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11 Essential Skills Software Developers should Learn in 2020

javinpaul profile image javinpaul ・14 min read

Disclosure: This post includes affiliate links; I may receive compensation if you purchase products or services from the different links provided in this article.

If you have been doing software development for some time and thinking what makes a good programmer? What should a programmer learn in 2020 to become a better developer? What should computer science graduates can learn in advance for a career in software development and programming? What are the skills expected of a junior developer are some of the common questions I receive from many students on Facebook and Emails who follows me.

These are mostly college graduates and beginners who now have access to a wealth of information thanks to the internet and eager to learn skills in advance to prepare for their programming job interviews.

In this article, I'll share 11 skills, which I believe, every programmer should know or learn in 2020. This includes a programming language like C++ or Java, essential computer science concepts like Data Structures, Algorithms and Computer Network basics, crucial tools like Git, Docker, Kubernetes and containers in general, Cloud computing concepts and platforms like AWS, GCP, Microsoft Azure, and evergreen skills like SQL and UNIX, editors like Eclipse or Visual Studio Code, and text editors, like VIM and NotePad++, etc.

This list is by no means complete, but it provides you a good starting point for skills a programmer should know. If you are aiming for a career in software development and looking for a programming job, then these are things you can learn and improve to stay ahead of your competition.

top 10 skills every programmer should learn in 2020

Top 11 Essentials Skills for Software Developers in 2020

Without further ado, here is a list of skills which I personally believe, every programmer should know, irrespective of the job he is doing. These are essential skills and will serve you for a long time. Any investment made into this in terms of time, money, and effort will help you to reap the rewards throughout your career.

1) Containers (Docker and Kubernetes)

In 2020, I believe every programmer, software engineer, data scientist, and even project manager should know about containers and tools like Docker and Kubernetes.

It's proven now that containers like Docker not only help developers to test their application in a unified environment but also they simplify the deployment process.

With the help of Docker, you can quickly deploy your application with all of its dependency in one shot, it also provides you process isolation. Similarly, Kubernetes, which is a container orchestration tool, takes it to the next level and can manage containers for you.

This means you no need to worry about the Scalability of your application, and Kubernetes or K8s can do that for you automatically. If you want to learn a new skill in 2020, I suggest you learn Docker and Kubernetes, it will not only help in your current job but also in the next post as they are also the most sought after skill by companies on all sizes.

And, if you have already realized the importance of containers and looking for a resource to learn Docker and Kubernetes, I suggest you join Stephen Grider's best selling course - Docker and Kubernetes: The Complete Guide, one of the best course to learn these two essential skills.

11 skills Every Programmer and Software Developers should Learn in 2020

2) Cloud Platform (AWS, GCP, or Azure)

Apart from containers, Cloud is another thing which I think every Software developer and Data Scientist should learn in 2020. Companies of all sizes and domains are now shifting their environments into Cloud for cost-saving and better scalability, which means sooner or later, you need to work with cloud-native applications.

They are also essential for all the sunrise development in the field of Data Science, Machine Learning, and Artificial intelligence because the only cloud can provide the computing power needed by those resource-hungry models.

Learning Cloud platforms like Amazon Web Service (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP) or Microsoft Azure will take you one step ahead of your competitors not only in your current job but also in the next post. You don't need to learn all of them, and in fact, learning one means you will have a fair idea about others.

To start with, I suggest you learn AWS as it is the most popular and most mature cloud platform and there is a strong demand of developers and system admins with AWS knowledge if you need a resource then I recommend the AWS Certified Solutions Architect - Associate 2020 course by Ryna Kroonenberg, the Cloud Guru. It will not only help you learn AWS in-depth but also prepare you for AWS certification.

what should you learn in 2020 to become a better programmer

3) Data Structure and Algorithm

If you want to become a programmer, then you ought to know Data Structure and Algorithms well; there is no escape. This is one of the important topics of any programming job interview, and without you knowing basic data structures, like an array, linked list, map, set, it's not possible to write a real-world application.

That's why every programmer should put a serious effort into learning the Data structure and Algorithm during their computer science course.

If you are a self-taught programmer, then also you must know Data structure and algorithm; in fact, many programming bootcamp will teach you Data structure and algorithm as the first thing.

If you want to learn it from yourself, then Data Structures and Algorithms: Deep Dive Using Java is the right place to start with.

4) A Version Control Tool (Git)

Source control is used to store code, and if you want to become a coder or software developer, you must know version control tools like Git and SVN.

Thankfully Git and Github have streamlined the market, and now more than 70% organization uses Git; hence you can get away by just learning Git.

Btw, you should put some effort into learning Git well, like you should be comfortable with advanced version control concepts like branching and merging as well as the tool itself, e.g. both on the command line and using GUI. For beginners, The GitHub Ultimate: Master Git and GitHub is the right place to start with.

5) One Text Editors (VIM)

There is not a single day when I have not used a text editor while working as programmers. It's one of the essential tools even for non-programmers and anyone who works with computers.

I have mostly used NotePad on Windows and VIM in Linux, but nowadays, you have a lot of choices available in terms of advanced editors like Sublime and NotePad++, which provides IDE like functionalities.

I suggest you to spend some time learning your favorite Editor and keyboard shortcuts, productivity tips are something you can learn. If you like VIM, then VIM MasterClass by Jason Cannon is an excellent course to learn such skills.

6) IDEs (VSCode or IntelliJIDEA)

The modern IDES like Eclipse or Visual Studio Code is the most critical tool for any programmers. For C, C++, and C# programmer, the choice is clear, the Visual Studio and for Python developers, Jupiter Notebook is getting better and better every day.

For Java Programmers, there are three primary IDE to choose, like Eclipse, NetBeans, and IntelliJ, while Eclipse is my favorite, IntelliJIDEA is not bad at all.

If you happen to be IntelliJ IDEA fan, then I suggest you go through IntelliJ IDEA Tricks to Boost Productivity for Java Devs to learn your IDE better.

7) Database and SQL

SQL is a classic, it's been around for more than 30 years, and I think it will be around for another 30 years. Given the omnipresence of the database, it's expected from a programmer that he is familiar with essential database concepts like normalization and table design along with SQL.

There are many databases, like Oracle, MySQL, Microsoft SQL Server, PostgreSQL, etc. but knowing just one is enough. The critical point is that you should be familiar with the database. You should know how to insert/update/delete data and write SQL queries to retrieve it.

Knowledge of advanced concepts like join an aggregate function is a big bonus, and if you want to get that, then The Complete SQL BootCamp is a great place to start with.

8) UNIX (Linux)

Like SQL, UNIX also has withstood the test of time. It's also been around for more than 30 years, and I hope it will there for many more coming years. Since most of the time, programmers have to work in the UNIX machine, like Linux servers, good knowledge of the Linx command line goes a long way.

It allows you to work effectively. You can search files, know what's going on with the system by checking its CPU and memory usage, and perform basic and advanced tasks. If you want to learn Linux commands, I suggest to go through Learn Linux in 5 Days and Level Up Your Career course on Udemy.

9) An OOP Programming language (C++, Java or Python)

As a programmer, you must know a programming language like C++ or Java or maybe Python or JavaScript. You can choose whatever you want to, but my personal suggestion is that you should at least know Java.

It's straightforward to start with, and that's why the right choice for beginners. It's also immensely powerful and allows you to virtually anything.

It has got libraries from doing basic stuff, like web development to Big Data and so on. If you decide to learn Java, then The Complete Java MasterClass is probably the best place to start with.

learn java in 2020

10) Networking basics

Today's world is an interconnected world, and anywhere you go, you will find computer networks, starting from home where you are using WIFI across many devices to school, college, and offices, which uses Local Area Network (LAN) to the Internet.

Most of the applications you will write will also not be standalone, but the client-server kind of use where the request will go through the network to a server. Clients will access your application from anywhere in the world.

The bottom line is that you must understand the networking basics to understand, develop, and support your application. If you want to learn more, then I suggest you join The Complete Networking Fundamentals course on Udemy. A good starting point for beginners.

11) One Scripting language

In point # 8, I have asked you to learn a Programming language, and here I am asking you to learn a scripting language? Why? Can the same programming language not be used as a scripting language?

Well, there is undoubtedly some language which is suitable for both OOP coding and scripting like Python, and that's why I asked you to learn it at least, but if you happen to learn C/C++ or Java, then you can't whip out something as quickly as a Python or Perl developer can do.

If you want to learn Python and need a course, The Complete Python Bootcamp is a great course to start with.

The scripting language makes it easy to create tools and scripts to solve common problems in the programming world. If you have a good command over a scripting language, e.g. Python, then you can automate mundane stuff easily.

Once again, I suggest you to learn Python to kill two birds in one stone, and if you need some more resources, this list of free Python courses is also beneficial.

That's all about 11 skills every Programmer should learn. Computer science graduates and people who aspire to become programmers can use this list to find out about things like tools and skills to become a successful programmer.

Btw, if you are interested to learn more about things programmers should know, there is a lot of guidance available in terms of essential stuff for programmers, and you can find man great advice on the internet like 97 Things Programmer should know, a must-read for every serious programmer.

Other Programming articles you may like
10 Algorithm Books Every Programmer Should Read
The Complete Web Developer RoadMap
10 Tips to Improve your Programming Skill
10 OOP Design Principles Every Programmer Should Know
10 Tools Every Software Engineer should know
The 2020 Java Developer RoadMap
10 High Paying Career Options for Programmers and developers
10 Tips to become a better Java developer
100+ Data Structure and Algorithm Questions for Programmers
10 Unit testing tools for Java Programmers

Thanks for reading this article so far. If you find this article useful, then please share it with your friends and colleagues. If you have any questions or feedback, then please drop a note.

Discussion

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exts profile image
Lamonte

VS Code while a great tool and editor with a powerful extension system, is not an IDE.

I think containers are important to know about, but not specifically docker. I personally find docker overly complicated. I still use vagrant for local development and it's much simpler.

Of all the things you listed since a lot of it is very dependent on what you're doing. Linux(unix), databases, and git I would say you should brush up on. If you're a software developer you should already be brushing up on basic programming topics and concepts such as oop and data structures.

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jsbeaulieu profile image
Jean-Sébastien Beaulieu

VS Code, for some languages, is most definitely an IDE. Refactoring tools, integrated debugger, code intelligence, source control client, remote interpreters, build/deploy tools, test runner, integrated terminal, support for linters/formatters, etc. Not sure how it doesn't qualify as an "Integrated Development Environment" at that point. Sounds quite integrated to me.

Vagrant is a VM provisioning tool, not a container runtime. Docker is the de-facto container standard for now, so yes, Docker specifically is definitely a thing to get familiar with.

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clay profile image
Clay Ferguson

Just curious what you thought was missing from VSCode that keeps it from being an IDE? I use it for all development. It can build, deploy, edit, debug, etc? What am I missing?

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elabftw profile image
eLabFTW

Jupyter notebook is NOT an IDE! It's a very convenient tool to get started on a project or show how some library is working, but if you're writing serious python code you'll want a real editor (like vim :p).

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javinpaul profile image
javinpaul Author

Or maybe PyCharm :-)

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stuffandting profile image
stuffandting

Slightly unconventional suggestion, but you missed off COBOL :) There are 220 BILLION lines of code underpinning many financial and retail systems, and it's going nowhere soon - there's no ROI for organisations to decipher and re-write that old code in anything modern, and the support base of developers that understand it is ageing and a finite resource.

No one in their right mind would actually choose to learn COBOL now, but you might choose to like money - and I have no doubt as that developer base retires off, this will be a very lucrative skill!!

Did I mention you'd have to be out of your mind...? How much is your sanity worth :)

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egilhuber profile image
erica

Hypothetically, if one wanted to learn COBOL, where would they start?

asking for a friend

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deciduously profile image
Ben Lovy

I started here - but never made it that far.

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idanarye profile image
Idan Arye

What does any of this have to do with 2020? All of the bullets are valid for 2019 just as well. Or 2018. Or 2017...

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javinpaul profile image
javinpaul Author

I agree, I purposefully have chosen evergreen technologies that will serve developers a long time.

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madza profile image
Madza

Great news, more sleep in 2020..

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ghost profile image
Ghost

Nice list, SQL doesn't get much love but hiding behind ORMs just delay the unavoidable, you are gonna need SQL some day.

About Linux, similar to SQL, don't avoid the terminal, those who claim that if you don't brush your teeth with bash you are inferior are just elitist Pr¡($, but being confortable in a terminal is priceless, you'll struggle at first but in the long run you'll get much more productive than with the mouse and you'll fell free of many limitations, you'll need just SSH to manage remote machines, you'll find at home with tools like: Docker, psql, git, etc. Not always you'll find the GUI that you like, but the underlying CLI (Command Line Interpreter) is always there and unlike the GUIs don't change over time (not much at least) so the Bash, psql commands, etc. you learned 30 years ago is still relevant today and will be for many more years. And everything adds up so even if you move to Zsh, knowing bash will help you, and like SQL are usually agnostic of the implementation.

I also like Vim because is everywhere, you SSH to some cloud machine and if Vim is not there you'll at least have vi and your perfectly configured machine is just a copy/paste of your .vimrc away, you can even have it in a thumb drive and call Vim directly with that config.

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javinpaul profile image
javinpaul Author

Thanks, Yes, VI is almost everywhere and there is no better way to take your config with you than .vimrc. completely agree.

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vaibhavkhulbe profile image
Vaibhav Khulbe

Definitely gonna learn about containers (Docker) and a cloud service like AWS this year. Great list!

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javinpaul profile image
javinpaul Author

yes, that should be the top priority. If you can, serverless is also a good thing to learn.

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Muhammad Usama Ashraf

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derickhess profile image
Derick Hess

UNIX has been around a lot longer than 30 years. Just shy of 50 years actually

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javinpaul profile image
javinpaul Author

Yes, and I wish it lives for another 50 years :-)

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madza profile image
Madza

Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie were ahead of their time ;)

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steelwolf180 profile image
Max Ong Zong Bao

I'll pass VSCode & Jupyter. I love my PyCharm Professional too much to bear with using others.

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javinpaul profile image
javinpaul Author

not a bad option, PyCharm is good but VSCod is polyglot and you can do programming in almost any language. It has probably the biggest collections of extensions or plugins.

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justynclark profile image
Justyn Clark

Bahahahahaha. Every time I pull branches from devs using VSC into my real man's powerful IDE IntelliJ IDEA Ultimate I automatically catch mistakes you can't with built in Code Inspections.

IntelliJ supports every language, I use it primarily for JS.

You get what you pay for, or rather don't get with freebies.

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steelwolf180 profile image
Max Ong Zong Bao

Hahaha, that your wrong Pycharm Pro is bundled with Webstorm so that was one of the reason for me to get it as well.

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WilliamRiley

Appreciate you for taking the time and shared here some essential skills for software developers which would like to forward to my students who are developers and also take essay help - eliteassignment.co.uk/law-Coursewo... from me at Elite Assignment in the UK.

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b93rn profile image
b93rn

The URL of the VIM masterclass seems to be wrong. It sends me to an auto formater page of Sublime.

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javinpaul profile image
javinpaul Author

Thanks for pointing out, correct that.

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hatenafish profile image
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javinpaul profile image
javinpaul Author

Thanks for translating and informing me.

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efe profile image
Efe Ertugrul

mention atom editor please.
it is great and free.