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Report: Bash Skills Pay Off the Most (Wait, Bash?)

It's not surprising that a new skills survey rounds up the usual list of suspects for the most popular programming language, naming JavaScript, Python, Java, et al.

What is surprising is the list of skills that pay off the most in terms of developer salaries: Bash, Perl and Scala. Bash topped the list at about $100,000.


I read a lot of these surveys, and the Bash scripting language rarely makes a strong appearance. But it leads the list of respondents' stated median salaries by programming language in a new report from Packt Ltd. titled "Skill Up 2016" (free download upon providing registration info) which garnered more than 11,500 responses.

"We've now seen what languages are the most popular," the report says, "but what languages are the most lucrative in 2016? Our data shows that languages favored by more experienced developers command the highest salaries; it pays to be a Perl Monk or a Bash Scripter. Scala developers also manage to command high salaries, while the more ubiquitous JavaScript and Python hover around the middle, as they are likely favored by both highly-paid and more junior alike. If you're still working with Visual Basic or PHP, you might want to consider an upgrade."

Highest-Paid Programming Languages
[Click on image for larger view.] Highest-Paid Programming Languages (source: Packt Ltd.)

Apparently Bash scripters are more experienced than other developers. Perhaps that's because they're old enough to even know what Bash is.

For the younger crowd (Packt apparently found no one under age 29 using it), Bash, introduced in 1989, is a Unix shell and command language that serves as the default shell on major Linux distributions and OS X, according to Wikipedia.

Even though I try to follow the dev scene closely, I hadn't heard much about Bash in the news lately until Microsoft in March decided to incorporate a native Bash shell in Windows 10. That led to a big debate about using forward slashes or backward slashes in the shell.

I'm not sure about the experience angle being responsible for the high Bash salaries, though. Packt's report shows many languages that are reportedly used by a higher percentage of devs over age 60, and several more used by a higher percentage of those 45 to 59 years of age. Admittedly, however, the high-paying Perl was reported in use by the highest percentage of 60-plus respondents, by far. In contrast, the highest percentage of developers using Bash were age 30 to 44, also by far.

Programming Language Experience Level
[Click on image for larger view.] Programming Language Experience Level (source: Packt Ltd.)

Bash didn't show up in the results of another survey of skills that make the most money published in May by PayScale Inc. and Millennial Branding. Scala, listed No. 3 in the Packt survey, did show up in that PayScale report however.

"Overall, Scala is the skill that will get you the biggest pay boost (22.2 percent), followed by Cisco UCCE/IPCC (21.1 percent) and Go (20.0 percent)," the PayScale report says. "Scala and Go are the emerging skills with the biggest pay boosts (22.2 percent and 20.0 percent respectively), but some other notable emerging skills are Hadoop (12.5 percent), iOS SDK (11.4 percent) and Groovy (6.2 percent)."

Bash also didn't make the scene in a salary survey published early this year by careers site Dice. That report was full of Big Data skills, which are most often cited as the big money-makers in such surveys, as reported here.

Whatever the reason for the high Bash salaries reported in the Packt survey, you might want to brush up on your shell scripting -- and decide whether you want to go with "/" or "\".

What do you make of the surprising showing by Bash? Comment here or drop me a line.

Posted by David Ramel on July 21, 2016