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HackerEarth 2021 Developer Survey

From the CEO’s desk

Tech has stood by like a steadfast pillar of support for many businesses throughout the last year. To quote our first edition of this report, “Tech has changed how we live, how we work, how we interact with one another — in fact, it is difficult to find something that tech has not changed.” Throughout 2020 and so far into 2021, this reality is even more pronounced.

While we wait for the next normal to fully emerge, it behooves one to keep a close watch on the market trends that have coalesced during the past 15 months.

At HackerEarth, we have seen our developer community grow stronger in these months; it now stands at 5.5 million. Understanding how this community thinks, and the expectations, hopes, and dreams of every individual is key to predicting the future of the tech domain.

HackerEarth’s 2021 Developer Survey - Code In Progress, aims at capturing these insights and helping recruiters and managers across the world understand emerging trends.

Our second version of this annual report is bigger and better, with responses from 25,431 developers across 171 countries.

While the task of harvesting and nurturing talent is never easy, we trust that the emerging trends in tech hiring will be uncovered vis à vis the survey. Bob Dylan once said, “There is nothing so stable as change,” and I look forward to seeing this report help the tech industry change for the better, and consequently, more stable in a shaky world.

While you read this, know that our thoughts are always with you and yours. Stay safe!

Sachin Gupta
Co-Founder and CEO, HackerEarth

What can you expect

The 2021 HackerEarth Developer Survey aims to shed light on what the programming world looks like through a developer’s lens with important insights into the preferences, challenges, and work-from-home practices of student and professional developers from across the globe. With real and actionable insights about what developers look for when choosing jobs, how they upskill, their gripes with the WFH scenario, and their expectations from future employers, this report will help transform skill-based hiring in 2021 for developers, tech recruiters, hiring managers, and other key decision-makers who build and nurture great tech teams.

Chapter 1

Understanding our developer ecosystem

The respondents of this survey were both students and working professionals, with varied interests. So, before getting into the trends shared by different cohorts, let’s take a minute to profile the developers we surveyed.

Chapter 1 I Understanding our developer ecosystem

Student developers

Students have both the potential and the intent to be talented developers, which is why gathering their opinions was crucial to us. In the rapidly changing tech landscape, the student responses from the survey helped throw light on the popular domain skills, choice of workplace, and the number of hours that students regularly code in a day.

Explore insights about student developers:

Domains that student developers are interested in

Where student developers prefer working

How many hours do students code in a day?

Chapter 1 I Understanding our developer ecosystem

Working professionals

There have been huge changes in the tech industry because the pandemic made remote work the defacto way of working. So, we asked numerous working professionals what the programming world looks like from their vantage point in 2021. Some of the questions posed to professional developers included: years of work experience, what technologies they are familiar with, and from where they work.

Explore insights about working professionals:

Years of experience vs Area of expertise

Size of the company that professionals work in

Job roles that professionals fulfill

Industries that developers work in

Chapter 2

Staying ahead of the skills game

In the constantly evolving world of technology, learning is the only constant. Not only do developers need to practice their present skill set, but also need to evaluate newer, more capable frameworks and languages. This chapter offers a look into how developers learn new skills, and also into which frameworks and programming languages are popular in 2021.

CHAPTER 2 | Staying ahead of the skills game

15 to 21 marks the age when most developers begin coding

81% of students and 67.6% of working professionals began coding at the age of 15 to 21. This could mean that a big number of developers learned how to code in college.

When developers began to write code

CHAPTER 2 | Staying ahead of the skills game

Roughly 45% of both student and professional developers learned how to code in college

Both students (45%) and experienced developers (46%) said that they learned to code while pursuing their undergraduate degree in computing/software engineering.

Students also said that online certification courses from platforms like Udemy and online coding platforms like HackerEarth helped them learn to code while working professionals said on-the-job training helped them sharpen their coding skills.

How did developers learn to code?

CHAPTER 2 | Staying ahead of the skills game

Node.js and AngularJS are the most popular frameworks among students and professionals respectively

Given the open-source and lightweight nature of the Node.js framework, it isn’t really a surprise that it is popular among both student developers and professionals. However despite its popularity, AngularJS is the most preferred framework among pros. React, and Spring are some other frameworks that experienced developers are comfortable with.

Meanwhile, students have expressed a resounding desire to learn AngularJS, while professional developers see value in learning Django.

Frameworks that developers know
and would like to learn

CHAPTER 2 | Staying ahead of the skills game

C++, Python, and Java are the most widely known programming languages

C++, Python and Java are the most popular programming languages of 2021, while most developers show an interest in wanting to learn Go, Rust, and Kotlin. The flexibility offered by Go, with the ability to engineer solutions for system and network programming, big data, machine learning, audio and video editing, among other use cases, makes it a desirable language in 2021, following the same trend that we unearthed in the 2020 Developer Survey.

Fun Fact:
While most students and professionals are familiar with HTML/CSS, about 70% of the developers we surveyed say that HTML isn’t a real programming language

Programming languages that developers
know and would like to learn

CHAPTER 2 | Staying ahead of the skills game

“There is no stopping Data Science!” say about 25% of developers

Continuing the trend from 2020, Data Science has once again come out on top as the domain that is most coveted by both students and professional developers. This trend could continue well into the future as people discover more problems that can be solved through statistical and probabilistic problem-solving.

Further, Cybersecurity and Blockchain have also caught the attention of student developers and working professionals alike.

Domain skills that developers professionals would like to explore in the future

CHAPTER 2 | Staying ahead of the skills game

YouTube is a popular way to upskill among both students and professionals

While YouTube tutorials and platforms like StackOverflow are prominent channels for developers to upskill themselves, a significant chunk of developers - 18% of students and 17% of working professionals - also depend significantly on competitive coding platforms like HackerEarth to improve their skills.

How developers improve their coding skills

Chapter 3

The developer state of mind

While it’s important to understand the left-brain aspects of being a developer, it’s just as important to understand the state of mind of developers in 2021. In this chapter, we pull the curtain to reveal how happy developers are, how they like to unwind, and also, how they stay in touch with the happenings of the industry.

CHAPTER 3 | The developer state of mind

Developers happiest at smaller organizations

Experienced developers who work at enterprises are marginally less happy in comparison to people who work at smaller companies. Employees from middle market organizations had the highest 'happiness index'.

However, happiness is not a binding factor for where developers work. Despite scoring the least on the happiness scale, working professionals would still like to work at enterprise companies and growth-stage startups, as we saw in Chapter 1. The reasons could be higher compensation, job stability, and learning opportunities.

Happiness index vs size of the company

CHAPTER 3 | The developer state of mind

Developer happiness is correlated to work hours

While the differences between cohorts aren’t massive by any means, it remains interesting to note that developers who work less than 40 hours a week reported the highest happiness index, and the happiness index decreases as the work hours increase.

Happiness index vs work hours

CHAPTER 3 | The developer state of mind

Over 22% of professional developers prefer daily walks as a way to unwind

When we asked developers the same question last year, they said they liked to indulge in indoor games like foosball when not coding. In 2021, going for walks has become the most popular method of de-stressing. We’re chalking it up to working from home and not having a chance to stretch your legs.

Listening to music (20%), and watching movies or television shows (18%) were some other ways that developers like to unwind.

However, it is worth noting that 3% of working professionals said they couldn’t afford to take a breather!

How developers destress

CHAPTER 3 | The developer state of mind

Social media groups and tech blogs keep developers in the loop

By far, social media groups are the most popular platform where student developers (26%) and working professionals (20%) devour tech news regularly. Other avenues used by students and experienced developers to stay in the loop include Medium and other tech-related blogs.

How developers keep up with tech news

Chapter 4

How developers get in the zone

Going remote in 2020 certainly made it hard for developers to maintain productivity, but now we have some hindsight on the matter. So, we figured it was the perfect time to ask developers and understand what it takes to be productive. Read on, as we reveal what roadblocks developers face in a remote setting.

CHAPTER 4 | How developers get in the zone

22% of devs say ‘Zoom Fatigue’ is real and directly affects productivity

With companies going remote, it has become imperative to stay connected through meetings and video conferences. This has led to many working professionals feeling burnt out, and our survey reflects the same.

Developers said that a lesser number of meetings would go a long way in achieving higher productivity.

A ‘no interruption’ policy when they have their headphones on (18%), clutter-free working spaces (17%), and unlimited coffee (15%) were the other ways of amping up productivity.

What amps up a developer's productivity?

CHAPTER 4 | How developers get in the zone

23% of remote developers say lack of human interaction hinders productivity

Being able to interact with a teammate sitting just a desk away is no longer an option due to COVID. Not able to communicate and socialize with fellow team members is a big roadblock for many developers (23%).

Some more factors that do not let working professionals get much work done are attending a gazillion meetings (21%) in a day, and getting distracted by little things at home (17%).

Roadblocks faced by developers when working from home

CHAPTER 4 | How developers get in the zone

Microsoft Windows still reigns supreme

Both students (36%) and working professionals (26%) favor MS Windows over all else. Mac OS and Ubuntu are also considerably popular among both students and professional developers.

Operating systems that developers prefer

CHAPTER 4 | How developers get in the zone

Developers groove to the sound of nature and ambient music!

Student developers (21%) get in the zone by listening to the sound of nature, and experienced professionals listen to ambient sounds when working. Classical music emerged as the second most popular option for both students and experienced developers.

Music that makes developers tick

Chapter 5

What works when looking for work

We asked developers what works when it comes to finding work for themselves in 2021. Read on to get a deeper understanding of how opportunities are found, what employee value propositions are must-haves, what developers prefer when it comes to tech recruitment and coding interviews, and what aspects of working in big-tech are attractive.

CHAPTER 5 | What works when looking for work

LinkedIn dictates the job hunt for both student and professional developers

No other platform comes close to LinkedIn for job applications. 58% of students and 49% of skilled developers think LinkedIn is a reliable way to hunt for jobs. Other preferred channels include job boards and referrals, as opposed to developer tech conferences and virtual career fairs.

How developers scout for job opportunities

CHAPTER 5 | What works when looking for work

Good career paths and compensation are both must-haves

Student developers (63%), who are just starting in the tech world, said a good career growth curve is a must-have. Working professionals can be wooed by offers of a good career path (69%) and compensation (68%).

Students and experienced developers alike also want to work with companies that have financial stability, interesting technical challenges on offer, and good workplace culture.

One trend that has changed since last year is that at least 50% of students and working professionals alike care about ESOPs and positive Glassdoor reviews. While these are not must-haves, they are added benefits that they want to be offered.

Must-have benefits for developers

CHAPTER 5 | What works when looking for work

Most developers would appreciate post-interview feedback

It is well-known in tech circles that developer interviews are a challenging experience. Recruiters need to identify gaps in their interview process and provide a much better candidate experience for every developer. According to over 40% of professional developers, a good first step would be to offer feedback to candidates after an interview.

Too many rounds in the interview process (16%) and misleading job descriptions (14%) are some other things about the tech hiring process that vex working professionals.

Elements of the technical recruitment process that irk developers

CHAPTER 5 | What works when looking for work

40% of developers prefer to be interviewed on tools equipped with video and code editors

Most working professionals (40.50%) prefer remote interviewing tools that are equipped with video and code editors. The process is hassle-free and provides an objective evaluation of the candidate. The next favorite is the take-home coding test followed by remote interviews designed to accurately assess a developer’s coding skills.

Contrary to last year’s trend, onsite interviews are obviously no longer the top choice for developers, given how all of us have been working from home for well over a year now, and see very little chance of going back to the office in the same manner as we used to, before the pandemic.

How developers want to be interviewed

CHAPTER 5 | What works when looking for work

Students and working professionals unanimously agree that Big Tech platforms have superior testing and QA capabilities

Nearly 84% of students and 77% of experienced professionals attest that the intensive testing and QA facilities at Big Tech companies have an allure. Other Big Tech characteristics that developers appreciate are the integrated technology that powers their platforms, and the fact that the inner workings of most Big Tech companies are perceived to be like a well-oiled machine.

Factors of Big Tech that developers fancy


Our thinking was global

HackerEarth’s mission is to help companies design future-ready tech teams with tools for technical hiring, upskilling, and engaging developers. To pinpoint important trends in the developer community, we surveyed developers (a healthy mix of students and working professionals) worldwide to get their valuable opinion.

Our understanding was the result of thousands of responses

This study presents the results of a survey we conducted from March 2021 to April 2021. We received a total of 25,431 responses from developers across 171 countries with over 20% of the respondents being women.

Our approach was comprehensive

Our in-house team of experts analyzed the results. Percentages may not always add to 100% due to rounding.

List of abbreviations

AoE: Area of expertise ESOP: Employee stock option plans
YoE: Years of experience