Tech

Best Programming Languages to Learn for Software Engineers

Not sure what programming language to focus on? Keep reading to hear our analysis on the best languages to learn for your use-case, and what languages are on the way down!

Michael Yan
Published: (Updated: ) - 7 min read

Photo by Ilya Pavlov / Unsplash

One of the hardest parts of being a software engineer is deciding which programming language you should learn next! Given the huge variety of languages out there and the ever-increasing number of platforms on which applications can be built, it's easy to get overwhelmed.

This guide will walk you through the ten most in-demand popular programming languages for software engineers in 2022 based on their popularity, the number of job openings, and overall relevance in a software engineering career.

💡
New to computer science? Check out our blog post on software engineering for an intro to the field!

1. Python

Python is a versatile open-source language that's widely used in many industries today, ranging from web development to artificial intelligence to data science and more. If you're looking to get into coding or software development, learning Python is a great place to start.

It's considered a high-level programming language due to its relatively straightforward, simplistic syntax. Most developers consider Python one of the easiest languages to learn. In the long run, this language will save you time and help you develop your coding skills quickly.

Pros:

  • It's relatively easy to learn compared to other languages
  • It has a large and supportive community.
  • It has a wide range of applications – anything from web development to machine learning
  • Highly scalable and in demand.

Cons:

  • It lacks some functionality found in other languages like C++, Java, and C#.
  • Higher latency than languages like C/C++
  • Not ideal for specific cases – like developing mobile apps

With that said, if you're looking to learn how to design develop at a lower level where you have control over everything in the system, Python might not be right for you. However, if you're like most other developers, it's a great choice to learn and get familiar with!

💡
Tip: Most candidates interviewing with FAANG companies use Python as their language of choice for its forgiving syntax (no types or semicolons) and ease of use.

2. Java

Java is a powerful multi-purpose programming language that is widely used in many industries as it enables developers to create robust, high-performance applications. Currently, it's running on over 3 billion devices and is the second most popular language in 2022.

One of the top reasons it's so popular is because of how fast it can run with minimal memory consumption and is highly portable. Generally, since it's platform-independent, it can run on any operating system that supports Java.

Pros:

  • Multi-platform, widely used
  • Constant updates, well maintained, great developer community
  • Powerful – lower level than Python, higher level than C++

Cons:

  • Learning is a bit challenging
  • Not widely used in web development

Though its syntax is not as easy as Python's, this highly sought-after programming language is one of the best to learn as a beginner developer.

3. JavaScript

JavaScript is a lightweight, interpreted programming language that's best known as the scripting language for web pages. It's mainly used on the frontend to add interactive features to websites, create games, and develop web applications.

It's a client-side scripting language, which means the code is executed on the user's computer. This allows for a more responsive user interface and can save the server from having to do extra work. However, because the code is executed on the user's computer, JavaScript can be used to exploit security holes in the browser or computer.

React, an open-source JavaScript library maintained by Meta, is one of the most widely used libraries for frontend developers.

Pros:

  • It's relatively easy to learn and widely applicable
  • High demand in the job market – every website uses JS in some capacity
  • React developers are highly sought after

Cons:

  • Usage of JS is confined mostly to web development

Taking the time to learn JavaScript will help you land an excellent position in the software engineering field. The demand for developers who know this language far exceeds the supply, so you'll stand out by learning this skill. The best way to get started with JavaScript is to visit free tutorials online or enroll in a free online coding course.

4. HTML/CSS

If you're interested in a career in web development, you'll need to know HTML and CSS. HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) is used to create the structure of a web page. It defines the content of a page and is used to add images, links, and other elements, while CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) is used to style the page and add colors, fonts, and other styling features.

HTML is a fairly straightforward language to learn, and CSS is also relatively easy to pick up. However, both languages require a good deal of practice before you'll be able to use them fluently.

Pros:

  • Super easy to learn
  • Well supported by web development tools

Cons:

  • Overall basic languages with lower skill ceilings than languages like Python, Java, C++
  • AI models like GPT-3 have the ability to write HTML and CSS – perhaps meaning the language will be automated soon.

5. C++/C

C++ is a powerful object-oriented language that is used to develop sophisticated software systems. It's an extension of the programming language C and was developed by Bjarne Stroustrup in the early 1980s.

Both are middle-level languages, meaning that they were designed to be compiled into machine code before running on a CPU. These languages allow users to manipulate hardware or software at an atomic level. However, the fact that C doesn't support object-oriented features as C++ does makes it less useful when creating large programs with many interacting parts like games or web browsers.

Pros:

  • Extremely powerful and feature rich
  • Wide range of programming paradigms
  • Support for low-level programming and high-speed computation (great for finance companies)

Cons:

  • One of the most difficult languages to learn as a beginner
  • More difficult to read and debug

These languages are not ideal for beginners because of their complexity, but experienced programmers stand to gain a lot from learning them.

6. SQL

SQL is a standard database query language that is used to manipulate and query data stored in relational databases. It is a declarative language, meaning that it specifies the desired results of a query without specifying the steps needed to produce those results.

To achieve this goal, SQL relies on other ad hoc instructions such as SELECT and JOIN. The SELECT command retrieves rows from one or more tables (known as tables or views) based on certain criteria specified by the user with variables called predicates. The JOIN command selects records from two or more tables based on matching values of some field in both tables.

Pros:

  • Relatively easy to learn and use
  • Supported by all major relational database management systems
  • One of the most used tools for data scientists to query and view data

Cons:

  • Not a conventional "programming language"
  • Can be difficult to write complex queries
  • Not well suited for certain types of data analysis tasks – Python is more versatile

You can self-learn SQL or take an online course. Understanding the basics will take you anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks, making it ideal for both beginners and experts.

7. Go

Golang (or Go) is a programming language that was developed by Google in 2009. It's based on the syntax of C, with some influences from other languages like Scheme and Java. Go is considered to be a "systems programming language" due to its focus on efficiency and its ability to run on multiple platforms.

The development of Go came out of frustration with the slow pace of C++ development and the desire to make a modern programming language suited to systems-level applications where safety, concurrency, reliability, and speed are important. Today it's used mainly as an idea for developing web services, but it's also used in networking programs and operating systems.

Pros:

  • Easier to learn and read than C++
  • Blazingly fast
  • Has a built-in garbage collector, which helps to keep the program running smoothly.

Cons:

  • Does not support inheritance
  • Limited standard library

This fairly young language has been gaining popularity because of its features and simplicity. As the demand for the language increases, you can get it in early to fill in the already short supply of Golang developers.

Languages on the Decline

1. PHP

PHP is a general-purpose scripting language that is widely used in web development and embedded systems. It's easy to learn for beginners and has many advanced features for experienced programmers. Additionally, this sought-after language is versatile, making it suitable for small and large-scale projects. However in the last decade, most developers have shifted away from using PHP toward more modern languages like Python or JavaScript.

2. Ruby

This language is primarily focused on simplicity and productivity. It has an elegant syntax that is natural to read and easy to write. Ruby is also very versatile and can be used for web development, scientific computing, and data analysis.

3. Perl

If you're looking for a versatile scripting language that's well suited for a wide range of tasks, Perl is a great choice. It's frequently used for system administration, web development, network programming, and more. Plus, it has a large and supportive community. Perl is often considered a difficult language to learn, rendering it less popular when compared to alternatives like Java and Python.

Final Thoughts

With the rapid growth of the digital world, software engineers are one of the most in-demand professions in America. For this reason, when starting out your software development career, it is important to find a programming language that works best for you and your desired career path.

One of the best things about software development is that it has a low barrier to entry. There are millions of free online courses and tutorials that you can use to learn any language of your choosing. You can even get a digital certification to display your knowledge of a particular language or framework!

Remember, when job hunting, credentials don't play a huge role in you landing the job. It's your story and your skills that will ultimately land you the job. With all that said, best of luck with your journey!

💡
Looking for jobs in tech? Sign-up on Simplify and discover thousands of software jobs hiring now!