What Are Scripting Languages? (And Why Should I Learn One?)

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Learning a scripting language may offer new personal and professional opportunities. Discover the differences between server-side scripting languages and the pros of learning them to decide if this path is good for you.

[Featured Image] An IT professional sits at a computer workstation and uses a scripting language to automate a task.

Scripting languages can be practical tools for programmers, engineers, and developers to create systems and software. Learning a scripting language is an excellent introduction to coding and programming. They are relatively easy to understand and can be an effective jumping-off point to pursue your hobbies or career interests further. 

What is a scripting language?

People often refer to scripting languages and programming languages interchangeably. However, they are not the same. All scripting languages are programming languages, but not all programming languages are scripting languages. 

Programming languages allow coders to communicate with computers using compiled languages—source code compiled to convert into machine code. Scripting languages are a type of programming language. They are interpreted rather than requiring compilation. These are languages designed for specific runtime environments to provide additional functions, integrate complex systems, and communicate with other programming languages. One example is JavaScript, which you can use to display messages, perform calculations, and incorporate elements of user interfaces for web pages. 

Benefits of learning a scripting language

Coding is an in-demand career skill, so many employers are willing to pay employees with coding and programming skills higher wages, according to Outlook India [1]. Beyond the job opportunities learning a scripting language may bring, several other benefits may surprise you:

  • You can develop stronger logical thinking skills. Learning a scripting language helps you develop problem-solving and analytical skills whilst teaching you how to tackle complex problems by breaking them into more manageable steps.

  • You can unlock your creativity. Have you ever wanted to design a game or an app? Once you learn a scripting language, you can start creating projects you’re passionate about for work or pleasure. 

  • You can become more resilient. Troubleshooting can be an integral part of using a scripting language. If you fail on your first try, you can troubleshoot, find solutions, and persist.

  • You can automate tasks. Not only will you better understand task automation as a concept, but you'll also be able to execute the steps to automate repetitive tasks to simplify your life.

  • You can better understand how technology works. In today's landscape, technology is everywhere. When you learn coding and scripting languages, you'll have a deeper understanding of the devices and technology you use in everyday work.

Potential job opportunities

When you learn scripting languages, you typically become more eligible for various job opportunities that require this skill. Many professionals use scripting language in their daily tasks. A few examples of roles you might pursue include: 

  • Web developer: You’ll create and maintain websites as a web developer. You'll likely use a mix of client- and server-side scripting languages to create functional web pages.

  • Systems administrator: In this role, you'll analyse and assess systems and servers to pinpoint and troubleshoot errors and issues. You'll also update security, install programs, and maintain networks. You may use a scripting language to run commands, generate data, and automate processes.

  • Programmer analyst: In this position, you'll mainly design, maintain, and test computer systems and software to ensure they're functional for users and operating correctly. You may use scripting languages to create commands, automate tasks displaying content, and ensure systems show range correctly.

  • Application developer: As an app developer, you'll design, code, update, and maintain software applications. You'll use a scripting language (or several) to ensure that all the interactive elements and content are working correctly and accessible for users.

  • Software engineer: As a software engineer, you'll primarily develop and maintain software and systems, including networks, computer systems, and specialised software for technology like medical or mobile devices. You might use scripting languages to create functional interfaces, automate processes, and run tests.

Discover your earning potential: Common salaries 

As someone who knows a scripting language, your earning potential will vary widely depending on the job you ultimately choose to pursue. According to Naukri, computer science graduates can expect to earn as much as 27 per cent more than graduates with non-computer engineering courses [2]. Your level of education, experience, job type, and the scripting language you’re proficient in will influence your salary.

How much can you earn?

As of November 2023, median annual salaries in India for some of the jobs you might pursue after learning a scripting language include the following: 

• Web developer: ₹4,20,468 [3]

Systems administrator: ₹5,39,000 [4]

• Programmer analyst: ₹5,96,168 [5]

• Application developer: ₹9,57,600 [6]

• Software engineer: ₹8,20,000 [7]

Engage in the future: Industry outlook

Technology is a rapidly growing field, with global spending on IT projected to increase to USD 4.7 trillion in 2023, a 4.3 per cent increase compared to 2022, according to global analyst firm Gartner [8]. That indicates a promising outlook for those with experience, skills, and training in India and globally.

Types of scripting languages

As you research possible scripting languages to learn, you’ll see the different types fall into two main categories: server-side scripting language and client-side scripting language. The main difference is that server-side scripting gets processed through a server, and client-side scripting runs scripts on client machines using browsers without interacting with the server. 

Examples of scripting languages: server-side

Server-side scripting works in the back end—what happens behind the scenes that website users don't see but makes it possible for them to use the site. You can customise web pages and create dynamic websites with these scripting languages. Common server-side scripting languages include:

  • PHP: Popular for use on the web

  • ASP.net: A web application language that Microsoft developed

  • Node.js: A scripting language you can use on multiple platforms, including Unix, Windows, Mac, and Linux

  • Java: A scripting language used in just about everything, including consumer Bluetooth devices 

  • Ruby: A dynamic scripting language that focuses on simplicity

  • Python: A popular language that uses shorter code, making it easier for beginners to learn

Client-side scripting languages 

Client-side scripting typically works in the front end, with the script visible to users. It can help reduce server load and is often used to change content or examine users' forms for mistakes before submitting them. Common client-side scripting languages include:

  • JavaScript: A popular language that creates highly functional modern web browsers, including Mozilla's SpiderMonkey and Chrome's V8 engine

  • CSS: While not technically a scripting language, CSS is a style sheet language that helps you design graphic elements to enhance web applications' appearance

  • HTML: While not technically a scripting language, this is a markup language that is often used with JavaScript to provide the framework for websites and building blocks for web programming

Real-world uses for scripting language

Real-life systems contain multiple programs, all working together. Scripts can help each separate programme work together. For example, scripts allow you to share the flow logic if you work as a game developer. This lets you specify various routes of programme execution with other professionals and artists who don't necessarily have (or need to have) the same high-level, complex coding skills. Scripting languages often get used in:

  • System administration

  • Multimedia and games

  • Web applications on the server and client side

  • Report generation

  • Document and text processing

  • Writing plugins and extensions for existing programs and applications like Firefox

Different scripting languages have different capabilities. For example, you might use PHP to manage cookies and manipulate databases whilst using Ruby to write code for web applications designed to run on specific operating systems. A variety of industries and businesses use scripting languages, including some big names, like the following:

  • Node.js gets used in the real world for big-name companies like Paypal, Netflix, eBay, Uber, and LinkedIn apps.

  • PHP is popular among global websites, including Etsy, WordPress, Facebook, Slack, and Wikipedia.

  • Ruby is popular with Hulu, MyFitnessPal, Goodreads, and Airbnb applications.

  • Python is the go-to scripting language with well-known companies like Netflix, Google, and Goldman Sachs.

Required skills and education

One of the pros of learning a scripting language is that these open-source languages are easy to learn, simple to work with, and relatively fast to develop, making this a good starting point even if you have no previous experience. If you're interested in going into coding professionally, it helps to have some basic skills, including:

  • Curiosity

  • The desire to solve problems

  • Excellent communication

  • The ability to work as part of a team

  • Patience and positivity

  • Accountability

You don’t need a formal education to learn scripting languages. However, suppose you intend to pursue a career using a scripting language. In that case, you may need to follow a qualification from a university, certificate, boot camp, or another type of training. 

For entry into a profession like software development, you’ll typically need anywhere from one to three A levels or the equivalent for a foundation degree, higher national diploma, or a degree. You may also be able to pursue an apprenticeship or a job with graduate training if you already have a degree, even in a different subject.

Start learning

Explore computer science as a whole or take specific courses in scripting languages. For example, you could take a Crash Course on Python, a 26-hour course from Google on Coursera. Alternatively, you could pursue an IBM Full Stack Cloud Developer Certificate, which includes HTML, Node.js, and Python training.

Article sources


Outlook India. “Indian Students Satand to Gain as Programming Emerges as a Lucrative Career, https://www.outlookindia.com/national/indian-students-stand-to-gain-as-programming-emerges-as-a-lucrative-career-option-news-187689.” Accessed February 21, 2023.

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