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

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Discover the programming language C++, what it’s used for, and how to learn it.

[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 focusing on objects (data fields with unique attributes) rather than logic or functions. A common example of an object is a user account on a website. A user account typically comprises data like first name, last name, email address, etc., and can be easily replicated each time a new account is created. 

C++ was invented by Bjarne Stroustrup in 1979 to extend C, a procedural programming language, and offer programmers more control over memory and system resources. Since its inception, C++ has become the language of choice for building fast and reliable software. Its uses are versatile and cover areas such as: 

  • Software engineering

  • Operating systems 

  • Graphical user interfaces 

  • 3D animation

  • Virtual reality

  • Productivity tools 

  • Blockchain 

  • Developing games

If you’re thinking about getting started in C++, it’s a good idea to explore what it would be like to program with it. Programming in C++ offers several advantages. Because C++ is object-oriented, you can organise and classify the code more efficiently and thus reuse it instead of rewriting it. With C++, you can also interact directly with a computer’s hardware to fine-tune the code and control how a system uses its software, hardware, and memory. 

Along with the advantages of having more control, C++ presents some potential challenges. Its object-oriented nature, while advantageous in ways, can involve a steep learning curve. And because C++ controls how the system uses memory, programming can be time-consuming. 

Careers in C++

Learning C++ can offer long-term benefits to your career as a programmer. It’s a great language to understand if you want to know how computers work intensely. With knowledge of C++, you may also be able to pick up other languages like Python or JavaScript more efficiently and build a foundation for going into software engineering. 

Having experience with C++ could open up job opportunities with high-paying salaries. According to Glassdoor, in March 2024, the average salary of a C/C++ programmer in India is ₹1,20,000 annually [1]. However, individual salaries will range based on location, experience, job responsibilities, and company size, amongst other factors.

How to learn C++

With the benefits, challenges, and opportunities that C++ presents, learning it can be a rewarding journey. You’ll want to start by taking courses or tutorials on the C++ programming language. Expect to cover such topics and concepts as:

  • 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 

C++ basics include storing information, repeating actions through loops, and collecting user input. You can practice basic C++ with exercises like printing “Hello, World,” converting Celcius to Fahrenheit, and performing arithmetic operations. 

As you become comfortable with the basics, start taking on more advanced skills. Connect with other programmers and apply your growing C++ skill set to actual projects on sites 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, the Object-Oriented Data Structures in C++ provided 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 India, https://www.glassdoor.co.in/Salaries/india-c-programmer-salary-SRCH_IL.0,5_IN115_KO6,18.htm?clickSource=searchBtn.” Accessed March 27, 2024.

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