The demand for competent computer programmers is higher than ever. The good news is that anybody with access to a computer has the tools needed to learn how to program. While there isn’t any bad news, per se, there is still one major dilemma that people new to programming often face: where in the world do I begin? Relax, take a deep breath, and take one step at a time. That first step should be picking a single programming language to learn before worrying about anything else.
Picking a language to start with requires a bit of meditation. Ask yourself why it is that you want to program. Is your goal to make a career out of computer programming, or are you merely looking to have some fun tinkering around with web design? The language you decide to learn first should reflect the ultimate outcome you wish to see.
It’s never too late to learn programming, no matter what your age may be. Some programmers start in their teens, others start in their late 60s. There is no age limit when it comes to picking up a life skill as bountiful as programming.
While it certainly helps to have a degree in Computer Sciences when looking for a career in programming, it is not a requirement. By keeping track of accomplishments in a portfolio, you can amaze potential employers with your programming skills. You might not be able to land a career at a big corporation right off the bat, but if you are talented enough, smaller outfits are more willing to hire a great programmer without a degree. From there, it’s possible to work your way up by continually proving growth and accomplishments.
Just how much money do programmers make on average? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the most recent median pay for programmers is $74,280 a year. Not bad for middle-ground.
Remember, it is important to focus on one language at a time. You don’t want to get bogged down learning a variety of syntax at once. Don’t worry about a second language until you feel confident with your first.
So if you’re interested in learning programming but aren’t sure what language will best suit you, here’s a list of the five best languages for first-time learners.
Developed by Guido van Rossen in the ‘80’s, Python is notorious for being one of the best languages for beginners because it is relatively easy to learn. It’s a perfect language for people who are finding themselves discouraged with some of the harder-to-learn languages like C or Java, because most of the hang-ups that frustrate new programmers (like forgetting a bracket or a semi-colon) can be overlooked in Python. Essentially, it knows what you meant to code, but won’t make you feel bad about minor slip-ups. Because of this, coding with Python is silky smooth and a lot fun. It’s easy to get a lot of coding done quickly with this language.
One of the truly greatest perks of working with Python is that it’s completely open-sourced and free. If you have access to a computer, you can feasibly learn Python. What’s even better is that it has a great online community that offers scores of tutorials and other learning tools. The program is straightforward enough that there aren’t many variable solutions to mistakes, so troubleshooting usually involves just a quick Google search for a helpful answer.
Python may not teach the fundamentals the way C or Java do, but it will give you the satisfaction of actually getting work accomplished, which in the long run may be what keeps a potentially great programmer from giving up.
Both C and C++ are combined here because learning C at this point in time has no real practical purpose in the dev world. This doesn’t mean C isn’t valuable to know (it provides the syntactic backbone for most languages that came after it); it is just outdated and unused on its own. C++ added the bells and whistles required to launch C into the modern world of programming.
Learning C++ may not seem like a good beginner language because it can be a very difficult process, but the reward for starting off on hard mode will make the rest of your programming career much easier. This is because an understanding of C++ is a fundamental understanding of programming. Most languages use C syntax, so picking up any language after C++ will feel like a breeze. Learning C++ is crucial if you want to make a career out of programming, as it is often what separates the great programmers from the okay programmers.
Not to be confused with Java. While both share the same word in their names and use C syntax, these two languages may as well be apples and oranges.
Created by Yukihiro Matsumoto in the 90’s, Ruby is one of the newest programming languages to be used on a wide-scale.
One of the best reasons to pick up Ruby as a first language is that its syntax is one of the absolute easiest for beginners to understand. When compared to some other programming syntax, like C, Ruby seems almost intuitive with the logical and semantic approaches it takes. There is a sense of beauty in the coding of Ruby that makes this one of the best programs for beginners. The code is so easy to write and read right from the get go, it’s no wonder this language is so often picked up before Java.
Ruby is also very similar to both Perl and Python, so a jump to either of those two languages is nearly seamless.
While it is primarily object-oriented, it also has the capability of multiple paradigms, giving its users plenty of freedom to work with.
Created by Sun Microsystems (later acquired by Oracle), Java is one of the most used programming languages in the world, which is reason enough to want to learn it if you’re truly considering pursuing a career in programming. One of the things that make Java so great is that it works on a very wide range of platforms. There is always something that can be done with Java.
Like C++, learning Java isn’t exactly a walk in the park, so this isn’t a good first language for everybody who wants to learn programming. At the same time, those who learn Java first are those who are destined to be successful programmers. Developing a deep understanding of Java takes a lot of time and strenuous effort, as it requires deep knowledge of programming and how it works on a highly nuanced level. Coding in Java isn’t just following steps until you get the project you want to work; it’s knowing how and why the project works because of a complex fundamental knowledge.
Is this sounding daunting? It can be, but with hard work comes great benefits. Any second or third language learned afterwards will come much more easily because of the high level of competence that comes with knowing Java.
If a career in programming sounds enticing, just know that Java is going to eventually need to be learned, so why not sooner than later? By the end of the gauntlet you will have developed a programmer’s mind and will be ready for any obstacle.