What Programming Language Should I Learn?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Figure out which programming language is best for you to learn based on your goals. 

[Featured Image] A man in a checkered shirt searches programming languages to learn on his computer.

Over the last decade, internet usage has more than doubled to over 4.95 billion global users [1]. The number of websites, games, and applications has steadily increased as well. These programs and platforms all started as an idea that computer programming brought to life. Whether you're interested in launching a career or simply bringing your own ideas to life, learning a programming language is step one. It can be tough to know where to start, but the following article may help guide your decision-making process.

How to decide which programming language to learn

Here are a few things to consider when deciding which programming language to learn:

  • Current skill level. Some languages have a steeper learning curve than others. If you're brand new to programming, it's best to select a language that is beginner-friendly.

  • End goals. You may want to learn a programming language to accomplish a specific task, for example, creating a video game. Or, you might be interested in starting a career in programming. Either way, identifying your goals will help guide you in the right direction.

  • Popularity. Some programming languages are more widely used than others. Choosing a popular programming language can help you build in-demand skills and provide you with more resources and a larger community of programmers.

What programming language should I learn first?

If you're brand new to programming, consider learning a popular language for beginners. Typically, beginner-level programming languages are high-level, meaning they are designed to be easy to write and understand. Many of them are general-purpose programming languages, making them useful for a wide variety of projects. You can compare and contrast a few popular choices in the next few sections.


Java is one of the oldest object-oriented languages and one of the most sought-after languages to be proficient in. Because of its popularity, Java tutorials and information are widely available, making this a great candidate for starting your first programming project. 

You can use Java for the following:

  • Website development 

  • Mobile and software applications

  • Server-side development

  • Android development

  • Large-scale or enterprise-level application development

  • Internet of Things (IoT)

  • Big data analysis and processing tools


JavaScript is one of the most commonly used scripting languages in the world. Meta, Google, and YouTube all use JavaScript as an integral part of their software because programmers can use it for server-side scripting, gaming, web applications, mobile apps, etc. JavaScript makes dynamic, complex features possible such as interactive menus, animations, and background colors.

JavaScript is used in the following:

  • Front-end development and GUI desktop applications

  • Web-based application development

  • Game development

  • Database development and maintenance

Java vs. JavaScript

Java is an object-oriented programming language. JavaScript is a scripting language, meaning it's interpreted at runtime. Scripting languages can be easier for beginners to learn because they are less complex than programming languages. However, both Java and JavaScript are regarded as beginner friendly.



Python is another exceedingly popular language to learn. It is a general-purpose programming language with a wide variety of libraries, tools, and frameworks to start with. Python is widely known for being easy to learn and versatile.

Python is used in the following:

  • Website and software application development

  • Task automation, machine learning, and AI

  • Data analysis and visualization

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

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.


More advanced programming languages

If you’re a more experienced programmer looking for a challenge or need a language tailored to create a specific application, one of the languages below may interest you. Here are three, more challenging languages to consider:


Kotlin is a general-purpose language meant primarily for Google applications. It’s also interoperable with Java and supports functional programming languages. Some companies that use Kotlin in their frameworks include Coursera, Pinterest, and PostMates. This language is considered a sound choice for intermediate to advanced programmers. 


C# is another intermediate to advanced language developed by Microsoft and is one of the leading languages for the .NET framework. This language is best suited for Windows, Android, and iOS software. 


R is another advanced language mainly used for data analysis, statistics, calculations, and data visualization. Applications that use R are usually in conjunction with databases or any large data structure. 

Programming languages for specific use cases

Once you've assessed your skill level, think about your interests or career goals. This exercise can help you decide whether you should focus on a language that is front-end, back-end, or both. Consider the following projects, job titles, and their respective languages.

What programming language should I learn for cybersecurity?

Although knowledge of programming languages isn't a hard requirement for cybersecurity professionals, it can be exceedingly helpful. Learning a programming language can help you stand out from other job candidates for entry-level roles or make the transition to a more advanced role easier. Here are a couple of commonly used programming languages in cybersecurity:

  • Python. In cybersecurity, you can use Python for penetration testing and vulnerability scanning.

  • C. C is a programming language that is commonly used for cryptography or, data encryption. Cybersecurity professionals can use it to create firewalls and prevent access to sensitive data.

What programming language should I learn for app development?

Swift is an Apple language that is a popular choice for creating iOS apps. Swift is highly interactive, and in its development environments, you can see your coding output, which helps evaluate front-end components. 

C++ is another highly respected choice for mobile app development. This is a general-purpose, object-oriented language used for Android app development. C++ is commonly used for game development, banking apps, and cloud computing.

What programming language should I learn for web development?

Python and Java are languages that are practical for web developers. Python and Java both have simple syntax and support multiple platforms. Python is open-source and has a huge community that provides support. These languages have tremendous libraries that are useful for web development. 

Read more: What Does a Web Developer Do (and How Do I Become One)?

Front-end web development

HTML, CSS, and JavaScript are essential languages for front-end development, such as creating web pages. Developers can also use JavaScript for back-end programming as well. 

Back-end development

Python, PHP, and JavaScript are three powerful languages for back-end development. JavaScript is one of the most trustworthy backend languages for server-side architecture. It offers rich interfaces, online availability, and is also increasing in popularity. PHP is considered a simple backend programming language for web development. PHP is known for its server-side capabilities, high flexibility, and conjunction with HTML, XML, and JavaScript. Python is an object-oriented language that supports functionality for web automation and scraping. This language can be quite helpful for managing and analyzing data. 

Read more: Front End vs. Back End: Learning Skills and Tools

Full-stack developer

HTML and CSS are both languages that can supplement your abilities as a full-stack developer. HTML is commonly used for web applications, and HTML5 can be used for web applications to work offline and for graphic integration. With HTML, it’s helpful to also learn Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) used for a webpage’s appearance and layout. HTML and CSS are great languages for web development and working with front-end aspects of sites.  Start learning a new programming language with Coursera.

Whether you’re getting started with programming or want to improve your existing coding skills, you can learn at your own pace on Coursera. Learn the fundamentals of programming with a beginner-friendly course like the Python for Everybody Specialization from the University of Michigan. 

If you already have programming experience, consider Full-Stack Web Development with React Specialization from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology or HTML, CSS, and JavaScript for Web Developers from John Hopkins University.

Article sources


Datareportal. “Digital 2022: Global Overview Report, https://datareportal.com/reports/digital-2022-global-overview-report.” Accessed June 7, 2023. 

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