Which programming language should you learn? A practical guide
- How many programming languages should you learn?
- Which programming languages are easiest to learn?
- Which programming languages are used most often?
- Which programming languages are in demand?
- What are the most promising programming languages?
- Which programming languages are the most lucrative?
- What trends are emerging for programming languages?
- Important application areas for programming languages
A huge number of programming languages exists. New languages and extensions for existing languages are added each year. Because programming languages evolve with technology, supply and demand are rising. Which programming language you choose has a major impact on career paths and job assignments. A comprehensive overview is a good way to answer a few questions such as: Which programming languages are easy to learn? Which ones are in demand? Which new languages offer future opportunities and which have good earnings potential?
How many programming languages should you learn?
First things first, you don’t need to restrict yourself to just one programming language. In principle, it’s a good idea for programmers and developers to learn several languages. Bjarne Stroustrup, the creator of C++, says in The 5 Programming Languages You Need To Know that professional developers should master five internet programming languages. They are C++, Java, Python, Ruby and C#. But that was in 2011. A lot has happened since then.
It’s difficult to say how many one should learn. It’s best not to mix too many languages for web projects in order to avoid unnecessary refactoring due to messy code. Nevertheless, it’s beneficial to know more than one and, depending on time, requirements and goals, at least three programming languages.
Which programming languages are easiest to learn?
C / C++
C forms the basis for C++. If you’ve already mastered C, you can easily continue to use the same syntax for C++. These are imperative, procedural languages for system-oriented programming, which are used primarily within server and desktop programming and hardware-oriented, local programs. Standard Unix programs and kernels of operating systems were programmed in C languages. They’re suitable for common platforms such as Windows, Linux and Mac. C++, unlike C, is more object-oriented. Both are widely used in the Internet of Things and are a good basis for learning programming.
Java is even easier to learn than C and C++. As a versatile, object-oriented and easy-to-use programming language, it can be used platform-independently. It supports multi-threading, is secure and clearly structured. It’s used for programming Android mobile applications, desktop apps, games and service-oriented applications.
HTML and CSS
Python offers a clear, easy-to-read, object-oriented programming style. It’s dynamic, versatile and has many pros for web backend programming. The code is similar to natural language. Python is easy to learn for beginners. It’s always in great demand, particularly within AI and machine learning.
C / C++
✔ Imperative, procedural languages
✔ System/hardware-oriented, local programming
✔ Cross-platform, widespread, and easy to learn
✔ Versatile, object-oriented and clear
✔ For Android and desktop mobile apps, games, or service-oriented applications
✔ Object-oriented scripting language
✔ For interactive web applications, web elements, and animations
✔ Only text editor and browser required
✔ For games, web apps, responsive web design
✔ Large PHP community and many frameworks
HTML / CSS
✔ Standard and foundation for programming website front ends
✔ Lightweight, clean code
✔ Clear, easy-to-read, object-oriented programming style
✔ Dynamic, versatile
✔ Ideal for web backend programming
✔ Similar to natural language
✔ Always in demand
One way to see the complexity or simplicity of a programming language is a hello world program. These are short programs that illustrate the syntax of a language briefly.
Which programming languages are used most often?
Which programming languages are in demand?
In addition to versatile standard programming languages, Clojure is in high demand as a functional programming language among larger companies. Therefore, developers who know Clojure tend to be very well paid. As a Lisp dialect, Clojure provides a functional, readable coding style for even complex algorithms. It runs in the Java Virtual Machine and offers tight Java runtime integration. Because of its dynamic design, Clojure supports flexible Java interaction. The language tends to be more in demand in the financial sector, retail, analytics and advertising. Scala is a powerful Java alternative that’s highly sought-after for backend development.
In-demand programming languages
✔ Functional programming language and Lisp dialect
✔ Functional, easy-to-read code for complex algorithms and data analysis
✔ Runs in the Java Virtual Machine
✔ Java runtime integration and Java interaction
What are the most promising programming languages?
The object-oriented, functional programming language Scala offers simplified syntax and higher-order functions. It proves to be a slimmed-down, leaner Java alternative and is considered a general-purpose language. Areas of application include data pipelines, event-based applications, microservices or ETL. For back-end development, Scala is proving to be a lucrative skill.
Swift is a strong alternative to Objective-C, the programming language for iOS and macOS apps. It integrates seamlessly with Objective-C code and offers simple, modern syntax for mobile app development and user experience as a lean, object-oriented programming language.
“Go” is an abbreviation for the programming language Golang, which was developed by Google as an alternative to C++ and Java. It emphasizes cloud computing and can be used across platforms with simplified syntax, automatic memory management and easy import process. Other benefits include automatic code correction, consistent code formatting and a large standard library. Demand for Golang is high within the enterprise and server sectors. As such, it offers good career opportunities due to the relatively small supply of Go developers.
The Mozilla programming language Rust convinces with hardware-oriented programming for web apps, network applications, web assembly or command line tools. It combines different programming paradigms and provides strong abstraction and a functional typing system for memory management. This makes it easier to work around stack overflow and null pointer issues. With AWS, Microsoft and Meta collaborating on Rust, its prospects are very good.
Promising programming languages
✔ Cross-platform programming language
✔ With Java main language for Android app development
✔ Object-oriented, functional, simplified programming language
✔ Also higher-order functions
✔ In demand for back-end development
✔ Wide browser compatibility
✔ Clean, lean code
✔ Optimized development processes
✔ Simple syntax for mobile, user-friendly applications
✔ Cross-platform/browser compatible
✔ Objective-C alternative (iOS/macOS)
✔ Seamless Objective-C code integration
✔ Lean, object-oriented programming language for mobile app development
✔ C++ and Java alternative
✔ Focus on cloud computing and automated storage management
✔ Cross-platform with simplified syntax
✔ Automatic code correction and uniform code formatting
✔ Large standard library
✔ Hardware-related programming
✔ Development of web apps, network applications, and command-line tools
✔ Strong abstraction and functional typing system for memory management
✔ Sponsored by AWS, Microsoft, and Meta
Which programming languages are the most lucrative?
The popularity of programming languages doesn’t determine how lucrative they are. To check salary prospects, developers can monitor annual analyses of salaries for various programming languages. These are published in the Stack Overflow Survey, among others. According to Stack, the following programming languages were associated with some of the top salaries in 2021:
- Clojure: around $80,000
- F#: around $70,000
- Elixir: around $70,000
High salaries can be expected for programming languages with a high degree of specialization. Functional programming languages such as Clojure, F# and Elixir are in high demand because they’ve got several pros for data analysis, e.g. in the financial sector. Compared to Python and Java, only a few developers have mastered them. While F# serves as a programming language for the .NET framework, Elixir runs as an all-round language on the Erlang virtual machine.
However, bear in mind that a specialized focus reduces flexibility. Possibilities of application are wider for those who have mastered versatile languages such as Java or Python. At the same time, widely used programming languages may not be quite as lucrative because the competition is greater.
What trends are emerging for programming languages?
The choice of programming language depends on trends and forecasts. There are four major trends within programming languages (as of September 2022):
Functional programming languages gain in importance
Functional programming enables more elegant, easier to read, and therefore cleaner code for complex data analysis. It’s worth expanding your knowledge of functional programming languages like Clojure or Elixir.
Cloud-based programming on the rise
Current developments are trending towards cloud-based environments in which code can be written, stored, and executed are the future.
Focus on machine learning
No-code development and visual programming languages
Another trend is the simplification of programming languages in the form of no-code development and visual programming languages such as Scratch. No-code development using editors based on WYSIWIG enables beginners without any programming skills to develop websites and applications. The same is true for visual languages that rely on graphical elements rather than code. These are popular for programming for kids.
Textual programming languages or coding skills aren’t becoming obsolete. On the contrary, the demand for software developers and programmers continues to grow, because the development of no-code tools or visual languages also requires “classical” programming.
Important application areas for programming languages
Here’s an overview of the most important areas of application and corresponding programming languages.
- C / C++ / C#
- C / C++ / C#
- C / C++ / C#
AI and Machine Learning