Coding skills are in demand, as tech companies report a huge shortage of talent in areas like cybersecurity and advanced analytics. But if you’re considering a career in this area, you may be a little stumped on how to get started with coding in general.
The first step is deciding which language you want to learn. If you’re thinking practically, you may want to know which languages are most in-demand or which ones are the easiest to learn. Alternatively, you may have a particular project that you’re working on and want to figure out whether Python or Java is better suited to your needs.
Below, we’ve broken down some of the most popular languages and outlined their pros and cons. And if you're looking for guidance on where to learn these languages, check out our guide to the best online learning platforms and the best coding courses online.
The text-based language is relatively easy to learn and is used for a lot of front-end web development, where it creates interactive on-page elements (such as log-in buttons and the ability to zoom in and out on images). It’s also commonly used in app development, but if you’re completely new to coding there are other languages which may be easier to learn.
HTML/ CSS: An essential part of web development
Used to input text, structure paragraphs and alter layout, HTML and CSS are integral to web development. In some ways, they’re not the most exciting languages to learn, but they can help you form an early understanding of how coding works.
If you’re currently redesigning your personal website, learning these languages could help you figure out how to achieve a better aesthetic. We also recommend you take a look through our list of the best graphic design software, which can help you personalize your brand.
Python: Perfect for beginners
Clear and easy to understand, Python is a beginner-friendly language that is also used by a large number of professional developers. It’s a general-use programming language, so it can be used to do all sorts of things, like back-end web development and data parsing.
It has a lot of great libraries available too, which means that instead of having to write your code from scratch you can access pre-built functions to speed things up. These libraries are particularly useful in scientific fields, so it’s a great choice for anyone who needs to analyse data and build visual representations.
It's a popular option for beginners, as it's easy to learn and can also be used across various platforms.
SQL: The go-to language for data handling
Pronounced ‘sequel’, SQL is a query language that allows you to pull information from databases. It has a narrower function range than some of the other languages listed here, but according to that expansive developer survey it was actually the third most commonly used coding language in 2020 – which shows the importance of data in the modern tech industry.
SQL is commonly used in conjunction with a relational database, which usually looks like a large and messy spreadsheet. But by deploying SQL, you can pull data sets and analyse your numbers. Mastering SQL is a crucial skill for anyone who wants to enter the field of data analysis, but it’s also very useful for marketing professionals. A quick search on any job database shows that it’s hugely in demand.
The difficulty with SQL isn’t learning the language itself, as it has a relatively smaller set of rules to learn. The bigger problem is understanding how best to deploy it in relation to your data.
Java: Widely used in android apps
Java is everywhere. It’s commonly used to build android mobiles apps but it’s also found in gaming development and data handling projects. Because it has a wide range of uses, it’s certainly a very practical language to learn. It’s also one of the older programming languages, having been established about 25 years ago.
It’s a little trickier to learn Java than Python, but the good news is that getting a grasp on this language should make it easier to learn other simple programming languages.
C++/C#: Commonly used in game development
If you’re focused on game development, you’ll probably want to stick with a C-derived language like C++ or C#. These are the most commonly used languages in game development, with the former being deployed on the Unreal engine and the latter on Unity.
Both of these game engines are now free to use for individuals, so which language you choose really depends on which of these popular engines you want to try (if you want to use either of them, at all.)
These languages aren’t as intuitive to learn as Python or Java, but they’re ideal for building games. Arguably, C++ gives you a little more control over your code, but C# is adequate for most budding game designers.
Need a powerful machine to build your game on? Read through our list of the best home computers to find your ideal set-up.