What’s the Best Programming Language to Learn First?

best programming language to learn

Programming skills are in high demand. Recruiters want job candidates with programming skills, and people who can code earn higher salaries. Learning a programming language can also help employees break into in-demand fields like software engineering or web development. But beginners often don’t know what the best coding language to learn first is. So what’s the best programming language to learn first?

Things to Think About

Before we look at some of the most popular first programming languages, ask yourself a few questions. Why do you want to learn a programming language? What are your career goals? And what do you want to do once you learn to program?

Some languages are better suited for specific industries than others. I’m assuming you are familiar with the most popular programming industries (web development, app development, etc.) Here is a refresher, if you need one.

The best programming language to learn first depends on why you want to learn to code. Is it your dream to become a data scientist? Then JavaScript isn’t for you—it’s a language geared toward the web.

High-Level Versus Low-Level

When making your decision, you also need to know there are two categories of programming languages: high-level programming languages and low-level programming languages. Low-Level programming languages are closer to the machine. That means zeros and ones. Low-level programming languages are harder to read than high-level programming languages, which read more like English.

As a beginner, you want to stick with a high-level programming language and avoid low-level programming languages. Low-level programming languages are harder to read and are more difficult for beginners to pick up. That is why you won’t see any of the popular low-level programming languages like C or C++ on our list of the best programming languages to learn first.

Let’s jump into our picks for the best programming language for beginners.

The Best Programming Languages to Learn First

1. Python

Python logo

Python is a language created by Dutch programmer Guido van Rossum. His goal when he was creating Python was to make it the easiest to read programming language in the world. Today, many leading technology companies use Python, including Google and Netflix.

Pros

Overall, Python is our top selection for the best programming language to learn first. One reason is that Python is currently the fastest-growing programming language in the world.

Growth of major programming languages

As you can see, Python’s use is growing like crazy.

It’s also one of the most flexible languages since you can use it for web development, data science, machine learning, and more.

Python is also popular in electronics, media, and finance. Python dominates industries like finance and especially finance tech. According to HackerRank, FinTech recruiters look for Python skills more than twice as much as Java.

With its speed and algorithm performance, Python has been called “king of mathematical programming.” It’s also the most important language in data analysis and machine learning, making Python well positioned for the new tech wave of artificial intelligence.

College and universities also recognize Python as an essential programming language. In 2014, Python replaced Java as the most popular introductory programming language taught in U.S. universities.

Cons

One disadvantage of Python is you can’t use it for front-end web development or front-end app development. So if you know for sure you want to be either a front-end mobile or web developer, you may want to consider starting with one of the other languages on this list.

Resources

If you decide to learn Python first, here is a list of the best resources to learn Python, including books, online courses, and tutorials for people at every skill level. Or try using Coding List’s Python filter to find even more of the best courses to learn Python.

2. JavaScript

JavaScript Logo

Pros

JavaScript is the only language that gives Python a real run for its money as the most recommended programming language for beginners. One of the main reasons is FreeCodeCamp. FreeCodeCamp is an online course that teaches web development. They have a popular blog, and they use it to promote JavaScript as the best language to learn first.

In the past, they’ve argued that JavaScript is the best first programming language to learn because it is the most popular programming language in the world (according to StackOverflow). That was true in 2017 but no longer is. In 2018, StackOverflow ranked Python as the most popular programming language in the world.

JavaScript’s growth, however, is still impressive. And because JavaScript is the language of web browsers, demand for JavaScript will remain high for the foreseeable future. JavaScript is also a high-level programming language, which makes it easy to learn.

These qualities make it an excellent coding language to learn first.

Cons

JavaScript does have a few downsides. The first is that many programmers don’t consider it a very good language. There is even a famous book called JavaScript: The Good Parts that teaches you how to avoid its unpleasant aspects.

The other downside of JavaScript is it is mostly used in web development. So if you don’t know if you want to be a web developer, it may not be the best coding language to learn. But if you want to become a web developer, you should consider learning JavaScript as your first programming language.

Resources

As I mentioned earlier, FreeCodeCamp is one of the best places to learn JavaScript. If you are looking for more suggestions, I put together a list of the best online coding courses for self-taught programmers, which includes several more recommendations for learning JavaScript.

3. Swift

Swift logo

Swift is a high-level programming language designed by Apple. Apple created Swift to power the apps on its platforms.

Pros

Apple went out of its way to make Swift friendly for new programmers. It comes with a feature called Swift Playgrounds, which Apple describes as “a revolutionary app for iPad that makes learning Swift interactive and fun. It requires no coding knowledge, so it’s perfect for students just starting out. ”

Swift Playground
Swift Playground

I tested Swift out, and I enjoyed using it.

Cons

The biggest downside of Swift is that it is only useful for building mobile apps, and it only works on Apple’s platform. Therefore, if you are going to start with Swift, you should be confident that is the direction you want to take your career.

If you know you want to become a mobile developer and you want to build apps on Apple’s platform, Swift may be the best programming language to learn first. But if you aren’t sure what programing industry you want to focus on yet, you should start with another language that doesn’t limit you to mobile development on Apple’s platform.

Resources

If you decide to learn Swift, I recommend starting with Udacity’s free Swift for Beginners course. You can also take The Complete iOS App Development Bootcamp by Angela Yu, which is one of the top-rated courses on Udemy.

4. Java

Java logo

Pros

Java has many things going for it. For one, Java is one of the most used programming languages in the world. The TIOBE index, which ranks the most popular programming languages, consistently puts Java at the top.

Enterprise-level companies rely on the language, including Google, eBay, and Uber. Java also ranked as the most in-demand programming language in a HackerRank survey of 3,000 coding interview challenges. As a Java programmer, you will be able to work in the gaming, web, and mobile app industry.

It’s also a popular language of choice for Big Data. And it is the only language that works on the Android platform. Since 85% of smartphones use Android, Java is an in-demand skill and will be for the foreseeable future.

Cons

Beware! Java is significantly more challenging to learn than the other programming languages on this list. You should only select Java as your first programming language with the knowledge that it is going to be harder to learn.

To show you why I need to teach you how to write your first program. Traditionally, the first program you teach a new coder is how to print the text “Hello, World!”

Here is how to print it in Java:

Print "Hello, World!" in Java

And here is the same code in Python:

Print "Hello, World!" Python

As you can see, the Python code is much simpler. I’m willing to bet you understand how it works without any explanation. The Java code, on the other hand? As a new coder, you probably have no idea what is going on.

Java is much harder for beginners to pick up than languages higher on this list like Python and JavaScript, which means you should be aware you are taking on an extra challenge as a new programmer when you start with Java.

If you are trying to optimize your chances of successfully learning to code, it is not the best coding language to learn.

Resources

If you decide to take on the challenge of learning Java, you can take CodeAcademy’s Learn Java introductory course for free or use Coding List to find more resources to learn Java.

So what’s the best programming language to learn first?

The best programming language to learn first depends on your goals and what you want to create. If you aren’t sure what programming industry you want to work in, you might want to start with Python. If you know you want to be a web developer, JavaScript is the best coding language to learn. Want to be a mobile developer? You should consider making Swift your first language. And if you are looking for a challenge, Java is the language for you.

I hope this article helped you decide the best coding language to learn. If you want more information about programming for beginners, you can read my book or take my course, where I cover how I went from a novice to a software engineer at eBay in less than one year. If you need extra mentorship, I suggest trying One Month Python.

Best of luck with your coding!

Published by Cory Althoff

Cory Althoff is the author of The Self-Taught Programmer, which Book Authority named one of the best software books of all time.

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9 Comments

  1. I’m curious about this, but I have severe dyscalculia. So I have never understood math or science very well so that could be a huge deterrent for me to learn. Is the learning curve in that case high?

  2. I started Python but could not finish

  3. This is really an interesting blog to read & liked the idea of explaining them in the format of pros & cons. Got to know about the programming languages which we can learn first to make our foundation strong enough to start our coding journey. Thanks for sharing this!

  4. should i learn javascript or python ???

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