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April 8th, 2015

The Average Programmer: 28.9 Years Old, Male And Writes Javascript

Stack Overflow’s annual developer survey gives insight into the behavior and demographic of software developers.

Stack Overflow is the water cooler for developers on the Web. It is a community, a repository of knowledge, skills and code, a coding tool and resource for advice. If there is one company that can absolutely claim to know software developers, Stack Overflow is the place.

Stack Overflow’s annual developer survey provides one of the more interesting glimpses in to developer mindset and demographics than any other single survey in the industry. Stack Overflow users tend to be committed, active and knowledgeable. Stack Overflow averages 32 million visits a month with 25 million of those return visitors. In the Stack Overflow developer survey for 2015, the community saw 26,068 responses from 157 countries around the world, providing a snapshot of the global development community.

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Developer Demographics

According to Stack Overflow’s data, the average developer in its survey is 28.9 years old. “He or she was born in April 1986, just as the Chernobyl meltdown was taking place,” the survey notes. According to Stack Overflow’s data, the average developer is most definitely a he—not a she—as 92.1% of the survey’s respondents identified as male. The average developer (32.4%) has between two and five years of experience while less than a quarter (24.2%) has over a decade of experience.

See also: 5 Things App Developers Need To Know About The Future Of The Apps Economy

The average developer tends to be older in the United States than in other countries with a population of at least 10 million in Stack Overflow’s community. U.S. developers averaged 31.6 years old while Canada and the United Kingdom both averaged 30.3 years old. Programmers in India were the youngest on the scale at 25 years.

stack_overflow_education15

Of the 5.2% of survey respondents that identified as female (1.7% preferred not to disclose gender wile 0.5% said “other”), 37.1% have less than two years of experience while 30.1% had two to five years of experience. About 15.1% of female respondents were from India.

“Compared with men, women who code are nearly twice as likely to have less than 2 years programming experience. We hope this means more women are joining the industry and closing the gender gap,” the survey states.

How did developers learn to code? According to the survey, 41.8% identify as self-taught. Those that claim to have received a Bachelors degree in computer science make up 37.7% of the community while 17.8% have taken an online class, like CodeAcademy.

What Are The Most Popular Programming Languages?

stack_overflow_mosted_used15

Programming languages and platforms are a great source of debate among developers. But that tends to be all it is … debate. From a practical standpoint, only a few programming languages truly capture the attention and skills of the most developers.

According to Stack Overflow’s data, Javascript was the popular programming language with 54.4% of respondents claiming it to be one of their most used. SQL ranks as the second most popular programming language (48%) while Java is the first server-side language on the list with 37.4%. Both AngularJS and Node.js have grown significantly in popularity among developers over the last couple of years, both registering 13.3% of developers rating them to be their most-used tools. For comparison, Angular didn’t register on the Stack Overflow survey in 2014 or 2013, even though it had been in the wild since 2009.

Apple’s new Swift programming language for iOS apps rated as the “most loved” (“percent of devs who are developing with the language or tech that have expressed interest in continuing to develop with it”) with 77.6% of respondents. Rust, Go and C++11 all ranked highly among the most loved developer languages. The most dreaded tools include Salesforce, WordPress and Visual Basic.

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Developers tend to use Windows 7 as their operating system of choice, with 33.8% of respondents using Microsoft. Apple’s Mac OS X took over Linux for the second spot in the survey in 2015 (21.5%) over Linux (20.5%).

Programmers that identified as full-stack Web developers made up the largest section of the survey at 32.4%. Students were the second largest group at 13.6% (which makes sense as Stack Overflow is a great place to have developer questions answered). An interesting point is that only 9.1% of respondents said they were mobile-specific developers.

Of the mobile developers, 44.6% said they build for Android against 33.4% for iOS. Around 19.8% identified as general-purpose mobile developers. Only 2.3% claimed Windows Phone.

One important note: Just like any survey, the Stack Overflow survey is inherently biased. The data reflects the Stack Overflow community, which is predominately male and English speaking that skew towards full time salaried employees working on software products and Web services (thus, the popularity of Javascript). The Stack Overflow developer survey is a great snapshot of the developer mindset but should be considered as only one signal among the noise.

Graphs via Stack Overflow.

Lead image: “GDC Europe Monday Keynote Warren Spector of Junction Point” by photographer Dennis Stachel of GDC Europe via Official GDC Flickr, Creative Commons

  • raj

    26,086 people out of 10 million users? Yeah, that sounds like these “averages” are accurate and representative of the entire user base

    • DanRowinski

      Most statisticians would call the sample size statistically relevant. Do note the bit about bias on the bottom.

      • raj

        My comment isn’t a slight on you or your article. I just don’t feel Stackoverflow’s survey data is representative. (Note: I am a fan of SO.) I’m not a statistician by profession, but I do have a background in stats (comp sci + double major math and stats; data journalist; son of a math professor). I’m not sure that “most” statisticians would call a 0.26% sample size relevant because it’s far too easy to miss large groups of outliers — but I’m open to being proven incorrect. For example, if I could find 20,000 older programmers (over 35, even 40 and up) on SO who did not complete the survey, that would change the real average. In an user base of 10M, I’m inclined to think there are lots of 40+ users.