What Is Python Used For? A Beginner’s Guide

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Python has become one of the most popular programming languages in the world in recent years. It's used in everything from machine learning to building websites and software testing. It can be used by developers and non-developers alike.

[Featured image] Man at the computer working on programming

Python, one of the most popular programming languages in the world, has created everything from Netflix’s recommendation algorithm to the software that controls self-driving cars. As many government departments in the UK increase efforts to expand their digital economy, professionals with skills in software development and computer programming are in high demand. Because of its global popularity and ease of use, many novice programmers turn to Python to build skills in various applications, including data science, software and web development, automation, and improving the ease of everyday tasks.

Let’s take a closer look at what Python is, what it can do, and how you can start learning it.

What is Python?

Python is a computer programming language often used to build websites and software, automate tasks, and analyze data. Python is a general-purpose language, used to create various programmes and isn’t specialised for any specific problems.

Thanks to its similarity with English syntax, Python is widely considered to be one of the easiest programming languages to write, read, and learn. Many professionals with little to no computer programming experience can pick up basic Python skills and scale them to more advanced coding techniques. 

Another reason Python is one of the most popular programming languages is that it is an open-source language, meaning it is designed to be free, easily accessible, and modifiable by anyone. There is an extensive library of publicly available Python codes, making it much more convenient for coders to build and scale their own projects. This means that instead of starting from scratch on each new project, you’re able to reference and modify existing code from previous public Python projects. 

Did you know? The name Python comes from Monty Python. When Guido van Rossum was creating Python, he was also reading the scripts from BBC’s Monty Python’s Flying Circus. He thought the name Python was appropriately short and slightly mysterious.


What is Python used for?

Python is commonly used for developing websites and software, task automation, data analysis, and data visualisation. Since it’s relatively easy to learn, Python has been adopted by many non-programmers such as accountants and scientists, for a variety of everyday tasks, like organising finances.

What can you do with python? Some things include:

  • Data analysis and machine learning

  • Web development

  • Automation or scripting

  • Software testing and prototyping

  • Everyday tasks

Here’s a closer look at some common ways Python is used.

Data analysis and machine learning

Python has become a staple in data science, allowing data analysts and other professionals to use the language to conduct complex statistical calculations, create data visualisations, build machine learning algorithms, manipulate and analyse data, and complete other data-related tasks.

Python can build various data visualisations, like line and bar graphs, pie charts, histograms, and 3D plots. Python also has many libraries that enable coders to write programmes for data analysis and machine learning more quickly and efficiently, like TensorFlow and Keras.

The UK has recently launched a National Artificial Intelligence (AI) Strategy intending to expand machine learning and artificial intelligence technology throughout UK operations. There are several up-and-coming applications of machine learning, including health care innovations such as genomics, automating business decisions, and improved public service efforts. As the UK pours more resources into this field, learning Python and other machine learning skills has the potential to open doors to expanding opportunities in the coming years.

Web development

Python is often used to develop the back end of a website or application—the parts that a user doesn’t see. Python’s role in web development includes sending data to and from servers, processing data and communicating with databases, routing URLs, and ensuring security. Python offers several frameworks for web development. Commonly used ones include Django and Flask.

Some web development jobs that use Python include back-end engineers, full-stack engineers, Python developers, software engineers, and DevOps engineers. According to the UK National Careers Service, the ability to write computer programmes, build databases, and use Applications Program Interfaces (APIs) are top skills in this field, all of which align closely with potential applications of this popular language. 

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

Automation or scripting

If you find yourself performing a task repeatedly, you could work more efficiently by automating it with Python. Writing code used to build these automated processes is called scripting. In the coding world, automation can be used to check for errors across multiple files, convert files, execute simple maths, and remove duplicates in data. Automating simple tasks can save you an abundance of time on repetitive to-dos, opening your time to build new knowledge and explore more advanced applications of Python.

Software testing and prototyping

Python can aid in software development tasks like build control, bug tracking, and testing. With Python, software developers can automate testing for new products or features. Some Python tools used for software testing include Green and Requestium.

Everyday tasks

Python isn't only for programmers and data scientists. Learning Python can open new possibilities for those in less data-heavy professions, like journalists, small business owners, or social media marketers. Python can also enable non-programmers to simplify certain tasks in their lives. Here are just a few of the tasks you could automate with Python:

  • Keep track of stock market or crypto prices

  • Send yourself a text reminder to carry an umbrella anytime it’s raining

  • Update your shopping list

  • Rename large batches of files

  • Convert text files to spreadsheets

  • Randomly assign chores to family members

  • Fill out online forms automatically

Why is Python so popular?

According to a survey commissioned by KX, a UK-based software company, nearly half of all UK students (ages 16-23) plan to learn at least one programming language, and nearly one-third of all students believe coding is a core skill moving forward [1]. As the ability to understand and use coding skills continues to rise in importance in our society, many people of all ages are looking for ways to increase their programming knowledge. Python is a popular choice for several reasons when deciding which language to learn. 

Here’s a summary of key features that make Python a top choice for coders of all levels.

  • It has a simple syntax that mimics natural language, so it’s easier to read and understand. This makes it quicker to build projects, and faster to improve on them.

  • It’s versatile. Python can be used for many different tasks, from web development to machine learning.

  • It’s beginner friendly, making it popular for entry-level coders.

  • It’s open source, which means it’s free to use and distribute, even for commercial purposes.

  • Python’s archive of modules and libraries—bundles of code that third-party users have created to expand Python’s capabilities—is vast and growing.

  • Python has a large and active community that contributes to Python’s pool of modules and libraries, and acts as a helpful resource for other programmers. The vast support community means that if coders run into a stumbling block, finding a solution is relatively easy; somebody has likely encountered the same problem before.

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.


Ready to get started?

There’s no question that Python is a valuable skill for professionals in all industries. Whether you have a computer coding background or are taking your first step into this field, completing a certificate like Google’s Google Data Analytics Professional Certificate on Coursera can help you build the technological skills needed to enter the expanding world of computers and software. With this certificate, you can choose to enter an entry-level role in data analytics or continue building your skills for more advanced roles such as computer programmers, software engineers, web developers, and more.

Article sources

  1. KX. “Nearly half of UK students see coding skills as vital as foreign language skills for future career prospects, https://kx.com/blog/nearly-half-of-uk-students-see-coding-skills-as-vital-as-foreign-language-skills-for-future-career-prospects/.” Accessed August 30, 2023.

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