PHP vs. Java: Which Should You Learn?

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by Shauna Blackmon

Published August 25, 2022

Reviewed by Monali Mirel Chuatico

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Edited by Madison Hoehn
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It is hard to imagine that two programming languages coming out of the mid-1990s would still be so prevalent twenty years later. Despite how much the internet has changed, both PHP and Java have adapted and proven to be vital programming languages.

Both are some of the most popular programming languages out there. While there are multiple reasons for their popularity, a big one is merely the immense number of functions and abilities of both languages.

Java is one of the premier languages used to build websites, and PHP makes sites interactive. As so many web applications and software tools depend on both languages to operate, both PHP and Java developers are in high demand and have several choices and opportunities in the job market.

What Is PHP?

PHP is a server-side scripting language primarily used for web development, e-commerce applications, and DevOps tools. It is embedded directly into HTML and helps make websites more dynamic and interactive. Even though the language has been around for over 25 years, it is still used on 80% of all websites.

One of the main benefits of PHP is that it is relatively easy to use and offers a range of highly productive frameworks. It is also a platform-independent language, meaning you can use it with any browser and operating system.

PHP has become a staple for both back-end and full-stack developers because of its capacity and ease of use. Because PHP is open-source, there is a significant amount of resources and information online and a robust online community for anyone looking to learn the language.

What Is Java?

Java programming language is an object-oriented, general-purpose compiled language. It is used to write and design mobile and web applications and create software tools, enterprise-level applications, and Android applications. Java is a powerful language for computers and is also prevalent in game consoles, mobile phones, data centers, and scientific supercomputers.

One of its most significant claims to fame is that it powers WordPress, which alone powers over 450 million websites. Java is so popular that it was recognized as the second-most popular language in the world by The PYPL Popularity of Programming Language Index.

Because of this, numerous job titles and career paths may require knowledge of Java. It is often recognized as a good starting language to learn, with numerous learning opportunities and online support networks for students.

PHP vs. Java

The main similarity between PHP and Java is that they are both immensely popular languages. Other than that, they are quite different. Here are some of the primary differences.

Compiled vs. Interpreted

While compiled and interpreted languages function differently, many languages, including Java, can run as either. Which language is more effective depends on what you are coding.

With compiled languages, the machine must read the whole block of code before acting. This allows the machine to optimize the code since it has already figured out the global context. For example, if two pieces of data are frequently used together, the machine will put them physically closer in the memory. The disadvantage is that it makes the code run slower, and debugging can be a bit like finding a needle in a haystack.

Examples include Java, C, C++, Haskell, Erlang, Rust, and Go.

With interpreted languages, the machine will read the first line of code, complete that action, then continue to the next line. The machine can start executing immediately, so the programmer can almost see what the code is doing in real-time. Interpreted code is far easier to debug and does not require a whole block of text before you can see results, making it easier to work with.

Examples include PHP, JavaScript, Ruby, and Python.

Memory

While there are differences between the memory requirements of Java and PHP, the gap is narrowing as technology improves. Overall, memory usage is more likely to depend on your framework and level of code rather than what language you work in.

In terms of memory safety, both languages are also fairly similar. PHP does not allow developers to manage memory, making it relatively safe, and Java is considered one of the safest languages.

Speed

Overall, PHP tends to be a bit faster than Java, partly because the code is shorter, and many find it quicker to write. However, Java is still quite fast, especially as recent versions have significantly increased speed while decreasing memory consumption. It is a close competition with a lot of varying opinions out there.

PHP vs. Java Careers

How to Learn PHP or Java

Even though both PHP and Java are fairly simple languages to learn, if you are considering a career as a developer, enrolling in a coding bootcamp can be advantageous. While there are dozens of different programs, some of the highest-ranked include CareerFoundry, Coding Dojo, Actualize, and Fullstack Academy.

While many career paths that utilize either PHP or Java require a bachelor's degree, completing an in-depth specialization program might be enough in some cases. The main thing is to find a program where you will actually learn the material.

The good news is, according to the Council on Integrity in Results Reporting, bootcamp graduates frequently find employment in their field quite quickly.

Frequently Asked Questions About Java vs. PHP

Is Java or PHP easier to learn?

Overall, both languages are quite easy to learn. Everyone will have their preferences or feelings about which they find easier, but overall they are pretty similar. Some developers find Java's syntax easier since it resembles English, but the library is more complex.

Since both languages are incredibly popular and have been around for a long time, both offer an extensive community support network, forums, bootcamps, and MOOCs. Since PHP is an open-source language, slightly more information might be available but not significantly.

What is the difference between Java and JavaScript?

While the names might be confusingly similar, Java and JavaScript are two entirely different programming languages with separate functions.

Java is a compiled, stand-alone language used to construct web pages. It is an object-oriented language used primarily in back-end development and is especially popular with mobile app development.

JavaScript is an interpreted, object-based programming script used for both back-end and front-end programming. Unable to stand on its own, JavaScript is instead added to HTML to make pages more interactive. It is frequently used in building web applications, web development, mobile applications, and game development.

Does a Java programmer or PHP programmer get paid more?

According to Indeed.com, the average salary for a PHP developer is $88,890 per year and $105,440 for a Java developer as of August 2022. While there is a decent difference between the two salaries, the most significant discrepancies between salaries depend on experience level and the type or size of the company.

There will always be big players in tech willing to pay more for talent and some who try to cut workers short. Ultimately, salaries are likely to be fairly similar between the two professions. The best choice would be to decide what you would like to do or build, then determine which language would be the most useful.


Feature Image: Maskot / DigitalVision / Getty Images


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