Best Programming Languages to Learn

Published September 30, 2022

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No single programming language is the key to a thriving career in the tech sector. Take a look at the best programming languages to learn and how they can work for you.

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Programming languages operate at the foundation of coding, computer programming, software engineering, and related positions. There are many programming languages, and you will likely need to learn multiple languages over the course of your career.

According to StackOverflow's 2020 developer survey, the most in-demand and commonly used programming languages are JavaScript, HTML/CSS, and SQL. Python and Java round out the top five.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' (IEEE) publication, "Spectrum," reported in 2022 that the top languages were Python, C, C++, C#, and Java.

Weighted rankings also indicated Python was the top trending language. SQL is the best programming language to learn when impressing future employers.

Figuring out the top programming language to learn may seem daunting. By understanding how these languages work, relate to one another, and apply within computer technology, we can help you decide.

What Is the Difference Between Programming and Coding?

In short, coding is a part of programming. Coding involves using programming languages to translate human instructions into a language machines understand.

Coders design, write, and test code using specific symbols and keywords. Much of what coders do is trial and error to find an operational code that gives proper instructions.

Programmers plan, develop, and maintain programs that use code. Programmers often know how to code, but their skills to organize and structure programs are more crucial.

They use a multi-stage process that includes creating outlines, designing algorithms and flowcharts, applying complex rules and syntax, and testing and documenting software performance.

Using Programming Languages

Programming languages have certain contexts. Languages like HTML and JavaScript are client-side languages while Python, Ruby, and PHP are server-side languages.

Client-side languages run on the user's computer. Server-side languages, as implied, require a server to communicate.

Programming languages may have both wide uses and niche applications. Python can assist with machine learning, artificial intelligence, and an array of technologies. Languages such as C++ and C can help fast-performing operating systems and systems-level applications.

Top Programming Languages to Learn

We prepared a list of the best programming languages to learn that incorporates factors such as field demand, skill level, and overall usefulness.

There are additional programming languages beyond this list, but these are the top languages to learn for a career in the tech sector.

Python


Python debuted in 1991 and remains one of the most popular programming languages in the world. Python's syntax is similar to English, requires fewer lines than many other languages, and is known for its overall readability.

Python can help create web applications, connect to database systems, and handle big data and complex mathematics. Apple, Google, and Meta use Python.

Python is free, and supported by a large library and thriving community of users. Potential negatives of Python include slow speed and high memory consumption.

JavaScript


JavaScript operates alongside HTML and CSS as one of the core languages of the internet. In use since 1996, JavaScript is fast, simple, and has cross-platform uses. Originally designed just for web use, JavaScript is now part of some servers and applications.

Coders can write JavaScript as a separate file or embed it in other code. You can find JavaScript in multimedia applications and animation, creating an interactive experience for users.

JavaScript is a scripting language. This means it automates the execution of operations in a runtime environment, rather than compiling operations. In short, programs read and execute JavaScript.

Companies like Amazon, Apple, and Google use JavaScript.

HTML/CSS


HyperText Markup Language (HTML) helps create webpages and other online content. Released in 1993, HTML is often assisted by Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) or scripting languages such as JavaScript.

HTML uses tags and attributes alongside elements as the standard language of the internet. CSS describes elements, determining how they render online. CSS allows for web content to appear with color, different fonts, spacing, and other stylistic features.

C


Developed as a general-purpose language during the 1970s, C writes the operating system UNIX. C has a simple set of keywords, a formal structure, and clear syntax. Languages like C++ and JavaScript borrow heavily from C, with C++ specifically functioning as a superset of the language.

C has features that allow for use in low-level programming to script drivers, and high-level programming for software applications. C is portable, fast, and easy to write and understand. You can implement C in games, graphics, and applications needing calculations.

C++


Object-oriented and portable, you can use C++ on multiple platforms. In 1985, C++ was developed as an extension of the C programming language. C++ is popular among game developers. You can use C++ to create browsers, operating systems, and banking applications. Twitter, YouTube, and Google use C++.

A large standard template library for C++ accompanies its speed, making it useful for large systems. However, C++ lacks security, contains pointers that can take up a lot of memory, and may be difficult to debug.

Go (or Golang)


Go, also called Golang, is a general-purpose, open-source language Google developed in 2009. It resembles C and has built-in abilities and library support for writing concurrent programs. Go features asynchrony and lets slow operations run alongside other programs.

Go is easy to use, has a standard library, and has built-in security. Cloud and network services use Go, as do web development and game development.

As a relatively young language, Go has yet to make a large mark in the tech industry. It has support from Google — one of its major users — Netflix, Meta, and PayPal.

Swift


Apple developed Swift in 2014. Swift is general-purpose and meant to make writing and maintaining software easy. Swift is comparable to C-based languages, but differs in efficiency, safety, and overall speed.

As another young language, its community of users remains small but growing.

Swift is likely to replace Objective-C as the major language of iOS. Unlike Objective-C, Swift's code lacks brackets, parentheses, and semicolons in certain contexts.

You can use Swift in mobile and desktop applications, cloud services, and systems programming.

Java


Java is a class-based, object-oriented programming language created in 1995. Java embraces the general-purpose programming language goal of "write once, run anywhere." This means compiled Java code can run on any and all platforms that support Java.

Java features syntax similar to C and C++. As a server-side language, Java functions on the back end of development.

You can use Java for desktop, mobile, and numerical computing alongside game development and big data projects.

Due to its computing abilities, Financial and e-commerce industries use Java. Uber, Airbnb, and Microsoft use Java, as do IBM, Google, and Amazon.

C#


As a member of the family of C languages, C# debuted in 2000. Microsoft developed C# for use on the .NET platform. It continues to integrate well with Windows.

You can use C# to develop web, desktop, and mobile applications. Because it is intricately connected to the .NET platform, this may limit its usefulness.

C# resembles C, C++, and Java in its object orientation, but differs from the latter with its common language runtime.

C# has memory access capabilities and a large community of users. C# is harder to learn than C and C++, and has a slower runtime than the latter.

SQL


Structured Query Language (SQL) communicates between relational databases. Developed during the 1970s, SQL can update, retrieve, or delete database information.

SQL is portable, fast, and relatively user-friendly. This makes it easy to learn, requiring little in the way of coding abilities.

MySQL is an open-source database built in SQL. You can use SQL on relational database management systems like Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, and Microsoft Access.

In 1986, SQL became a standard of the American National Standards Institute. The following year, it became a standard of the International Organization for Standardization.

Which Programming Language to Learn First

The first programming language you should learn is the one that matches your interests and professional goals. Entry-level languages like Python not only teach you about coding, but also help hone your critical thinking and analytical skills.

If you want to work with databases, SQL is a good choice. Focusing on web development may lead you to HTML and CSS. While Swift is a young language, it has uses across the iOS landscape. This may be ideal for people who want to focus on iOS application development.

Because many languages feature comparable syntax and libraries, learning one may help you expand your language skills. Learning C, for example, opens the door to learning C++ and can help when learning Java.

Explore options for learning how to program

Questions About the Best Programming Languages to Learn


What is the best programming language to learn for 2023?

The best programming language to learn for 2022, according to "Spectrum," is Python. Employers are looking for people with SQL knowledge.

Will learning the best coding languages help with programming?

Learning the best coding languages will help with coding. Because coding is a fundamental part of programming, knowing languages, understanding how they work, and recognizing their pros and cons can benefit you when programming.

Which programming language is the easiest to learn?

Python is often considered one of the easiest programming languages to learn. It is readable, has a simple syntax, and contains a user-friendly library. The community of Python users have also built a large collection of resources.

Where can I learn the best programming languages?

You can learn the best programming languages through self-study, at a college or university, or at a coding bootcamp.

Reviewed by: Darnell Kenebrew

Darnell Kenebrew is a first-generation graduate from San Francisco State University's class of 2020. He graduated with a bachelor's in computer science, which helped him kick off a career in tech and pursue roles within data and engineering.

Currently, he's a data analytics engineer at Meta and an executive captain for COOP Careers — a nonprofit for overcoming underemployment. Kenebrew strongly believes in giving people a chance and that everyone should have an equal opportunity within the job market. He believes that COOP Careers helps this equality materialize.

Kenebrew is passionate about how the industry is shaped with data and how data can be leveraged in many aspects of business decisions to meet goals. In addition, he's passionate about inclusion, community, education, and using data for good. He hopes that he can pivot business decisions to make a positive, meaningful impact and that his work will positively impact end-users, as well as meet business goals.

Darnell Kenebrew is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education Integrity Network.

Page last reviewed Sep 26, 2022

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