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Top 7 Programming Languages for IT Engineers to Learn

ITOps engineers should consider learning one or more of these seven scripting languages to do their jobs better.

IT operations engineers aren't expected to be expert coders. That's a job that falls primarily to software developers, for whom mastery of programming languages is essential.

Still, a basic understanding of programming languages is an important quality for many ITOps engineers. When engineers can program at least a little, they can do their jobs more efficiently.

With that reality in mind, this article discusses seven scripting languages that IT engineers should consider learning in order to do their jobs better.

Why Are Programming Languages Important for IT Engineers?

The ability to program, at least in a basic sense, is important to IT operations engineers primarily because programming languages can help automate various aspects of IT operations work.

IT engineers can use code to automate maintenance tasks, like installing updates or provisioning new user accounts. The ability to automate them using code adds substantial efficiency to IT work instead of handling them manually.

On top of this, an understanding of programming languages helps IT engineers support software developers more effectively. The more the IT team knows about programming, the better positioned it is to adopt a DevOps strategy centered on constant collaboration between developers and ITOps.

Best Programming Languages for Engineers

With hundreds of programming languages in existence, which are the best ones for IT engineers to learn?

The answer will vary depending on which languages your organization uses and which types of tools and workflows it needs to support, of course. But in general, the following languages — all of which are scripted (meaning engineers don't have to compile code to run it) — are good choices for IT engineers who want to learn to program.

1. Bash

Bash, the shell language that is used by most Linux distributions to provide a command-line interface, is arguably the single most important language for IT operations engineers to learn today. Even if you don't administer Linux systems, many cloud environments and tools also default to Bash or Bash-like interfaces for administration, so knowing Bash will help IT engineers work in cloud environments.

2. PowerShell

For IT teams that work with Windows systems, PowerShell is an essential programming language. On Windows, IT engineers can use PowerShell to write scripts that automate a variety of tasks. PowerShell can also be used to access many Windows administrative functions (although those are also available via graphical interfaces in most cases).

3. Python

As a simple language that can support a very wide variety of use cases, Python is a good choice for IT engineers who want to program. They can use Python to automate system administration tasks, as well as to write simple applications.

Plus, Python's simplicity makes it a good language to learn for IT engineers who want to familiarize themselves with the basics of programming and software development in order to collaborate more effectively with software engineers. 

4. Perl

Perl, the general-purpose programming language that dates to the 1980s, doesn't enjoy as much fanfare as it once did. But it's still a versatile and relatively easy-to-use scripting language that IT engineers can leverage to automate a variety of tasks.

5. Ruby

Ruby is similar to Perl in that it's a battle-tested, venerable language that doesn't enjoy as much hype as it did in the past, but which remains a powerful scripting language that can support a large number of IT operations tasks.

6. JavaScript (and Node.js)

JavaScript, a scripting language used primarily to run client-side code on websites, may not seem like an obvious language for IT engineers to learn, given that most IT operations teams don't have to write website code. However, using Node.js, JavaScript can be used to run code on servers as well, making it a viable system administration language. It's especially handy for IT engineers who want to create web-based interfaces for system administration.

7. Groovy

Groovy, a scripting language for the Java platform, isn't used primarily for system administration. But some folks deploy it to that end, which makes Groovy worth considering if you're an IT engineer looking for a programming language to learn. Groovy is probably less useful for IT than the other languages on this list, but it has its merits, especially for engineers looking to gain experience with the Java ecosystem.


IT engineers have lots of choices when it comes to which programming languages to learn. In some cases, the decision might be dictated by the types of systems or environments you have to support; Bash is an obvious language for engineers who work with Linux, for example, while PowerShell is important on Windows. In other cases, it might make sense to learn a more general-purpose language that can help not just with IT operations work, but with a variety of other tasks as well.

About the author

Christopher Tozzi headshotChristopher Tozzi is a technology analyst with subject matter expertise in cloud computing, application development, open source software, virtualization, containers and more. He also lectures at a major university in the Albany, New York, area. His book, “For Fun and Profit: A History of the Free and Open Source Software Revolution,” was published by MIT Press.
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