Top 10 Most Popular Programming Languages to Learn in 2021

The demand for computer scientists has never been more fierce.  The world is expanding digitally and with every aspect of our lives becoming digital, the demand for computer experts is skyrocketing each day.

Whether you are a beginner or a developer with many years of experience in programming, learning a new language or a new framework is essential and it would greatly benefit your career. However, it can be daunting and confusing for you to choose the best one out of a pool of hundreds of computer programming languages out there.

Right now, in 2021 the number of computer programming languages has hit the three-digit mark.  With such a variety of programming languages out there, how do you make the decision which to learn, expand into or even start with? 

In this article, we would like to go over the most popular programming languages for many of the most common use cases including web development, mobile development, game development.

1. The Most Popular Programming Languages for 2021

Let’s first understand what a programming language is. A programming language is a way to write instructions to process input data and produce some output data or an effect on a computer.

But there isn’t a universal programming language just as there is no universal spoken language. And it’s not the programming language itself that is the deciding factor but how it works plays a more important role.

In February 2020, StackOverflow made a developer survey on nearly 65,000 developers about what they learn and level up, which tools they’re using, and what they want.

Unsurprisingly, for the eighth year in a row, JavaScript has maintained its stronghold as the most commonly used programming language. Going further down the list, we also see moderate gains for TypeScript, edging out C in terms of popularity. Additionally, Ruby, once in the top 10 of this list as recently as 2017, has declined, being surpassed by newer, trendier technologies such as Go and Kotlin.

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The Most In-Demand Programming Languages for 2021

The above list of trending programming languages is by no means a complete list. There are hundreds of programming languages around the globe, each with its own pros and cons.  They can be used for virtually any purpose. Whether you are a web developer, software engineer, mobile app developer, or even video game coder, the versatile coding languages we chose as the best programming languages of 2021 will help you achieve your software development goals – no matter how large or small they might be.

2. Top 10 Most Popular Programming Languages

2.1. JavaScript (69.7%)

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Javascript

What this language is used for:

According to Stack Overflow’s 2020 Developer Survey, JavaScript currently stands as the most common programming language in the world (69.7%).

JavaScript is used to manage the behavior of web pages. With it, coders can create dynamic web elements such as animated graphics, interactive maps, clickable buttons, and more. Programmers who use HTML, CSS, and JavaScript in tandem obtain a higher level of website control and can provide a better user experience in terms of navigation and readability.

JavaScript is the most common coding language in use today around the world. This is for a good reason: most web browsers utilize it and it’s one of the easiest languages to learn. JavaScript requires almost no prior coding knowledge — once you start learning, you can practice and play with it immediately.

Moreover, because the language is so ubiquitous, there are countless communities, courses, and avenues of professional support available online. This support, in addition to the language’s top-notch usability, makes JavaScript number one on our list of the best programming languages.

2.2. HTML (62.4%)

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HTML

What this language is used for:

  • Web documents
  • Website development
  • Website maintenance

As of 2020, HTML shares its #2 spot on Stack Overflow’s list of the most common programming languages in the world with CSS.

HTML stands for HyperText Markup Language. Don’t let the complicated-sounding name fool you, though; HTML is one of the most accessible stepping stones into the world of programming.

Technically, HTML is a markup language, which means that it is responsible for formatting the appearance of information on a website. Essentially, HTML is used to describe web pages with ordinary text. It doesn’t have the same functionality as other programming languages in this list and is limited to creating and structuring text on a site. Sections, headings, links, and paragraphs are all part of the HTML domain.

2.3 CSS (62.4%)

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CSS

What this language is used for:

CSS, or cascading style sheets, is usually applied in conjunction with HTML and governs the site’s appearance. While HTML organizes site text into chunks, CSS is responsible for determining the size, color, and position of all page elements. 

CSS is convenient, too; the cascading part of the name means that an applied style will cascade down from parent elements to all children elements across the site. This feature means that once users determine aesthetics for the main parent, they won’t have to manually repeat their code across a website. Moreover, the delegation of site organization to HTML and aesthetics to CSS means that users don’t have to completely rewrite a web page just to change color.

CSS is an approachable language that allows beginning programmers to dip their toes in the metaphorical coding pool. If you’re new to coding, there’s no reason not to learn CSS before tackling more complex languages!

2.4 SQL (56.9%)

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SQL

What this language is used for:

  • Database management
  • Sales reports
  • Business management

SQL, or Structured Query Language, is a language that allows programmers to query and manipulate databases. As a domain-specific language, it is designed mainly for managing data within an RDBMS (relational database management system). Put simply, SQL can locate and retrieve data from a database, as well as update, add or remove records.

While SQL is highly functional, it tends to work better with small databases and doesn’t always lend itself to managing expensive ones.

That said, SQL still ranks as the third-most-used language in the programming languages list, with over half (56.9%) of surveyed developers reporting that they use it.

2.5 Python (41.6%)

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Python

What this language is used for:

Python is a general-purpose programming language that empowers developers to use several different programming styles (i.e., functional, object-oriented, reflective, etc.) when creating programs. Several popular digital tools and platforms were developed with Python, including YouTube, Google Search, and iRobot machines.

As one of the more easy-to-learn and -use languages, Python is ideal for beginners and experienced coders alike. The language comes with an extensive library that supports common commands and tasks. Its interactive qualities allow programmers to test code as they go, reducing the amount of time wasted on creating and testing long sections of code. 

That said, even advanced users would benefit from adding Python to their mental catalog of programming languages; Python is easily one of the most popular programming languages of 2021.

2.6 Java (38.4%)

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Java

What this language is used for:

  • E-commerce
  • Finance
  • App development

Java is general use and object-oriented programming language. In object-oriented programming, developers create objects that encompass functions and data, which can then be used to provide structure for programs and applications.

Java has held the #5 spot on Stack Overflow’s list of the most common programming languages for two years.

Java’s popularity is for good reason; this language is relatively easy to learn and use, boasts incredible security, and can handle massive amounts of data. These features make Java an ideal language for the online finance sector, and it is often applied in industries such as banking, billing, and the stock market.

The versatility of the language, however, is what learners find really appealing. Touted as a “write-once, run-anywhere” language, Java can effectively run on any operating system, regardless of which OS was used to write the original code. It is thus ideal for writing apps not only for mobile phones and computers but also for remote processors, sensors, and a variety of other consumer products.

2.7 C# (32.3%)

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C#

What this language is used for:

  • Game development
  • Desktop/web/mobile apps
  • VR

Also stylized as C Sharp, this language belongs to the object-oriented programming languages list. C# was released in 2002 by Microsoft and stands today as a much-loved improvement on the C++ coding language.

There’s no denying that it is one of the most in-demand coding languages for the upcoming year; however, there are other reasons to have this skill on your radar.

As with other popular programming languages, an enormous community works with C# and offers support to new learners. Because of this, learning C# may be easier than attempting to learn some of the newer and less-documented languages. Plus, C# is an ideal programming language for mobile apps and games. There’s little doubt that this language will continue to be useful in the coming years.

2.8  PHP (25.8%)

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PHP

What this language is used for:

  • Web development
  • Building web servers

Like many others, if you’re also considering that PHP is not worth it to learn in 2021 then you must know that the language is still doing very well in the tech world and is being preferred by the developers.

The open-source server-side scripting language is used for website development and comes up with some prominent features like cross-platform compatibility, object-oriented programming features, easy integration with HTML, CSS, JavaScript, etc, huge community support, and many more. The language is strongly recommended to beginners as it is quite easy to learn. Some of the popular PHP frameworks that you can take into consideration are Laravel, Symfony, CodeIgniter, etc. So, if you’re particularly looking forward to getting into the web development domain, PHP would be a great choice for you!

2.9 C++ (20.5%)

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C++

What this language is used for:

  • Game development
  • Desktop/web/mobile apps

Both C and C++ are occupying a considerable portion of the tech world and currently ranking at the top positions on various indexes. There are numerous big tech companies that hire C/C++ developers with some decent salary packages such as Adobe, Oracle, Microsoft, Nvidia, etc. And to learn C/C++ in 2021 is not only beneficial from the career perspective but it also somehow makes it easier for you to learn other programming languages afterward. 

If we particularly talk about the C++ language, C++ works well for programming the systems that run applications, as opposed to the applications themselves. C++ also works well for multi-device and multi-platform systems. On the other hand, C++ is an object-oriented programming language (primarily developed as an extension of C). The language is widely used in Game Development, GUI & Desktop applications, and Competitive Programming along with several other fields.

10. Go (9.4%)

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Go

What this language is used for:

  • System/network programming
  • Audio/video editing
  • Big Data

Developed at Google in 2007, Go is a top-tier programming language. What makes Go really shine is its efficiency; it is capable of executing several processes concurrently. And as far as programming languages go, it has an extensive “vocabulary,” meaning it can display more information than other languages.

Though it uses a similar syntax to C, Go is a standout language that provides top-notch memory safety and management features. Additionally, the language’s structural typing capabilities allow for a great deal of functionality and dynamism.

3. Which Programming Language Should You Learn?

It doesn’t really matter what you learn. Whatever you learn, learn it DEEPLY. Your end goal is not to learn a language. You’re learning to be a software developer using a specific language. It’s to understand what’s really happening underneath, and how different technologies work, and work together.

You should come to your answer by breaking it down into three steps:

  • Why do you want to learn to code? Do you want to be part of a development team, do you want to build something fun or just want to have another skill?
  • What sort of developer do you want to be? The scope of roles and even industries you can be part of is vast!
  • What do you find interesting? This is where you can fine-tune what you want to specialise in. Are you fascinated by mobile technology? Do you enjoy the logical thinking behind how things work?

The answers to these questions will navigate your initial steps and, possibly, your entire programming career. If a project idea sparked your interest, pick a computer programing language that helps you best complete it. For example, learning Objective-C will allow you to work on iOS-related projects, while Java programming language will allow you to work on Android-related projects.

But if you’re interested in turning this new knowledge into a full-time career, use the first language to learn how to think like a programmer and learn basic programming logic. For example, developers regard Ruby, Python, and JavaScript as relatively easy to learn and as languages that provide a solid foundation in programming logic and syntax. If you have a good foundation, picking up more will be easier because certain principles translate from one to the other.

Or possibly, the one you pick may be decided for you because of the part of the technical stack that interests you. A front-end developer works on user-facing code, which involves learning JavaScript. A back-end developer works with the server, database, and application which may involve languages like Ruby or Python.

Beginner or not, quality programmers seek out opportunities to learn and keep up with computer science languages and technology trends. The choice to pick up a new one will be recurring throughout your career. Check out this helpful infographic to guide you through making this decision.

We would like to divide into 3 cases as follows:

3.1 You Know What You Want to Build

If you do know what direction you want to take your coding career after learning a computer programming language, you’ll most likely have an easier time figuring out which language to learn first.  Here are some suggestions in that case.

Front End Development: JavaScript (and HTML/CSS)

If you already know that you want to work on the “front end” of websites – meaning, anything the user sees when they come to a website – you should begin your coding journey with learning JavaScript.  You’ll probably start out by learning HTML and CSS, which form the backbone of just about every website, and then begin adding JavaScript to enhance functionality and interactivity to your sites.

JavaScript is fairly ubiquitous as a programming language and has an easier on-ramp than other, lower-level languages like C++.  It’s a great jumping-off point if you don’t know what you want to learn…but more on that later.

Back End Development: Python, C#, or JavaScript (and SQL)

Let’s say you’re more interested in learning about the guts of websites, managing the “back end” and trying your hand at database administration.  You’ve got a lot of options here, and the most straightforward path is Python, which is a beginner-friendly language that has mature frameworks for back-end development.

You also can’t go wrong with C#, which will expose you to Microsoft’s .NET ecosystem and a computer programming language that, once you get into the weeds with it, is a pleasure with which to work. 

And if you’re thinking of going “full-stack” – meaning, you want to do front end and back end development – you might consider learning JavaScript, which has younger but highly prized back end frameworks.

Whichever computer programming language you choose for back-end development, you’ll most likely also wind up adding SQL to your toolbox for database management, so put that on your radar.

2D Game Development: JavaScript or C#

There are a lot of 2D game engines, many of which may or may not suit your fancy as a game developer, and each with its own benefits, idiosyncrasies, and learning curve.  We’d like to recommend you first learn JavaScript or C#.

Learning JavaScript or C# will give you the foundational coding knowledge you’ll need to tackle another game engine while also providing you with things like programming best practices and clean code organization.

3D Game Development: C# or C++

There are a lot of options for learning to code for 3D game development, and we’d suggest you start with C# or C++. In fact, unless you’re super tech-savvy or already have a background in programming, we’d recommend for you start with C# and work your way down to C++.  You’ll have an easier learning curve and will learn fundamental programming concepts without having to deal with things like memory management and lower-level code.

You’ll probably wind up learning both in any case, but if you start with C#, you can tinker around with Unity 3D, and then make your way to C++ with Unreal Engine 4.

Data Science/Machine Learning: Python

Although there are options in other computer programming languages for learning data science/analysis and machine learning, Python is currently the gold standard for this realm of coding.  It’s a fairly straightforward language to learn and will expose you to good programming habits and widely-used frameworks, so you can’t go wrong here.

3.2 You Don’t Know What You Want to Build

There’s the distinct possibility that you’ve spent days, weeks, or even months searching through articles, videos, Reddit posts, and Stack Overflow questions reading about computer programming languages, and still have no idea where to invest your time because you don’t know what you want to build.

Pick something, and stick with it long enough to learn the basics, and see if there’s a possibility that you might like using that language to build with it.  And keep in mind two things as you do so:

  • Set a time limit for yourself. If, at the end of the period, you feel like you’re making progress and it’s interesting to you, keep going!  If not, it may be time to reconsider your choice of language and see if there’s something out there that might be a better fit for you.
  • Build something that’s not in your tutorials. This is a crucial step in your growth as a developer.

3.3 You’re Stuck in Tutorial Purgatory

If you’ve found yourself doing tutorial after tutorial, on the same or different websites, without ever actually feeling like you’re making progress, you may be really frustrated with the experience of learning to code.

The first step is to consider what programming tutorials are good for, and what they are not.  Most online tutorials – particularly ones that allow you to code right in the browser – are excellent for teaching you how to program.

They are not, on the other hand, good for teaching you how to be a programmer.

The best tutorials will expose you to fundamental coding concepts and require you to apply that knowledge to solve puzzles and projects.  They’re wonderful learning tools that can if used beyond their scope, become crutches that will stifle your learning.

The best way to make progress as a developer is to pick a project in your language of choice and set out to do it and do exactly what programmers do when building a new project.

However, if you wind up picking one computer programming language, learning the basics, making a project, and deciding it’s not for you, that experience will actually still help you in the long run. The information you’ll learn in the process will be useful, irrespective of whatever language you end up using for your projects.

Conclusion

Whether you are an established coder or just starting to look into the industry, learning a new computer science language is one of the best ways to advance your programming career.

Your first step depends on you, your schedule, and the resources you have at hand. When beginning your journey into coding, only you can answer the question of the top programming language to learn. Make your selection based on your interests and the type of software development you want to get into.

Today, many education options exist for aspiring programmers. There’s a multitude of free online programming courses, many of which can be found on YouTube.

If you want to work in a coding field and build a lucrative technology career, you can attend a coding university or academy and learn everything you’ll need for an entry-level job in the industry. However, it could last between a few months and a few years of full-time study and thousands of dollars in tuition funding.

If you’re looking for the cheapest educational course and don’t mind taking on the responsibility of self-teaching, you may want to consider learning necessary coding skills via tutorials, books, and online courses. Keep in mind that while this route offers tremendous flexibility and opportunity for low-cost learning, it may not be a fit for students who need external motivation.

We hope that this list of the most popular programming languages for 2021 will help you begin your journey!

Share your thoughts in the comment area to discuss more this topic or you might contact us if you need any advice to start your journey.

Good luck in your coding journey.