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Software development trends: Stack Overflow survey analysis

Joe Robinson

May 11th, 2022

Written by

Joe Robinson

Category

Developer Insights

It’s back again – the Stack Overflow survey has arrived with all the new software development trends gathered during 2021. 

Out of the very useful data to explore, there were different potential trends to check in on. However, the following trends spotted and explored in this article have the most value for developers working on different projects (not just rich text editors like TinyMCE).

This article contrasts trends between the 2020 Stack Overflow survey and the new 2021 Stack Overflow results, and these three areas stood out as the most valuable development trends:

  1. Developer studies and education
  2. Technology – what’s feared and dreaded
  3. Workplace results

Developer trends – studies and education

In 2020, just under half of developers reported on their university studies, having completed a Bachelor’s degree in Arts, Science, or Engineering (46.2%). A fraction went on to complete a Master’s degree, or left studies without receiving the degree. More than half of developers studied computer science, engineering, or software engineering. 

How 2021 compares to 2020

Bachelor’s degree studies were slightly higher (49.34%) in 2021. Google trends for the past 2 years show stable, ongoing interest for the Bachelor’s degrees in computer science, engineering, or software engineering. This backs up the Stack Overflow trends.

Developer studies trends from 2020 to 2022

Interpreting the software development trend: You can be reassured that your degree is still relevant for the Software Development industry. In 2021, 16% of developers replied that a university degree is not important or necessary, but the results suggest otherwise. 

So, is there something fundamentally useful in studying a degree? YK Sugi of CS Dojo (1.82M subscribers) wrote in an article for Free Code Camp that there are fundamentals taught at the college level:

“Both Computer Science and Software Engineering teach fundamentals of programming and computer science, so you can choose either one to become a software developer.”

That sounds like your initial years of study are a wise investment.

Developer trends – feared and dreaded technology

According to the 2021 results, the average age of the top 6 most dreaded languages is 49 years.

Code

First Appearance

Age in 2022

Cobol

1959

63

VBA

1993

29

MatLab

1984

38

Objective-C

1984

38

Groovy

2007

15

Assembly

1949

73

 

Comparing 2020 to 2021, Perl appears to be less dreaded than it was previously (71.4% dreaded in 2020, 64% dreaded in 2021). This change could be a result of a wider range of  entries for developers to vote on, because the 2021 survey has more language options. Another example is Kotlin, which ranked as 62.9% loved in 2020, but has fallen fast to 38.45% loved in 2021.

Trending software technologies

In the 2021 survey results, the following are the most highly regarded languages: Rust, Clojure, TypeScript, Elixir, Julia, Python, and Go. 

Interest in these languages has steadily increased over time according to Google trends web searches, which validates the 2021 Stack Overflow survey results. Therefore, you  can be assured that exploring these languages is worth the effort – especially if you’re searching for a new challenge.

Comparing some of the popular languages for the past 5 years

So should you seek out Clojure training?

Clojure stands out among the highly regarded languages. It’s a Functional based programming language. It didn’t appear in the 2020 survey, however in 2021 it surged to being ranked as 81.1% loved. Looking at Clojure searches, interest in the language has remained stable for the past five years. 

Compare Clojure to popular languages for past 5 years

So looking closely at these results, unless you have an interest in functional programming theory or any functional languages, it looks as though Clojure will continue to gather some attention, without capturing the entire spotlight.

In the 2021 results,developers ranked Clojure as only 1.45% wanted. Contrast this with Python, which is 19% wanted. Seek training only if it interests you.

Developer trends – workplace results

In 2020, only 4.9% of developers worked as freelancers. Responses tended more towards work in moderately sized businesses with between 20 to 499 employees in total (40.3%). Developer job satisfaction trended toward more satisfied than not (65% satisfied, against 25% slightly to very dissatisfied).

How 2021 compares to 2020

Freelancing has increased (now 6.5% from 4.9% in 2020) while  35.8% of developers work in moderately sized businesses between 20 to 499 employees. There were slight reductions in the percentage of developers reporting they worked in large to very large businesses.

Job satisfaction for developers

While the 2021 survey did not ask about how satisfied developers are at their jobs, a review of  Google trends for developer roles with keywords such as “Job Satisfaction” and “Job Change” shows nothing worth noting. “Changing Job” searches remained stable, while searches for “Software Engineers” trended upwards throughout 2020 and 2021. All that could be gleaned here is that perhaps the overall reputation of the field remains positive and continues to attract new talent.

Job change and software engineer trends over time

What about the pandemic?

A survey carried out during 2020 and 2021 and published on the IEEE website gathered 608 responses. Of the respondents, 74% remarked that they missed socializing at work, and 51% noted a communication decrease. The takeaway message, especially for management, when developers are working remotely, is to solve their communication difficulties and create a sense of belonging.

2021 Top trends in software development: summary

In case you need a tl;dr, here's a summary of the trends:

  • Have confidence in your degree. Fundamentals are of value and still relevant for the Software Development industry, as indicated by the number of developers who’ve studied Computer Science or Software Engineering (among other Bachelor’s degree majors). Study taken in these areas is a wise investment.
  • Exploring and learning how to use the most loved languages in the 2021 survey (Rust, TypeScript, Elixir, Julia, Python, and Go) is worthwhile.
  • Clojure has become greatly loved, but not as strongly wanted. Pursue learning this language only if functional programming is of interest to you.
  • Freelancing has increased from 4% to 6% between 2020 to 2021.
  • Software developer job satisfaction could be described as high in 2020, and there is an indication this has not changed. 
  • The pandemic effects have had an effect of overall isolation in the field. Communication and a sense of belonging are important remedies to consider and implement in a workplace.

If you have questions or these development trends have sparked your interest, you can contact us – particularly if you’re finding the job satisfaction interpretation inaccurate.

You can also check out the TinyMCE GitHub, where there is a discussion space. Your question might be one that other developers have, and asking it could provide some much needed answers.

SurveyResourcesCommunityDevelopers
byJoe Robinson

Technical and creative writer, editor, and a TinyMCE advocate. An enthusiast for teamwork, open source software projects, and baking. Can often be found puzzling over obscure history, cryptic words, and lucid writing.

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