From the metaverse to self-driving cars, the software engineering field is producing more diverse and exciting innovations than ever before. In the coming decade, software engineers will build the systems and infrastructure that make new technological advancements possible.
But as the possibilities of software engineering have expanded, so have the skills necessary to succeed as a software engineer. Top software engineers will need to balance their skill sets between exciting new frameworks and traditional skills like system design and database management.
Software engineers use a range of programming languages to build applications. While there are a number of languages used in the field, an individual software engineer might only learn a few languages that align with their specialization, interests, and career path.
It would be impossible to list every language a software engineer might learn. No one knows exactly how many programming languages there are, but estimates range from 250 to 2,500. Instead, we’ve included the back-end programming languages that were the most popular in 2022.
Often used for: mobile applications, cloud applications, video game development, IoT devices, web-based applications, big data, machine learning
Java is a high-level, object-oriented programming language used to create complete applications. The language is platform independent, allowing it to run on any device that supports its environment.
Often used for: web development, data analysis, data visualization, task automation, machine learning
Python is an interpreted, high-level, general-purpose programming language, and one of the most popular languages for rapid development.
There are a number of reasons behind Python’s popularity with developers and engineers. It’s easy to learn and usable on nearly every project. There’s also a range of powerful Python frameworks, including Django, Bottle, Web2Py, and PyScript. Python usage is also widespread, with companies including Intel, IBM, Netflix, and Meta using the language.
Often used for: cloud development, back-end development, distributed networks, general development
Go is an object-oriented programming language that Google created in 2009 for networking and infrastructure. Over a decade after its launch, interest in Go has continued to grow, and it’s evolved into a general-purpose language.
From 2018 to 2020, Go was the number one language developers wanted to learn. Companies such as Uber, Twitch, Dropbox, and yes, Google are using Go in their tech stack. In 2022, Go was the second fastest-growing language.
Often used for: enterprise applications, operating systems, video game development, calculation-based applications, programming language development
C is a general-purpose, statically-typed, and compiled programming language. C is a foundational programming language that’s become known as the mother of all languages. Because C has contributed to so many other languages, engineers who learn C will acquire fundamental skills that transfer to any other language.
Often used for: browser rendering, device operating systems, video game development, cloud systems, banking applications
C++ is a general purpose, compiled, and statically typed programming language. Known as “C with Classes,” C++ is an extension of C with the functionality of user-defined data classes.
The high performance of C++ has made it the top language for use cases requiring fast rendering, including browsers, video games, banking applications, and motion design software.
C++’s ability to work closely with system hardware makes it a valuable skill for software engineers interested in hardware-oriented applications. C++ skills are also vital for maintaining existing applications and infrastructure.
What this language is used for: mobile development, desktop development, web development, enterprise applications, cloud services, video game development
An extension of C, C# adds on a number of features, including variable checking, type checking, bound checking, and garbage collection. Like other members of the C language family, C# is a popular and well-established language.
Often used for: web development, desktop app development
PHP is a widely-used open source and general-purpose scripting language that’s especially suited for web development.
PHP’s popularity is owed to the fact that it was one of the first server-side languages that developers could embed into HTML. It’s also fast, secure, versatile, and supported by a strong open source community. While PHP isn’t as popular as other general-purpose languages, its specialization gives it an advantage in web development over languages like Python.
Often used for: web development, video game development, scientific computing, data processing, automation tools, data analysis
Ruby is an interpreted, dynamic, open-source programming language with a focus on simplicity and productivity. Ruby has a diverse range of use cases, including data-driven web apps, marketplaces, and desktop apps.
Ruby is most known for Ruby on Rails (RoR), a framework optimized for productivity, efficiency, and DRY (Don’t Repeat Yourself). Developers and engineers have gradually shifted away from Ruby over the past several years.
Often used for: mobile development, web development, big data systems, IoT development
Scala is a high-level, statically-typed programming language that combines object-oriented and functional programming. Its multi-paradigm approach to programming makes it ideal for a number of use cases, including big data, distributed systems, Android applications, and IoT devices. A major benefit for engineers is that Scala is interoperable with Java code and libraries.
#2. System Design
System design is the process of planning a back-end system, including its components, interfaces, and architecture. Software engineers use diagraming or whiteboarding to plan the system while considering factors such as caching and scalability. By their nature, system design problems involve solving broad, open-ended questions with a variety of possible answers. Engineering manager Vasanth Krishnamoorthy describes the open-ended nature of system design as “picking the right battles” while “managing trade-offs.”
#3. Database Management
Database management is the process of organizing, storing, and retrieving data on a computer system. Database skills are vital for software engineers because every application relies on the accessible storage of data.
Database skills can be divided into two different categories. The type of databases software engineers work with will vary depending on their specialization or the needs of a given project.
Relational databases use structured relationships to store information. Data scientists use the programming language SQL to create, access, and maintain relational databases. Relational database tools include SQL Server Management Studio, dbForge SQL Tools, Visual Studio Editor, ApexSQL.
Non-relational databases store data using a flexible, non-tabular format. Also known as NoSQL databases, non-relational databases can use other query languages and constructs to query data. Non-relational database tools include mongoDB, Cassandra, ElasticSearch, Amazon DynamoDB.
#4. Problem Solving
Software engineering has been described as problem-solving first, coding second. This makes the ability to think through and solve technical problems a key skill for software engineers. Solving problems entails understanding how a human solves a problem, translating this “algorithm” into something a computer can do, and writing the specific code to implement the solution.
#5. Technical Communication
Technical communication is used to make technical information clear, concise, and understandable. Throughout their careers, software engineers have to interface with non-technical stakeholders, and may need to train employees on how to operate websites they’ve built.