C# vs. Java: Which to Choose?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Discover the key features of each language, along with real-world examples and how to start learning these languages today.

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There are about 700 programming languages to choose from when venturing into the world of computer programming [1]. Among them, both C# (pronounced C sharp) and Java are two of the most popular programming languages. After you’ve narrowed your choices down to these two, deciding which will be the most useful for you will depend upon what type of programming you want to pursue.

In the following article, you can explore the features and use cases for each of these high-level languages to identify which one best suits your needs. 

What is C#?

C# is an object-oriented programming language designed for maximum reusable code.The intent of C# is to be a simple, general-purpose programming language receiving regular updates every few years to remain competitive with industry standards. As of September 2023, the current version of C# is 12.0 [2].

Features of C#

  • Flexibility. This popular language supports both strong and implicit variable typing.

  • Automatic garbage collector. You won't need to be concerned with manual memory management or dealing with stale objects.

  • Compatibility with other .NET languages. Anything written in F# or Visual Basic is available for you to use, resulting in additional functionalities through external libraries and repositories.

  • Simple syntax. When looking at C# versus Java syntax, you will find that C# is less wordy. You can say more with fewer lines, making it a little easier to read.

C# use cases

Microsoft created C#, so it can be used to make native Windows applications. It has a robust community you can draw from and first-class features and functionalities on the Windows operating system (OS).

C# is a general-purpose programming language, making it an ideal choice for a wide range of projects. It’s commonly used to create dynamic websites and web applications, and it can manage all parts of a Model-View-Controller (MVC) style framework. It's capable of making calls to a database, handling URL routing, and outputting HTML to the user’s web browser. C# can also be used to create interactive APIs if you want to provide data service to other developers or applications.

If you want to make video games, you’ll be happy to learn that C# is an industry staple. C# and C++ are the languages used for the Unity engine. Cuphead, Subnautica, and Genshin Impact were all made in Unity. CryEngine, Godot, and Stride engines also use C#.

Read more: What Is a Game Developer (and How Do I Become One)?

What is Java?

Java is a multi-platform, object-oriented programming language. It is very popular for creating both client and server-side applications. Its syntax is similar to C and C++, but is easier to understand. It also has fewer low-level features since that functionality is handled automatically by the compiler and Java Virtual Machine. 

Features of Java

  • Built-in security. Because compiled Java programs run on the Java Virtual Machine, the program is in a sandbox environment, keeping the user safe from any malicious code that makes its way into the program.

  • Versatility. Java’s motto is “Write once, run anywhere.” Once compiled, a Java runtime environment can be any machine with a Java Virtual Machine or JVM. Oracle, Java’s owner, has JVM versions for Windows, Linux, macOS, and Solaris (Oracle’s proprietary UNIX operating system).

  • Platform independent. Java was created to be able to be written on any computing platform. You can write Java code on one machine and execute it on another with an entirely different configuration.

Java use cases

The versatility of Java means it can be used to create almost anything. It can make desktop applications, mobile applications, games, website backends, and servers, and can even run machines. Wikipedia uses Java for its article search, and most stock trading platforms were created with it, as well. Alphabet, Meta, Twitter, and just about any big tech company you can think of all use Java in some way or another, and even the Mars rover control systems use Java. 

How to learn C# and Java

Thanks to technology today, there are many different options for learning C# or Java online. One option is to self-learn by using blogs, articles, Youtube videos, etc. It’s important to remember that you can spend all day studying the language, but the best way to learn to code is to dive in and start building. You may consider taking an online Guided Project so that you can start building your portfolio and practicing coding all at once. Here are a few relevant options:

If self-learning is not appealing to you, you have several other options. First, you can earn your bachelor’s degree at a university. Software engineering and computer science are the two most common majors programmers pursue. Some employers prefer a bachelor’s degree, but it’s not always required. 

Read more: Bachelor’s Degree Guide: Resources for Your Undergraduate Education

If college is not the best path for you, two other popular options for learning are enrolling in boot camps and completing certificate programs—you even have the option to do both.

Enroll in boot camps.

Bootcamps are an excellent option if you’re looking for a fast and intense way to learn C# and Java. These are best for those who can commit to a full-time, short-term intensive and prefer hands-on instruction. 

Bootcamps typically take place in person at the coding school offering the camp. You’ll have an instructor who can answer any questions you may have and help you overcome any challenges or mental blocks. Most bootcamps offer these intensives for several different programming languages, so whether you’ve decided to learn C# or Java, there’s a camp for you. A quick search of “coding bootcamps near me” should help you find the best option, but remember that not every bootcamp program is created equally. Do your research to ensure the organization offering the program is reputable.

Become certified

You can build a solid foundation or fine-tune skills in your chosen language with certificate programs. Coursera works with world-class universities and companies to offer certificate courses in C#, Java, and many other programming languages.

Once you've made an informed decision on which language you would like to pursue learning—C# versus Java, in this case—look for a certificate program that best suits your needs and get to work. Earning a certificate is an effective way to get the necessary training to prepare you to enter the workplace of your choosing. It can also be an excellent way to enhance your resume. Here are a few relevant options:

  • Meta AR Developer Professional Certificate. This certificate program led by an industry leader covers the creation of AR games in Unity using C#, editing, importing, and animating 3D content, and more. By the end, you'll have a job portfolio put together for an AR developer interview.

  • IBM Front-End Developer Professional Certificate. In this program led by IBM, you'll learn to use JavaScript, HTML, CSS, and React to build a front-end development skill set. By the end, you'll have gained hands-on experience with labs and built a portfolio to showcase your expertise to employers.

Read more: What Are Certificate Programs?

Start learning today with Coursera

If you're unsure of which programming language to learn, online courses on Coursera can be a great way to determine which language fits your needs. Learn about the different programming fundamentals and how to apply them to real-life scenarios all at your own pace. Check out beginner-friendly courses like Introduction to C# Programming and Unity from the University of Colorado and Java Programming and Software Engineering Fundamentals Specialization from Duke University.

Article sources


Career Karma. "How Many Computer Programming Languages Are There?, https://careerkarma.com/blog/how-many-coding-languages-are-there/#:~:text=The%20Short%20Answer,languages%2C%20including%20esoteric%20coding%20languages." Accessed September 7, 2023.

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