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Trends in Software Engineer Tech Skills: 2024 Report

What employers are looking for & which tech skills garner more interview requests...

Trends in Software Engineer Tech Skills: 2024 Report

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series on trends in software engineer tech skills, specializations, the impact of AI, salaries, hiring locations, the push for RTO vs. the pull of remote, and more. 

Though tech layoffs dominated the news cycle for the last few quarters, there’s reason to be optimistic about the state of the market in 2024. Key technical skills are in high demand, new specializations are gaining a foothold, and according to some industry experts, the rise of AI may be solidifying the need for engineers with certain skill sets. 

To better understand the current job market for tech roles, the Hired team analyzed all the open active positions on our tech hiring platform in 2023 and 2022. We approached the data from various angles, looking at the most commonly requested skills for software engineers and those most likely to help jobseekers land an interview. Then we dug into popular sub-roles and emerging specialties and looked at the impact of AI on the job market. 

We uncovered valuable insights, including: 

  • The most popular programming languages remain steady on the top-requested skills list, but those specializing in less popular skills may be more likely to get an interview request. 
  • The most popular programming languages are among the most requested skills for AI-related roles, though AI-specific skills like machine learning are also important for these positions.
  • Even as many predict that AI will change the landscape for software engineering roles, there are ways for software engineers and developers to future-proof their careers, including developing soft skills. 

Whether you’re an employer curious about what your peers are looking for or a jobseeker eager to be more competitive in a crowded market, read on for our detailed analysis of current trends in software engineering skills.  

Most commonly requested software engineering tech skills in 2023 for Individual Contributors

Most open roles listed on the Hired tech recruitment platform in 2023 sought individual contributors or ICs. These positions span a range of levels, from early-career engineers to senior practitioners, but do not include people managers. 

Among organizations hiring ICs, Python was the most commonly requested skill, with 25% of the total active positions on the Hired marketplace listing it as a desired area of expertise. 

Python’s importance to employers can be attributed, at least in part, to the rise of AI. 

According to Chris Hexton, CEO of Vero, “Between data engineering and machine learning (ML), data science is rightly a core and growing part of any business. Engineers with experience in Python can help businesses make the most out of their data.”

Hired CTO Dave Walters agrees, adding, “That’s good news for software engineers, who ranked Python as their favorite language in surveys for both our 2022 and 2023 State of Software Engineers reports.” 

In general, engineers and developers seem to appreciate Python’s ease of use and abundance of available resources. 

As Jason Molt, Co-Founder and CTO of MessageDesk, explains, “Python’s vast library of data science tools and low barrier to entry make it absurdly easy to tap into some of the most exciting frontiers in computing. 

Not to mention, the enormous community has written bindings and software development kits (SDKs) so that you can address just about any piece of hardware or software in simple, idiomatic Python.”

Other tech skills employers seek

Java, another well-loved language among engineers, was a close second in popularity, with 23% of active positions listing it as a required key competency. AWS was third, requested in 22% of roles. Rounding out the top ten most commonly requested skills were: 

“In short,” says Walters, “the popularity of Java, AWS, and React, as tech skills, is driven by the large adoption of these languages and platforms in the industry.”

Tech skills on the move

Though they appear in the top ten list, Javascript and Ruby on Rails may be losing their foothold, with 23% and 25% decreases in mentions year over year. Graphql is also on the downswing, appearing in active positions 35% less often than last year. 

Still, just because a particular software engineer tech skill is requested less often doesn’t mean it’s not valuable. There’s some indication that while these skills (Rails in particular) are declining in overall popularity, they’re becoming in-demand specialties on the Hired tech recruitment platform. 

On the other hand, Spark and Continuous Integration (CI) appear to be broadly on the rise, with a 37% increase in marketplace mentions year over year. The rising demand for CI skills can be attributed to a more widespread adoption of DevOps practices. 

As Tyler Davis, CEO of LaunchNotes, explains, “The increase in roles requesting CI experience is related to the growing importance of DevOps methodologies. CI aids in reducing integration problems, allowing teams to develop software more rapidly. This shift towards faster and more efficient development cycles has, in turn, driven the higher demand for CI experience you’re seeing.” 

Hexton weighed in on the importance of CI, explaining, 

“These days, I’d expect any experienced engineer to be familiar with CI practices, configuration, etc. It really is a crucial part of ensuring you’re shipping high-quality code and a high-quality customer experience.”

Spring Boot, Azure, Linux, .Net, HTML, Terraform, and AWS are also worth keeping an eye on, as the data suggests they are increasing in popularity among employers.  

Related: Interested in helping your team level up? Hired Partner General Assembly gives guidance to support learning and professional development in this blog, Software Engineer Tech Skills in Demand: Upskilling Support Advice. Get started to address skill gaps and meet market demand.

Most commonly requested engineering tech skills in 2023 for Engineering Managers

For Engineering Managers (EMs), the landscape of requested skills looks a bit different. In addition to technical proficiency, EMs are expected to possess a range of management and interpersonal skills to help them maintain alignment, keep their teams motivated, solve problems, and guide professional growth. 

As we revealed in our 2023 State of Software Engineers survey, engineers believe that the top three most important skills for EMs include communication, team management, and the ability to build both teams and products. The employers we surveyed agreed, indicating that their company is more likely to prioritize those soft skills when filling manager roles. 

Soft skills will always be critical,” Molt asserts, “it’s what takes an exceptional builder and makes them legendary. They’re able to combine and cultivate the skills of others, remain open-minded to new ways of doing things, to elevate and inspire their colleagues. 

One brilliant developer can do so much, but if they can crack the problem of leadership, the team can achieve 10x more together–and not to mention, there is little risk of AI models taking the place of leadership anytime soon.”

Though the harder-to-define leadership skills are the true heart of the EM role, coding expertise and technical skills are still important. According to Hexton, “having the technical skills to understand the true scope and nature of trade-offs when managing any engineering project is key. It also engenders respect from the team you’re managing.” 

Big movers

Interesting insights appear when we examine how often certain technical proficiencies are requested in active positions. For example, 99% more job descriptions in 2023 than in 2022 requested machine learning skills. This reflects the astonishing growth of that corner of the tech industry. C# is also picking up speed, included in 81% more Engineering Manager job postings than the prior year. 

The most commonly requested skills for EMs overall, however, are skills that are firmly entrenched across the industry. The top honor belongs to AWS, which was requested in 26% of open positions, followed by Java (19%) and Python (17%). 

Most in-demand tech skills in 2023

Popular languages like Python and Java are all over the Hired marketplace. Yet, evidence suggests jobseekers have an advantage when specializing in a less commonly requested skill. 

Candidates with skills in Go and Scala, for example, received 27% more, or 1.27 times more interview requests (IVRs) than the marketplace average, while those with skills in Java and Python received 1.07 times more. Other in-demand skills include Ruby on Rails (1.25x), Ruby (1.22x), and Spark (1.21x). 

The gap between the most commonly requested software engineer tech skills and those resulting in higher numbers of IVRs is likely a result of competition. When fewer software engineers possess a particular skill, there are naturally fewer applicants for those roles. The ones who can fill them are more likely to secure an interview.

Most commonly requested skills by sub-role

Software engineers might specialize in particular tech skills, but jobseekers generally search for positions by sub-role or job title. Looking at the most commonly requested skills by sub-role can guide employers to determine what type of engineer will have the right experience to help them achieve their goals. Or, the types of skills Talent Acquisition and hiring managers should discuss including in job descriptions for specific roles. 

It can also tell jobseekers what skills they need to competitively pursue a particular sub-role or specialization. 

For example, our analysis reveals that Java, Python, and AWS are commonly requested skills for Backend Engineers. .Net, Typescript, and Spring Boot are gaining in popularity (though only Spring Boot is in the top 8 most commonly requested skills for Backend Engineers). 

Ruby on Rails is declining in popularity, appearing in proportionally 33% fewer active positions for Backend Engineers in 2023 than in 2022. 

For Data Engineers, Python is the most-requested skill, and AWS and SQL are tied for second. AWS is the top most-requested skill for DevOps Engineers, though it appeared in proportionally 13% fewer postings YoY. 

Though it seems to appear everywhere, Python isn’t for everyone. For both Full Stack Engineers and Front End Engineers, React is the most commonly requested skill, appearing in 32% and 53% of active positions, respectively.  

Sub-roles and requested skills on the rise

As the industry evolves, new sub-roles appear and grow in popularity. For this analysis, we identified four key emerging sub-roles: Machine Learning (ML) Engineer, Mobile Engineer, Cybersecurity/Security Engineer, and Site Reliability Engineer (SRE)

Hired research Software Engineer Tech Skills Trends

Machine Learning Engineer skills

Active postings for ML Engineers most commonly request Python (64%), Machine Learning (20%), and AWS (19%). Although represented by a smaller volume of roles so far, data suggests skills such as PyTorch and SQL may increase in popularity for these roles. C++ is declining in importance. 

Mobile Engineer skills

For Mobile Engineers, Swift (30%), Kotlin (29%), and React Native (20%) top the most-requested skills list. Swiftui, AWS, and Typescript appear less but are increasingly important for this sub-role. 

Cybersecurity / Security Engineer skills

Employers seeking Cybersecurity or Security Engineers tend to look for candidates skilled in Python (28%), AWS (19%), and Java (13%). Fewer employers requested skills like Linux, Javascript, and Go. Evidence suggests, however, they’re becoming increasingly popular. 

Site Reliability Engineers (SRE) skills

Lastly, for Site Reliability Engineers, AWS (47%), Kubernetes (38%), and Terraform (34%) appear to be key prerequisites. Meanwhile, Continuous Integration (CI) and Jenkins are growing in popularity. 

Related: Trends in Software Engineer Specializations: 2024 Report

Impact of AI on engineering tech skills

AI is an unavoidable topic of conversation these days. As we dug into the data on software engineering hiring trends, we paid special attention to AI’s impact on requested skills. While some software engineers are excited about AI’s possibilities as a tool, others are concerned that AI may render their skills obsolete. 

So far, the data indicates the opposite. Our analysis of skills requested for ML Engineers, ML Managers, and NLP Engineers revealed that Python, AWS, and Java–top-requested skills overall–are still important for AI-related roles. 

Python is the most-requested skill in this sector. It appeared in 62% of the total active positions, up 12% from the prior year. 

According to Molt, “Enterprises want tech talent to put machine learning to work for the business and bring home some of that ‘Artificial Intelligence’ goodness they’ve been hearing so much about–and, generally, those toolkits come out of the box as Python modules.”

AWS is the third-most requested skill for AI-related roles. It appeared in 20% of active positions (up 11% YoY), while Java came in fourth, at 13% (down 10% YoY). 

Machine learning was the only skill in the top five most-requested for AI-specific roles absent from the list of most-requested software engineer tech skills. It appeared in 20% of AI-related job postings, up 10% from the prior year. Natural language processing (NLP) was the sixth most-requested skill for AI-related roles, with 11% of active postings listing the skill as a desired qualification. 

So, is AI coming for the Software Engineers?

For now, at least, it seems like AI isn’t going to completely eliminate the need for more traditional engineering skills. However, concerned engineers should still consider picking up some additional competencies. 

Molt advises, “The future-proofed technologist is always learning new techniques, so one thing they should be doing is experimenting.” 

As AI grows, certain roles may increase in importance. As Molt explains, “Machine learning models are themselves intricate and performance-sensitive software systems which open up whole new landscapes for engineers, whether directly involved in producing models or not. 

Across the board, work for technical professionals gets bigger and more impactful. Data engineering, analytics, cloud computing, hardware platforms, synthetic data, QA leadership, reliability engineering, integrations with services, and the need for security roles just becomes more intense.”

So, is AI a threat or a tool? According to Davis, it’s definitely the latter. “While it may change the nature of some roles, it also opens up new opportunities for engineers to work on more complex and creative tasks. 

For example, we see engineers regularly integrating AI into their work in ways that significantly enhance their productivity and problem-solving abilities. This is a big win for them, as well as the entire business.”

Engineering tech skills and compensation

Understanding which software engineer tech skills are in demand can help jobseekers determine what work experience to highlight. It also reveals areas that might be key for professional growth. The right skills and experience are critical for landing a job and commanding a better salary. Jobseekers with niche skills are at an advantage. 

According to our 2023 report, The Tech Hiring Tightrope, 76% of employers are usually willing to offer higher compensation when a candidate has hard-to-find skills. 

They’re also willing to reward time spent honing a specific skill, with 57% of employers willing to pay more when a candidate demonstrates years of experience in a desired area. 

Yet employers should recognize that, although benefits and compensation are important, software engineers look at more than just salary when choosing a job. Engineers also want the opportunity to learn and grow. 

In our 2023 State of Software Engineers survey, 69% of surveyed engineers cited “new challenges and continuous learning” as their top motivators for joining the field. 

That sentiment is relevant beyond their choice of career. It also impacts their decisions about which company to work for. More than half (55%) of those surveyed said an “ideal company culture and work environment” includes “opportunities for professional development and career growth.” 

Employers should prioritize offering professional development and ongoing learning alongside a competitive salary to stand out to the highest-quality candidates.

Editor’s note: coming soon – our look at trends in software engineer salaries. In the meantime, feel free to check out Hired’s tech salary calculator tool. 

Software Engineer tech skills for a changing world

“In summary,” concludes Walters, “in today’s world AI is moving rapidly and employers are working to figure out how to deploy it within their organizations. So, having AI-aligned skills, such as Python, is a strong benefit to software developer and engineer candidates today.”

Are you an employer ready for a better tech recruitment and hiring solution? 

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This helps save both parties time through greater alignment. No guessing, just better matches. Need help? We offer turnkey coding challenge campaigns to build pipeline and surface even more talent with specific tech skills or specializations.

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