What Is C++? (And How to Learn It)

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Discover the programming language C++, what it’s used for, and how to learn it.

[Featured Image] A C++ programmer in white headphones uses two computer monitors to work on code for their job.

C++ is among the top 10 most widely used programming languages in the world [1]. It's a general-purpose programming language (GPL), which means you can use it to build any type of program. The article below further explores the use cases, benefits, and potential drawbacks of C plus-plus. You can use it to determine whether it's the right programming language for you to learn.

What is C plus-plus?

C++ (or “C-plus-plus”) is a generic programming language for building software. It’s an object-oriented language. In other words, it emphasizes using data fields with unique attributes (a.k.a. objects) rather than logic or functions. A common example of an object is a user account on a website. Typically, a user account contains closely related data like first name, last name, and email address. Bundling this information together into an object makes it easy to replicate the process of creating a new account.

Did you know?

Bjarne Stroustrup invented C++ in 1979 to extend C, a procedural programming language. It was designed to offer programmers more control over memory and system resources.


What is C plus-plus used for?

Over time, C++ has become a choice language for building fast and reliable software. Its versatility makes it an excellent match for complex applications, embedded systems, and internet of things (IoT) devices. A few of its most common use cases are as follows:

  • Software engineering. A couple of applications you might use daily that were created with C plus-plus include Netflix and Amazon.

  • Operating system (OS) development. Examples of OS that were created with C++ include Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, and iOS.

  • Graphical user interfaces. C++ is often recommended for graphical user interface design or, GUI.  

  • Virtual reality (VR). C++ can be an excellent language to learn if you want to develop VR applications.

  • Blockchain technology. The well-known cryptocurrency Bitcoin was developed in C++. It can also be used to create smart contracts.

  • Game development. You can develop games and gaming consoles with C++. For example, the game World of Warcraft and the Xbox console.

Should you learn C++?

C plus-plus is a great language to learn if you want to gain a deep understanding of how computers work. It's generally considered to be a good starting point for novice or beginner coders. With knowledge of C++, you may also be able to pick up other languages like Python or JavaScript more easily.

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

Advantages of learning C++

Programming in C++ offers several advantages. Because it is object oriented, you can easily organize and classify the code. Instead of rewriting code from scratch, you can reuse it. You can also use C plus-plus to interact directly with a computer’s hardware. As a result, you'll be able to control how a system uses its computational resources, like software, hardware, and memory. 

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

Career advancement opportunities

Having experience with C++ can introduce you to job opportunities with high-paying salaries. As of January 2023, Indeed had over 13,000 job listings in the US for C++ developers, programmers, and engineers. Over 8,000 of those jobs are estimated to have salaries above $110,000 [2]. Glassdoor reports that the average yearly pay for C++ developers in the US is $108,260 [3].

Read more: How to Become a Software Developer | 9 Tips

How to learn C++

C++ basics include storing information, repeating actions through loops, and collecting user input. The list below outlines a few key concepts for C++ beginners to explore. Then, check out the next section for recommendations on where to start.

  • Conditionals like “if statements,” “if else statements,” and “switch case statements,” which tell a computer what to do under certain conditions 

  • How to assign classes to objects (data fields with unique attributes) 

  • How to write code using C++ syntax, the predefined symbols, and characters that determine how a computer reads the code  

  • How to compile and link a C++ file, so that the code can run on a machine 

Online courses and guided projects in C++

Here are a few beginner-friendly online courses and guided projects to get you started:

You can practice also basic C++ with exercises like printing “Hello, World,” converting Celcius to Fahrenheit, and performing arithmetic operations.

Joining the C++ developer community

It can be helpful to connect with and learn from other, more experienced programmers. For example, you may consider joining the C++ Slack community. Or, follow questions with the C++ tag on StackExchange. You can also follow relevant YouTube channels like Programming with Mosh. Once you've gained some technical expertise and practiced coding in C plus-plus on your own, you might be ready to apply your skills to a real-life project on a collaborative site like GitHub.

Learn C++ with Coursera

Start building a strong foundation for your programming career today by enrolling in an introductory online course like Coding for Everyone: C and C++ Specialization by the University of California Santa Cruz.



Coding for Everyone: C and C++

Beginner to Programmer — Learn to Code in C & C++. Gain a deep understanding of computer programming by learning to code, debug, and solve complex problems with C and C++.


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Average time: 6 month(s)

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Algorithms, C Programming, coding, C++, Computer Programming, Graph Theory, C++11, Graph Algorithms, Standard Template Library

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Article sources


Statista. "Most used programming languages among developers worldwide as of 2022, https://www.statista.com/statistics/793628/worldwide-developer-survey-most-used-languages/#:~:text=As%20of%202022%2C%20JavaScript%20and,55%20percent%20using%20HTML%2FCSS." Accessed January 11, 2023.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

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