Python vs. C++: Which to Learn and Where to Start

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Use this guide to find out which programming language best suits your needs.

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Both Python and C++ are popular, beginner-friendly programming languages. For some, choosing which of these general-purpose languages to learn first is a matter of personal preference. For others, one may be more beneficial to learn for a specific project. The choice depends on your goals, but it can be helpful to explore the advantages and disadvantages of each language.

Read more: What Programming Language Should I Learn?

Python overview

Python is an object-oriented programming language that was released by Guido van Rossum in 1991 [1]. It's commonly used to develop websites and software. Python is also extremely useful for data analysis and visualization. Another common use for Python is task automation, or developing programs to execute repetitive tasks independently. 

Read more: What is Python Used For? A Beginner's Guide

Advantages of Python

Python is a popular programming language because it's simple enough for novice coders to learn quickly. It's a high-level language, meaning its simple syntax is designed to be easily understood by humans. It's also an interpreted programming language, meaning users can run individual lines of code immediately after they've been written. This feature can help save time and minimize errors. Here are a few more Python advantages:

  • Code readability: Python reads like the English language, making it easy for new users to start writing code.


  • Simplified error debugging: Python stops executing as soon as an error appears. You will spend less time tracking down and correcting errors in the code.


  • Free and open-source: You can use and distribute your own version of Python.


  • Standard library support: The extensive Python library reduces your dependence on external libraries. If you need to import a package from another library, you have more than 200,000 third-party Python libraries to choose from as you write code.

Disadvantages of Python

All programming languages are flawed. A few of Python's disadvantages are listed below:

  • Program execution speed: Python performs code execution line by line, which can slow the process. When speed matters, Python may not be the best programming language to use.


  • Memory usage: Python requires a considerable amount of memory, which can limit its use for particular projects.


  • Usability in mobile computing: Python can take up too much memory to make it usable for mobile devices.

  • Database access: The Python database is underdeveloped compared to similar technologies, and can feel cumbersome to use.

Read more: How Long Does it Take to Learn Python? (+ Tips for Learning)

Practice your Python skills independently with tutorials

Not ready to commit to a course or a boot camp yet? You can read step-by-step guides for troubleshooting Python basics like syntax, if-else statements, exceptions, and working with loops in Coursera's free programming tutorials.


C++ overview

Created in 1985, C++ has been around longer than Python [2]. Despite its age, it remains one of the most efficient object-oriented programming languages available. Commonly, C++ is used to develop operating systems, applications, and browsers. It's also used for game development. 

Advantages of C++

C++ is a mid-level language, which allows the developer to use it as both a low-level and high-level language. A few more advantages of this language include the following:

  • Portability: C++ codes you write on one platform can easily transfer to other platforms without producing an error.


  • Speed: As a compiler-based language, C++ is faster than Python. The same code running in both programs simultaneously will generate in C++ first.


  • Memory management: C++ does not support garbage collection, so the developer has complete control over the memory.


  • Similarity to other programming languages: If you also know C, C#, or Java, you may find it easier to learn C++.


  • Extensive community of users: C++ is such a popular program, you'll find a vast network of support to help you solve problems with your code.

Disadvantages of C++

The more you understand C++'s limitations, the better you will be prepared to make accommodations as needed. Here are some of the programming language's drawbacks:


  • Memory management: Since the user has complete control over the memory, there's a risk of storing redundant data that increases the memory used.


  • Flexibility: C++ can feel less flexible because of its strict syntax. Small errors lead to a series of errors that can take time to correct.


  • Functions: C++ lacks first-class type functions like passing and returning values without restrictions and creating functions without restrictions.


  • Complexity: As a multi-paradigm language, C++ is not useful for platform-dependent apps.

Read more: What Is C++ (And How to Learn It)

How to start learning

You have several options for learning Python, C++, or both. If you prefer to study independently, you might benefit from online tutorials and study guides. For example, you can access free Python programming tutorials and cheat sheets on Coursera.

Those looking for more hands-on guidance may find that instructor-led online courses are a better fit. Below, we've compiled a few different options for each language. They range from guided programming projects to university-led courses to certificate programs from industry leaders in technology.   

Resources for Python learners

  • Python for Everybody Specialization. Offered by the University of Michigan, this beginner-friendly, self-paced online course covers the essentials. You'll learn to utilize core programming tools like functions and loops to write your very first program in Python. 

  • Crash Course on Python. This online course offered by Google is designed to teach you the foundational knowledge you need to write simple programs with common structures. By the end, you'll be able to create your own objects, write automation scripts, and earn a shareable certificate. 

  • Python for Data Science, AI, & Development. In this self-paced online course, you'll learn Python programming logic from an IBM expert. Best suited for those learning Python for data analysis, this course covers focus areas like web scraping and accessing web data using APIs in addition to the basics. 

Resources for C++ learners

  • Coding for Everyone: C and C++. In this online course offered by the University of California Santa Cruz, you'll learn to understand and express algorithms and write and debug code in C and C++. 

  • C++ Programming for Unreal Game Development. Best for those who already have some coding knowledge, this intermediate course focuses on using C++ for game development. You'll learn to program Unreal Engine games and earn a shareable certificate from the University of Colorado Boulder upon completion. 

  • C++. Decision Programming. This intermediate Guided Project can be completed in just 2 hours. You'll learn more about If-Else statements and use a C++ Switch construct to determine the month. 

Take the next step with Coursera

If you're still unsure which programming language is best for your needs, you might consider an introductory course that can aid your decision-making process. Check out one of the beginner-oriented recommendations below, like the Python for Everybody Specialization or Programming in C++: A Hands-on Introduction Specialization.

Article sources


Python Institute. "Python® – the language of today and tomorrow,,called%20Monty%20Python's%20Flying%20Circus." Accessed June 2, 2023.

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