6 Best Programming Languages for Software Development

Software developers should know multiple programming languages to compete for high-level roles. Browse the best programming languages for software development.

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by Stefanie Grodman

Updated September 29, 2022

Reviewed by Darnell Kenebrew

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Programming languages allow developers to communicate with computers. Software development professionals need to know at least one programming language to build and modify products like software systems, scripts, and mobile applications. However, professionals should know multiple languages to compete in their field.

Many organizations aim to build tech infrastructures to compete within their markets, creating ample job opportunities for people with strong coding skills. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the number of jobs for software developers will grow by 22% between 2020 and 2030.

Developers should choose to learn languages appropriate for the types of products they build and the sectors they hope to work in. For example, Java can be an ideal language for mobile app development. Python and C# are frequently used to create computer software. And JavaScript, HTML, and CSS are excellent languages for front-end development.

What Are Programming Languages?

Computers operate in machine code or binary strings of 0s and 1s. Programming languages allow users to translate human-operated commands into a format that computers can understand and execute.

There are hundreds of programming languages, and each language allows users to write instructions in a different syntax. Low-level languages are more similar to machine code, while high-level languages use words like "run" and "object" that are more similar to traditional written language. Developers may write the source code in an IDE or text editor and then compile the code into a machine language.

What Is Software Development?

Software development is the process of designing and building software infrastructures, including operating systems, utilities, software, web pages, and applications. This may occur in commercial settings, often in tandem with product development objectives. Developers may also work on custom projects to meet the needs of specific clients.

Typically, the development process requires the collaboration of teams of programmers, software engineers, software developers, and quality assurance testers, although the roles and responsibilities of these professionals often overlap.

Why Are Programming Languages Important for Software Development?

Programming languages are essential in nearly every stage of the development process. Programmers are responsible for writing source codes as instructed by engineers or developers. Software engineers apply engineering principles and the scientific method to maintain and create software products that work well with hardware development. Software developers design software systems and envision modifications and features to be translated into code.

According to a 2018 CodingDojo study, the top 25 U.S. companies use multiple languages to construct their back-end frameworks. While specific jobs may only require developers to know one language, software developers, engineers, and programmers should ideally learn several programming languages to compete in their fields. Polyglot programmers open themselves up to a broader array of opportunities and can adapt more effectively within their roles.

Learning multiple languages can reflect well on developers' problem-solving skills, versatility, and ability to adapt to market demands. Software development is a rapidly-evolving sector, and expanding your skillset is a great way of ensuring your competencies stay up-to-date as the popularity of programming languages shifts.

Which Software Development Programming Language Is Best for Me?

Many programming languages have widespread practical applications. Explore the best programming languages for software development based on your skill level and objectives.

C and C#

C is a middle programming language frequently used in engineering and commercial sectors. It supports procedural programming and allows users to develop code systems and applications using 32 total keywords. This language can be used cross-platform, meaning C can be executed comparably on different hardware and operating systems.

C#, pronounced "C sharp," was created by Microsoft; it is often used to design products like mobile applications, video games, and enterprise systems. This language consists of 86 total keywords, supports object-oriented programming, and allows users to work with high levels of abstraction.

JavaScript

With about 12.4 million worldwide users, JavaScript is one of the world's most popular programming languages. Because of its versatility and front-end and back-end applications, Javascript is frequently used to develop web browsers, embedded hardware controls, games, and software systems.

Often, developers use this text-based language to add interactive elements to web pages, such as search boxes, zoom features, or drop-down menus. Developers may access JavaScript code libraries and draw from pre-written frameworks while creating web pages or applications. Some highly influential mobile applications, including Uber and PayPal, were built from JavaScript's front-end frameworks.

PHP

Hypertext Preprocessor, or PHP, is a server-side language primarily used for creating web servers. PHP is a platform-independent language that works effectively with HTML and syncs with nearly all relational and non-relational databases.

PHP can be an excellent choice for web application development. Many industry-leading sites, including Facebook, WordPress, Shopify, and Wikipedia, are built on PHP infrastructures. PHP is also open source, which allows users to access and build upon numerous frameworks and collaborate with other users.

Python

With 8.2 million worldwide users, Python has widespread applications in fields like web development, machine learning, mathematics, and data science. For example, developers can use this high-level language to work with large data sets, design web applications, and pair with other software to create workflows. This object-oriented programming language works on all major platforms, including Mac, Windows, and Linux.

Python programming language was designed to be accessible and straightforward; many elements of its syntax resemble English writing and mathematics, and this language typically requires fewer lines of code. Python code can usually be executed immediately, allowing developers to create software prototypes rapidly.

Ruby

Ruby is a high-level, general-purpose language often used in internet application development. This server-side scripting language has a relatively straightforward syntax, similar to C++. Many developers use this language to create Common Gateway Interface (CGI) scripts.

Ruby is an object-oriented language and can support procedural and functional programming. Because it can be easily embedded into HTML, many developers use Ruby for web design. Many prominent companies like Twitter, Hulu, and GitHub use this language to construct their websites. Web developers using Ruby can access many open-source frameworks to create original projects.

Scala

Scala, or Scalable Language, has components of both functional and object-oriented programming. This concise, statically typed language uses Java Virtual Machine (JVM) to execute bytecode.

Scala is commonly used in distributed computing, software engineering, data processing, and web development. Although it is not quite as pervasive as languages like JavaScript or Python, many prominent companies like Sony, Airbnb, Verizon, and Netflix use Scala because of its capacity to process large quantities of data.

Frequently Asked Questions About Software Development Programming Languages

Is C++ good for software development?

C++ is a powerful language with numerous practical applications. Software developers frequently use it to build operating systems, embedded systems, and games. Many developers enjoy C++'s speed: when a user compiles C++ code, it is converted into bits and bytes, which computers can run almost instantaneously.

Many industry giants like Intel and Google use C++ to power their software. Since it is such a pervasive fixture in the development world, there will likely be sustained demand for this language. Although C++ is complex, proficiency can help aspiring programming polyglots learn simpler programming languages.

Is C++ or Python better for software development?

Python and C++ are two of the best programming languages for software development, though each language has its ideal uses. Python is versatile in its practical applications; developers often use it to power artificial intelligence, machine learning, web, and development. C++ is ideal for hardware-level coding and operating systems, though it is not as suitable for web development.

One of the key technical differences between these languages is their complexity levels; Python is much simpler for beginners, as the syntax mimics familiar and 'readable' language, while C++ has more intricate program conventions and syntax rules.

Python is comparatively slow to execute, using an interpreter instead of static typing. C++ requires manual memory management, while Python's garbage collector allows automatic memory management.

How many programming languages should a software developer learn?

While there is no ideal number of programming languages to know, developers should try to learn at least three languages. Most industry-leading companies use a combination of programming languages to build their tech infrastructures. YouTube, for example, uses JavaScript programming language to construct its front-end structures and a combination of Python, C++, and Java to construct its back-end structures. As a result, most high-level software development roles require candidates to know several languages.

Fortunately, once you have mastered one programming language, it is often easier to pick up other languages. Programmers interested in competing for high-paying positions can learn in-demand languages through courses, bootcamps, or independent learning tools like those offered by FreeCodeCamp.org.

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