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a Java developer studies a new framework

New insights on the best Java frameworks to master

June 8, 2018

By Jordan Schwartz

One reason we love to communicate with TEKsystems consultants via the TEKsystems Community is because we get to listen in on your frustrations. Quite honestly, we like to hear those complaints; without that insight, we wouldn’t know how to improve your experience.

Recently, a TEKsystems IT pro posed a question in the Community—and it’s one we know others feel passionately about—so we contacted our internal experts to dig up data and provide context to answer the question:

Which Java frameworks should I focus on learning if I’m a job seeker looking for an opportunity to work as a Java developer? There are so many out there!

It’s a valid question. If you’re a Java developer, it’s easy to feel like a kid in a candy shop—eager to try out the newest and most delicious Java (no, not coffee) framework. Or maybe you just feel overwhelmed by the volume of things you’re expected to know. Companies will love that you keep up with the latest and greatest, right? However, if you get caught up trying to learn every new framework you come across, it’ll be nearly impossible to become a master of one. So which one do you learn?

Job descriptions versus reality

Frameworks can help you develop faster, but the expectation that you need to learn every single one is, frankly, ridiculous. Mastering the underlying language is the key to developer success, and most hiring managers get that. But it can get confusing when job descriptions ask for experience in several frameworks—how can you score an interview when job ads expect you to know everything?

“To be marketable, a Java developer should focus first and foremost on understanding the underlying language and not rely on a framework,” says Jeromy Heidemann, a development manager in our Applications division. “Back-end Java experience, REST experience and a good foundational knowledge of JQuery or JavaScript is universal and opens up a lot of opportunities.”

What does this mean for you? Understand how to write high-quality code before you deep dive into frameworks. “More mature organizations are looking for experience in JavaScript and JQuery,” says Heidemann. “It’s more useful than framework experience. Candidates who rely too heavily on frameworks like Angular or React, for example, are often lighter on good experience with technologies like JQuery or JavaScript. Our clients want the fundamentals first.”

There are exceptions, though. If you’re looking at a shorter contract for a specific project, most companies want to hire someone who already knows the frameworks their team will use.

Top Java frameworks

Although the fundamentals are important, it definitely helps to know some of the big frameworks. Before handing you a prescription that will cure your woes, we took a look at our internal data to understand exactly which frameworks you should focus on based on what most clients ask for in job descriptions. We have special insight because we insist hiring managers prioritize the top three needs, which gives us a better understanding of essential vs. nice-to-have skills.

Seven frameworks crop up most as the top skills for Java developer jobs. We then mapped their growth in demand over the last four years. We projected 2018 by taking our data from the first quarter of this year and extrapolating through to the end of the year.

The results? Spring is far and away the most popular framework, and demand is growing sharply. Take a look at the table below.

The chart shows rapid year-over-year growth for the already in-demand Spring framework. Hibernate is the runner-up, although demand hasn't changed much. Demand for Struts, JFS and Spark remains low. 

If we dig a little deeper, while Spark seems flat in the table above, growth over the last two years is second to Spring. It's on the rise.

chart shows skill demand growth for Java frameworks from 2016 to 2018: Hibernate 11%; Struts 19%; JSF 19%; Spark 38%; Spring 56% 

Every company is different

It’s important to remember that this advice isn’t one-size-fits-all, it's more like one-size-fits-most. “Although you may be eager to learn every single technology and reach out broadly, you’ll want to try to focus narrowly on those core technologies that will be more useful,” says Heidemann. “You’ll find some hiring managers with a short contract length will want broad experience—a little bit of everything. However, most hiring managers will be OK with a developer who has deeper expertise with core technologies. It’s more useful than a broad range.”

The takeaway: Don’t be a jack of all trades, master of none. You’ll want to focus on the fundamentals and master one or two of the big frameworks—like Spring and Spark. It may not make you ideal for every job, but it will make you a better candidate for the job you’re applying to.

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