C# vs. Java: Which to Choose?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Discover the key features of each language, along with real-world examples and how to start learning these languages today.

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There are about 700 programming languages to choose from when venturing into computer programming [1]. Both C# (pronounced C sharp) and Java are popular options. After you’ve narrowed your choices down to these two, deciding which will be the most useful for you will depend upon what type of programming you want to pursue.

Let’s dive deeper into C# and Java, discuss the features and examples of both languages, and help you decide which will be the most useful for you. 

Understanding features of C# 

C# is an object-oriented and component-oriented programming language designed for maximum code reusability. Developed in 2000, C# intends to be simple, general-purpose, and modern, receiving regular updates every few years to remain competitive with industry standards. As of March 2023, the current version of C# is 11 [2].

The language supports strong and implicit variable typing, making it flexible to your preferences. C# has automatic garbage collection, so you do not have to manage memory or deal with stale objects manually. Since C# has language interoperability with other .NET languages, anything written in C#, F#, or Visual Basic is available. That results in additional functionality available to you through external libraries and repositories.

When looking at C# versus Java syntax, you will find that C# needs to be more verbose. You can say more with fewer lines, making reading a little easier.

C# in action

Microsoft created C#, which can be used to make native Windows applications. It has a robust community from which you can draw, and since Microsoft owns it, C# has first-class features and functionality on the Windows operating system.

C# is a general-purpose language, making it a good choice for many projects. It’s a popular choice for dynamic websites and web applications, and it can take care of all parts of a Model, View, and Controller style framework. As a result, it can make calls to a database, handle URL routing, and spit out HTML to the user’s web browser. C# can also be used to create interactive APIs if you want to provide data service to other developers or applications.

If you want to make video games, you’ll be happy to learn that C# is an industry staple. C# and C++ are the languages used for the Unity engine. Cuphead, Subnautica, and Genshin Impact were all made in Unity. CryEngine, Godot, and Stride engines also use C#.

Understanding features of Java 

Java is very popular for creating both client and server-side applications. It has a similar syntax to C and C++ but is easier to understand. It also has fewer low-level features since that functionality is handled automatically by the compiler and Java Virtual Machine. 

Users and developers alike enjoy Java’s built-in security features. Because compiled Java programs run on the Java Virtual Machine, the program is in a sandbox environment, keeping the user safe from any malicious code that makes its way into the program.

Java’s motto is “Write once, run anywhere.” Once compiled, a Java program can run on any machine with a Java Virtual Machine or JVM. Oracle, Java’s owner, has JVM versions for Windows, Linux, macOS, and Solaris (Oracle’s proprietary UNIX operating system).

Java in action 

The versatility of Java means it can be used to create almost anything. It can make desktop applications, mobile applications, games, website backends, servers, and even run machines. Wikipedia uses Java for its article search, and most stock trading platforms were created with it. Alphabet, Meta, Twitter, and just about any big tech company you can think of all use Java in some way, and even the Mars rover control systems use Java. 

Learn C# and Java online. 

Thanks to technology today, many options exist for learning C# versus Java online. One option is self-learning, which can be done using blogs, articles, YouTube videos, etc. It’s important to remember that you can spend all day studying the language, but the best way to learn to code is to dive in and start building. 

If self-learning is not appealing to you, you have several other options. First, you can earn your bachelor’s degree at a university. Software engineering and computer science are the two most common majors programmers pursue. Most potential employers will likely prefer a bachelor’s degree, but it’s not always required. 

If college is not the best path for you, two other popular options for learning are enrolling in boot camps and completing certificate programs—you can do both.

Enroll in bootcamps.

Bootcamps are an excellent option if you’re looking for a fast and intense way to learn C# and Java. These are best for those who can commit to a full-time, short-term intensive and prefer hands-on instruction. 

Bootcamps typically take place in person at the coding school offering the camp. You’ll have an instructor who can answer questions and help you overcome challenges or mental blocks. Most bootcamps offer these intensives for several different programming languages, so whether you’ve decided to learn C# or Java, there’s a camp for you. A quick search of “coding bootcamps near me” should help you find the best option.

Certify your way to success. 

With certificate programs, you can build a solid foundation or fine-tune skills in your chosen language. Coursera works with world-class universities and companies to offer C#, Java, and many other programming languages certificate courses. 

Once you've made an informed decision on which language you would like to pursue learning—C# versus Java, in this case—look for a certificate programme that best suits your needs and get to work. Earning a certificate is an effective way to get the necessary training to prepare you to enter your chosen workplace.

Next steps 

If you need help determining which programming language to learn, online courses on Coursera can be a great way to determine which language fits your needs. Learn about the different programming fundamentals and how to apply them to real-life scenarios at your own pace. Check out beginner-friendly courses like Introduction to C# Programming and Unity from the University of Colorado and Java Programming and Software Engineering Fundamentals Specialisation from Duke University.

Article sources


Career Karma. "How Many Computer Programming Languages Are There?, https://careerkarma.com/blog/how-many-coding-languages-are-there/#:~:text=The%20Short%20Answer,languages%2C%20including%20esoteric%20coding%20languages." Accessed March 22, 2024.

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