Developers are most keen to work with the Python programming language, one of the prominent languages used for machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI).

Thirty-eight percent of developers picked Python as their top choice in the new OfferZen “2021 State of the Developer Nation” report, which polled more than 3 500 local developers to produce South Africa’s largest data report on developer careers.

The most exciting industry in 2021 is AI/cloud technology followed by fintech and cybersecurity. This demonstrates the shift to a more digital world as a result of the pandemic, remote work and rapid digitisation.

The other top eight more exciting industries, according to developers, are robotics (26,1%), gaming (18,8%), e-commerce/d2C (18,4%), crypto (17%) and agritech (16%).

Developers in cloud-based engineering also feel most confident about their career growth compared to any other industry, another indicator of this up and coming sector.

Stephen van der Heijden, vice-president: growth at OfferZen, comments: “Developers are, by the very nature of their work, at the cutting edge of technology and they’re telling us that ML and AI are not going to be on the edge for very long. It’s going to be right in the middle of what we do and what we build – even more so than they already are.”

JavaScript remains the most used language, with 62% of responses indicate it is the most used language by South African developers. It is followed by SQL at 49,3%, C# at 39,2%, Java at 30,1%, Python at 28,5% and TypeScript at 28,3%.

“What makes this super interesting is that we also asked developers to rate what they think are the most promising industries. When you see the results, it’s pretty clear that our industry is shifting to the data, cloud computing and AI world, and it’s doing so fast,” van der Heijden says.

While one in three developers are looking to change jobs in the next 12 months, when asked about the reasons they would choose to stay at their current company, the top three were growth and learning (52%), a healthy work-life balance (51%) and company culture (48%).

Other reasons to stay include colleagues (43,9%), future salary potential (36,5%) current salary (25%), cutting edge tech stack (22%) and great benefits (21,4%).

When it comes to career growth, developers say the top factors they’re looking for are opportunities to work on challenging projects (56%), learn new languages and frameworks (48%), and access mentoring and coaching (40%).

Younger developers – 80% of those aged between 18 and 20 – said they want to learn a new programming language every few months.

“This eagerness to continuously learn means the tech industry remains adaptable and shifts faster than any other,” says van der Heijden.

When it comes to salaries, the survey found that developers in the fintech and cloud technology industries earn the highest salaries. Junior developers earn between R23 000 and R35 000 per month in fintech, while those in cloud-based engineering earn between R27 000 and R33 000.

Intermediate developers with four-plus years’ experience earn between R45 000 and R58 000 in fintech, and between R44 000 and R60 000 in cloud-based engineering.

Developers with niche coding languages, such as Go and Ruby, can command higher salaries. The starting salary for a Ruby developer is R30 000 with developers who have 10-plus years’ experience earning over R86 000 per month.

“Despite the pandemic and companies rethinking their immediate priorities, we’re still seeing growth in the tech industry and OfferZen’s platform activity is at an all-time high. Change is upon us, and I’m excited about the data we have that can give us an indication of where the industry is heading,” van der Heijden says.