Top IT skills for 2018: Most in-demand & fastest growing IT skills

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Angular and JavaScript dominate this year's skills report by Stack Overflow

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Whether you're an established IT professional or an aspiring one, the pressure to keep up with emerging tech and the growing demand for certain skills seems relentless. 

Last year saw a rise in devops skills and open source frameworks, and while the top few skills - both in-demand and fastest growing - remained largely the same this year, some pretty exciting changes have been taking place lower down the list. 

Here, along with insights from Stack Overflow's annual 'Developer Ecosystem' report, we run through the most in-demand and fastest growing skills in IT in 2018.

Most in-demand IT Skills

This year's report saw the top four skills stay the same from 2016. JavaScript, Java, Python and C# (in that order) were top of the class, while others like Amazon Web Services (AWS) and ReactJS skills reported massive growth.

"We have seen changes in the last few years but once the technology is large the changes seem to go slower," said Dave Robinson, data scientist at Stack Overflow.

The real showstopper this year was the JavaScript library ReactJS. This noted the most change, overtaking popular skills such as SQL and Linux and vaulting from 25th place to 6th.

"I think JavaScript frameworks show the most exciting trends and changes over the last couple of years. In some technologies and areas of software development, people are building with the same tools they were 10 years ago," explained Robinson. 

"But with JavaScript frameworks, this is not the case at all. Things change very quickly and people need to work hard to keep up with them. 

"We see changes in AngularJS, JQuery and newer and smaller technologies that didn't make the list like Q.js. So technology that we saw last year may be different than what we have this year."

AWS skills also saw excellent growth, jumping a massive seven places from 12th place to 5th and gaining a 10.3 percent share of the skills tags found in Stack Overflow's jobs listings. 

"The UK, in particular, is among the most common users of both Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, according to Stack Overflow data," Robinson said. 

"I do think that the UK is leading the world in terms of adopting cloud technology."

The top 10 most in-demand IT skills are:

  1. JavaScript
  2. Java
  3. Python
  4. C#
  5. Amazon Web Services
  6. ReactJS
  7. SQL
  8. Linux
  9. .net
  10. Node.js
The data - taken from Stack Overflow - is calculated by the number of tags listed in job postings on Stack Overflow.

What skills are becoming less in-demand? 

This year, some IT skills haven't made the cut, with some losses bigger than others. 

"Probably the most noticeable shrinking skill is PHP, becoming less in-demand than it has previously been," said Robinson. "It is generally shrinking in high-income counties but it is growing in some non-high income countries such as Brazil and Russia.

"My guess would be that in newer companies it's very rare to start a new business using PHP."

Last year PHP ranked 5th, however, after falling 11 places, it drops out of the top 10 into 16th place this year.

It was a similar situation for HTML, ranking 15th in this year's report but dropping seven places a year later.

The five fastest shrinking skills are:

  1. PHP (-11)
  2. HTML (-7)
  3. CSS (-5)
  4. AngularJS (-4)
  5. Ruby (-2)

"Generally, once tech starts shrinking they don't tend to come back- the popularity of tech isn't cyclical," explained Robinson. "That doesn't mean the tech is dying but not staged for another stage of growth.

"We've also seen Ruby shrink over the last couple of years. My belief is that it's been replaced by Python and Node.js," he added.

What are the fastest growing IT skills?

While to most in-demand skills have remained somewhat unchanged for another year, with the exception of certain skills, Stack Overflow has reported some growth in tags on its site, with Angular coming out as the clear winner, almost doubling in popularity.

Other notable growth has come from React Native and React.js, with Google’s machine learning framework TensorFlow following suit.

React Native has grown from 0.10 percent just over 0.15 percent of UK traffic to this tag. While TensorFlow has shot up from 0.5 percent to just over 1.5 percent. 

The adoption of new technology is lead by demand. You'll rarely see a skills trend driven by IT professionals or developers themselves. Instead, this falls to organisations.  

"Startups often dominate the hiring landscape as they are places that are growing quickly, so this analysis focuses on companies that need new people with particular skills, rather than technologies that companies are mostly using."

Although startups have a smaller workforce because they are growing at a much faster rate, while larger companies may have hundreds of employees, they tend to have smaller pockets of growth for new skills.

"Newer technologies tend to be adopted by companies that are at stages of growth," he added.

Future trends to watch out for

When we look for skills that will grow in popularity over the next couple of years, it's important to avoid the pitfalls that come with the hype around certain subject areas. 

Andy Parker, UK Growth Manager at Udacity warned Computerworld UK of the issues around assuming that certain technologies will succeed and become more in-demand.

“It’s difficult to predict exactly what skills will be in demand in the long term," he said. "New technologies continue to emerge rapidly, making it difficult for developers and aspiring tech workers to predict what languages and technologies to learn.

“For example, as machine learning and AI have dramatically risen in popularity over the past few years, so has Python, which is often used in those applications. This won’t necessarily last long-term, however, and the specific technologies used to create tools with machine learning or AI abilities will undoubtedly change.

"All professionals will have to embrace the concept of lifelong learning to keep up and succeed in their careers," added Parker. 

As an increasing number of tech companies create new frameworks and systems, the demand for developers and IT pros to quickly learn brand new skills has become more common. You can't stick to one thing, or skills anymore, it seems. 

“It’s vital that the educational system adapts to shifting skills requirements. Whilst a traditional academic education provides a solid grounding, it can’t keep up with the ever-changing demand for skills: short-term, specialised and project-based courses are the most effective way for developers to grasp a new skill quickly," explained Parker.

“For example, the launch of Apple’s ARKit has caused a surge in developers looking to learn it quickly: in response, several online education providers rapidly created effective courses to meet demand.

“We’re seeing a growing trend where developers go to university for more theoretical grounding, but then use online courses to keep their skills sharp and learn new technologies.”

Robinson was keen to notice growth in skills associated with data science.

"I do think that the group of data science is going to be really important with hiring," he said. In particular, within Python and R."

"It's the language that I use and it's shown really remarkable growth as a data science tool."

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