Programming languages every technology pro should know

October 8, 2019

Java. JavaScript. SQL. Python. Swift.

With new programming languages popping up all the time in an ever-evolving IT field, which ones should technology professionals focus on? Capella faculty member Kathy Faggiani, PhD, has some answers.

Look for commonalities

Faggiani’s first piece of advice may come as a surprise. “What many people don’t understand is that if you know one programming language, you know them all,” she says. Faggiani doesn’t mean each language is identical, but there are several commonalities that make them understandable across the board.

“Once you see how one is constructed, you can see how the others are put together,” she explains. “Pay attention to how the code works, the syntax, and what the language is doing, and then you can learn the syntax of other languages.”

Primary focus

Identifying the commonalities can make it easier to think about approaching multiple languages. Faggiani notes that there are several languages that programmers should be familiar with. “Browser-based applications are really important right now,” she says. “Learn JavaScript and Java itself. They are very efficient and can be used for websites, desktop apps, and mobile apps.”

Don’t ignore olderlanguages

Just because new, shiny languages are arriving doesn’t mean programmers should ignore the older ones. “SQL is still one of the most prominent languages used for manipulating and querying databases,” Faggiani says. “Given its prevalence, programmers should learn it. C++ has been around for a long time, too, and it’s regaining popularity because there’s a growing need for more robust operating systems. C++ is a lower-level language that programmers can manipulate more thoroughly. HTML and CSS are still important to know as well.”

Even a relatively ancient code like Cobalt still plays a role today. “Cobalt was huge for decades,” Faggiani says. “It was big in the Y2K remediation period. But it’s still there, still working, and doesn’t need to change.”

The up-and-comers

As for more recent arrivals, Faggiani points to a sharp rise in data analytics programming that has resulted in the rise of R and Python. She also notes that Go (Golang) and Swift have risen in popularity in recent years for general purpose programming.

Final advice

As Faggiani notes above, learning one language can help programmers understand others. And that, she says, is key: “Don’t get attached to one language. You’ll limit your ability to contribute, and it will affect your overall employability.” Too often she’s seen people find a specific language they love and refuse to budge from it, while newer, more versatile languages continue to appear. The lesson? “Embrace the new.”

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