What Programming Language Should I Learn? 

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Discover more information on the different programming languages and figure out which is best for your career goals. 

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

Over the last decade, global internet usage has more than doubled to more than 4.95 billion users [1]. The number of websites, games, social media, and applications users access online has increased accordingly. These programs and platforms started as an idea that computer programming brought to life. The software engineering and development industry is growing quickly. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the industry will see 22 percent growth over the next decade [2]. 

How to decide which programming language to learn

If you are interested in a career involving programming but are unsure of where to start, consider your current skill level, career goals, and discover which programming languages are most popular. The overview below covers different programming languages so you can determine which is the best fit for you. 

Languages for beginners 

If you’re just starting to learn computer programming, consider taking introductory courses that teach fundamentals. Many Coursera courses are from top universities and industry-leading partners that cover a wide range of topics for beginner to senior-level software engineers. Once you’ve had some experience and taken some courses, you may feel more prepared to tackle a bigger project. 

There are thousands of programming languages available out there. Luckily there are several languages that are beginner-friendly. Check out these three languages to consider learning.

Java

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. 

Java is used in the following:

  • Web development 

  • Mobile apps

  • Desktop applications

  • Banking

JavaScript

JavaScript is one of the most commonly used programming 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 possible complex features such as interactive menus, animations, background colors, etc.

JavaScript is used in the following:

  • Server-side scripting

  • Web development

  • Creating browser games

  • Web and mobile apps

Python

Python is another language that is fast growing in the business world. This language has a wide variety of libraries, tools, and frameworks to start with. Python is known for being easy to learn, making it a great first language to learn. 

Python is used in the following:

  • Server-side development

  • Data analysis and machine learning

  • Automation or scripting

  • Mobile and web apps

Languages for advanced developers

If you’re a more experienced programmer looking for a challenge or need a language tailored to create an application, a more advanced language may interest you. Here are three advanced languages that may be helpful to you:

Kotlin

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#

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

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 by job type

Think about your interests and career goals once you've assessed your skill level. This will help you decide whether you should focus on a language that is front-end, back-end, or both. Consider the following programming careers and the languages common to each profession.

Web developer

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 developer 

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. 

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Back-end developer

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. 

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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. 

App developer

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.

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According to Stack Overflow Developer Survey 2021, JavaScript is the most commonly used language, followed by HTML/CSS, SQL, Python, and Java [3]. JavaScript is the most sought programming language by hiring professionals. JavaScript is used to manage the behavior of web pages and can be used to generate animated graphics, interactive images, buttons, and other functionalities. Its flexibility allows for endless possibilities, which is why it’s so popular. 

Useful programming languages

Scala is another useful programming language that is often compared with Java. Scala aims to combine features of Java in a modern way by elevating the quality of code. Scala lets you customize data types and eliminate bugs that may commonly pop up in other languages. Python and Java are two of the most highly used programming languages generally. These language’s simplicity and object orientation make them extremely simple to start using. 

Learn to program

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

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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.

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Related articles

Article Sources

  1. Datareportal. “Digital 2022: Global Overview Report, https://datareportal.com/reports/digital-2022-global-overview-report.” Accessed May 26, 2022. 

  2. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Occupational Outlook Handbook- Software Developers, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/software-developers.htm.” Accessed May 26, 2022.

  3. The Overflow. “Stack Overflow Developer Survey 2021,   https://insights.stackoverflow.com/survey/2021#developer-profile-experience.” Accessed May 26, 2022.

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