Which Programming Language Should You Learn First?
Dec 18, 2020
mean reads book on JavaScript

As a beginner software developer, it can be a challenge to know which coding language to learn first. There are hundreds of programming languages used across the globe, and each has its own purpose, quirks, pros, and cons. Some coding skills are in ultra-high demand and can command a pretty penny, while others are more versatile and universal, offering a wider range of opportunities for its users. 

The best way to choose a language is to think about what type of work you’d like to do in your future career. From mobile apps to database management to front-end web development, there are countless focus areas you might explore as a software or web developer. We’ve compiled the most commonly used languages below to help you create a plan and get started. 

Best Programming Languages to Learn

The “best” programming language to learn is subjective — it will depend on your interests, existing skill set, and future career aspirations. Think about what motivates you, talk to friends and family with experience in tech, and play around with a few options before you make any decisions. There are a ton of options, but to become a web developer, you’ll need at least an elementary knowledge of the most common languages. Here are our picks for where to start: 

HTML/CSS

HTML is arguably the easiest programming language to learn, and it’s a great place to get your feet wet with programming. Both HTML and CSS are commonly-used markup languages that help design visually appealing, functional websites. If you’re just hoping to pick up a new hobby or dabble in a new passion project, HTML and CSS will be right up your alley – you’ll be able to start writing code with very little investment. But even if you’re hoping to launch a broader career in software development, these foundational languages are important to your toolkit. 

Free online resource: HTML5 and CSS Fundamentals

JavaScript

Once you’ve mastered the basics of HTML and CSS, you’re ready to move on to JavaScript, another core language for front-end web development. Chances are good that you interact with JavaScript-powered websites every day — think Facebook, Gmail, news sites, and more. It’s one of the most relied-upon coding languages for creating interactive, engaging websites. In fact, according to Stack Overflow’s 2020 Developer Survey, JavaScript is the most commonly used programming language for the eighth year in a row. More than two-thirds of survey respondents said they had used JavaScript in the past year. 

Free online resource: Programming for the Web with JavaScript

SQL

If you’re interested in data science and wondering which coding language to learn, SQL (Structure Query Language) is your best bet. SQL — which can be interchangeably pronounced as “sequel” or “ess-cue-ell” — is used to extract insights from large volumes of data. The code integrates fluidly with other languages and business intelligence tools to act as a foundation for data-informed systems and algorithms. 

Free online resource: Intro SQL for Data Science

Python

Python tops the list of coding languages that most developers would like to learn, probably due to the fact that it’s one of the most flexible multi-purpose tools for both data scientists and software developers. Python can be used in software engineering, web development, back-end development, system scripts, database management, and more.

Free online resource: Kaggle’s Learn Python

For a more hands-on, in-depth approach to learning coding, Lambda School programs cover the ins and outs of each of these languages in our full-stack web development and data science courses. Of course, while these core languages are some of the most fundamental and important coding tools, they aren’t the only ones you might consider learning during your career. 

Advanced Coding Languages to Learn 

As we mentioned, there are hundreds of coding languages you could learn, but only a handful that will be truly useful to your career path. Here are some of the more advanced, yet still useful, programming languages to explore: 

Rust

For the fifth year in a row, Rust holds the top spot as most-loved language among developers, based on survey data from Stack Overflow. It’s not known as the easiest programming language to learn, but it has a lot of advantages that’s helping to increase its popularity — like an emphasis on security and speed. Rust is growing in popularity each year, and companies like Dropbox and Coursera are even starting to use it in their programming. If you want to get ahead of the game, this may be one to consider adding to your skill set. 

Free online resource: Rust Tutorial

Go

In your next phase of learning coding languages, you might want to consider checking out Go. It’s one of the top paying languages globally, according to Stack Overflow, and is favored by Google. It provides a fast run time, an easy learning curve to master, and broad functionality. Go is best used for big data, system and network programming, machine learning, and other niche areas of software development. 

Free online resource: Programming with Google Go

C++

Similar to the other C-derived languages (like C# and C+), this coding language is often used for gaming and desktop software development. C++ is ideal for resource-heavy programs like augmented and virtual reality, robotics, and machine learning. 

Free online resource: C++ for Programmers

Ruby

Most commonly used within the Ruby on Rails framework, this general-purpose coding language is primarily used for back-end development work. It’s a great tool for beginners and one of the easiest programming languages to learn, primarily because of its engaged, helpful community of users. If you choose to start learning Ruby, you’ll have a broad network of folks willing to encourage and help you get there. Though it’s a well-liked language, in recent years Ruby has been surpassed by newer technologies like Go and Kotlin.

Free online resource: Ruby on Rails: An Introduction

Learn to code with Lambda School

Hopefully these resources can help you narrow down your focus if you’re wondering “what programming language should I learn as a beginner?” Each of these free courses can offer a helpful starting point as you make your foray into the tech world. When you’re ready to fully commit to launching a successful career as a software developer or data scientist, Lambda School provides a comprehensive, interactive program to learn the most essential coding languages. 

Whether you’re interested in data science or full-stack web development, we’ll help you cover the essentials and prepare you for any direction your career takes you. Explore our hands-on curriculum or start your application now

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