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

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

C++ is one of the most popular programming languages and is an important skill in several industries. Learn what C++ is, careers that use it, and tips to learn this language.

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

C++ (or “C-plus-plus”) is a programming language for building software. It’s an object-oriented language that focuses on objects (data fields that have unique attributes) rather than logic or functions. A common example of an object is a user account on a website. A user account is typically comprised of data like first name, last name, email address, etc., and can be easily replicated each time a new account is created. 

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


What is C++ used for? 

Since its creation, C++ has become the language of choice 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 common use cases include: 

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

  • Operating systems (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 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.

Advantages of learning C++

Programming in C++ offers several advantages. Because it is object-oriented, you can easily organise 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. 

Career advancement oppurtunities 

Having experience with C++ can introduce you to job opportunities with high-paying salaries. As of February 2023, Glassdoor reported the median C/C++ programmer salary in the UK was £43,436[1]. However, salaries vary greatly, and the highest reported annual income in the UK was £71,223 for a C++ programmer at that time. This range depends on location, experience, job responsibilities, and company size, amongst other factors.

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 and topics for C++ beginners to explore: 

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

Join C++ communities. 

It can be helpful to connect and learn from other, more experienced programmers. Connect with other programmers and apply your C++ skill set to projects like GitHub, StackExchange, and CodeWars. Consider learning skills in computer science, software engineering, and other programming languages like JavaScript and Python to diversify your knowledge. 

Learn C++ with Coursera

Online courses can be a great way to learn C++ and build a strong foundation for your programming career. Coursera hosts several courses and Specialisations designed to suit your skill level and learning goal. For beginner coders, consider completing the Coding for Everyone: C and C++Specialisation offered by the University of California Santa Cruz. For intermediate coders, Object-Oriented Data Structures in C++ offered by the University of Illinois can help you build on your foundation and enter higher-level professional roles.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Article sources

  1. Glassdoor. “C/C++ Programmer Salaries in the United Kingdom, https://www.glassdoor.co.uk/Salaries/uk-c-programmer-salary-SRCH_IL.0,2_IN2_KO3,15.htm?clickSource=searchBtn.” Accessed February 5, 2023

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