7 Best Programming Languages to Learn in 2023

Updated March 10, 2023

Programming languages allow IT professionals to complete a variety of tasks and execute projects, including web applications and video games. If you're interested in using them in your personal or professional life, there are a variety of languages you can choose. Understanding the best programming languages to learn can help you qualify for a variety of roles in software development and allow you to harness your industry-related skills.

In this article, we define what a programming language is and list some of the most high-demand programming languages to consider.

What is a programming language?

Programming languages are what software developers use to communicate objectives to and between computers. There's a suite of existing languages these professionals 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.

Related: What Is Computer Programming? (With Common Programming Languages)

7 best programming languages to learn

There are a variety of programming languages you can learn that are currently in high demand from employers. Learning one or more of these programming languages may help you qualify for high-salary opportunities and may make you a versatile candidate for several positions.

Here are seven programming languages to consider learning:

1. C/C++

C is a low-level language, meaning that programming in it requires knowledge of the underlying computer hardware. 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's 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.

Designers derived C++ from C to simplify its programming, and they still classify it as a low-level language. C is somewhat of a subset of C++, meaning that professionals can translate C programs to C++ with relative ease. However, C++ is much more attuned to application development, while organizations leverage C in embedded systems or key sections of applications. While high-level languages come in and out of popularity and use because of being removed from the hardware, C and C++ have maintained relevance and usefulness over time.

Related: 14 C++ Certifications To Advance Your Programming Career

2. Java

Java is a popular language for web application back-ends or general service application programming interfaces (APIs) enabled by frameworks such as Spring and Dropwizard. Though Java has a similar name to JavaScript, the languages have very little in common. Unlike JavaScript, Java is a strongly typed language, a feature that can mean a steeper learning curve. However, the trade-in complexity offers much higher performance, particularly with the ability to multi-thread work or break work up into smaller tasks that can run simultaneously. JavaScript, however, only uses a single thread.

Its 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, professionals use Java 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. These languages are compatible, allowing Java developers to leverage libraries written in any of these languages.

Related: 6 Java Programs for Beginners (Plus Benefits and FAQ)

3. JavaScript

Website interactivity and richness have dramatically increased in recent years. HTML and CSS are the foundation for existing technological systems, but the driver of these user interfaces is JavaScript. Programming in JavaScript has become easier with industry-standard tools such as the powerful, beginner-friendly VueJS or the more advanced ReactJS and Angular, formerly AngularJS.

Developers with an eye for visual flair or intuition for user experience will thrive as web developers or front-end engineers. However, JavaScript also empowers developers to create back-ends that can power web applications, mobile apps or even act as a stand-alone API to allow integration with other services and companies. This broadens career potential as those looking for organizational flexibility can leverage a single language to become highly sought full-stack engineers.

Read more: Java vs. JavaScript: What's the Difference?

4. Python

Python is a popular coding language that uses clean code that's easy to read and write. Its versatility makes it an effective tool for projects ranging from web application development to video games. More recently, it has seen growing popularity in the fields of data science and machine learning. This is due to scientific tools such as Pandas, NumPy and Jupyter.

Related: 10 Professional Uses for Python (Plus Benefits)

5. SQL

Unlike the other languages on this list that help professionals write programs, SQL—“Structured Query Language” and often pronounced “sequel”—is for querying data. Programmers submit SQL data queries to a server that then returns the requested information. While standardized, there are many variants such as PostgreSQL and Microsoft's SQL Server. Since they're similar, learning one variant makes it significantly easier to learn about others.

SQL database servers power many websites and apps, storing information such as user profiles and posts. However, since SQL only focuses on data, career opportunities go beyond web or mobile app engineering. High-paying, in-demand career paths such as business intelligence analysts or data scientists require SQL knowledge for their day-to-day tasks.

Related: 10 Uses of SQL (With Definition, Benefits and Examples)

6. Swift

Swift is the language exclusive to the Apple ecosystem of products, including the iPhone and iPad. The original language Apple used was its own C-inspired language, Objective-C. In 2014, developers introduced Swift to lower the development barrier to entry for the platform with a modern language that's significantly easier to learn.

7. TypeScript

Unlike the other languages on this list, TypeScript is a language that converts to another language: JavaScript.

Here's an example:

Examples of Typescript

On the left, you see a TypeScript function, and on the right is the resulting JavaScript. The only change made when the code translated—or transpiled—to JavaScript was the removal of the “number” annotation.

At first, it might appear to raise the learning curve to the level of a language like Java. However, TypeScript retains the flexibility of JavaScript. Developers have complete control over where to apply types for additional structure. This means that a programmer may even exclude them entirely, making Javascript completely valid TypeScript code.

Related: 8 TypeScript Interview Questions (With Sample Answers)

More programming languages

Here are other common programming languages you can learn to advance your career and hone your professional skills:

  • Kotlin

  • PHP

  • R

  • Matlab

  • Ruby

  • C#

  • Scala

Related: Top 10 Highest-Paid Programming Languages

How to learn a programming language

Here are three broad steps you can take if you've decided to learn a programming language:

1. Consider your goals

Choosing the right programming language depends on what you want to develop and how you learn. For example, if you're going to build a mobile application, you might start with Swift or Java. For those who want to develop for the web, JavaScript is essential. If you become a software developer, you may learn and use multiple languages.

You can also consider your learning style when selecting a programming language. If you learn by doing, it may be best to start with something simple, such as Ruby or Python. If you like to learn everything immediately and develop a strong foundation in coding, C might be more appropriate.

Related: Programming vs. Coding: What's the Difference?

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.

Related: 50 Types of Programming Languages and What They Do

3. Explore 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 and select online classes 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.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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