Choosing A Computer Language
Written by Sue Gee   
Sunday, 09 August 2015

If you are new to programming there is a bewildering array of possibilities. Which is the best language to start with is a question that will get many different answers - but knowing which one is right for you depends on what you hope to get out of it.

Udacity has come up with an infographic to help you make your own decision.



Udacity has looked at data for the top ten programming languages in the US based on IEEE Spectrum's 2014 Rankings. Looking at the most popular programming languages for 2015, reported last month by IEEE Spectrum there is no change in the selection of languages, but in 2015 (on rthe left) R has risen from 9th to 6th pushing down PHP, JavaScript and Ruby by one place each:



Udacity looks at various criteria for looking at which language to learn and of these salary might be the most important. This chart shows that Ruby and Matlab have the biggest paychecks - but this might be because there are few programmers with these skills:




If you are looking for a career then the number of job openings is probably something you need to balance against salary. Udacity points out that Java and JavaScript are the top languages hired for in most US states and that California has the most programming jobs on offer among all states.

Another factor could be the type of programming you want to get involved with. This chart from the infographic looks at the languages used in different environments:




PHP which is the lowest paid language is also the most restrictive in that it limits you to web development. R and Matlab are also present in only one category but as it is the currently rapidly expanding field of data analysis. 

Udacity comments:

If career flexibility is important to you learning Python or C++ allows you to work in most major types of programming, from creating games to building embedded systems.

Given that Python comes third in terms of salary and figures in four out of 5 of the categories, including data analysis it seem like a good choice to make.

Python is also the language that is most on the up in the following popularity charts (based on the percentage of Google searches in the US for language tutorials). Notice however that it still hasn't achieved the the same level of interest as Java even though Java's chart shows a downward trend.


At the end of the day there are three more things to bear in mind.

  • Learning a programming language is a good career move even if you don't intend to make a career out of it.

  • If you do want a career as a programmer one language probably isn't going to be enough.

  • Some languages are easier to learn, and more widely taught, than others.


Balancing job prospects against accessibility to complete beginners, JavaScript and Python would be my top recommendations for a first language.

Let me know if you agree - or better still make a different suggestion if you don't.






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Last Updated ( Sunday, 09 August 2015 )