- Traditional programming languages such as C++ remain popular
- Rust and Go are relatively modern languages that are gaining popularity
- A portfolio matters as much as, or more than, certifications
Computer programming jobs are very much in demand, but the languages that people use to build apps, websites and programs are constantly evolving. If you’re an experienced developer who grew up with Borland Pascal or made your first apps in Visual Basic, you’ll have noticed that the languages of today are very different from those older tools.
If you’re at the start of your career, you may feel overwhelmed by the variety of languages out there. Which languages are easiest to learn? Which are the most in-demand with employers? Read on to discover some of the most popular and useful programming languages in use today.
Which Programming Languages Should You Learn?
There are many programming languages, and each one has a different syntax and way of approaching problems. Some programming languages are designed to be portable, meaning the code you write will run just as well on almost any modern hardware or operating system. Others are designed with performance in mind but target specific platforms and hardware.
Choosing the right language for the job and the platform is an important part of planning any project. If you’re a novice coder, think about the types of programs you’d like to write, and choose a language that’s suited to solving that sort of problem.
Python is an easy language to learn, but it’s also incredibly powerful. It’s a portable language that’s good for quick command-line scripts and data processing but also suited to creating desktop applications and games.
Python is widely supported, and there are a lot of libraries and APIs available for it, making it easy to create apps for almost any purpose. A lot of academics use this language for big data and machine learning purposes because it’s so easy to work with.¹
These differences can be significant when you’re working on larger projects. The way variables are handled often catches developers by surprise when they’re switching between languages.³
Rust is a relatively young programming language compared to many of the others on this list. It was designed to offer high performance for embedded systems and is also ideal for creating command-line tools. Rust is richly typed and memory safe by design.
This is why it’s becoming popular as an alternative to C/C++ in environments where security is important. Rust’s design prevents null and dangling pointers, data races and other common issues that can introduce vulnerabilities into your applications.⁴
Go is another relatively young language, having been released in 2009. Since its release, it’s been adopted by a huge list of major companies, including PayPal, Google, Netflix and Uber. Go was created by Google and is designed to be scalable, high performance and suitable for rapid application development.
Developers who grew up with C or C++ should find the overall syntax of Go familiar. However, Go’s memory safety, concurrency and garbage collection features make it easier to write robust, secure code.⁵
While it’s one of the oldest languages on this list, C++ is still relevant today. It’s the fourth most popular language, according to the TIOBE Index, and it’s one that many large organizations still rely on. C++ is a compiled, object-oriented programming language that offers good performance for both desktop and command-line applications.
It’s a little more difficult to learn than many of the other languages on this list, but those who know it should find it easy to find work maintaining legacy applications or writing new ones in environments where performance matters.⁶
Perl may not be talked about as much as some of the other programming languages on this list, but it’s still widely used. The language is popular for text processing, server monitoring and data analysis. Perl is a flexible and powerful scripting language.
It’s a little more difficult to learn than some other languages, especially since a lot of the work done with Perl requires people to understand regular expressions. However, skilled Perl developers earn an average of 54% more than developers who know other languages.⁷
Haskell is a functional programming language that’s commonly used in academia and by big businesses. Facebook’s spam-fighting tools were coded in Haskell. It’s a general-purpose programming language, and it doesn’t get a lot of attention in the mainstream world of coding.
However, there’s still a great deal of demand for developers who are fluent in it. Haskell is relatively easy to learn, and those who are fluent in it should find that helpful when looking for jobs.⁸
The R programming language is a highly specialized language used for data processing and graphics. It’s not a new language, but it’s seen an increase in popularity as more organizations embrace big data and analytics.
R is often used alongside other programming languages, especially C and C++, so learning one of these as well could be a good choice for a coder looking to work in the world of quantitative analysis or in an academic/statistics role.⁹
Ruby is a popular programming language designed with simplicity in mind. It’s quite beginner-friendly and is structured in a way that encourages people to write good code. Ruby is a high-level programming language, which means it’s easy to read and understand.
It’s often used for web development projects via the Ruby on Rails framework. Some organizations use Ruby for rapid application prototyping, before switching to a lower-level language for the performance benefits that they offer.¹⁰
Contribute to Open Source Projects
Whatever language you decide to learn, it’s important to work on real projects to practice your skills.
- Open a GitHub account and start contributing to open source projects so that you have a portfolio of code to show to prospective employers.
- Make a few simple applications yourself so recruiters can see the quality of code — and comments — that you produce.
- Commit your code regularly so prospective employers or clients can see your thought process and truly evaluate your work.