Why a Good Java Developer Is Hard to Find

Illustration of a coffee cup with the word "Java" beneath it.

Java is consistently a top choice for enterprise applications. Yet finding Java developers can be a massive headache for chief information officers and IT project managers.

While there are many developers with a host of experience working with the second most popular coding language, Java developer remains one of the most difficult jobs to fill.

A changing of the guard?

The career trajectories of many developers are changing. In the past, Java was often a budding developer's first "Hello, world!" Today, it's not always the first coding language they learn — or even the second or third. While Java remains popular for enterprise applications — with its massive library serving as the cornerstone for Android apps in particular — that strength may be why many developers don't use the coding language for their personal projects. Many talented software developers are active in one or more of the many communities dedicated to exploratory programming, and they may want to work with a different language in their free time. Languages such as Python and C++ are outstripping Java for developer dabbling and may appeal to technology professionals looking to start out fresh on a career in programming.

Does this mean that Java is seen as the buttoned-down business programming language, while one like Python is regarded as the hipper kid in town? Maybe. And businesses struggling to hire Java developers can benefit by approaching candidate evaluations and project hires with this perspective in mind. For example, they may want to discuss other languages a developer might be able to use at the company if hired. At the very least, understanding what today's developer might be looking for can help businesses take stock of their own software programming direction.

Discover why Python programming skills are in demand.

What are you looking for in a java developer?

High demand for programmers in general means that top candidates can be selective in committing to a company, whether for a project or full-time employment. If a project doesn't offer an interesting application of his or her skill set, the developer might decide to stay away. Clearly, a more by-the-numbers project can still catch the interest of an able programmer, but you don't ever want to cut yourself off from attracting top-tier talent. Be willing to grow a professional's responsibilities as that person becomes more comfortable in the role.

Best practices for hiring web developers all apply here — offer interesting work, competitive compensation and benefits the candidate can't find just anywhere. You may even consider investing in a promising candidate who may not have 100 percent of exactly what you’re looking for. In a tight job market, someone who can bring most of what you need may work out fine with some on-the-job training.

Check out the Robert Half Technology Salary Guide to learn what level of starting compensation leading employers are offering to skilled developers, and how much more candidates with solid Java development skills can expect to earn for some positions.

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Note: This post has been updated. It originally appeared 4/15/14.