Stack Overflow’s 2022 Developer Survey: Is Ruby the New COBOL!?

Matthew • July 28, 2022

Stack Overflow has recently released its annual Developer Survey for 2022. I've aggregated the popularity and salary responses since 2013 and graphed them.

Let's see what we can learn! (I did this analysis last year, too. You can find that here).

How I approached this and caveats

🧂The way the SO team has collected and presented this data over the years has evolved. Comparisons may not always be oranges-to-oranges. This analysis is offered with a shaker of salt!

I've gone back to 2013 because it's easy to get that data.

Where there's a choice, I've limited the data to professional developers rather than hobbyists.

The data is from respondents worldwide (as best as I understand.)

What percentage of programmers are using Ruby?

Here's the number of programmers using Ruby compared to previous years.

Percentage of Stack Overflow Developer Survey Respondents Using Ruby

The number of Ruby developers declines to about 6.7% after a bump up to 7.9% last year.

Last year, I had wondered if we'd see this number going up, given all of the new investment into Rails. Maybe it will take another year for that to appear?

I've added a five-year running average it to smooth the data out a bit. You can see that we're on a decline from 9.3% in 2017 to 8.3% today. So, no good news there.

How popular is Ruby?

Here's Ruby's popularity rank from this year's survey:

Ordinal Rank of Ruby's Popularity in Stack Overflow's Developer Survey

Alas, up-and-to-the-right is not where we want to be. Ruby holds its spot at number sixteen.

There's a catch here though. If you look closely at the data, Node.js which was included in the 2021 list, was moved from the languages section into the frameworks sec ion this year. Node was ahead of Ruby, so Ruby should have gained a spot. However, it was passed by Rust. So, at sixteen it stays.

Again, I've added a five-year rolling average which shows us Ruby steadily declining from an average of 10th in 2017 to 14th this year.

Ruby salaries worldwide

So, Ruby's popularity maintains its slow decline. But, how are Ruby, and by proxy, Ruby on Rails, salaries doing?

Maximum, Minimum, Median, and Ruby Worldwide Salaries as Reported in the Stack Overflow Developer Survey Between 2017 and 2022

Here's Stack Overflow's data for worlwide salaries from 2013 to 2022. You can see that Ruby has increased from a median of about $60,000 in 2013 to $90,000 in 2022.

You can see from the data that this is ahead of the median but less than the highest paying language. (This year, it was Clojure and Erlang in the first and second spot.)

All in all. It doesn't feel like that despite Ruby's change in popularity that Ruby salaries are suffering.

I wanted to get a sense for the discount we take by programming Ruby in instead of Clojure or whatever the top language is.

Normalized Maximum, Minimum, Median, and Ruby Worldwide Salaries as Reported in the Stack Overflow Developer Survey Between 2017 and 2022

Here, I normalized the salaries using the maximum as 100%. As you can see, you're not paying too much of a penalty salary-wise if you love Ruby. And we love Ruby, yeah?

Ruby salaries in the United States and Canada

Stack Overflow did break out salaries by region for a few years, but stopped doing that last year. So, I haven't included them here.

I'm assuming numbers limited to the US or North America would come in a bit higher. As of this writing, the median salaries listed here on the Ruby Job Board are between $115,000 and $160,000. You can see this data for yourself on our Ruby salary dashboard and in our weekly email. Sign up below!

Finally, I wanted to get a sense how salaries were changing over time in general.

Average Percent Change in the Maximum, Minimum, Median, and Ruby Worldwide Salaries as Reported in the Stack Overflow Developer Survey Between 2017 and 2022

So here, I've averaged growth rate of salaries over the years. And here, there's some good news for Ruby developers!

It turns out that Ruby median salary growth is 9.5% annually on average. That's above the median which has changed at 7.2% and the maximum which has changed at 9.2%. Nice!

I wonder to what degree this is driven by talent-hungry companies that (until recently, at least) have been hoovering up Rails developers as fast as they can? It will be interesting to see what these numbers look like next year.

What about Ruby on Rails salaries?

Stack Overflow publishes some Rails salary data, which I might get to in a future post. In general, though, I'm assuming Ruby salaries are essentially a proxy for Rby on Rails salaries. (And, uh, I've run out of time to write this.)

Is Ruby the new COBOL?

Nope!

Thanks for reading! If you liked this, don't forget to sign up for the mailing list!

Be well, friend!

Get the latest sent to your inbox once a week!

Receive a weekly update of technical tips, Rails job market analysis, Rails job listings and more!

We'll never share your email address. See our Privacy & Data Policies for more details.


Matthew Bellantoni is a seasoned technology manager experienced growing teams from 0 people to under 100 people, from $0 to $100M in revenue, at companies in SaaS, eCommerce, marketplace, and enterprise software. His time has typically been at fast-growing VC-backed companies, mainly using Ruby on Rails, where he's been senior management usually reporting to the CEO. (He's also written a Ruby on Rails gem with over a million downloads.) You can contact him at matthew@rubyjobboard.com or at @mjbellantoni.