Programming languages exist to accomplish many different business purposes, so it’s important to make an informed decision about the best programming language to learn. Choosing a language that’s in demand may make your job search easier and your career as a software developer more fulfilling. In this article, we provide insight into seven high-demand programming languages and offer advice for learning a new coding language.
What is a programming language?
Much like people, computers use different languages to communicate objectives. The term “programming language” refers to the suite of existing languages software developers use to program applications, scripts, queries and more.
Programming languages have their own syntax, rules and structure. Some are proprietary and only work within specific applications, and others have more widespread use. Once a developer learns the technical specifications of a language, they can write source code in a text editor and either compile it for execution or execute it with an interpreter.
Top programming languages to learn
The best programming languages to learn are those currently in high demand. The following programming languages were determined using several qualifiers. They often offer high salary opportunities, are versatile for several positions and are likely to remain in demand for a long time.
Here are seven programming languages to consider learning:
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C is a "low-level" language, meaning that programming in it requires knowledge of the underlying computer hardware. The other languages on this list are classified as "high-level" languages where the details of the computer have been abstracted away.
While this makes other languages much easier to learn, it comes at the cost of performance. This might not have much impact on a social media app, but it is extremely important in applications such as games, movie special effects software and even portions of operating systems like Microsoft Windows or Linux. It's also vital on the other end of the computing spectrum. Embedded devices such as car computers have limited computational power and need to get the most out of it.
C++ was derived from C to slightly simplify programming and it is still classified as a low-level language. C is somewhat of a subset of C++, meaning that C programs can often be translated to C++ with relative ease. However, given the conveniences provided, C++ is much more attuned to application development, while C is largely leveraged in embedded systems or key sections of applications.
C was created in 1972 and C++ in 1985. While high-level languages come in and out of popularity and use due to being removed from the hardware, C and C++ have stood the test of time. Their longevity ensures that this is a skill that will always be in demand.
Though more complex, Java still avoids many things that must be managed in some other languages. This balance of performance and complexity makes Java a great option for web application back- ends, particularly when heavy data manipulation or math is required. For those aspiring to create mobile apps, Java is used to create applications for Android.
Java runs on the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) which allows it to be run on many platforms. Though Java was the first language to operate on the JVM, many others are now available, such as Scala or Kotlin. Not only this, but the languages are compatible, allowing Java developers to leverage libraries written in any of these languages. For those aspiring to develop mobile apps, Android applications are written using JVM-compatible languages.
Read more: Learn About Being a Web Designer
Python is a popular coding language known for clean code that’s easy to read and write. Its versatility makes it an effective tool for needs ranging from web application development to video games. More recently, it has seen a growing popularity in the fields of data science and machine learning. This is due to scientific tools such as Pandas, NumPy and Jupyter.
Unlike the other languages on this list that are used to write programs, SQL—“Structured Query Language” and often pronounced “sequel”—is used for querying data, as the name implies. SQL data queries are submitted to a server that then returns the requested information. While standardized, there are many variants such as PostgreSQL and Microsoft’s SQL Server. Due to their similarities, learning one variant makes it significantly easier to learn others.
SQL database servers power many websites and apps, storing information such as user profiles and posts. However, since SQL is strictly focused on data, career opportunities go beyond web or mobile app engineering. High-paying, in-demand career paths such as business intelligence analyst or data scientist require SQL knowledge for their day-to-day tasks.
Related: Common SQL Joins Interview Questions
Swift is the language exclusively used by the Apple ecosystem of products including the iPhone and iPad. While this might initially appear limiting, Apple’s AppStore platform accounts for almost 70% of all mobile consumers’ spending.
The original language Apple used was its own C-inspired language, Objective-C. In 2014, Swift was introduced to lower the development barrier to entry for the platform with a modern language that is significantly easier to learn.
Here is an example:
How to learn a programming language
There are three broad steps you can take if you’ve decided to learn a programming language:
1. Choose the best language for your goals and skills
Also, consider how you learn. If you learn by doing, it may be best to start with something simple like Ruby or Python. If you’re someone who likes to learn everything upfront and develop a strong foundation in coding, C might be more appropriate.
2. Understand computational thinking
Computational thinking refers to how a computer applies logic. There’s a disconnect between how people think and computers think and getting comfortable with that space may make you a better programmer.
Starting your programming language journey by focusing on abstractions, pattern recognition and algorithms might work better than launching into a new language. Once you understand the programming jargon and computer logic, it can make learning a language more intuitive.
3. Enroll in online resources
After considering your goals, learning style and your knowledge of computer logic, look for resources that can teach you the language you want to learn. These resources exist online and in your local community.
Some programmers prefer to be self-taught. They tend to gravitate toward online classes, resources and web applications that make learning a new programming language more accessible. Others may prefer to learn in a more formal setting, such as at a local community college or university. Either learning path is widely accepted within the information technology community.