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Top 5 Programming Languages Every Software Developer Should Learn

javinpaul profile image javinpaul Updated on ・12 min read

Disclosure: This post includes affiliate links; I may receive compensation if you purchase products or services from the different links provided in this article.


I have read somewhere that a programmer should learn a new programming language every year ( I think it's code complete, not sure, though), but if you cannot do so, I suggest to at least learn following five programming language to do well in your career.

Every company loves a polyglot programmer and an all-rounder who is versatile enough to write a quick script and can also write complex Java programs. In fact, it's almost mandatory for a senior developer to learn more than one language.

Interviewers are giving more attention to an engineer who has good experience with multiple languages like C++ and Java goes quite well, so is Python and Java.

I personally like Software Engineers who have strong experience in either C++ or Java and can write scripts in Groovy, Perl, or Python.

Many times a small script is quick and good enough for the ad-hoc task and I don't want my programmer spending a full day in Java to write a program to read CSV files or to grab a message from a TCP/UDP port.

Why I chose these five programming languages? My reasons are simple and practical. I have chosen languages based on their usage, paradigm, and popularity.

For example, you cannot ignore Java if you want to do application development and looking for a Job. So is JavaScript, which is almost everywhere on the web.

C is the one language I strongly believe developers should learn at the very start of their career because it will help them to get closer to the system and understand key programming concept which is often hidden behind JVM or CLR.

Python is my choice of scripting language though you can also substitute with Perl or Groovy. Though when it comes to online support, Python is also great. There are lots of python modules available which can do your job in a couple of minutes.

Similarly learning an object-oriented and one functional programming language like Haskell or Scala will widen your thinking and programming sense. You will find more reasons to learn these top 5 programming languages in this article.

Top 5 Programming Languages Every Software Developer Should Learn

Without Further Ado, here is my list of 5 programming languages which every programmer or software developer should try to learn.

It contains a mix of languages e.g. object-oriented, functional, scripting, a language which offers a low level of control and language which is widely used in server-side development.

1. Java

Java is one of the most popular languages of the last two decade and rules the world of server-side application development. It also holds a sizable market share in mobile games and application development using Android and enterprise web development world.

Java was started with a simple thought of WORA, "write once run anywhere", but over the period, Java actually ran everywhere.

You should learn Java to build robust, scalable server-side application. You can build projects of any complexity in Java, it has tools, technology, and community to help with.

Why should you learn Java? You will only have to focus on application design and code structuring without worrying about system-specific details and memory management. JVM will take care of it.

If you decide to learn Java then The Complete Java Master Class on Udemy is a good course, to begin with. It covers all essential concepts of Java in good details.

Btw, If you need more choices and don't mind learning from FREE courses, then you can also check this list of free Java Courses for beginners.

Java is used by some of the biggest organizations e.g. banks, insurance companies and you can reach masses by writing Android apps.

If you are still not convinced, I suggest you check out these 10 reasons to learn Java.

2. Python

Python is one of the most taught languages in school and colleges across the world. In the USA, Python has replaced Java from many academic courses as a preferred language to start with. What will you gain by learning Python? A lot.

Python is one of that language which can be used as a scripting language as well as proper object-oriented language for a large project.

Many popular websites including Reddit are built upon Python frameworks like Django. In recent times, many large organizations are switching to the Python-based framework as well.

Python is also increasingly used for new generation technology like machine learning, artificial intelligence, and data science. No wonder, because it has got some awesome machine learning libraries like TensorFlow, Scikit-Learn, and others.

I personally use Python for writing scripts though and it is very useful for doing something quickly e.g. you can write a UDP message listener in 5 minutes in Python as opposed to 20 minutes in Java, forget about compiling, packaging and then using. Just write python scripts for ad-hoc tasks.

If you are interested in learning Python then The Complete Python BootCampis a great course to start with.

Btw, If you need more choices and don't mind learning from FREE resources, then you can also check this list of free Python courses for beginners.

Also, If you are confused between Java and Python to start with, take a look at this infographic, which compares Java with Python.

And, if you still not convinced, then you should check my post about 10 reasons to learn Python in 2019.

3. JavaScript

You can replace Java with C++ and Python to Ruby in this list but honestly, there is no replacement of JavaScript in today's world. In the last 5 years, JavaScript has totally dominated the world.

It is no more a client-side scripting language, with the framework and libraries like Node JS, Angular, and React you can use JavaScript on Server side as well for user interface development.

Some part of JavaScript's this overwhelming success goes to jQuery, which truly changed the way you use JavaScript on the client side.

As a Java programmer, working on JSP and Servlet based application I have had numerous opportunity to use both jQuery and JavaScript.

Knowledge of this language has helped us to decide which feature should be implemented server-side and which can be handled at client side e.g. many validations we used to do on the server side was migrated to the client side.

If you want to learn JavaScript from scratch and in-depth then The Complete JavaScript course on Udemy is the best online course you can join.

If you need more choices and don't mind learning from FREE resources, then you can also check this list offree JavaScript courses for web developers.

4. C Programming

You cannot be a true programmer without knowing C or C++. This is a very strong statement but I am saying this from my years of experience.

Software engineers and developers who know C/C++ are simply better than programmers who don't know C and it cannot be just a plain coincident.

It's one of that language which you must know. I learned C during my academics and learned many key programming concepts along the way e.g. structure, array, pointers, memory management etc.

The C is still the most preferred language for system programming and it has given Java a solid competition at the top of the table from last two years.

If you want to learn this wonderful language then C Programming for Beginners is a good place to start with.

It is also one of the oldest mainstream languages, survived for more than 4 decades now.

Btw, if you want to learn C++ instead of C then also it's not bad as they are quite similar and allows you to write low-level code for systems and drivers.

It's also one of the important language for Game developers because of high performance it offers.

If you want to make games and learn C++ then The Unreal Engine Developer Course --- Learn C++ & Make Games is one of the best course. It's simply amazing and you will learn most by developing games than any other way.

And, if you want to learn C++, you can also check out my list of FREE C++ Coursesfor beginners.

5. Scala

Scala is the language which is created based on the best practices of the last 20 years. It is also a functional programming language so it offers a different paradigm than object-oriented programming, which will improve your thinking and code sense.

Though there are many functional programming languages available e.g. Haskell, I have chosen Scala because as a Java developer, I found learning Scala is easy than learning Haskell.

Someone can take that as a challenge and learn Haskell as well but for the practical purpose, I think learning Scala is more relevant for Java developers.

For C++ programmers, Haskell makes more sense to me. To be honest, you can choose any functional programming language but chose one which has commercial demand.

As a professional developer, I prefer to invest my time on something which can be used in my career and if you want to learn Scala then Beginning Scala Programming is a good course, to begin with.

Btw, no matter how many programming languages you learn, you must follow the coding and design principles given in Clean Code by heart to become a professional coder. It's those skill which helps you most in your programming career.

That's all on this list of top 5 programming language every software engineer should learn. Some of you might find the list as 5 programming language Java developer should learn, which is also right.

IMHO studying languages that offer different paradigms is the best way to improve your programming skill and help you to do your day to day task effectively.

Ideally, a programmer's toolset should include one language which is close to system e.g. C or C++, one object-oriented language like Java, Python, or C++, one functional programming language e.g. Scala or Haskell, one powerful scripting language like Perl, Python or Ruby, and JavaScript.

Yes, there is no replacement for JavaScript.

Other Programming Articles for curious developers
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10 More Books Every programmer should read
10 Things Java Developer should Learn in 2018
Top 10 Python Courses to learn Coding in 2019

Closing Notes

Thanks, You made it to the end of the article ... If you like these programming languages then please share with your friends and colleagues.

If you have any questions or feedback or any other programming language which you think every programmer should learn then please share with us.

If you like this article, then please share with your friends and colleagues, and don't forget to follow javinpaul on Twitter.

It's not necessary you need to learn all of these programming langauge, but it's good to learn a couple of them from this list like Java and Python, or Java and JavaSciprt, or may be, Java, Scala, and Python. Try to become a Polyglot programmer.

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javinpaul

@javinpaul

Java Programmer and blogger

Discussion

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I think this is a great selection of languages, but I personally think you have to be a bit careful saying things like ‘you’re not a real programmer unless XYZ...’ - so many of us, even very experienced and capable people, struggle with imposter syndrome and we have to be careful not to encourage ‘gatekeeping’. Otherwise great article! I might have to give scala a go!

 

I didn't mean that, and you are right; even I am not expert on all of this language. the whole point is learning multiple programming languages with different paradigm help you to become a better developer. So it's more an encouragement to learn more programming language to become a polyglot and improve yourself.

 

On that front I totally agree with you 😊

 

Software engineers and developers who know C/C++ are simply better than programmers who don't know C and it cannot be just a plain coincident.

Did you quote yourself, with a statement which is just not correct and has a typo?

Also, C and C++ are pretty damn different so it's quite weird to lump them together like that....

 

Yes, I quote myself when I say C++ programmer is better than Java programmers in most cases. To be honest, I am not gifted, I am an average programmer but I have worked with some really great developers and most of them were from the C/C++ background. Regarding typo, I put all blame to Grammarly - my writing assistant :-)

 

I'm sure there are great programmers who know C/C++ as well as horrible programmers who know C/C++. I don't think knowing a certain language makes you a better programmer.

That is true but C++ people are like hardened on the battlefield, but again, this is my personal opinion which is based on my own experience, working with some of the great people who came from C/C++ background.

 

You cannot be a true programmer without knowing C or C++... Software engineers and developers who know C/C++ are simply better than programmers who don't know C

This is unequivocally false.

This is like saying builders who use 16 oz hammers are better than builders who use 12 oz hammers.

 

This is just my view and its based on my experience, but there is a logic behind it. C/C++ programmers generally have a better knowledge of how hardware, OS, and machine work. They are also more careful about resource initialization and cleanup, which makes them more disciplined. It's more of a practice and attitude than anything else.

 

That is a completely false generalization, and you're stating it as fact. Sorry, you're just plain wrong. Your anecdotal experience isn't valid ammunition to just say C and C++ programmers are better than other programmers.

How is it that manual memory management is the only thing that makes a good programmer?

This frustrates me because if someone who didn't know how wrong you are were reading this, it would probably make them feel insecure.

Well, I just say in general and that's what I have found. Other people can comment based upon there experience. I didn't say that other programmers are not good or good enough, I myself code in Java more than C/C++.

This is anyway an opinion piece and you should take it as opinion, no one need to feel insecure because they don't know C/C++ but I do suggest them to learn C/C++ if you want to become a better developer. They are the language which takes you closer to metal and force you to learn some computer fundamentals which many programmers overlook in today's programming world.

Well, to be honest C developers are really bad because they aren't writing assembly.

(☝️ sarcasm)

Again, you're wrong and spreading disinformation in a way that's harmful, so forgive me if I'm annoyed.

🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣

 
 
 

Out of curiosity, what do you feel classifies Python as a scripting language, and what kinds of languages are the others on this list?

Well, Python has come a long way from a scripting language, but I started using that for automating tasks. It classifies as a scripting language because you don't need to compile them, just write code in a script and you are done. It's great for automating simple housekeeping and other tasks.

Hmm... I'm curious about where to draw the dividing line between scripting and non-scripting languages now. Erlang and Elixir can both be run within an interpreter, but officially have a compilation phase where the source is converted to bytecode for the BEAM virtual machine; Ruby has existed as an interpreted language for most of its lifetime, but now ships with an optional JIT-compiler, and Java has had the ability to be JIT-compiled afaik since version 1.7. If there were ever a moment when the Java VM could skip the compilation phase altogether, I wonder if it would then be a "scripting" language, or if it's it feeling as if it runs in an interpreter is already sufficient to consider it a scripting language. Conversely, assuming that Ruby 3 will always at least be JIT-compiled, I wonder if it will then graduate to no longer being a scripting language.

I had sort of considered any language where engineers are capable of building structured, multi-file and multi-module applications as being at least multipurpose, if not general purpose, languages, while languages incapable of supporting structured applications (e.g. bash, awk, perl) as scripting languages. This gives me something to think about... thank you

 

Hi javinpaul, you seem to love affiliate links but not one mention on the article. On the Web Site Terms and Conditions of Use, it is mentioned that:

  • If a post contains affiliate links, that fact must be clearly disclosed. For instance, with language such as: “This post includes affiliate links; I may receive compensation if you purchase products or services from the different links provided in this article.”

This is not the first time we've called you out on this practice.

 

I definitely like to follow rules and this article did have a disclosure, with I think is the most highlighted way possible using quotes, did you missed that or is there something I am missing? I am happy to correct myself ...

Disclosure: This post includes affiliate links; I may receive compensation if you purchase products or services from the different links provided in this article.

 

I may have missed that. But thank you.

 

I'm a bit disagree with your article because of your selection of programming languages.

You didn't mention C# or PowerShell as two of the languages of the .net stack and, of course, Pascal as a language to start learning basic concepts like OOP. I don't know if knowing 5 or more languages makes you a real programner but why not 4 or 6 or 10? Where is the real limit?

I would've prefered to have a programming languages classification as the first part of the article like operations, front end and back end so you will be able to point to several of them or even adding the tech stack where these belongs to so people will have some guide of the relationship between them.

 

Well, Yes, C# is definitely a great programming language, especially if you are on the .NET background. It may be because I come from Java background and even though I have done web development its not on .NET world. Though, I did explore C# for creating GUI and game development, which again proves the point that its a useful language to have in your arsenal.

 

I have such a long list of languages I want to learn, but I'm glad to see that I already know four of the ones on this list: Python, C++, C, and Java.

I'm also in the middle of picking up Haskell. Functional programming has a unique and refreshing feel, I'm finding.

For the record, I despise Javascript with every fiber of my being. I refuse to use it except in the most extreme of circumstances, and only minimally as possible. However, I'm starting to warm up to the idea of learning Typescript, which seems at a glance to have overcome a number of Javascript's fatal flaws.

 

JavaScript is one of the best languages. You can do OOP or FP, it's very malleable and does the perfect job for what it's designed for; i.e. exploit Web APIs.

Other languages are good too. But it's annoying to see such subjective statements against JavaScript.

 

Well, IMO, Javascript is too malleable. You're more likely to get unpredictable behavior than an outright error when your logic is backwards. Anything goes.

There are going to be people who dislike any language. I'm a C++ programmer, and I hear a lot of complaints about that, but I don't let it get to me. Besides, I'm not going to pretend it doesn't have sharp edges.

So, if you like working with the "malleability" of JS, you are definitely welcome to it. I just am not required to like that same unpredictability.

P.S. Yes, I know the language. I hate it on that basis.

 

You may enjoy ReasonML. It's OCaml with less weird syntax, so it occupies a nice space somewhere between Haskell and TypeScript.

 

I want to learn java or JavaScript or c++ but I can't really put myself into the subject. I know a lot of python which is the only language I can write in, do you have any ways that make you want to learn something more?

 

One of the best ways, I have learned from my own experience is trying to solve the same problem in a different language. Like a data structure problem of reversing string or a design problem of coding your own vending machine. This ensures you are only learning one thing - the new programming language. maybe you can try this.

 

I did think about that a year ago but then I just fell in love with python. I might try that with a basic android app I'm making

Python is definitely a great asset in today's programming world.

 

Why I do not like reading writeups such as yours is because they cause disinformation. A beginner or a newcomer might be thinking that the above-listed languages are the best and the only languages one needs to learn to become a software developer.

There are far more many better languages you did not enlist.

Anyways, thanks for your effort in putting this article together.

 

Well, I respect your thought and comment but if a beginner learns any of these languages, he is definitely not making any mistake. It will only help him in job, career and becoming a better developer.

 

Making informed decision on what to learn based on correct/ accurate pieces of information is inevitable.

 

That’s a lot.

You can certainly have a working knowledge of 5 languages - I have used all of these except Scala - but unless you have 20+ years experience, I don’t think it’s practical to have expert level knowledge in 5 languages.

Especially if you aren’t using them regularly. I used C/C++ for many years but have since forgotten much of it.

That’s not to say there isn’t value in learning multiple languages like this. I have learned some languages, such as Elixir, that I have almost completely forgotten, but have remembered some useful tidbits or patterns, which can definitely be helpful.

Is Scala still popular? I have been out of the Java space for about 4 years now so I’m definitely not current.

Thanks for the post.

 

Writing C is like riding a bike, it's not something you forget.

 
 

Well, you made a good point, You can't be an expert of many things but a decent working knowledge goes a long way. Even in my case, I can only say that I know only Java at the expert level.

 

Everyone should just stick to C. All modern languages encourage bloat and patterns of nonsense.

 

Yes, the best thing about C is that it doesn't change much like any other programming language.

 

This is a huge bugbear of mine, since I first looked at Java v1 and every few weeks (it seemed) at the time there was a new version that cadded loads of new functions and deprecated others. C++ has been going through this to some extent recently with auto_ptr, lock_guard (?) etc; I think 3 years is too short a release cycle when you're trying to make think your language is suitable for "professional" programming. And the move from Python 2 to Python 3 was a disaster that was only really resolved after the Raspberry Pi was released and encouraged the adoption of Python 3.

Compare this to development

 
puts "Hello World!"

oh noes

so bloat

much incomprehense

unable to parse

wow

 
  1. JavaScript has a replacement it's called Dart. Google is doing a very good job replacing it too. E.g look at Flutter it's absolutely blowing up in 2019. Keep in mind JavaScript won't go anywhere anytime soon but it does have its limitations (e.g single threaded) I believe Dart is a step in the right direction. It's also open-source where JavaScript is not.

  2. Who uses Java in 2019 when you can use Kotlin. Java is too verbose, the same code in Kotlin is significantly shorter.

  3. I would argue Kotlin is a better choice over Scala. Kotlin is easier to learn than Scala. Last time I used Scala it was not backwards compatible. I think the only real reason why someone would choose Scala over Kotlin is if you want a functional programming language over an object orientated.

  4. Not every programmer needs to know C or C++ because it depends on the type of programmer you are. We typically fall into backend, full stack or front end. Your front end people don't typically use C or C++ because they don't need to. Likewise your backend developers don't use JavaScript because they don't need to. It is good however to learn the concepts C and C++ offers e.g memory management, pointers, limited standard library.

 

Yes you are right there is no replacement for JavaScript as a mainstream power law demand in the market.

However typescript would be more suggested. Please note there is also scalajs and web assembly as a potentially good alternative. Ok those are more niches, but still better than just JavaScript.

 
 

Ada has been deprecated in the F-35, except for F-22 legacy code.

One letter; C

 

I don't think the F-35 is a particularly good advertisement for not using Ada in aviation - see craftofcoding.wordpress.com/2016/0... for a brief discussion. As for C, we'll it's already mentioned in the article above, but you can get closer to the hardware by learning assembler, which can be advantageous in safety critical systems where C has many restrictions placed on its use (see MISRA) and, as I understand it, object code is often analysed.

 

Aren't the Boeing airplanes that sometimes require a hard reboot due to integer overflow errors (and miraculously have yet to be in mid-flight at the moment of software failure) programmed in C?

 

Try not to conflate C and C++.
While you can just about write in C but use the C++ compiler, the latter is a vast and sprawling language that even one of its creators doesn't know all of its nooks and crannies.

 
 

You also need to try some projects in languages that are not so C-like. Forth, J, lisp,...

 

Note: once you start on Scalaz (note the trailing z) and have trouble, it will be easier to learn the concepts in Haskell and then apply them in Scala.

 

well, yes, I completely agree :-) PHP is bread and butter of many web developers but no one suggests it to fellow developers :-)

 

I myself work in the field of SEO, but it is always interesting to plunge into the world of programming. Today I read on another portal also a good article on the topic, writeabout.tech/programming/task-o...