C# Programming: What It Is, How It's Used + How to Learn It

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

In this article, learn about programming with C#, including what it is, careers where C# skills are valuable, and how you can learn.

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C#, pronounced “C sharp,” is a general-purpose, object-oriented programming language used to develop a wide range of programs, including enterprise software, video games, and mobile apps.

Introduced by Microsoft in 2002 with its release of Visual Studio .NET, C# is part of the C family of languages, which also includes C and C++. C# is the most modern of the three and is easy to learn since it’s a high-level programming language. 

In this article, you'll learn more about C#, including what it is, its applications, and jobs that commonly use it. Later, you'll explore how you can learn C# yourself and find suggested, online courses that can help you start building your knowledge of C# today.

What is C#?

C# is a versatile, high-level object-oriented programming language that runs on open-source platforms, as well as Microsoft Windows .NET architecture.

Several attributes are responsible for the popularity of C#, as it’s especially advantageous for building different types of web-based applications. This is largely because of C#’s ability to create interactive environments for users.

C# is also popular due to how easy it is to learn compared to some other programming languages. In fact, while C# has similarities to C and C++, programmers with experience in JavaScript or Java often find commonalities with the language. Furthermore, high-level programming languages are often easier to learn because commands utilize words similar to everyday language rather than complex code.

Read more: C# vs. Java: Which to Choose?

On Coursera, you can find highly-rated courses to develop your skills in several different programming languages, including C#. Learn the basics of C# programming in the project-based course Programming in C#: A Comprehensive Approach to C# Fundamentals.


What is object-oriented programming?

Object-oriented programming (OOP) is a type of programming paradigm in which software is designed around classes and data structures (called "objects") rather than through logic and functions. When using OOP, programmers first collect all of a program's objects, and then they define how they all relate to one another (a process called "data modeling"). Objects are identified by their "class," which indicates the type of data contained within them and any associated logical sequences.

Their relative ease of use, scalability, and wide range of use cases have made object-oriented programming languages broadly popular today. Some examples of object-oriented programming languages, include Java, Python, Ruby, and C#. Typically, OOP languages share four main features: encapsulation, inheritance, abstraction, and polymorphism. Here’s a closer look at what each of these means:

  • Encapsulation: Encapsulation creates modules where data is enclosed or encapsulated within an object. This allows the details of data to stay private, with specific rules in place that only allow visibility of essential components.

  • Inheritance: When a new class is created in object-oriented programming, it inherits the structures and functions of its parent class. This allows programmers to sort classes hierarchically and reuse code. 

  • Abstraction: Abstraction in object-oriented programming makes it easier for programmers to access objects by using classes. Classes have their own implementation details, and with abstraction, programmers can identify these details, making it easier to manage their code. 

  • Polymorphism: Polymorphism allows objects in a hierarchical class to share the same functions as its parent class. This also enables various objects to interact with the same interface. 

Read more: Should You Learn Object-Oriented Programming Languages?

Benefits of the C# programming language

C# has several advantageous features that help make it a popular programming language. While it’s comparatively easy to learn, especially if you’re familiar with other C languages, C# can be used to develop many different types of applications, software, and platforms. Here are a few factors that make C# a popular programming language: 

  • Faster development. C# has features that help shorten your development time, with efficient and simple code that isn’t challenging to read to help limit time spent debugging.

  • Large community. C# is used worldwide, and C# developers are ready to help if you’re having trouble with your code.

  • High scalability. This makes it easier for you to maintain and expand your projects. 

C# vs C++

C# and C++ are both part of the same family of programming languages. But, that doesn't mean they're the same.

C++ is a low-level programming language that compiles to machine code and requires programmers to manage memory manually. C#, on the other hand, is a high-level programming language that compiles to Common Language Runtime (CLR) and automatically handles memory management. Read more: What Is C++? (And How to Learn It)


What is C# used for? Applications and jobs

There are many different uses for C# in the world of development. In fact, as one of the more popular programming languages, hiring managers regularly seek out developers proficient in C#. Below, we explore the different uses of C# and some of the careers that might require you to possess knowledge of it.

1. Web development

Web developers use C# to build dynamic web pages and applications.

When pursuing a career in web development, you generally have three options: front-end, back-end, and full-stack development. Front-end developers ensure websites are easy to use for end users, while back-end developers handle the server side of web applications, such as a website's databases. Full-stack developers perform the duties of both front and back-end developers.

At a glance, here's what each of these positions pays, according to Glassdoor [1,2,3]:

Front-end developer$83,269
Back-end developer$92,916
Full-stack developer$90,697

2. Game development

C# is a popular programming language in game development due to its overall efficiency and compatibility with the Unity game engine.

Game developers build the software that makes video games, including the different visuals, sounds, and artificial intelligence (AI) needed for non-character players. As a video game developer, it’s your job to take the vision and ideas of video game designers and make them real using programming skills.

Some of the video game careers (and salaries) that you might qualify for with proficient C# skills include [4,5]:

Game developer$90,752
Game programmer$84,655

Read more: Your Guide to Game Design Degrees

3. Windows applications

As a programming language originally developed by Microsoft, C# can be used to build all kinds of different Windows applications. For example, this means you can develop applications designed specifically for Windows platforms, such as Microsoft Office.

At a glance, here are job titles and average salaries for roles centered around developing Windows platforms [6,7]:

Windows developer$107,817
Windows application developer$118,929

How to learn C#: Courses, boot camps, and degrees

When learning how to code, you have several options, including online courses, bootcamps, or through degree programs for a college or university. When deciding how you want to approach learning C#, you should consider factors such as your timeline and financial commitment. 

Online courses

You can gain an introduction to C# by taking online courses where you can learn at your own pace. Free courses are available and are a great option when you aren’t ready to make a significant financial or time commitment. However, keep in mind that they may not offer the same level of resources as paid courses.

Boot camps

Boot camps can help you quickly gain relevant skills in typically three to six months. Although boot camps are shorter than degree programs, they focus on helping you learn the practical skills you'll need to succeed. These programs will also provide support and guidance from an instructor. Another advantage of boot camps is that you can work on projects to add to your portfolio to demonstrate your skills to employers.

Read more: Coding Bootcamps: Options, Benefits, Requirements, and More

Degree programs

It’s common for those with careers in programming to have a degree in computer science or a related field. While going to college or a university is a significant time and financial commitment, you can learn coding skills, as well as theoretical concepts. However, if you’ve already earned a degree in an unrelated field, it may be more practical to pursue other options, such as a boot camp, rather than returning to school.

Explore online c# courses today

Interested in building your knowledge of c# and other programming languages? Explore Coursera's catalog today.

In the University of Colorado Boulder's C# Programming for Unity Game Development Specialization, you'll learn how to program in C# and how to use that C# knowledge to program Unity games. No prior experience is required.

In Duke University's Introductory C Programming Specialization, you'll learn to develop algorithms in a systematic way as well as how to read, write, and implement C code.

Article sources


Glassdoor. “How much does a Front End Developer make?, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/front-end-developer-salary-SRCH_KO0,19.htm.” Accessed February 18, 2024.

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