Scala vs. Java: Differences, Ideal Applications, and Who Should Learn Them

Today’s programmers have an impressive selection of programming languages to choose from. But too many choices become a problem when you’re not sure which language to go with. That is why we are about to look at two of the top 20 programming languages today: Java vs. Scala.

This article covers informative topics such as the difference between Scala and Java, what Java is used for, what is Scala used for, why Java is so popular, and many other valuable insights for programmers and developers.

We begin with the senior member, Java.

What Is Java?

Java is a general-purpose, object-oriented, network-centric, multi-platform programming language created by Sun Microsystems in 1995. It is both a programming language and a computing platform for application development. Oracle Corporation eventually acquired Java.

Java application source codes are compiled to bytecode, which runs on any Java virtual machine (JVM), regardless of the architecture. It’s a fast, reliable, secure language designed to have as few implementation dependencies as possible. Java is a “write once, run anywhere” programming language, and traditionally ranked in the top five languages.

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The Advantages of Java

A programming language doesn’t stay relevant for so long without offering a generous and useful number of features. Here’s a rundown of Java’s benefits:

  • It’s a highly secure, very robust language
  • Java is ideal for building object-oriented applications
  • Java gives you the advantage of writing code once and running it on almost any platform
  • It’s backward compatible, so once a code is written, it runs anytime
  • Java features a garbage collector, so no need for programmers to manage memory
  • It’s easy to learn Java
  • It has been in service for more than 20 years, so there are many online resources to support it
  • Java supports multithreading, allowing a program to perform several tasks at the same time
  • Java is extremely popular and found everywhere.

The Disadvantages of Java

No language is perfect, and that goes for Java. Although it’s been around a while and has undergone several updates, some issues persist. When considering Sala vs. Java, you should know some of Java’s notable drawbacks.

  • Java consumes more memory and is significantly slower than natively compiled languages like C or C++
  • Java’s default GUI applications written in Java and the Swing toolkit look quite different from native applications
  • It takes up more memory

What Is Scala?

In this Scala vs. Java comparison, let’s dig into Scala. Scala is a general-purpose, high-level, statically-typed programming language that incorporates object-oriented and functional programming. Though primarily used with the JVM (Java Virtual Machine) platform, you can also use Scala to write software for other platforms. It features native platforms that use Scala-native and JavaScript runtimes through Scala.

Scala, released in 2004, is a highly scalable language, a characteristic that gives the language its name. It’s a portmanteau of the words “scalable” and “language.” ZDNet cites Scala as one of the more popular programming languages likely to get you a job interview. Scala was created to express general programming patterns in a concise, refined, and type-safe way.

The Advantages of Scala

If a programming language wants to challenge Java’s dominance, it should offer programmers some attractive features. To that end, Scala brings many positives to the table. Here’s a sample of its benefits:

  • Scala has an exact syntax, eliminating boilerplate code. Programs written in Scala require less code than similar programs written in Java
  • It is both an object-oriented language and a functional language. This combination makes Scala the right choice for web development
  • You can use Scala to execute Java code
  • Scala uses an expressive typing system that ensures statistical abstraction is secure and consistent
  • It’s easy to learn, especially for programmers with an object-oriented background with Java or similar language
  • Scala is highly scalable, useful for building fault-tolerant, highly concurrent systems
  • It’s ideal for data analytics when supported by tools like Apache Spark

The Disadvantages of Scala vs. Java

Like Java, Scala has its share of downsides, including:

  • It has a limited community presence, especially when compared to Java
  • Scala doesn’t offer much backward compatibility
  • Although hailed as easy to learn, Scala features concepts and features that many programmers aren’t familiar with, resulting in a steeper learning curve
  • Scala’s development tools are immature; they aren’t as advanced or sophisticated as Java’s, especially the IDE plug-ins.

How Are Java and Scala Alike?

Here are the ways Scala vs. Java are alike:

  • Both languages are object-oriented, letting programmers model the real world
  • Both languages run on JVM
  • They are multi-paradigm and imperative
  • They are both statically typed languages.

How Are Scala vs. Java Different?

Here is where the real comparison lies. Although we have already mentioned some of these items, we’ll touch on these again for a more direct comparison.

  • Java is an object-oriented, general-purpose programming language, and Scala is a mixture of functional programming, statistically typed, and object-oriented languages
  • Functions are Java objects, while in Scala, functions are variables
  • Java requires several code lines for running routine tasks, while Scala reduces it to brief, concise code. The code written in Scala takes half the number of lines as Java
  • Java supports backward compatibility, while Scala doesn’t
  • Java is easier to learn than Scala, the latter has a steeper learning curve, and its syntax is more complex
  • Scala has a “lazy evaluation” feature that allows the programmer to defer time-consuming computations until they’re needed, using the keyword “lazy.” Java has no such option
  • Scala support operator overloading, Java does not

Why Use Java?

Java is a popular and well-established programming language commonly used in the following applications, among others:

  • Cloud-based
  • Desktop GUIs
  • Enterprise apps
  • Embedded systems
  • Gaming
  • Mobile
  • Scientific
  • Web servers and applications
  • Web-based

Here is a limited list of companies that reportedly use Java:

  • Airbnb
  • Amazon
  • Google
  • Instagram
  • Netflix
  • Pinterest
  • Spotify
  • Symantec
  • Uber

It’s safe to say that this lineup should help allay doubts and fears for the future of Java developers. If this list is any indication, Java shows no signs of leaving the spotlight anytime soon.

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Why Use Scala vs. Java?

Although newer than Java, Scala has distinguished itself in designing the following applications:

  • Batch data processing
  • Concurrency and distributed data processing
  • Data analytics (in conjunction with Apache Spark)
  • Parallel processing
  • Real-time data streaming with the Spark framework
  • Web applications and web pages

Here are some companies that use Scala:

  • AirBnB
  • Apple
  • The Guardian
  • Foursquare
  • Klout
  • LinkedIn
  • Netflix
  • Sony
  • Tumblr
  • Twitter
  • Verizon

That’s an imposing, impressive lineup. It’s easy to see why a new language like Scala is challenging the old guard.

So, Who Should Learn Which Language?

Given its continued popularity, programmers who want a broader and more versatile skillset should take the time to learn Java if they already haven’t. But let’s take a closer look at specific professionals. Which language—Scala vs. Java— suits which IT professional?

It would be best if you learned Java if you want a career in any of the following professions:

  • Android development
  • Back-end development
  • Big data development
  • Embedded devices development
  • IT Manager
  • Junior Programmer
  • Senior Programmer
  • Systems Architect

And you should learn Scala if you’re vying for any of these positions:

  • Application Developer
  • Big Data Engineer
  • Data Scientist
  • IT Consultant
  • Software Developer
  • Software Engineer (and Senior Software Engineer)
  • Spark Engineer

And of course, each language—Scala vs. Java—require platform-specific programmers, along with each respective variant (e.g., Java Programmers, Scala Programmers).

However, you can make a case for learning both languages. After all, they both share some common ground. But even more important, the best IT professionals are the ones with a varied and extensive skillset. There’s no such thing as having too many skills in the world of IT. Every IT professional, regardless of experience, can benefit from upskilling, including learning new programming languages.

Expanding your skillset also prepares you for difficult job interviews. You can also get ready to ace that tough interview by checking out articles such as Java interview questions or Spark interview questions.

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Do You Want to Learn Scala and Java?

Now that you see where each programming language stands, you’re probably wondering where to start. Fortunately, Simplilearn offers a vast selection of IT training courses and bootcamps, all to bolster your skills and get you ready for a better career.

Take the Java Certification Training course and become familiar with one of the world’s most popular programming languages. This all-in-one Java training gives you a firm foundation in Java, from introductory techniques to advanced programming skills. The course provides you with knowledge of Core Java 8, arrays, constructors, operators, loops, and methods while giving you the necessary hands-on experience in JDBC and JUnit frameworks. You couldn’t find a better resource to explain the features of Java than this.

Or, if you’re more interested in Scala vs. Java, you need to take the Apache Spark and Scala Certification Training course. This Spark certification training course helps you master both the essential skills of the Apache Spark open-source framework and the Scala programming language. The course teaches you about Spark Streaming, Spark SQL, machine learning programming, GraphX programming, and Shell Scripting Spark.

According to Indeed, Java developers earn a yearly average of USD 104,502. ZipRecruiter says that Scala developers can earn an average of USD 139,292 annually. Both languages are in demand, so check out Simplilearn today, broaden your horizons, and improve your career prospects!

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