Python: Everything You Need to Know

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  • Python is one of the most popular programming languages in the world.
  • Python is a high-level, object-oriented language.
  • Python is relatively easy to learn because it is based on the English language.

Python is one of the easiest programming languages to learn, which is part of what makes it one of the most popular. The TIOBE index, a popular ranking of popular programming languages, listed Python as the most popular language worldwide as of March 2022. Many large organizations such as Google, NASA, Netflix, Spotify, and Udemy use Python for their products and services.

In this guide, you'll learn everything you need to know about Python, from what it is to where you can learn it. We'll also explore the pros and cons to using Python and answer frequently asked questions about this top programming language.

What Is Python?

Python began as a hobby project for Guido Van Rossum, who was looking for something to keep him busy over the Christmas holiday. He created the scripting language and named it after British comedy troupe Monty Python as a joke.

But what is Python exactly? Python is a high-level, object-oriented programming language that is first compiled and then interpreted. It features dynamic typing, dynamic binding, and high-level data structures, all of which make it a good choice for rapid application development.

Python has an easy-to-learn syntax that enhances readability, making it easier to maintain the code. This results in lower program maintenance costs. Python encourages modular programming and enables sections of code to be re-used easily.

How Does Python Work?

There are two different types of computer languages: compiled and interpreted. Python is an interpreted language. When you run Python, you are running the interpreter, which consists of an internal compiler and the Python virtual machine (PVM). Python is first compiled, which is hidden from the programmer, and then it is interpreted.

For example, to run a Python file named hello.py, you might type $python hello.py. This command runs the Python interpreter, which sends the hello.py file to the internal compiler to be translated into a type of binary code.

This is not the machine language that can be understood and executed by your computer's processor, but rather an intermediate language that is understood by the PVM. It is the PVM that executes the code.

What Is Python Used For?

Python has won the TIOBE programming language of the year award two years in a row (2020-2021). This award recognizes the programming language that has had the highest increase in ratings in one year. This is impressive, but you may still be wondering, what is Python used for?

Due to its ease of use, simple syntax, and versatility, Python is used in a large number of applications, from artificial intelligence and machine learning to game development. Other common uses include search engine optimization, finance, web development, data analytics, and visualization.

Python is also one of the top cybersecurity programming languages. It is used to analyze malware, scan ports and networks, access servers, and send and receive packets. One reason Python is so popular is due to its ability to automate tasks and analyze data.

Is Python Easy to Learn?

Python is a high-level programming language that is easy to learn. In fact, it is probably one of the easiest programming languages to learn. It is versatile, which makes it a great choice for beginning programmers looking for one language that can be used in many different situations. However, even though a beginner can grasp the basics in 5-10 weeks with intense training, it takes a long time to truly master the language.

Similar Programming Languages to Python

  • JavaScript: JavaScript is a lot like Python's object-based subset but without the added features of Python that enable it to support larger programs. Both programming languages use simple variables and functions without needed class definitions.
  • Perl: Python and Perl both originated for scripting in Unix but have expanded to other uses. Some of Perl's strongest features are application-oriented tasks such as generating reports, scanning files, and having built-in expressions. Perl is a niche language that is better than Python for what it is designed for but doesn't have the flexibility of Python.
  • Ruby: Python and Ruby are both high-level scripting languages that are often used for web applications. They are both easy to read and work on many platforms. They both use dynamically-typed objects. Ruby is better-suited for object-oriented programming than Python, but Python has a larger assortment of libraries.

Python Frameworks

  • Django: Django is a high-level Python web framework that takes a lot of the hassle out of the web development process. This free, open source framework is great for rapid development and allows programmers to focus on what sets their app apart rather than coding the basics all over again.
  • Flask: Flask is a Python web microframework that uses the Jinja template engine and the Werkzeug Web Server Gateway Interface (WSGI) toolkit. Flask has a simple core that allows a lot of flexibility for the programmer.
  • Web2py: Web2py is a full-stack framework that enables the rapid development of portable, secure, scalable, and fast database-driven web applications. The framework includes everything you need, including a web-based interface, SQL, and a multi-threaded web server.
  • CherryPy: CherryPy is a minimalist web framework for Python that enables developers to build object-oriented web applications. CherryPy speeds up development while shrinking the source code to a more manageable size.

Pros and Cons of Python

No review would be complete without weighing the pros and cons of programming with Python. Read the chart below for a thorough breakdown of why Python may or may not be the best programming language for you.

Python Pros and Cons
Pros Cons
Python is versatile. It can be used for many different types of programming. Since Python is an interpreted language, it runs more slowly than some other languages.
Python is easy to learn and easy to use. The code is very readable. Python has problems with threading due to the Global Interpreter Lock, which only allows one thread to run at a time.
Python's readability makes it easy to maintain the code, which reduces the cost of updates. Some programmers find Python to be weaker than other languages when programming for mobile devices.
Python has a large community. The Python community contributes to both the language itself and to providing support in the forums. Python uses a large amount of memory.
Python has a large collection of libraries. Some programmers view Python's simplicity as a weakness, while others consider it an advantage.

How to Learn Python Fast

If you want to learn Python quickly, there are several options. For example, you can learn Python from YouTube videos or self-guided online courses, but many students learn better and faster when working with an instructor. For this reason, a Python bootcamp is a great way to learn Python quickly.

Python Bootcamps

One of the easiest ways to learn Python is at a coding bootcamp. You will have an instructor to answer your questions and keep you on track. Although there aren't a lot of bootcamps dedicated exclusively to Python, some web development and software development bootcamps include Python in the curriculum.

Coding bootcamps provide a way for students to go from beginner to job-ready in a matter of just a few months. Most bootcamps take 3-4 months to complete and cost less than a four-year college education. In 2020, the average cost of a coding bootcamp was about $13,580.

Here are five Python bootcamps you might want to consider:

  • Bottega: Bottega offers an online Python + React bootcamp that can be taken full time or part time. The full-time course takes 12 weeks, and the part-time course takes 40 weeks. The Python + React bootcamp costs $12,000, and graduates can get up to 15 college credits at participating universities.
  • Byte Academy: Byte Academy offers a Python bootcamp that teaches full-stack development using Python, JavaScript, SQL, and React. Students learn object-oriented programming and learn to organize their code to make it readable. The curriculum includes three projects that help students build their portfolios.
  • Code Fellows: Code Fellows offers an advanced continuing education course called introduction to data analysis and visualization with Python. This course takes one week full time or two weeks part time. The tuition is $2,000. Students are expected to have knowledge of math and algebra, Git and GitHub, and a basic understanding of Python before enrolling.
  • Coding Dojo: Coding Dojo offers an online software development bootcamp that can be taken full time or part time. Coding Dojo spends a full month each on Python, MERN, and Java.
  • The Tech Academy: The Tech Academy's software developer bootcamp takes 22 weeks to complete full time or 40 weeks part time. This bootcamp covers Python, C#, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and SQL. The part-time and full-time bootcamps are exactly the same, except that part-time students have access to the learning management system and instructor assistance for a longer time period.

Online Courses

Most online courses are significantly cheaper than attending a Python bootcamp, and many are free. For this reason, if you are an independent learner who doesn't need an instructor to guide you through the curriculum, you can save a lot of money by learning on your own through online courses.

You can find a lot of online Python courses by searching the course offerings at sites like Udemy, Coursera, edX, and FutureLearn. You can also find free lectures and tutorials on YouTube.

Here are five online courses you might find useful in your quest to learn Python:

  • Codefinity: Codefinity offers over 30 courses, including a course on Python. You can sign up to Codefinity for free, but to get full access to all courses, you will need a pro membership. You can purchase a three-month membership for $75, a six-month membership for $120, or a one-year membership for $144.
  • Learn Python: Learn Python is a free Python tutorial that is broken up into 27 lessons. Just click on the lesson you want and follow the instructions. When you think you're ready, you can go to LearnX and take a test to get your Python certification. There is a fee for the certification.
  • Coursera: Coursera offers several Python courses. One example is the Python for Everybody specialization offered by the University of Michigan. You can get started for free with a 7-day trial, but it is $49 per month to keep going after the trial ends. You get a certificate upon successful completion of the program.
  • Udemy: Udemy offers several online Python courses. The regular prices for Udemy's courses typically range from $19.99-$129.99. However, the site frequently offers discounted rates on its courses.
  • EdX: EdX offers over 30 Python courses, including introductory courses. Several of the courses are free, but some require a fee. For example, the professional certificate in introductory Python programming from Georgia Tech costs $596.

Python Jobs

Python programmers are in demand for many jobs, both inside and outside of the tech industry. Python developers create web applications in Python, and cybersecurity analysts review data, looking for ways to improve security.

Some common job titles for Python programmers are Python developer, software engineer, data analyst, data scientist, and data engineer. Here is some information about each of those occupations.

  • Python Developer: Python developers often design and code the back end of web development projects. Besides web development, Python developers work in academic research, scientific computing, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. According to Payscale, the average base salary for a Python developer was $79,400 as of March 2022.
  • Software Engineer: Software engineers work with designers and other developers to create software, applications, and websites. They plan out the tasks that the program must perform and plan how the parts will combine into a larger program. Payscale lists the average base salary for these professionals as $90,950 as of March 2022.
  • Data Analyst: Data analysts manage, organize, clean, and sort data to gain insights into business performance and consumer choices. They often create charts and graphs to present their findings. According to Payscale, data analysts made an average of $68,650 per year as of March 2022.
  • Data Scientist: Data scientists figure out what questions need to be answered and determine how to find and manipulate the data they need to answer those questions. They analyze data and communicate their findings to organizational decision-makers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the median salary for data scientists was $98,230 in May 2020.
  • Data Engineer: Data engineers work in a variety of settings to build systems that collect, manage, and convert raw data into usable information for data scientists and business analysts to interpret. Their ultimate goal is to make data accessible so that organizations can use it to evaluate and optimize their performance. They often work with databases, so experience with SQL is required. Payscale reports the average base salary for data engineers as $93,810 as of March 2022.

Frequently Asked Questions About Python

Is Python free to use?

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Yes! Python is an open source programming language with a large number of open source libraries and packages.

Anyone can download Python free of charge at python.org. The website includes an active forum for community members, where users can ask questions and get feedback from their peers on coding issues. The forum includes sections for general coding help, data science, homework, game development, and more.

Which is easier, Python or Java?

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This may be a matter of opinion, but according to BMC Software, Inc., Python is easier to use and to read. Python has increased in popularity in recent years, in part because of its ease of use. It surpassed Java in popularity in 2017.

Another reason Python is so popular is because it has so many libraries that programmers can use without reinventing the wheel every time they write a new program. Java has a lot of libraries too, but it is an older language. Students who are interested in learning either language can find bootcamps in Java or Python to make learning easier.

Is learning Python enough to get a job?

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If you are very lucky, you may be able to find an employer looking for a Python programmer and nothing more, but in most cases, you will need other skills as well. Python programmers often need to know HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and SQL. They may also need soft skills such as teamwork and analytical thinking skills.

To get an idea of what type of skills you will need, go to a job site and start reading the listings for the type of job you are interested in.

Can I learn Python by myself?

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Yes, if you are an independent learner who doesn't need a lot of help to learn new things, you can absolutely learn Python on your own. Start with some of the free classes at edX, Codefinity, or Learn Python and see how far you can get without paying for classes. If you feel like you need something more, look for tutorials on YouTube.

Of course, there are many paid courses available if you can't find everything you need for free. The Python for Everybody specialization through Coursera is a popular program that provides a certificate upon completion, which could give you an extra credential to put on your resume.

Feature Image: Ngampol Thongsai / EyeEm / Getty Images