a Java developer in the U.S. is $74,300 per year, with an average salary range of $50k to $105k per year. Glassdoor’s numbers are even higher at $74,100 per year as an average salary ranging from $57k to $117k per year. Not bad, right? And this is the data for regular Java developers. A Senior Java coder would reasonably expect to have an additional $25-30k to the annual wage. Java coders are making good money in Europe too. The average salary for a Java Developer in Germany is almost €49,000 a year, while Java Seniors are making more than €62,000. In the United Kingdom, according to this data, Java devs are making an average of €53-85k a year, in Spain, the average salary is €27-45k, while in the Netherlands it’s €30-64k. As for the demand for Java developers, it stays at a very high level year after year. According to a recent report by analytical company Burning Glass, Java Developer is one of the most common tech occupations in the U.S., with a total number of open job postings nearly reaching 4000 in February 2020 in the U.S. alone. With Java being one of the most requested tech skills (mentioned in more than 23,000 positions open in February). And another interesting fact. According to data from job site Indeed, Java developers are the least likely to leave their profession among all professionals in general, not just in the tech sector. Their career-switch rate is less than 8%, while for the software developer profession in general it’s 27%, and for database administrators, for example, it’s 35%. Even when offered a higher-level managerial position, the majority of Java coders just don’t want to give it up. This may be the best proof of Java programming being the right profession choice for the majority of coders.

Big companies stick to Java

One of the reasons Java is so popular and the number of open jobs for Java coders staying consistently high is the fact that a number of big companies rely on this programming language for the development of the backend side of their products. For example, here is a list of major tech companies whose products are more or less entirely based on Java: Uber, Airbnb, Linkedin, eBay, Spotify, Square, Groupon, Pinterest. Google still has a high percentage of its development in Java. A number of big Indian software companies, including Infosys, TCS, Wipro, HCL Tech, Myntra, and others are big lovers of Java as well. Global tech giants, like Accenture, Intel, Symantec, Philips, Thomson, T-Mobile are heavy users of Java also. Back to the Future. Is Java Still the Right Bet For New Coders in 2020? - 2So Java developers are in no way limited in choosing industries, market sectors, and niches to work in. In fact, some of the currently trendiest tech niches are relying on Java to a massive extent.

Hot tech niches rely on Java

For example, Java is the most popular language in IoT (Internet of Things) solutions development. According to IoT Developer Survey 2019, Java is the most important programming language in this niche (which has enormous growth potential by the way). And this is totally not surprising as originally Java was created as a language for PDA (personal digital assistant) applications. PDAs, being basically the predecessors of modern smartphones, required a special language that would work well on low-power mobile devices and will be universally portable across different mobile platforms. Java has all of this, which coincidentally makes it a great match for various IoT-devices. Or let’s look at artificial intelligence (AI), probably the hottest technology trend these days. There are a number of programming languages widely used in the AI field, with Java being among the main ones. Java is used in the development of solutions for machine learning, neural networks, search algorithms, genetic programming, and multi-robotic systems. And obviously, Java features like object orientation and scalability are very much in demand both in big-scale AI projects and with businesses who are already using AI in their platforms, because Java allows you to create a single version of the application that will work on several different platforms. Big data is another tech niche (that is now rapidly turning into a huge global industry) that just cannot live without Java. Why? The thing is, a big number of major big data tools and technologies (like Apache Hadoop and Apache Spark) are based on Java code. So, like one expert said, to a large extent, Big Data is Java. The same is with many cloud computing platforms, they are frequently based on Java as well.

Java will continue to lead: industry experts

If you aren’t convinced that Java still (being 25 years old and all) has a bright future ahead, let’s look at what industry experts and experienced developers have to say about this. “History is often the best predictor of the future, repeating itself with slight variations. Languages are hard to change, so Java will continue to lead. It will be interesting to see if other languages begin to use the Java Virtual Machine (JVM). Not just JVM dialects like Scala and Kotlin but other languages with their own userbase, like Ruby, JavaScript, or Python,” said Mark Little, V.P. Middleware Engineering at Red Hat, when answering a question about the future of Java from his perspective. “To be more cloud-native — this is imperative as we see greater cloud adoption. We cannot throw away the investment we made in the industry and the education. There is no need to learn a whole new language and start from scratch. As such, it’s important for Java to run well in new environments,” said Anders Wallgren, Electric Cloud CTO. Tanya Cranford, Executive Director of Rec Works recruitment agency, is quite optimistic about the future of Java too: “From laptops and mobile phones to gaming consoles and scientific computers, Java is everywhere today. Recent reports from Oracle reveal that there are over 9 million Java developers all over the world. Thus, Java developers can be assured of a lucrative professional career ahead owing to Java’s strong presence in the enterprise. Currently, Java is leading not only in the market of Android mobile application development but also in the enterprise backend market. And, when you consider the mixture of modern language features, the future for Java shines as brightly as the sun!”

Summary

As you can see, we have a good reason, a number of them actually, to believe that Java developers have a pretty bright future ahead and it’s the best programming language to start with. As the experts explained, we just “cannot throw away the investment we made in the industry and the education,” meaning that Java will inevitably remain widely popular in years to come due to its already existing massive ecosystem. The tech industry and the programming languages landscape are changing all the time, so it definitely makes sense not to limit yourself to Java and spend time on learning other languages and technologies as well. But for those who are just beginning their coding career, Java is no doubt a good start.Back to the Future. Is Java Still the Right Bet For New Coders in 2020? - 3