A lot of beginner coders face the same initial question: “Which programming language should I learn?” With so many options out there, it’s a perfectly good question to ask. You shouldn’t choose a popular language just because it’s popular.
The best programming language to learn is the one that aligns with your goals, career paths, and interests. This is because all programming languages excel in different ways. For example, if you are interested in game development, your best bet would be to learn C++ or Java. On the other hand, if you are looking to explore data science, Python is likely the better choice.
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Best Programming Languages to Learn
There are hundreds of programming languages out there. About 50 of them are considered the most popular and are still used by modern developers to a certain extent. However, which of the 50 is the best programming language for you to learn?
Luckily, there are a few ways to narrow it down. Choosing a programming language to learn has a lot to do with what you intend to achieve. The best choices for mobile app development may not be the same as network engineering. Similarly, the best coding languages to learn for an aspiring software developer may differ from those that would suit an aspiring data scientist.
Additionally, you need to take into account how much experience you have with programming. Some languages can help you accomplish the same tasks in another language, saving you the hassle of learning a new programming language.
The best programming languages to learn are as follows. Keep reading to see a breakdown of each language and how you can use it in your coding career.
- C and C++
Use Cases: Data science, web development, game development, mobile applications, and more
Companies Using Python: Instagram, Uber, Dropbox, Netflix, and Spotify
Python is a general-purpose programming language that supports object oriented programming. This means you can use it for almost anything from statistical computing to game development. For example, data scientists use Python to analyze data while web developers use Python for backend development.
This is a major advantage because once you’ve learned the basics of Python, you can apply your skills to a range of different projects. Python is also relatively easy to learn because of its English-like syntax and code readability. These are some of the features that make Python programming language an excellent choice for beginners.
Use Cases: Front end web development
Use Cases: Apple development
Companies Using Swift: Airbnb, Kickstarter, Khan Academy, LinkedIn, and Apple
If you want to build applications for Apple devices, knowing how to program in Swift is useful. Since the Swift programming language was launched in 2014, it has gained wide support in the Apple development community. The language is fast, it is reportedly up to 2.6 times faster than Objective-C and 8.4 times faster than Python 2.7.
Swift is a powerful programming language built by Apply, the largest mobile operating system market share holder in the US. Because Apple devices are so popular, you can expect to use your Swift skills to build apps for iOS, watchOS, macOS, and more. According to PayScale, Swift developers receive an average salary of $109,958 a year.
Use Cases: Scripting and web development
Companies Using Ruby: Crunchbase, Dribbble, Bloomberg, GitHub, and Airbnb
Ruby is an open-source programming language focused on simplicity and productivity. It is best suited for web development. The language uses a simple set of rules that are easy to understand and read. The Ruby programming language is particularly popular with beginners because it has a strong developer community willing to support newbies.
Another reason Ruby has become popular is due to the rise of Ruby on Rails, a web development framework built on top of Ruby. This framework makes it easy to build the client-side and server-side code for a web application. It has been adopted by companies like Twitter and Shopify to power some of their core websites.
Use Cases: Microsoft app development, mobile development, and game development
Companies Using C#: Boeing, Citi, Intuit, Microsoft, and Stack Overflow
C#, which is pronounced “C sharp”, is a general-purpose programming language built on top of C. Microsoft developed the C# programming language as a replacement for Java. Although it was initially designed to be part of Microsoft’s .NET framework, it is now used for everything from mobile development to Microsoft app development
You can even use C# to build 2D and 3D video games. In fact, C# is the language of choice for the popular game engine Unity, which is used to create beloved games like Pokémon GO, Beat Saber, and Cuphead.
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Use Cases: Desktop application development, Android development, and web development
Companies Using Java: Pinterest, Uber, Spotify, Google, and Netflix
This list of top programming languages wouldn’t be complete without an old favorite: Java programming language. Java was created by Sun Microsystems in 1995 and has built a strong reputation for being a powerful and stable programming language. It also has a wide range of open-source libraries which you can use to customize your code.
Close to three decades later, Java is still considered worth learning because it has numerous applications. Many Java developers use the language to build desktop applications like Minecraft, for example. The Android operating system, which powers more than two billion devices, was built also using Java.
Use Cases: Systems programming
Companies Using Go: Twitch, SendGrid, Dropbox, BBC, and SoundCloud
Go, which is sometimes called Golang, is an open-source programming language that allows you to build reliable programs efficiently. A team of engineers at Google developed the language in 2009 and it has since become a favorite among other engineers who want to work on systems programming.
One advantage of using Go is that it offers many of the features available in C, but without the steep learning curve. You can use Go to build data pipelines, web servers, distributed systems, and more. Go is also known to be a fast programming language thanks to its low-level nature. This means that when you develop an application using Go, you know it’s going to be speedy.
Use Cases: Web applications
Companies Using HTML: All companies with an online presence
This is the most basic web development language, and perhaps the most straightforward code of all. The acronym stands for Hypertext Markup Language. Developers use the HTML programming language for basic website features like headings, font style, tags, and attributes. HTML is considered the easiest coding language to learn for most people.
Use Cases: Data management and customer relationship management
Companies Using SQL: Microsoft, Dell, Accenture, and Stack Overflow
Structured Query Language (SQL) is one of the most popular IT skills in the world. Developed by experts at IBM in the 1970s, it is generally used to communicate and interact with databases. SQL programming language helps businesses retrieve, edit, and access information from their databases efficiently. It can also be used for marketing, backend development, and accounting.
Use Cases: Android development
Companies Using Kotlin: Google, Amazon, Netflix, Pinterest, and Uber
Kotlin programming language may sound unfamiliar to those outside of tech but it is loved by 63.29 percent of developers in the recent Stack Overflow survey. It is an open-source and statically-typed language, designed to compete with Java on the Android development front. It is also an excellent language for concurrent programming and backend development.
Use Cases: Server-side scripting, image manipulation, and desktop applications writing
Companies Using PHP: Facebook, Wikipedia, Tumblr, and Slack
Hypertext PreProcessor (PHP) is a programming language used in web development. It is mainly used to script dynamic websites. In other words, we can use PHP to create and edit images, write desktop applications, and add dynamic features to a web page. It is also known for being an easy language to learn with a considerably simple syntax.
Use Cases: Statistical computing, machine learning, and data visualization
Companies Using R: Amazon, Google, Deloitte Consulting, and Accenture
R is a popular programming language used to generate business insights, perform statistical computing, and visualize large quantities of data. R is used across various industries including manufacturing, healthcare, and e-commerce. Companies like Google and Infosys, for example, use R for machine learning purposes.
C and C++
Use Cases: Embedded systems, operating systems, software development, and game development
Companies Using C and C++: Adobe, Apple, Microsoft, Mozilla, and Bloomberg
The C programming language is a low-level language that is used in systems programming. It is also known as the mother of all languages, being a major influence on all modern languages that we know today, be it directly or indirectly. Meanwhile, the C++ programming language is a direct superset of C. In other words, C++ can achieve most of what C can do and more.
C is used by companies like Apple and Microsoft in their tech stacks. You can use C to perform GUI programming and build high-performance libraries. Meanwhile, C++ is dynamic, logical, and relatively easy to learn. Developers prefer C++ due to its flexibility and general applications. It’s also a fantastic choice for memory manipulation and object oriented programming tasks.
Use Cases: Data processing, distribution systems, and web development
Companies Using Scala: Twitter, Klarna, Zalando, and Coursera
Scala is a statically typed language that supports both object oriented programming and functional programming. As the name suggests, Scala is used to build scalable and expandable software, making it a useful skill to have in your toolbox. Scala programming language runs on Java Virtual Machines (JVM) which allows developers to utilize Java libraries directly.
Use Cases: Big data analysis, systems design, machine learning, and technical computing
Companies Using MATLAB: Caterpillar, General Electric, and Epson
MATLAB programming language is designed to help users tackle multiple technical computing problems at the same time. It is widely used in the field of engineering, IT, and data science. MATLAB is unique in that it has its own integrated development environment (IDE) and a set of libraries. Coding exercises and projects are the keys to helping beginners learn MATLAB skills.
Companies Using Typescript: Slack, Medium, DoorDash, and Typeform
How to Choose a Programming Language to Learn
Choosing a programming language to learn may seem like a daunting task, especially since there are a lot of options available. Ultimately, it depends on your career goals and objectives. Some of the things you can consider before making a decision are the language model, syntax, and community. Read below for tips on how to choose a programming language.
Know Your Models
There are two distinct coding language models. The first is structured programming, an older and more straightforward model. Commands execute in a step-by-step fashion in the order in which they are written. It utilizes directional commands to navigate the code and is full of loops and subroutines designed to execute under specific circumstances.
Object oriented languages, by comparison, establish containers and objects. Programs written in object oriented languages, such as Java or C++, don’t have a directional flow and they move from object to object as needed. Familiarity with basic models can give you an idea of which programming language you would be able to learn more effectively.
Learn Your Syntax
Computer languages have particular syntax designed for their particular needs, but most of them follow standard design principles. The syntax provides each language with the rules and symbol definitions needed to establish meaning and create functioning programs. When a program contains syntax errors, it will not perform its functions correctly.
Some languages like Python, for example, are known to be beginner-friendly due to their English-like syntax. This makes it easier for any English-speaking programmer to understand its structure and syntax, regardless of how new they are to coding. The code is also less verbose and simpler to write, read, edit, and maintain.
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Know What You Want to Code
Above all, it is recommended that you decide which language to learn after determining the type of projects you would like to work on. Keep in mind the answer to these questions: Are you learning to code to unlock new career opportunities? Are you a career-changer looking to break into tech? Are you interested in expanding your technical skills? Or are you learning just for fun?
Which Programming Language Should I Learn First?
Deciding which programming language to learn can be intimidating, especially if you are a complete beginner. The good news is that there really is no wrong decision. Some languages may be favored among experienced developers but they may not suit your intended use. As mentioned, the best programming language to learn is the one that checks all of your boxes.
The most important step before making a final decision is to verify which language will align best with your future projects. Do you want to build data science apps? Maybe learning Python would be best. Do you want to build apps for iOS? Swift is a great language for that. Consider which language meets your goals and start coding.
Python is one of the most useful programming languages to learn, thanks to its versatility. It is an object oriented programming language that can be used for data science, backend development, and machine learning. If you’re not sure what types of projects you want to work on, Python is a great first language to learn. It is also one of the most user-friendly languages.
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