Skip to main contentA logo with &quat;the muse&quat; in dark blue text.
Advice / Career Paths / Training & Development

A Simple Guide to Figuring Out Which Programming Language to Learn

So you've decided to learn a programming language. Good thinking! The need to be code literate for various jobs is increasing. Software developer jobs specifically will increase by 17% according to The Bureau of Labor Statistics.

However, as a beginner, proceeding from making that career-boosting decision to actually acquiring the skills is definitely confusing. You're faced with hundreds of options to pick from as your first language. So, before making that choice, it’s a good idea to ask yourself two key questions:

  • What is it that made you interested in programming?

  • What do you want to do as a programmer?

The answers to these questions will navigate your initial steps and, possibly, your entire programming career. If a project idea sparked your interest, pick a language that helps you best complete it. For example, learning Objective-C will allow you to work on iOS-related projects, while Java will allow you to work on Android-related projects.

But if you're interested in turning this new knowledge into a full-time career, use the first language to learn how to think like a programmer and learn basic programming logic. For example, developers regard Ruby, Python, and JavaScript as relatively easy to learn and as languages that provide a solid foundation in programming logic and syntax. If you have a good foundation, picking up more will be easier because certain principles translate from one to the other.

Or possibly, the one you pick may be decided for you because of the part of the technical stack that interests you. A front-end developer works on user-facing code, which involves learning JavaScript. A back-end developer works with the server, database, and application which may involve languages like Ruby or Python.

Beginner or not, quality programmers seek out opportunities to learn and keep up with language and technology trends. The choice to pick up a new one will be recurring throughout your career. Check out this helpful infographic to guide you through making this decision.

Infographic courtesy of Make a Website Hub. Photo of woman on computer courtesy of Shutterstock.