Best Programming Languages to Learn: Choosing the Right One

Not so long ago, only a few people were considered computer programmers, and we viewed them with awe. In the digital age, we now live in; however, many IT jobs require a solid grasp of a programming language, and sometimes more than one. If you’re trying to advance in your career or change careers completely, and you realize you need to master a programming language, you might wonder which one to learn. After all, it will take time and money to learn the language, so you want to make the right choice from the start.

Several considerations come into play when making your decision, like the difficulty level you’re willing to learn, the skills you already possess that might align with a language, and your reasons for learning a programming language. Whether you want to develop a mobile application, get a certification for programming knowledge, or learn new skills, you need to choose the right programming language to learn. Below you’ll find seven popular programming languages that are in demand right now among employers. For each, you’ll find a little about the language and the complexity, as well as how it is used. However, don’t let the beginner label dissuade you. Even a programming language described as appropriate for a beginner does get more complicated as you become more proficient and experienced in using it.

Best Programming Languages to Learn in 2020

1. Python

Python is one of the most commonly used programming languages today and is an easy language for beginners to learn because of its readability. It is a free, open-source programming language with extensive support modules and community development, easy integration with web services, user-friendly data structures, and GUI-based desktop applications. It is a popular programming language for Machine Learning and deep learning applications. Python is used to develop 2D imaging and 3D animation packages like Blender, Inkscape, and Autodesk. It has also been used to create popular video games, including Civilization IV, Vegas Trike, and Toontown. Python is used for scientific and computational applications like FreeCAD and Abacus, and it is also by popular websites like YouTube, Quora, Pinterest, and Instagram. The approximate annual salary of a Python developer is $92,000.

Level:

Beginner – Python allows a beginner to become productive quickly

Skills Needed:

Problem-solving, abstract thinking

Platform:

Web, Desktop

Popularity Among Programmers:

Becoming continuously more popular

Benefits:

  • Flexible
  • Naturally/Intuitively readable
  • Highly regarded official tutorials and documentation
  • Scripted as opposed to compiled

Downsides:

Doesn’t start with programming basics (known to abstract too many important basic concepts)

Popularity:

Becoming continuously more popular both in technical education and business use

Degree of Use:

Widely used; popular in both technical education and business use

Annual Salary Projection:

$92,000

2. Java

Java is one of the most common, in-demand computer programming languages in use today. Owned by the Oracle Corporation, this general-purpose programming language with its object-oriented structure has become a standard for applications that can be used regardless of platform (e.g., Mac, Window, Android, iOS, etc.) because of its Write Once, Run Anywhere (WORA) capabilities. As a result of this capability, Java is recognized for its portability across platforms from mainframe data centers to smartphones. Today there are more than 3 billion devices running applications built with Java.

Java is widely used in web and application development as well as Big Data. Java is also used in the backend of several popular websites, including Google, Amazon, Twitter, and YouTube. It is also extensively used in hundreds of applications. New Java frameworks like Spring, Struts, and Hibernate are also very popular. With millions of Java developers worldwide, there are hundreds of texts available for learning Java programming. Also, Java programmers are actively involved in a variety of forums where they vet ideas or solve programming problems. Java has a vast community and gets a lot of support.

Although Java is a more complex language to learn, the trade-off is experienced developers are in demand. The average Java developer earns around $94,000.

Level:

Intermediate

Skills Needed:

Problem-solving, knowledge of the object-oriented structure

Platform:

Web, Mobile, Desktop

Popularity Among Programmers:

One of the world’s most popular; high demand

Benefits:

  • Regarded as a good start for learning to think like a programmer 
  • You’ll be able to access/manipulate the most important computer parts like the file system, graphics, and sound for any fairly sophisticated and modern program—that can run on any operating system.

Downsides:

Lots of new vocabulary to learn, a higher-level language

Degree of Use:

Widely used; highly applicable

Annual Salary Projection:

$94,000

3. JavaScript and TypeScript

JavaScript is an object-oriented computer programming language commonly used to create interactive effects inside web browsers. Typescript is a superset of JavaScript and adds optional static typing to the language. Alongside HTML and CSS, JavaScript is one of the three core technologies of the World Wide Web. It is also used at the front end of several popular websites like Google, Wikipedia, YouTube, Facebook, and Amazon. Moreover, it is used in popular web frameworks like AngularJS, Node.js, and React.JS. The approximate salary for someone in this role is $72,500.

4. Swift

In March 2017, Swift made it to the top 10 in the monthly TIOBE Index ranking of popular programming languages. Apple developed swift in 2014 for Linux and Mac applications. An open-source programming language that is easy to learn, Swift supports almost everything from programming language Objective-C. It takes less coding compared to other programming languages, and it can be used with IBM Swift Sandbox and IBM Bluemix. Swift is used in popular iOS apps like WordPress, Mozilla Firefox, SoundCloud, and even in the annoying game Flappy Bird. Swift developers earn around $92,000 per year.

5. C#

Developed by Microsoft, C# rose to fame in the 2000s for supporting the concepts of object-oriented programming. It is one of the most powerful programming languages for the .NET framework. Anders Hejlsberg, the creator of C#, says the language is more like C++ than Java. It is best suited for applications on Windows, Android, and iOS as it takes the help of the integrated development environment product, Microsoft Visual C++. C# is used in the backend of several popular websites like Bing, Dell, Visual Studio, and Market Watch. C# developers earn around $91,000 per year.

6. C (and C++)

C is probably the oldest commonly used programming language, and it is the root of other programming languages such as C#, Java, and JavaScript. C++ is an enhanced version of C. Many developers today skip learning C on its own, while others think learning C first provides a valuable foundation for C++ development. Both languages are widely used in computer science and programming. C and C++ developers can make use of compilers for a wide variety of platforms, making applications developed in these languages largely transportable. Both C and C++ are considered high-performance languages. As such, they are widely used in developing applications where performance is a critical issue, such as client/server applications, commercial products such as Firefox and Adobe, and video games. The average salary is nearly $91,000 per year.

Level:

C – Intermediate to Advanced 
C++ – Beginner to Intermediate

Skills Needed:

Problem-solving, basic computer knowledge. As C and C++ are geared toward low-level management of computer resources,  knowledge of computer functions such as memory management is beneficial.

Platform:

Mobile, Desktop, Embedded

Popularity Among Programmers:

  • C – There has been a higher migration from C to C++
  • C++ – One of the world’s most popular languages

Benefits:

  • C – Used to learn the fundamentals of programming at the lowest (hardware) level
  • C++ – allows for a much higher “control” than other languages

Downsides:

  • C – Coding in C is stricter, not very beginner-friendly language, the steeper learning curve
  • C++ – A bit more challenging to pick up and become productive with than C (and even more so than Java)

Degree of Use:

  • C – One of the most widely used
  • C++ – Widely used

Annual Salary Projection:

$91,000

7. Ruby

If you want to start with a language that is known for being relatively simple to learn, consider Ruby. Developed in the 1990s, it was designed to have a more human-friendly syntax while still being flexible from the standpoint of its object-oriented architecture that supports procedural and functional programming notation. A web-application framework that is implemented in Ruby is Ruby on Rails (“RoR”). Ruby developers tout it for being an easy language to write in and also for the relatively short learning time required. These attributes have led to a large community of Ruby developers and a growing interest in the language among beginning developers. The average salary for a Ruby developer is nearly $90,000 per year.

Level:

Beginner – Ruby and Ruby on Rails have evolved to become extremely popular for web developers.

Skills Needed:

Problem-solving, abstract thinking (ability to visualize what application users want to see)

Platform: 

Web

Popularity Among Programmers:

On the rise

Benefits:

  • Flexible
  • The syntax is considered easy to read and to write (no specialized “vocabulary” to get started)
  • Enforces good programming style

 

Degree of Use:

Least broadly used

Annual Salary Projection:

$90,000

How to Get Started

Although there are hundreds of programming languages, very few are on the shortlisted languages you should know, and the seven described above the top that list, in our opinion, as a training provider. If you want to start a career as a programmer, make a lateral move into another field, or advance up the ladder at your current job, learning one of these languages is an excellent place to begin your transition. And since courses range from Python for the beginner to Java for the experienced, you can find the right fit for you. 

Once you’ve decided it’s time to learn a new language, turn to Simplilearn for both training and certification. We offer courses in all seven of these languages (Java, JavascriptC, C#, Python, Swift, and Ruby), plus others, all with content developed by industry leaders, an emphasis on hands-on learning, and 24x7 support. You’ll learn the language, plus get the credibility of certification. And then you can land one of those high-paying programmer jobs!

About the Author

Sruthi VeeraraghavanSruthi Veeraraghavan

Sruthi is a content writer for Simplilearn, with brief prior experience in marketing, journalistic reporting, photography, editing, designing, video-making, and event management. Apart from media and communication, she also has a psychology and literature background. She is a musician and pursues theater acting in her free time, if not traveling on impromptu trips.

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