Best Programming Languages to Learn in 2021

Once, only a few people were considered computer programmers with cutting-edge coding skills. Now, many IT jobs require a solid grasp of the top programming languages — yes, more than one. 

If you’re trying to advance in your career or change careers completely and 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.

Several considerations come into play when making your decision, like the difficulty level you’re willing to learn, the knowledge you already possess that align with your existing coding skills, or your reasons for learning a top programming language. 

Whether you want to develop a mobile application, get certification for programming knowledge, or learn new skills, you need to learn the right programming language. Below you’ll learn about 10 popular programming languages that will be in demand among employers in 2021. You’ll find about each language, its complexity, and how it is used.

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Top Programming Languages to Learn in 2021

1. Python

Python is one of the most commonly used programming languages today and is easy 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 also by popular websites like YouTube, Quora, Pinterest, and Instagram. Python developers earn average annual salaries of about $72,500.

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Level:

Beginner – Python enables 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 uses

Degree of Use:

Coding skills widely used; popular in both technical education and business use

Annual Salary Projection:

$72,500


2. Java

Java is one of the most common, in-demand computer programming languages used today. 

Owned by 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, Windows, Android, iOS, etc.) because of its Write Once, Run Anywhere (WORA) capabilities. As a result, 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 on 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 ways to learn Java. Also, Java programmers have an extensive online community and support each other to solve problems.

Java is a more complex language to learn, but experienced developers with Java coding skills are in high-demand. The average Java developer earns around $79,000 each year.

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 and gain coding skills
  • You’ll be able to access/manipulate the most important computer functions, 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:

$79,000

3. Kotlin

Kotlin is a general-purpose programming language originally developed and unveiled as Project Kotlin by JetBrains in 2011. The first version was officially released in 2016. It is interoperable with Java and supports functional programming languages.

Kotlin is used extensively for Android apps, web application, desktop application, and server-side application development. Kotlin was built to be better than Java, and people who use this language are convinced. Most of the Google applications are based on Kotlin. Some companies using Kotlin as their programming language include Coursera, Pinterest, PostMates among many others.

Kotlin developers earn an average of $136,000 a year, with the potential to earn up to $171,500.

Level:

Intermediate to advanced

Skills Needed:

Prior experience with programming languages, particularly Java

Platform:

Web, Mobile, Desktop, Server

Popularity Among Programmers:

Increasingly popular; used for Android applications

Benefits:

  • Less code-heavy than Java and other languages;
  • Relatively easy to adopt
  • Fully compatible with Java 

Downsides:

Fluctuating compilation speed; no static keyword in Kotlin

Degree of Use:

Widely used; highly applicable

Annual Salary Projection:

$136,000

4. Swift

A few years ago, Swift made 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 the programming language Objective-C. Swift requires fewer coding skills compared with 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 game Flappy Bird. Professionals who develop iOS applications take home average annual salaries of around $96,000.

Level:

Beginner to intermediate

Skills Needed:

Willingness to spend time reading tutorials (which are widely available); no prior experience with programming languages required

Platform:

Mobile (Apple iOS apps, specifically)

Popularity Among Programmers:

Gaining in popularity, especially among Apple iOS application developers

Benefits:

  • Relatively easy to learn
  • Clean syntax
  • Less code
  • Faster than comparable programming languages
  • Open source

Downsides:

Still a young language; poor interoperability with third party tools; lacks support for earlier versions of iOS

Degree of Use:

Used extensively for creating iOS apps used on the iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch

Annual Salary Projection:

$96,000

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 on the back end of several popular websites like Bing, Dell, Visual Studio, and MarketWatch. C# developers earn around $68,500 per year.

Level:

Intermediate

Skills Needed:

A basic understanding of how to write code

Platform:

Cross-platform, including mobile and enterprise software applications

Popularity Among Programmers:

Relatively popular, but not as popular as Java (its closest rival)

Benefits:

  • Fast 
  • Simple to use
  • Object-oriented
  • Scalable and updateable
  • Interoperable with other codes
  • Open source
  • Extensive library

Downsides:

Less flexible, as it depends on Microsoft’s .Net framework; poor x-platform GUI

Degree of Use:

Used by roughly one-third of all software developers, particularly relevant for Microsoft developers

Annual Salary Projection:

$68,500

6. C and C++

C is probably the oldest commonly used programming language and 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 like Firefox and Adobe, and video games. C and C++ developers earn an average of $76,500 each 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:

$76,500

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7. Go

Go was developed by Google in 2007 for APIs and web applications. Go has recently become one of the fastest-growing programming languages due to its simplicity, as well as its ability to handle multicore and networked systems and massive codebases.

Go, also known as Golang, was created to meet the needs of programmers working on large projects. It has gained popularity among many large IT companies thanks to its simple and modern structure and syntax familiarity. Companies using Go as their programming language include Google, Uber, Twitch, Dropbox, among many others. Go is also gaining in popularity among data scientists because of its agility and performance.

Go developers can earn an average annual salary of $92,000, and up to $134,000. 

Level:

Beginner to intermediate

Skills Needed:

Easy to learn if you already know at least one other programming language; otherwise, you just need patience and a willingness to learn.

Platform:

Cross-platform, mainly desktop

Popularity Among Programmers:

Not as popular as Java or Python, but it has been increasing in popularity

Benefits:

  • Widely considered a “minimalist” language 
  • Easy to learn
  • Transparent code
  • Compatible
  • Fast

Downsides:

No generics (which means you may end up writing more code than you would in other languages); very little library support; Go developer community is not very robust or supportive

Degree of Use:

Widely used, particular for Google applications (created at Google)

Annual Salary Projection:

$92,000

8. PHP

PHP is an open-source programming language created in 1990. Many web developers will find it essential to learn PHP, as this language is used to build more than 80% of websites on the Internet, including those like Facebook and Yahoo. 

Programmers mainly use PHP mainly to write server-side scripts. But developers can also use this language to write command-line scripts, and programmers with high-level PHP coding skills can also use it to develop desktop applications. 

PHP is considered a relatively easy language to learn for beginning developers. PHP professionals have a number of dedicated online communities, making it easy to get support and answers to questions.

On average, PHP programmers earn average annual salaries of about $81,500.

Level:

Beginner to intermediate

Skills Needed:

Simple if you have a background in programming languages, but relatively easy to learn for newcomers

Platform:

Cross-platform (desktop, mobile, web)

Popularity Among Programmers:

Used by nearly 80% of all active websites, so it’s very popular with web developers

Benefits:

  • Open-source
  • Easy to develop and may be integrated with many different tools
  • Cost effective
  • Flexible with database connectivity

Downsides:

Not very secure; not well-suited for large applications; poor error-handling; cannot support a large number of apps

Degree of Use:

While it’s used by the vast majority of websites, its use is declining

Annual Salary Projection:

$81,500

9. Matlab

Matlab is a proprietary programming language owned by MathWorks and originally released in the mid-1980s. It is built specifically for use by scientists and engineers.

Programmers use Matlab to build machine learning and deep learning applications. Matlab-based programs enable users to analyze data, create algorithms, process images, and verify research.

Generally, Matlab is easier to learn than other programming languages on our list. MathWorks’ website has an extensive section dedicated to answering questions about Matlab.

The average Matlab developer takes home an average salary of $101,000 each year.

Level:

Beginner

Skills Needed:

Basic knowledge of programming is recommended, but not required

Platform:

Mostly desktop

Popularity Among Programmers:

Not as popular as Python (its closest rival), but its popularity is increasing for hardware engineering and running visualizations

Benefits:

  • Can be used to easily run and test algorithms
  • Easily debugged
  • Enables extensive data analysis and visualizations
  • Relatively simple to learn

Downsides:

As an interpreted (vs. compiled) language, it’s relatively slow; installation files take a significant amount of space on the computer

Degree of Use:

Not used extensively, outside of the science and research domains

Annual Salary Projection:

$101,000

11. R

R is an open-source language that is essentially a different version of the S language. Much of the code that developers write for S runs on R without modification.

Applications built in R are used for processing statistics, including linear and nonlinear modeling, calculation, testing, visualization, and analysis. Applications coded using R can interface with a number of databases and process both structured and unstructured data.

R has a moderate learning curve and is not as easy for beginners to pick up as some other languages in this article. However, like other open-source programming languages, R boasts an active online community of developers, which is always a plus when learning new coding skills.

On average, R developers earn average annual salaries of about $91,000.

Level:

Intermediate

Skills Needed:

Easier if you already know Javascript or Python, but it’s recommended for people with a firm grasp of mathematics

Platform:

Mainly desktop

Popularity Among Programmers:

Not nearly as popular as it once was, mainly due to rival language Python’s soaring popularity

Benefits:

  • Open source
  • Great support for managing data
  • Wide variety of packages available 
  • Cross-functional with Linux, Windows, and Mac OS
  • Ideal for machine learning applications

Downsides:

Objects are stored in physical memory, which can strain resources; lacks basic security; slower than Matlab or Python

Degree of Use:

Widely used for analytics

Annual Salary Projection:

$91,000

11. 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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