Python and Java are among the top programming languages in the world, according to multiple reports, including the most recent TIOBE index and the 2021 Stack Overflow Developer Survey. They both offer extensive libraries, cross-platform support, and huge communities of developers, which foregrounds the Python vs Java debate.
The main similarity between Java and Python is that both of them are good programming languages to learn, even for beginners. Python is generally used to develop software, automate tasks, visualize data, and build machine learning models. Meanwhile, Java is more common in backend development, Android development, and game development.
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In this article, we’ll go deeper into Java vs Python, starting with a general overview of both languages. We will also look at their use cases and applications before delving into the key differences between Java and Python.
Java vs Python: Overview
Python and Java were both established in the 1990s but decades later, both languages still prove to be two of the most influential technologies to have ever existed. Many industry professionals said that Python is their language of choice for artificial intelligence and big data. In fact, Python is highlighted as a top skill to have in LinkedIn’s Jobs on the Rise Report.
Meanwhile, Java is said to power over 60 billion devices today. In the interest of giving you the most information possible, this section includes a list of key factors relevant to the Python vs Java question. First, let’s start with a pros and cons comparison of Java vs Python.
Advantages of Python
Python is known for being beginner-friendly. It is a general-purpose programming language with a syntax similar to the English language. Python is also dynamically typed, which means that enforcing the data type of a variable is only done when lines of code actually run. Other advantages of Python include the following:
- Extensive libraries
- Free and open source
- Flexibility in development
Disadvantages of Python
The number one issue faced by most Python programmers is the speed at which the language runs. Because it is an interpreted language, the compilation happens at runtime, which may slow down the execution process. However, this should not be a major concern unless your project revolves around speed. Here are other common disadvantages of Python:
- High memory consumption
- Potential runtime errors
- Not suitable for mobile development
Advantages of Java
Java is favored in enterprise applications because of its scalability. Just as Python is famous for its vast array of third-party libraries, Java has its fair share of libraries as well. Other reasons why Java is preferred by many are listed below.
- Extensive libraries
- Platform independent
- Stable and secure
Disadvantages of Java
Java is a statically typed language. The program always checks that variable types are correct, whether or not the actual code is run. Compared to Python, Java also tends to be much wordier, which can be a barrier to entry for new coders. Check out the following list for other disadvantages of Java.
- Slower than other compiled languages
- Poor GUI
- Poor memory management
Similarities Between Java vs Python
There are a number of similarities between Java and Python. Firstly, they are both high-level languages that can support object oriented programming. Most developers agree that Python and Java are similar in that they have familiar procedural programming concepts, such as for loop, while loop, and if else, among others.
Both languages also have extensive libraries and huge communities of developers. This makes it easier for Python and Java beginners to seek help or access additional resources when first learning the language of their choice.
Differences Between Python vs Java
Arguably the biggest difference between Java and Python is that the former is a compiled language while the latter is interpreted. A compiled language has to be translated into bytecode before it can be executed, while an interpreted language is one that can be run line by line.
Being a compiled language, Java code tends to be faster than Python code. Java’s famous just-in-time compiler performs compilation steps only when they need to be run. This, along with features like support for concurrency, makes Java an excellent language for compute-intensive tasks.
Python and Java also differ in their type systems. Python is a dynamically typed language, while Java is statically typed. A Python variable can contain a piece of text, and later, this same variable can be overwritten with an integer. In Java, variable types are static, hence statically typed.
Python vs Java for Web Development
Python for Web Development
Python is almost exclusively used for backend web development. This is almost always done with the popular Python framework Django. With its famous batteries-included approach to making developers more productive, Django does a lot to make backend web development easier and more efficient.
Java for Web Development
Using Java for web development typically confines you to backend, server-facing work. A number of Java tools are available for these tasks, including Java Enterprise Edition, the JavaServer Pages Standard Tag Library, and the JavaServer Pages Standard Tag Library.
Where Python has one single dominant platform for backend development work, Java has many. This means you have lots of options for accomplishing whatever developmental goal you’re currently tackling.
The career path for a Java backend developer usually begins with an entry-level job that requires knowledge of client-server architectures, development, networking protocols, and basic programming.
Should I Learn Java or Python for Web Development?
You can learn either Java or Python for web development, especially if you are interested in exploring backend or full stack development. Both programming languages are capable of building robust and dynamic web applications.
This decision also depends on the projects that you are wanting to work on. If you’re planning on applying to a particular company, for example, it is recommended that you do some research on which language they prefer for web development.
Additionally, you should note that Java is one of the two primary languages for the Android platform. As Android is one of the most popular operating systems in the world, learning Java may work in your favor if you’re looking to enter the mobile applications space.
Java vs Python for Data Science
Data science is often cited as being among the fields that will define the future. If it’s true that data is the new oil, then it’s probably worth examining the different approaches and tools for data science using two of the most popular programming languages. The sections below take a closer look at Python vs Java with respect to data science.
Python for Data Science
Python is the standard language for data science today. While there are places like academia where R might be more popular, you’d be hard-pressed to find many data science roles that don’t expect you to be proficient in Python.
There are a lot of Python data science libraries to help you complete almost every conceivable data science task. Whether it’s getting results from a search engine, parsing dates and times, or processing tricky data, there is a library out there that can help you perform these tasks. Some of the most popular ones include scikit-learn, Tensor Flow, pandas, and NumPy.
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Java for Data Science
It is 100 percent possible to use Java for data science. There are some tasks, like extracting enormous amounts of data, that Java excels at. This is owed to the fact that it is a compiled language. In fact, companies like Spotify and Uber use Java along with Python for their data-related business decisions.
Should You Learn Python or Java for Data Science?
You should learn both Java and Python for data science, especially if you have existing experience with programming. While Python is likely the more popular choice among data scientists, knowing more languages can help you present creative solutions to data-centric problems and boost your chances of career success.
However, if you only have time to learn one language for data science, many people recommend prioritizing Python. Not only it is an easy-to-learn language, but it is also versatile. You can use Python for data analysis, game development, robotics, network engineering, and more.
Python vs Java: Machine Learning
Machine learning is an emerging field within the realm of computer and information science research. This career field is garnering more interest than ever, with a projected 21 percent growth between 2021 and 2031. If you want to prepare for a career in this branch of artificial intelligence, a good place to start is to review the capabilities of Java vs Python for machine learning. This can help you identify which is the best suited for your career goals.
Python for Machine Learning
Python has found widespread adoption in the machine learning community, mainly because of its ease of use and accessibility. Using Python for machine learning can boil down to building actual algorithms in raw Python or doing the same thing with a popular library like scikit-learn or TensorFlow.
Those experienced in using Python for machine learning say they enjoy the simplicity of coding in the language. Because Python requires less code, it makes it easy to read and understand. Some say that Python allows code to run smoothly even if there are bugs in the code.
Java for Machine Learning
One reason to use Java for machine learning is simply that there is so much of it around. Many companies have huge Java codebases, and much of the open source stack for processing big data is written in Java. This means that Java-based machine learning projects will likely be easier to integrate with existing repositories.
Like Python, there are also plenty of third-party Java libraries for machine learning. Deeplearning4j allows for the creation of any kind of neural network and furnishes support for popular algorithms like linear regression and k-nearest neighbors. Other libraries include Neuroph and Arbiter Java.
Should I Learn Python or Java for Machine Learning?
You should learn Python for machine learning simply because it can make challenging tasks more manageable. Python also has extensive libraries with a variety of modules to help you tackle things like supervised and unsupervised learning algorithms and optimize mathematical expressions. They include Numpy, Scipy, scikit-learn, pandas, and, Matplotlib.
At the same time, there is absolutely a case to be made for going with Java. As recommended before, you should probably consider which language works best for the projects or companies you are looking at.
Python vs Java: Jobs
Both Java and Python are great skills to have for jobs. According to PayScale, some of the more common Java jobs include software engineer, application developer, and game developer. Meanwhile, popular Python jobs that you can explore include data scientist, machine learning engineer, and data analyst.
Such skills are also highly sought after by modern employers. At the time of writing, there are close to 700,000 job openings across the US where Python or Java are listed as a required skill.
Because these skills are versatile, you can also expect to find job opportunities across industries, so long as software development and data science are involved.
Java vs Python Salary
You may be wondering, “What is the potential Java vs Python salary?” Both languages are in-demand and as such, people who know how to code in Python and Java are compensated handsomely. According to PayScale, people with Python skills make an average base pay of $94,000 while people with Java skills earn around $96,000 on average.
Other job sites report a higher salary for Java and Python developers. Glassdoor, for instance, reports that the estimated total pay for a Python developer is $103,315 per year. Even if you are just starting out in tech, an entry-level Java developer can expect to earn about $65,000 a year.
Note that there are a lot of factors that may influence your actual earnings as a developer with Java or Python skills. However, the comparison between Java vs Python salaries above may be able to give you a rough idea of the compensation you can expect.
Java vs Python: Job Interviews
Let’s face it, interviews are one of the most important parts of landing a job in technology. While it’s not impossible to overcome bad first impressions and subpar interviews, it can be extremely difficult to rock your technical interview. To help you better prepare for the interview, let’s take a look at some questions commonly seen in Python interviews.
Python interview questions are generally software-related and require an understanding of how Python handles variables and basic data structures. Meanwhile, Java interview questions tend to focus more on Java’s hardware and distinctive features. They may include any of the following:
- How are lists and tuples different in Python?
- What does it mean to say that Python is an interpreted language?
- What’s the difference between global and local variables in Python?
- How is Java platform-independent?
- Why is Java not totally object oriented?
- Provide one difference between heap and stack memory in Java.
By and large, interview questions are going to challenge you to demonstrate basic proficiency with the language and may push into deeper topics, such as the mechanism that makes both languages platform-independent. For practice, try solving as many problems as possible through both whiteboarding and pair programming.
Python vs Java: Which Is Better?
When looking at Python vs Java, it is difficult to say if one is better than the other. Python and Java are both great languages. Python is routinely used in backend development or data science while Java can be used to create mobile and web applications. Ultimately, the better option depends on what you intend to use the language for.
There is also a variety of roles to explore with either Java or Python skills. For example, Java is worth learning if you are looking to venture into app development. Some of the largest companies in the world use software that is either written in Java or relies heavily on it. At the same time, Python has been expanded into something that’s almost a platform. There are third-party libraries and frameworks for everything from systems to game development.
Python vs Java FAQ
If you are a beginner to programming, it may be better to learn Python first. This is because Python is said to have a simpler syntax, often described as being close to the English language. It’s easy to get into and understand when compared with other languages, while at the same time being powerful enough to create dynamic applications or facilitate AI-related endeavors.
Which pays more, Java or Python?
Both Java and Python skills can unlock the door to lucrative careers. According to PayScale, the average base salary for people with Java and Python skills is $94,000 and $96,000 respectively. Popular job titles include software developer, game developer, data analyst, and data engineer.
Is knowing Java enough to get a job?
Yes, knowing Java alone is enough to get a job in tech. This is also why Java is a popular choice for beginners. Java is a versatile programming language with a lot of use cases, such as mobile and website development. It is often touted as the most widely-used coding language in history, powering billions of devices that we use every day. It is also used by a lot of companies, including Airbnb, Google, and Spotify.
Is Java easy to learn?
Java is relatively easy to learn. It is a well-structured language that supports object oriented programming. A lot of experienced developers agree that Java is easy to use, read, write, compile, and debug. Beginners can expect to have an easy time learning this popular programming language.
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