Everything to Know About Java

Java is among the most popular programming languages in the world. Read our guide to learn why.
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  • Java is one of the most popular programming languages in the world.
  • Java is a general-purpose and object-oriented programming language.
  • Several big-name mobile, web, and desktop applications run on Java.
  • Web and software developers earn higher than average wages and are in high demand.

According to an August 2021 Statista study, Java is the fifth-most popular programming language among developers around the globe, trailing only JavaScript, HTML/CSS, Python, and SQL. More than 35% of developers worldwide use Java regularly.

As such, Java is an important language to know and use. Read on to learn more.

What Is Java?

Java is a general-purpose, object-oriented programming language. It depends very little on other languages, so it is an excellent first coding language for beginning developers and coders. As such, many coding bootcamps and associate and bachelor's programs in fields like computer science and web development cover Java. Java can run on almost any type of hardware.

Java first appeared in 1995 and was developed by James Gosling, a Canadian computer scientist who worked at Sun Microsystems. He and two fellow computer scientists spent nearly five years developing Java before releasing it.

Released in September 2021, Java 17 is the most recent version. Oracle now oversees Java's maintenance and development, having purchased Sun Microsystems in January 2010. James Gosling resigned from Oracle soon after the purchase.

What Should I Know Before Starting Java?

Before starting Java, beginner developers should master several key competencies, including the following:

  • New Java users should be familiar with the basics of a command-line shell.
  • You may want to take an introduction to programming course, perhaps through a free online massive open online course (MOOC) provider like edX or Coursera.
  • If you know another object-oriented programming language like C++ or C#, you might find it easy to transition to Java. It can also help if you are familiar with other general-purpose programming languages like JavaScript or Python.

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What Is Java Used For?

Java is popular in large part because developers can use the language for so many different purposes, including the following:

  • Desktop Applications: Java is a good language to create graphical user interface (GUI) desktop applications. Examples include Hancom Office and Adobe Reader.
  • Web Applications: Java's features allow users to securely program functional software for the web. Notable websites that rely heavily on Java include Amazon and Wayfair.
  • Mobile Applications: Java's J2ME platform is a popular choice for developers creating mobile apps. Apps that run on Java include Netflix, Tinder, Uber, and Google Earth.

How Many Types of Java Are There?

There are three different types of Java. Each provides different uses and different functionality, and they all stack on top of each other. We break them down below:

  • Java Standard Edition: Java SE is the edition that most people think of when they think of Java. Developers often use Java SE to build console and desktop applications. It can also perform higher-level functions like database access, GUI development, security, and networking.
  • Java Enterprise Edition: Java EE is what developers often use to create large-scale, data-expensive mobile applications like Netflix and Tinder. Its platform runs on top of the Java SE platform.
  • Java Micro Edition: Java ME is what developers usually employ to create lighter-weight mobile applications. Like Java EE, its platform runs on top of the Java SE platform.

How Can I Learn Java?

There are many different ways to learn Java. Any introductory computer science, web development, or information technology program — including associate, bachelor's, and certificate programs in the field — should cover Java.

You can also learn Java through coding and software bootcamps. These intensive, accelerated educational experiences aim to teach students specific skills they can use to find in-demand jobs in tech without the intense commitment of time and money a degree program would require. Bootcamps usually last months instead of years and may cost less than a degree program would, though that depends on the bootcamp.

You may also be able to learn Java through professional certification programs. Oracle, which now oversees Java after buying Sun Microsystems in 2010, offers several training and certification programs that can help you master the language and demonstrate official competencies.

What Jobs Can I Get if I Know Java?

If you know Java, along with a few other foundational programming and scripting languages, you can qualify for some of the most in-demand jobs in technology. For example, you may be able to find work as a software developer.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), these professionals earned a median annual salary of $110,140 in May of 2020. Furthermore, the BLS projects 22% job growth for these professionals from 2020-2030, a rate that far exceeds the projected growth rate for all occupations.

You may also be able to find work as a web developer. According to the BLS, web developers and digital designers earned a median annual salary of $77,200 in 2020. The BLS projects a healthy 13% job growth for these professionals between 2020-2030.

Keep in mind that job opportunities also depend on education, experience, and title.

Frequently Asked Questions About Java

How can I learn Java quickly?

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You can learn Java quickly through Oracle's official certification programs, by enrolling in a coding bootcamp, or by teaching yourself through MOOC providers like edX, Coursera, and Khan Academy. You may also be able to learn Java quickly through coding education platforms like Treehouse.

Why is Java important to learn?

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Java is important to learn because it is such a prevalent and versatile language. Developers use Java to create all kinds of mobile, web, and desktop applications. Java is a foundational language that is important for many roles in the tech industry.

Why is it called Java?

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Java is named for Java coffee, which is itself named for the West Java region of Indonesia where that coffee is grown. Before the language was called Java, Gosling called the project Oak for an oak tree outside his office. He also called it Green before settling on Java.

Is Java developer a good career?

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Yes. According to the BLS, both web developers and software developers earn high median annual wages with high projected growth rates between 2020 and 2030. Java developers are highly in demand and are usually well paid compared to median salaries across all U.S. jobs.

Keep in mind that to qualify for software and web development careers, you likely need to master multiple programming and scripting languages. However, with Java serving as a foundational building block, it should prove much easier to learn those additional languages.

Feature Image: Wutthichai Luemuang / EyeEm / Getty Images