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4 Programming Languages for Beginners

The buzz surrounding developer jobs is well-founded. Look at application software developers, for instance, who earn a median annual salary of $103,620 and work in the ninth-fastest growing occupation, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Employment of those professionals is expected to grow 31 percent by 2026.

The need has gotten so bad that most companies say that the lack of access to software developers is more of a concern to success than the access to capital, according to a report from CNBC. It added that developers’ expertise could add $3 trillion to global gross domestic product over the next decade.

As companies desperately need developers, learning a programming language can immediately catapult you into that lucrative, in-demand industry. Knowing where to start can be confusing, however. Thankfully, there are several different programming languages for beginners that you can learn and use across the industry.

Pay & job outlook. Total: $37,690 (7%), Dev: $67,900 (15%), Computer: $84,580 (13%), Software dev in systems: $107,600 (11%).

What Programming Language Should I Learn?

Selecting a programming language will vary depending on what you want to work on.

There are several programming languages for beginners that offer a strong starting point to the industry. However, when considering which language to learn, you should start with these two questions: How easy is the language to learn, and how useful will it be?

  • Is It Easy to Learn? Some programming languages for beginners are relatively user-friendly, while others can seem complicated for simple commands. Ease of use can be subjective and depend on how new you are to programming. Another caveat is the importance of instruction. A slightly more complicated programming language can be much easier to learn with quality instruction and resources.
  • Is It Useful? Determining a language’s popularity is straightforward, as the graphic below shows. The more pressing issue is how useful a language will be for your needs. Is there a certain type of development that interests you most? Pay attention to a language’s strengths to see if it aligns to your career goals in the industry.

4 of the Best Programming Languages for Beginners

If you’re ready to get started, here are four of the top choices. Choosing one of these programming languages for beginners can help you secure a high-paying job in an industry that is craving talent.

All salary information is from PayScale.

1. Java

Note that Java and JavaScript are separate, unrelated programming languages.

Java is the most popular programming language. It’s used in almost every aspect of development, including web and desktop apps. Oracle, Java’s developer, reported the language is installed on more than 97% of enterprise desktops and that 3 billion devices run Java.

Some people say that Java is a bit more difficult to learn than other programming languages for beginners, such as Python. According to Android developer Deven Joshi, that may be the case for a simple string of code, but real-world code needs to be taken into account. “Java isn’t the world’s most widely used coding language for no reason . . . Larger amounts of code are much easier to read in Java [than Python].”

It’s hard to ask for more from a programming language than what Java provides in popularity, support, and career relevance. Learning Java will also provide you with a strong foundation of knowledge for any other language you might want to learn.

Average Salary for Java Developers: $73,750

2. Python

Python is among the top three most popular programming languages in the world. It is used in a wide variety of applications, including web and software development, education, business applications, and scientific computing. Data analysis and artificial intelligence are two additional strengths of the language. Python is used by organizations like Wikipedia, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Spotify, and Reddit. Video games like Battlefield 2, Civilization IV, and The Sims 4 also use Python.

Python is often praised for its simplicity. It has simplified syntax and plenty of whitespace, which leads to many people claiming that it’s one of the easiest programming languages for beginners. Note that there’s plenty of debate about that statement. If you’re not sure whether being a developer is for you, Python might be a wise choice. You’ll get a chance to create simple code a bit quicker than other languages.

Average Salary for Python Developers: $90,000

3. JavaScript

Note that Java and JavaScript are separate, unrelated programming languages.

JavaScript was developed in the 1990s to help web pages assemble components like images and plugins. Now, JavaScript can tell web browsers where to place components and perform other tasks, such as optimizing web pages based on the browser you’re using.

JavaScript is essential to web development. According to consulting and management company Q-Success, JavaScript is used by more than 95% of the web. Think of JavaScript as the programming language of the internet. If you want to become a web developer, learning JavaScript isn’t negotiable. Outside of web pages, JavaScript is used in web browser extensions and other tools, such as script debuggers for developers.

Generally speaking, JavaScript is easy to learn. However, it can become more difficult when exploring its advanced capabilities, as complex programs are possible in JavaScript.

Average Salary for JavaScript Developers: $80,000

4. Ruby

Ruby is a fairly popular programming language that’s consistently regarded as easy to learn. It can be used to write programs like desktop apps. Most often, it’s used in the development of websites and mobile apps. A popular web application framework, Ruby on Rails, was built using the Ruby programming language. Several notable websites — including Airbnb, Hulu, Kickstarter, and Twitch — were built using Ruby on Rails. Learning Ruby opens up a natural pathway to Ruby on Rails.

Ruby, as well as Ruby on Rails, is beginner-friendly and often lands on many experts’ lists of the best programming languages for beginners because it’s simple and readable.

Average Salary for Ruby Developers: $76,600

Average Salary for Ruby on Rails Developers: $89,000

The Biggest Mistake Beginners Make

A lot of beginners get stuck on which programming language is easiest or best for their needs. They think that if they choose the right language, they’ll set themselves up for success.

Selecting the right language is important, but that’s not the most significant factor in play. Having the right instruction and support is vital. You’ll have a better opportunity to learn a language, as wells as the right skills and concepts in programming, if you study in the right environment. That’s much more important than selecting a programming language that may be less difficult than another.

Through the online bachelor’s in computer science program at Concordia University, St. Paul, you can learn programming from knowledgeable faculty who have industry experience. You’ll receive an introduction to programming languages, along with two courses on Java programming. In a convenient learning environment, you’ll get the education needed to become a developer.