How to choose the right programming language to learn

Programming is a career choice which is in high demand, with Forbes estimating that the global number of software developers will grow to 45 million by 2030. But with the Online Historical Encyclopaedia of Programming Languages reporting just under a staggering 9,000 programming languages in existence, choosing which one to learn first can be a tough decision. Read on to find out our top tips for choosing which programming language is right for your career.

programming languages

Why learn to code?


The fact you’re reading this article tells us you have an interest in programming, but finding out the benefits of learning to code is a great place to start your journey. A fraction of the population knows how to code, or even knows much about coding in the first place. In fact, it’s predicted that only 0.5% of the world’s population know how to code. So, what are the advantages of knowing how to code?


Competitive edge

Learning to code is a big commitment – if you choose to self-teach, it can take around a year to complete. For this reason, many people simply don’t stay committed. So, being one of the small percentage of people who knows a coding language can give you a huge competitive advantage when it comes to applying for jobs. Even if you’re not applying for a technical job, showing that you have coding experience/knowledge can be a real selling-point for employers as it shows you’re keen to learn beyond your remit. Coding has many transferable soft skills, and people who excel in it have strong problem-solving skills and attention to detail.

Help in your career

Many people think programming is only for computer scientists, and will disregard it. However, it can help you progress and knowledge-share within your career. For example, if you work in marketing, being able to write & amend code can be extremely useful when dealing with a website. Or, if you’re a freelancer, learning to code can add to your repertoire and expand the areas you are able to offer your services for.

A great tool to have

Coding is a great skill to have in life, and you never know where your career will take you. Perhaps you decide to start your own business – having a good basic knowledge of coding and website development can save you time and money. Plus, if you’re the kind of person who likes to play around with things and get them done quickly, coding knowledge can mean you don’t have to find a developer to do it for you.

It’s accessible to everyone

There are so many resources out there to help you learn to code, and many of them are free. This means it’s really easy to get started and everyone can access these. Many schools are even including coding on their curriculum now to encourage more children to consider a career in programming. Having a good basic knowledge of coding should be something everyone strives for.


How to choose a programming language


With 700 coding languages in popular use, choosing which language you want to learn can be a tough decision. There are different steps you should take when making the choice:


  1. Consider your goals

Different coding languages have different functions, so in order to decide which to spend time learning, you should start with considering what you’re looking to do. Below is a list of different coding languages and what they can be used for. This list is by no means exhaustive, but should give you a good idea of the most popular languages and what they are used for.


  • Java is most commonly used for creating Android apps
  • PHP is a widely used, open source scripting language which is at the core of WordPress (which 25% of websites run on!)
  • SQL is a complex language involved in database creation
  • C++ is commonly involved in building games and audio/video apps
  • C# is most commonly used to build Windows apps
  • Python is a common beginner programming language used for websites and software
  • JavaScript is used to build modern websites and apps
  • Swift is used to build iOS apps


  1. How will you learn?

The next thing to consider is how you are going to learn the coding language. It’s possible to self-teach, however some languages might be easier than others. JavaScript and Python are commonly languages which people choose to learn by themselves, but other specialist languages are best taught via training courses from experienced professionals. There are thousands of online resources related to coding, including free courses, activities and projects you can get involved in. Alternatively, you might be deciding to learn via a university course, in which case, you’ll likely be unable to choose the language you are taught.


  1. Consider the demand

If you’re learning coding to start your career in programming, you need to consider which languages are most in-demand. Study job descriptions and specifications in roles and companies you’d like to work in and see which skills they’re looking for. Currently, the top five most in-demand programming languages are:


  1. JavaScript
  3. Python
  4. SQL
  5. Java


  1. Keep on top of growing trends

IT is an ever-changing industry, with new technologies and developments happening all the time. Some languages may end up being less useful than they used to be, and be replaced by newer languages, so it’s best to keep on top of these emerging trends so that you don’t invest your time and effort into a language which isn’t likely to be in demand for long.


  1. Choose what you enjoy

Many people who learn to code aren’t doing it to pursue a career in technology. Coding is a life skill which can help you in many areas, so make sure the programming language you choose to learn first is one you enjoy doing. You are much more likely to stick to something and see it through if it’s something you’re genuinely interested in and have fun studying.


Whether you’re completely new to coding or have a basic knowledge you want to build on, learning a programming language is a great option for everyone. You will be surprised how much coding will come in handy, and therefore choosing the right language for you is important. By using these tips and understanding each language’s uses, you will be well equipped to make your decision. Good luck and enjoy learning!


See our list of the top 5 free coding courses for women in tech, and find out more about women in coding.