A guide to programming language popularity (With definition)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 8 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

With over 700 programming languages in existence, it may be hard to choose a coding language to master so you can work in software or web development. To land jobs and progress your career, your knowledge and experience in the most popular programming languages are essential. Knowing programming language popularity and demand can help you choose the right programming languages to help advance your tech career. In this article, we discover what a programming language is, profile the most popular programming languages and explain how you can learn and use them.

What is a programming language?

Programming languages are instructions that developers or coders use to direct computers to execute specific functions and objectives. Each programming language has its own syntax, rules and structure and may only work within specific applications or have more widespread use. Aspiring developers learn to code by studying the technical specifications of a language and apply them by writing source code in a text editor for execution as part of a software program.

Why is it important to know about programming language popularity?

Understanding programming language popularity can help you choose to learn the programming languages that are in regular use in the technology sector. The leading programming languages are versatile and utilised across a variety of projects, meaning the developers who know them can find work easily. Learning obscure programming languages that aren't currently in widespread use means it's harder to find software or web development roles where employers recognise and require your specific coding skills.

Related: How to become a lead developer: a step-by-step guide

Most popular programming languages to learn

Here are seven leading programming languages that are currently in high demand on the jobs market. They're versatile and likely to remain in demand for a long time, meaning you can progress your career as a software or web developer through using them. Read on for seven of the best programming languages to consider learning:

1. C/C++

C is a language that's fundamental to the interactions between software and the underlying computer hardware. As a low-level language, programming in C requires more knowledge of hardware operation than the languages where details of the computer are less relevant. Notable features and facts of C/C++ include:

  • C is an important programming language for applications like games, movie special effects software and even portions of operating systems.

  • C++ derives from C and provides simpler programming.

  • C++ is much more attuned to application development, while developers use C for embedded systems or specific parts of applications.

C and C++ have been in use for over four decades and have significant longevity because of their proximity to the hardware, meaning they're always in demand.

Related: 10 common C++ interview questions

2. JavaScript

JavaScript (JS) is a programming language that's key to the interactivity and richness of contemporary web development. In recent years, programming in JavaScript has become more accessible with beginner-friendly VueJS and ReactJS and Angular for more experienced developers. Here are some notable functionalities of JS:

  • The NodeJS platform can create back-ends that power web applications.

  • JS is a key programming language for mobile apps.

  • Developers use JS to develop APIs for integrating their software applications with other applications and digital services.

Related: FAQ: what is Javascript?

3. Java

Java is a back-end or general service application programming interface (API) programming language that runs on the Java virtual machine (JVM). It's distinct from JS and enabled by frameworks, such as Spring and Dropwizard. Key features of Java include:

  • As Java is a strongly typed language, it can be difficult to master, so accuracy is essential.

  • Java performs well as a programming language in applications that use heavy data manipulation or maths.

  • Java is compatible with many other programming languages that use the JVM, including Scala and Kotlin

Related: 51 Java interview questions to expect (with sample answers)

4. SQL

Structured Query Language, known as SQL and often pronounced sequel, is a back-end programming language that's used to query data, as the name implies. Server-side web developers submit SQL data queries to a server that then returns the requested information. Here are some important facts and features of SQL:

  • SQL has many variants, including PostgreSQL and the Microsoft SQL Server.

  • Learning one type of SQL variant makes it significantly easier to learn others that are available.

  • SQL database servers power many websites and apps and are routinely used to store user profiles and posts.

SQL offers career opportunities beyond web or app development, including business intelligence, data or computer science jobs and careers because of its strict focus on data handling and management.

5. Python

Python is an extremely popular and effective programming language that's very easy to pick up. Since it's versatile with clean code, developers use this open-source, high-level language in a broad range of applications, including web development, video games and even machine learning. Here are some key features of Python:

  • Python is an object-oriented language that's based on classes or objects that contain data and code.

  • Developers can use Python to create graphical applications using Graphical User Interfaces.

  • This is an extensible programming language that developers can write into low-level languages like C/C++.

  • Developers appreciate that Python can run on a variety of platforms including macOS, Linux and Unix.

Python is one of the best high-level programming languages to include in your learning, as it's so clean and versatile that developers use it widely and employers routinely expect you to be at least familiar with its workings.

Related: Python interview questions for developers

6. TypeScript

TypeScript is a proprietary programming language owned by Microsoft that's converted into JavaScript. When developers write code in TypeScript the programming language autogenerates JS with the removal of any numerical annotations. Important points about TypeScript include:

  • TypeScript gives developers complete control over where to apply types for extra structure.

  • TypeScript is highly portable and supports other JS libraries.

  • Developers can run Typescript on any platform where they use JS.

Related: How to become a game developer (with tips and salary info)

7. Swift

Swift is a programming language that's only used by iOS products including the Mac, iPhone and iPad. Though this programming language only applies to iOS, their parent company market share is considerable, meaning there's strong demand for developers. Here are some key points about Swift:

  • Swift launched in 2014 to lower the development barrier to entry for the platform with a modern programming language that was easier to learn than a related low-level language, such as C.

  • The generics of Swift are powerful and easy to use and it has protocol extensions to make coding even simpler.

  • Swift has built-in error handling, meaning the code is easy to read and write.

Related: 10 of the most in-demand coding languages and their uses

How to learn a programming language

Being able to code accurately and effectively can lead to a lucrative career in the tech sector. Once you've mastered the basics of programming, you can gain experience through completing projects on a contractor or freelance basis or becoming employed as a junior developer. Here's how to learn a programming language:

1. Select the right programming language for the type of programming you want to do

Consider the type of development work you want to do as a career. Employers require developers to become competent in multiple programming languages that are routinely used in their work. The selection of programming languages used in front-end, back-end, software and web development can differ significantly:

  • front-end development programming languages include HTML, CSS and JS

  • back-end development programming languages include Java, PHP, SQL and Python

  • app development programming languages include JS, PHP, Swift and C++

2. Master computational thinking

Computational thinking refers to how computers apply logic and is essential for writing code that computers can process correctly and effectively. Develop your understanding of the fundamentals of computer science through academic study or self-directed learning of principles that include abstractions, pattern recognition and algorithms. This theoretical knowledge can make learning a programming language more intuitive, as you gain a better understanding of how the code you write performs.

3. Build your skills by undertaking courses

Many developers are self-taught, but all coders benefit from training and resources that can teach you the programming language you want to learn. Developers can build and extend their skills through attending local or online classes or using a range of web applications that make learning a new programming language more accessible. Technology sector employers accept developers who are self-taught alongside developers who have formal qualifications, as employers prioritise skill and experience.

Related: How Much Does a Computer Programmer Make on Average?

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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