We need to clarify something before answering the question, “What programming language should I learn?” You shouldn’t learn a language, but languages. Sure, you can learn a single language, but you’ll be missing out on an incredible amount of functionality. JavaScript is one piece of the puzzle that really comes to life when you introduce HTML and CSS to web development. It’s also about what you want to do with that language.

You can eat a cake without layers or frosting, but it’s not quite as special. The same goes for programming languages. Different careers also have their own languages you should learn if you want to become a software engineer or a front-end developer, for example. Whether you’re a creative type looking to get technical or a problem solver looking to find solutions through data, we can find languages and career paths that are perfect for you.

If I want to become a software engineer

Languages you’d learn: JavaScript, HTML, Ruby, CSS

Perfect for: Practical types, tinkerers

What you can do: The ever-reliable engineer. It’s the prototypical job in tech, but it’s a pretty vague term. A software engineer can analyze user needs and use code to create software, fix software, or improve software. Some software engineers call themselves developers and vice-versa.


Take the quiz: What Coding Course Is Right For Me?


Learning the languages of a software engineer will lead to a lot of opportunities in tech. If you look ahead, you can see these coding languages pop up in other disciplines. For example, it’s not uncommon for an experienced software engineer to have acquired the skills to become a data scientist.

A CSS example.

If I want to become a front-end developer

Languages you’d learn: JavaScript, HTML, CSS

Perfect for: Creative types, fans of a great user experience, anyone who wants to create a website

What you can do: HTML, JavaScript, and CSS are the front-facing languages of the web. There’s usually some debate about the best languages to learn for a specific career, but everyone agrees on these three for front-end web development. They work in harmony and together create everything you see on the web.

Every website you’ve visited today is the result of a front-end developer. Everything on the web was created by a front-end developer who worked with a designer and a back-end developer to bring it to life. You’re probably pretty creative, but you also like things that work. As a front-end developer, you can make something functional and is pretty.

If I want to become a back-end developer

Languages you’d learn: PHP, Java, Ruby, Python, SQL

Perfect for: The well-organized, dependable types

What you can do: Back-end developers are the unsung heroes of the web. Your favorite site doesn’t just look great, it performs well. You can also thank a back-end developer for lightning fast search results from your favorite online retailer.

Front-end developers are using code to create what a user sees on a site and a back-end developer is making that a reality. Back-end developers use PHP, Java, Python, Ruby, and other server-side languages to pull information from a database into an application that’s then returned to the user through front-end language.

If I want to become a full-stack developer

Languages you’d learn: JavaScript, HTML, CSS, PHP, Java, Ruby, Python, SQL

Perfect for: Anyone who likes seeing the whole picture, working at a startup

What you can do: Looking at all the languages, you can probably guess what this job is all about. As a full-stack developer, you’re working on the front-end and back-end of a website or app. It’s a great job for anyone who likes to do a little bit of everything and for anyone who likes being involved in a project from start to finish.

You won’t be expected to master all the front-end and back-end languages to be a full-stack developer, so feel overwhelmed! Full-stack developers are a great fit for startups who have a lot of needs, but not a lot of resources. You can work on how a website or app looks and troubleshoot when something goes wrong.

If I want to become a mobile developer

Languages you’d learn: C#, Swift, Java, Kotlin, C/C++

Perfect for: App lovers, people who enjoy a stock Android experience

What you can do: Mobile developers create the apps you use on a daily basis. They combine the skills you typically see in front-end and back-end developers to create and launch apps. The only difference is you have a choice to make when choosing what language to learn.

If you want to create iOS apps, you’ll need to learn Swift. Android app developers need to learn Java, but Android apps can also be created with C# and C/C++. Kotlin is a newer programming language that has been gaining popularity and many recommend learning Kotlin to stay ahead of the curve.

A Python example.

If I want to become a data scientist

Languages you’d learn: Python, R, SQL, Java

Perfect for: Anyone who seeks a challenge, early adopters, problem solvers, fortune tellers

What you can do: Data scientists need to learn statistical computer languages and data management systems. There are other opportunities within data science that use these languages, but are not as technical or don’t require coding experience. A data analyst is a great opportunity for someone who likes to use data to solve problems.

More like, what can’t you do. Data scientists are relatively new to the tech scene, but have quickly become the hottest job in America. Data scientists use data to tell powerful stories and provide insights that can be used to solve problems or predict future outcomes. Machine-learning, algorithms, and AI are just a few fields you can get into as a data scientist.

If you’re trying to figure out what programming language to learn, it’s great to get first-hand experience with each language. Flatiron School has several free online courses to find your perfect coding match. We recommend the Introduction to JavaScript and Introduction to Ruby courses for anyone with less technical experience. If you already have some familiarity with code, try our Coding Bootcamp Prep and Data Science Bootcamp Prep courses to see if these career paths are right for you.

Sign up for scholarship, events, and news updates from Flatiron School