Why is Zig the Highest-Paid Programming Language of 2023?

Why is Zig the Highest-Paid Programming Language of 2023?

6 min read
Why is Zig the Highest Paid Programming Language o

Zig is the highest-paid language in 2023, with a median annual salary of almost €100,000. That’s what Stack Overflow’s Developer Survey recently uncovered. It’s a surprising result. Zig has a really limited user base — only 0.83% of developers who answered this year’s survey had done extensive development work in Zig over the past year.

So why are Zig developers being paid so much? Keep reading to find out.

What makes Zig special?

Zig is an open-source general-purpose programming language (and toolchain) often called a modern successor to C. Instead of requiring the programmer to grapple with language complexities, Zig focuses on debugging applications. Zig is presented as a minimal, fully-featured systems programming language that addresses common issues C developers encounter. Its entire syntax is specified with a 500-line PEG grammar file.

There's no hidden control flow, no hidden memory allocations, no preprocessor, and no macros. Zig has four build modes, and they can all be mixed and matched all the way down to scope granularity. They introduced a fresh approach to metaprogramming based on compile-time code execution and lazy evaluation called “comptime” which lets you manipulate types as values without runtime overhead.

One of Zig's toolchain's advantages is its ability to cross-compile code for different platforms and architectures. This means that developers can write code on one platform and compile it to run on another without switching environments or tools. So it can be used as a zero-dependency, drop-in C/C++ compiler that supports cross-compilation out-of-the-box.

Zig against C

Could Zig be the modern C? This table compares some key elements in both languages.






Syntax complexity 



Language influence 

Rust, C, Python.


Library ecosystem 

Growing (new language)

Mature but no standardised library registry. 

Standard library features 

Rich testing framework, customisable memory allocation patterns, optional heap allocators

Low-level APIs only. Needs third-party libraries or platform-specific written code. 


Built-in build system, advanced cross-compilation, comprehensive software maintenance tools

Compiler, linker, and assembly only.

Source: Ziglang

Why is Zig the top-paying language?

Zig has a very solid online reputation. The language is rarely dunked on. Users who have tested it praise its stability and no-frills approach. For example, a user calls Zig “a language built on—in my opinion—great core values, with both a steady vision and direction. It’s currently the language that allows me to in the quickest manner build fast, reliable, and resource-tight applications.”

Other users even compare it to more popular languages, citing how it can “call C code smoothly, which is a big advantage over Go and Rust.” Many argue that Zig is intended to be a modern C — one with specifics one can learn completely, generics via comptime, cross-compiling, and more modern language features.

Of course, a superior online reputation and being the successor to C alone won’t get pay cheques going up. Zig being a well-paid language in 2023 has to do, most probably, with market dynamics and maybe some coincidences.

High demand for Zig means higher pay

There seems to be a demand for Zig that is higher than the number of devs using it. That pull-and-push dynamic could have landed Zig in the sweet spot which allows developers to negotiate higher salaries, transforming Zig into the best-paying language of the year according to StackOverflow. Yet, a quick online survey doesn’t back this theory up. There aren’t a great deal of companies looking for “Zig developers,” and some users say there aren’t any real “Zig jobs” (we’ll explore that later on.) Yet, it’s still true that Zig is very niche, so if companies want Zig developers, their options are limited. The very active Zig community on Reddit doesn’t even have 10k members (it’s sitting at 9.9 thousand).

Companies using Zig happen to pay well

It could be, on the other hand, that the companies using Zig pay well, and Zig just happens to be happily caught in between. One of the highest-profile companies using Zig is Uber, which pays software engineers more than €10,000 a month, according to Glassdoor. Such a figure already lifts your median Zig salary way. This begs the question — if the companies hiring Zig developers suddenly shifted to any other obscure language, would that one top Stack Overflow’s next year?

A user on r/Zig wrote a couple of years ago that “There are no 'jobs' in Zig,” possibly meaning that there are roles in which Zig helps, but there are no actual Zig searches. And if those roles are well-paid, then Zig will be a great-paying tech, just coincidentally.

Companies are ramping up on Zig developers

A third theory as to why Zig developers are earning so much has to do with prospects. What if Zig is considered an excellent technology to develop LLMs, maybe the most talked-about technology in the past year? Would companies start hunting down Zig developers right now to have the edge and win the AI race? Some open-source projects have already coupled Zig with LLMs and the match seems legit, but trusting that Zig will be the foundation of a costly technology seems like a stretch.

All in all, it’s not clear why Zig gets paid so well right now. But it’s clear it does get paid well, and that is very good to know.

How to get started with Zig?

Developers can rely on Zig for embedded systems. Arduino projects (its IDE uses C++) could provide a platform to blend in Zig, especially if you can tweak C libraries and experiment with its features. If you’re on the front end side of things, an open-source project slyly christened Zigar allows you to use Zig with JavaScript. Lastly, you can always check the Zig-on-LLMs project and try to deploy your Large Language Model at home. In 2023, any of these three projects would bring attention during a job interview.

You can also check over fifty open-source Zig projects and look for open issues waiting for your input.

Which companies use Zig?

Besides the mentioned home-brew apps and use cases, some companies and stable projects using Zig in 2023 include:

  • Uber made use of the Hermetic CC toolchain (which includes Zig codes) and the Zig C++ compiler to execute Uber services on arm64 hardware.
  • TigerBeetle provides an accounting database that is written in Zig.
  • Mach is Zig’s gaming engine and graphics toolkit used for building high-performance, cross-platform, robust & modular games, visualizations, and desktop/mobile GUI apps.
  • Bun is an all-in-one toolkit for JavaScript and TypeScript apps. It's written in Zig and powered by JavaScript Core.

Searching for Zig jobs

If you’re looking for jobs that require Zig, you can look into embedded systems open positions. Still, one of the takeaways of Zig is that, even if it’s an incredibly well-paying language, it seems complicated to land a “Zig job” per se, so don’t be disappointed if you don’t immediately notice the keyword. This brings on an appealing alternative route, which is stacking up Zig code on projects you’re already working on.

So, if you’re a developer working with JavaScript, for example, you could start introducing Zig slowly into your projects. Then, when you finally come across a Zig posting, you could demonstrate you have the experience. Another conclusion is that Zig seems to be just starting, and with an active community and certified sponsors, it seems it won’t become deprecated anytime soon. A non-profit runs Zig. Its founder, Andrew Kelly, is very active online and looks like an approachable person you could connect with.

All in all, the Zig case shows that investing time in varied programming languages (including the underdog ones) will improve your job opportunities and set you on the path to a better salary. Yet, even though learning your way around niche coding languages can be a way to earn more money, it’s not the only one. Are you looking to increase your salary? Read these tips to find out how, and check company reviews for any comments on companies that appreciate devs using multiple languages — Zig or not. Good luck!


[10:27 AM]