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What is a Programming Language and Which Ones Should I Learn?

By DeVry University

January 15, 2021
5 min read

Have you ever wanted to build something of your own? Or perhaps you’ve seen the inner workings of the internet with lines of code and HTML text and wanted to understand what it all meant. Learning to code can feel like opening the door to a whole new world, and in a way, it is. To get started, let’s become a little more familiar with programming languages.

There are more than 600 possible programming languages that you can learn, so your first look might feel like a dive into the deep end. They don’t all work in the same capacity, and choosing the most appropriate often comes down to what’s trending in the tech industry and what kind of companies you may want to code for later. Thankfully, you don’t have to learn them all to be considered an effective programmer for your chosen specialization. But first, exactly what is a programming language?

What is a Programming Language?

Although it might not seem totally cut and dry, a programming language involves a set of instructions created by a computer programmer. These instructions are meant to create a variety of responses and outputs which the computer can then interpret and carry out.

These programming languages range from relatively simple at a basic programming level, to extremely advanced for highly trained professionals. They can be put to use when developing software, scripts and any other instructions that computers can execute.

What Programming Language Should I Learn?

As stated earlier, there are many programming languages to choose from. However, not all of them are considered equal and some can be more useful than others, depending on the path you pursue. Some of the more common programming languages include:

  • C++

    C++ is an all-purpose programming language that is often used to create applications that have faster performance and an effective run-time. It is used in a wide variety of industries.

  • JavaScript

    JavaScript is most often used as a language to develop websites that are interactive and user-friendly. It is often the core component of web browsers.

  • Java

    Although similar in name, Java and JavaScript work separately from each other. Java is compiled code instead of text and it uses an object-oriented programming language. It is mostly intended for applications that run on a virtual machine or a web browser.

  • C#

    Pronounced “C sharp", this programming language is the basis of Microsoft and is one of the most common languages for Windows, iOS and Android.

  • Ruby

    Ruby is defined as a back-end language that specializes in giving users cutting-edge features that wouldn't be possible without the concise syntax it provides.

  • Scala

    Scala is often thought of as the more modern version of Java. It allows programmers to further elevate their coding.

  • Python

    Python is one of the more basic programming languages, making it easier to wrap your mind around. It is highly user-friendly since its syntax is clearer and almost resembles English.


    MATLAB is a more mathematically-focused programming language. It is mostly used for technical computing and integrates computation.

  • Elm

    Elm is a relatively new programming language. It is rising in popularity and has become a passion point for those front-end developers that do not prefer the declarative trappings involved in HTML programming.

Because the languages listed above are commonly encountered, they can be great to focus on as you begin to enter the programming world. Depending on what your interests are, such as working with code, HTML or text, and whether you want to work as a front-end or back-end web developer, you might also want to consider exploring Go, R, Arduino, SQL, PHP, Adobe ActionScript and Scheme.

As you can see, different programming languages function better for different scenarios. For example, using MATLAB to design a website isn't going to be as clear cut for many as it would be with JavaScript. The language you choose to use for a particular project might also depend on the preferred language of the business you are working with and the current trends in the tech industry.

Learning Programming Languages

How do you prepare yourself for a career as a computer programmer? To start, you should look into degree programs and courses on programming languages. A good program should not only require hands-on practice with the languages themselves, it should also cover topics such as:

  • Developing algorithms

  • Advanced techniques for app development

  • Strategies for software development

  • Problem solving and critical thinking

  • Data analysis

  • Collaboration within dynamic work environments

  • Information security

  • Digital literacy

At DeVry University, for example, you gain skills in programming languages by pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Software Development with a specialization in Software Design and Programming or Web and Mobile Application Development, or an Undergraduate Certificate in Computer Programming Essentials. You can also get a glimpse into programming and learn some basic tech skills with complimentary videos.

Careers in Programming

You now have a basic understanding of what programming languages are and which ones deserve your central focus. What can you do once you develop your skills in programming languages? There are a variety of careers that you may be able to pursue if you have a solid background in programming languages. Some of these can include:

  • Scientific Software Programmer

  • Software Systems Developer

  • Software Developer and Programmer

  • Software Application Developer

  • Software Programmer and Analyst

  • Web Developer and Programmer

Ready to Get Started?

If you enjoy learning how to code your own apps or developing websites from scratch, then programming might be a great path for you. Get in touch today and let’s talk about your next steps toward learning programming languages and pursuing a future in computer programming.

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