Programming is everywhere. Almost everything we use nowadays has some form of programming involved in its creation or operation. Even modern refrigerators can have touch screens with features created by a software engineer. The ability to program can offer access to an increasingly wide range of opportunities in many industries. If you are interested in new opportunities or expanding your existing position, then looking to programming is an excellent option. For many, the most intimidating unknown can be what programming language to learn.
We compiled our list of the top 3 languages to learn for career growth by combining two analyses. CodingDojo.com compiled a list of The 7 Most In-Demand Programming Languages of 2018 (Speros Misirlakis, Dec 2017) by analyzing job posting data and selecting the languages mentioned most often. A similar analysis performed by Github ranked languages by the number of open pull requests. Although neither list is definitive, they provide valuable insight into usage. Interestingly, both lists had the same top 3 languages, which makes a compelling case for learning any one of them.
Top 3 Languages (Alphabetical Order)
Java typically fit into the server side of most enterprise technology stacks until the explosion of mobile devices. Java was, and is still used, to serve web pages and perform data operations for web applications. Java provides middle layer services for many different applications in the stack. Less often, Java is used to build client-side applications. Java grew from server side prominence to client-side necessity when Android became big enough to rival iOS.
Uses: Web server development, server-side data services, Android mobile development, client applications
Learning Curve: Learning Java takes a significant commitment of time and effort. Starting your programming education with Java can be difficult. Java will be easier to tackle after gaining experience with other languages. It will be more approachable for those with programming experience. Java will also be easier to learn for those with a computer science degree.
Uses: Web development, Web server development, Data services development, Mobile development
Python is a general-purpose language with a wide variety of practical uses. It was written to be open source and easily accessible which helped speed its wide-spread adoption. Engineers use Python all over the enterprise stack for everything from web development to application build processes to system administration. It also is used widely outside of IT for scientific and analysis purposes.
Uses: Web server, scientific and data mining applications, machine learning, software build systems
Learning Curve: Python is probably the easiest of the three languages to learn. Python has been used by educational institutions to introduce individuals with no programming experience to the field. It is an excellent language for those with no experience programming, as well as for seasoned experts looking to expand their responsibilities
Learning a new programming language can be an intimidating prospect, but it doesn’t have to be. The best path to learning a new programming language is a combination of opportunity, the language you want to learn, and the learning method that works best for you. Below is a quick look at different paths of learning, a topic which is discussed in more depth here.
- Boot Camp – When structure meets intensity and short time frames, you get a boot camp. Boot camps generally last 2-3 months. They can range from daily classes to part-time schedules to online. The quality of education can differ significantly from one boot camp to another, and boot camps are a potentially costly option. It’s important to research before choosing which school to attend. However, they can be the quickest way to gather experience.
- Internships – Working as an intern can help you enter the workforce smoothly when you have little work or industry experience. If there is a particular company you want to join then being an intern can be an effective way to earn a full-time position. Interns also gain access to colleagues and managers that can become mentors over time.
- Self Teaching – Self-teaching is best for individuals who do not need a lot of structure, or don’t have the resources for a school or a boot camp. Motivation is self-induced, but the result can be just as rewarding and successful as every other approach. This approach fits best into most people schedules and is the most affordable.
- On the Job – Gaining experience while in your current position can be the best of all worlds. You can learn real-world skills while having access to potential mentors. You should expect to do some learning on your own, and learning on the job is usually seen as extra work in addition to regular responsibilities.
Learning to program in a new language, whether it is your first or your fifth, is a rewarding experience. Programming skills will only become more valuable in the future, and the need for skilled programmers will not wane. The rapid pace of technological innovation means new opportunities are showing up on almost a daily basis. Choosing any of the three languages profiled above can open your career to a whole new promising path.
– David Posin, is a contributing writer for technology careers.