If you’re new to software development, the hardest part of learning programming is deciding where to start. In modern programming, there are hundreds of languages that are widely used. Each has its own complexities and idiosyncrasies.
The good news is that you’ll begin to discover which programming language fits your interests and career goals from the moment you start working as a software developer.
The list below includes the best and most in-demand programming languages for many of the most common use cases including web development, mobile development, game development, and more.
In case you know Java—a classic language in its own right—it’s worthwhile taking a look at its more modern cousin, Scala. In Scala, the advantages of Java are combined with a modern twist, including the Object-Oriented structure of Java and the lightning-fast JVM runtime environment.
Scala is a modern programming language which compiles to Java bytecode and functions as a “JVM Language” – meaning you can use Scala code in conjunction with any JVM-supported language, including Java. This makes it (theoretically) easier for novice Java developers to become acquainted with Scala because of the similarities between the two languages.
Scala allows engineers to elevate their code to the level of pure math using a functional programming language. Scala allows for concurrent programming (the processing of multiple tasks simultaneously), allowing complex procedures to be executed in parallel. Furthermore, it is a strongly typed language. This means that variables and parameters are by default preset to a certain type that cannot be changed later on within the program.
Engineering teams can create and customize their own data types, allowing them the peace of mind of knowing that entire swaths of bugs are virtually impossible to introduce at runtime.
The Swift programming language is a good place to start if you’re interested in Apple products and mobile app development. Swift, first announced by Apple in 2014, is a relatively new programming language used to develop iOS and macOS applications.
Swift is designed to be familiar, with syntax inspired by Objective-C, C++, Python and Ruby. For developers who have used other programming languages before, Swift will feel comfortable and easy to pick up.
Developed by Apple, Swift is a powerful and intuitive programming language. Designed with safety and readability in mind, Swift code is easier to write, maintain, and read than traditional Objective-C.
The Swift programming language is developed from the ground up for performance, and it is redesigned for modern iOS development. Not only does iOS run on every iPhone and iPad, but it is also the basis for other operating systems, such as watchOS (for Apple Watches) and tvOS (for Apple TVs). Further, Apple will continue to dominate the tech industry and its iOS apps will remain the highest-grossing apps in the mobile app marketplace.
Swift is a powerful, yet playful language for Cocoa and Cocoa Touch. The syntax is concise but expressive, the apps run lightning speed, and writing code is interactive and fun. The Swift language is a powerful and easy-to-use choice for your next iOS or OS X project. It works well with Objective-C code.
If you’re new to the world of programming, Python is probably a good place to start. Not only does it have an elegant syntax, but the language itself is also quite intuitive — especially for new coders. And, of course, there are plenty of other reasons to learn Python, but those are some of its greatest assets.
The Python language was conceived in the late 80s, in the midst of the computing boom, as Guido van Rossum began writing code for a new video game. As it rapidly evolved over the years, Python became a staple for online and mobile app development. Only recently has it gained popularity with web developers.
Python is a general-purpose programming language, often seen as the “C++ of the web” for its Python-centric frameworks (nearly every major framework is written in Python, with Django being the best known). It can be used for a wide range of applications, including websites, desktop related applications, server side code and scientific development.
Like Python, Java has a multitude of applications. But instead of being a back end web language like Python, it is popular for use with software development kits (SDKs), mobile app development, video gaming, and pretty much anything you can think of that requires cross-platform functionality.
The Python programming language also includes packages like NumPy and SciPy that are frequently used in the sciences, mathematics, and engineering. Some Python libraries, such as TensorFlow, PyTorch, scikit-learn, and OpenCV, are used to build programs in data science, machine learning, image processing, and computer vision. A number of Python’s scientific and data applications make it an excellent choice for the academically inclined.
Python also provides tools that simplify program development, e.g., a compiler (pyc), an interpreter (python), the EPD (Python Distutils), and packaging tools (setuptools, PEP)
Go is one of the core languages favored by Google. It’s a general-purpose language created by, and for, programmers. Its functionality is similar to C and C++: fast execution, efficient memory management, low-level access to memory, and native compilation.
Go (also known as Golang) is one of the most popular trending programming languages today. Google even uses the language for its own projects, such as Docker and Google Maps. If you want to create web servers, data pipelines, and machine-learning packages, then Go is the programming language for you.
As a compiled language, Go runs “close to the metal,” allowing for a blazing-fast runtime. It’s an open-source language, and ambitious developers can see their personal contributions adopted and enjoyed by programmers worldwide. Plus, there are many interesting opportunities to use Go online as a server-side or even in a mobile application.
Elm is a functional language which runs on the browser, it is a compile time language which has similarities to Haskell. So in essence it’s one of the youngest languages on the list and yet has been supported by its large community for over three years, Elm is now consistently making headlines as the new skill to develop with.
The Elm Architecture, called Elm for short, is a set of best practices for building composable and reliable front-end web app interfaces.
Its associated architecture have had a significant effect on the development community. Many of the concepts from the Elm architecture have been incorporated into the Redux library, which has become widely used across the web in both production and development tools.
The welcoming Ruby community, combined with the fact that learning and reading Ruby can be fun and fulfilling for developers who have a passion for programming, are attributes that make up just two of the reasons why many prefer Ruby to other programming languages. But although the language and its environment are both great resources to help you learn to code, it is undeniably true that the language itself is not necessarily the easiest for beginners to learn. Some might say that Ruby’s syntax, structure, and design make it difficult to learn.
Ruby can be used to make a wide variety of web applications, but it’s most commonly used for web development. In particular, because Ruby is the under-pinning language used by the popular Ruby on Rails web application framework.
Additionally to the active community and straightforward syntax, Ruby is a good language to learn thanks to its association with great tech businesses. All of these companies have used Ruby on Rails in the past, including Airbnb, Bloomberg, Shopify, and an countless number of others.
Even though Rust is one of the newest languages on this list, that doesn’t mean it’s not a worthwhile language to learn. According to the Stack Overflow 2020 Developer Survey, Rust is the most popular programming language among developers for the fifth year in a row. 86.1 percent said they would like to continue using it.
Mozilla Corporation developed Rust and it, like C and C++, is intended for low-level systems programming. However, what Rust adds to the mix is an emphasis on speed and security. It stresses the writing of “safe code” by preventing programs from accessing memory that they shouldn’t, which can lead to unexpected behavior and system crashes.
Rust is a programming language that’s designed to be a safe, fast tool for building applications that require speed and high-level control. It is used primarily for systems programming in many crucial facets of software, including massive multiplayer online (MMO) games. In fact, according to the Stack Overflow Survey, Rust is the fourth most popular language for gaming today, sitting behind C, C++ and Java.
Rust has such advantages that other big tech companies, like Dropbox and Coursera, have started to use it internally. It may be harder to master than other beginner languages, but Rust programming skills are likely to pay off handsomely, as the language’s popularity is only set to grow in the near future.