Training Spotlights

C and C++: Career Essential or Outdated Programming Skills?

There are plenty of folks out there who will tell you that businesses need fewer software engineers. And they’re even more gleeful when they explain how the domestic job market for this specialization is being undermined by the outsourcing of work overseas.

Don’t listen. The June 2010 Dice Report, a survey of HR managers and recruiters that researches technology jobs, begs to differ:

“The competition for technology talent is starting to ignite, with nearly three quarters (71%) of technology recruiters and hiring managers expecting to add more staff in the second half of the year than they did in the first half of the year. In addition, the talent battle is impacting paychecks, with 30 percent of respondents indicating salaries are on the increase for new hires, as compared to just nine percent who were paying up six months ago.”

Some months earlier, during the dark depths of these recent economic times, the Veritude 2009 IT Outlook Report found that demand in the U.S. for software engineers actually increased, jumping from 27 percent to 32 percent in a year. But what programming language should you learn now? Well, any number really, but C-based languages in particular, are looking hot.

C-Based Programming Languages: On the Rise

The C, C#, and C++ languages arguably comprise the most successful family (well, they share much of the same DNA) of programming languages in history. Ever since the first iteration of C left Bell Laboratories in the early 1970s, it and its offspring have been used to create countless commercial applications.

They remain just as ubiquitous today. Actually, the July 2010 TIOBE Index, an indicator of the popularity of programming languages, rated C# higher than Visual Basic for the first time in the history of the rankings. Additionally, recent demand for iPhone applications has made C-based “siblings” such as Cocoa and Objective C more popular than ever. Also, the Index reports that Objective C took a big jump in the rankings compared to last year: from 21st to 9th. And in the first half of 2010, C has grown in popularity by 2.3%, while others like PHP have started to slide (-1.5%).

Do C-Based Programming Languages Improve Job Prospects?

The Veritude 2009 IT Outlook Report also looked specifically at job prospects for those with C, C#, and C++ language skills, and it found that these “…have emerged as a highly desired skill set, being cited as ‘in demand’ just as often as Business Intelligence and Enterprise Solutions skills.”

That puts someone with C, C#, or C++ language skills in a very healthy job position. However, the key attributes for someone who wants a long and successful career in programming are, perhaps, flexibility and an abiding appetite for learning.

If humans evolved at the same rate as programming languages, we’d be visiting our grandparents in zoos. Plenty of programmers who learned a language like COBOL found themselves unemployable when that language was largely superseded. To state the obvious, things move at extraordinary speed in technology, and regardless of the programming language you choose–you have to be the sort of person who enjoys adapting to change to succeed in the long term.

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