How to Pick Your First Programming Language Based on the life you want

There are a lot of opportunities and possibilities out there in the programming world! We found some useful programming language trends that make it easier to decide where to start based on application, salary, geography and popularity.

Application

If career flexibility is important to you, learning Python or C++ allows you to work in most major types of programming, from creating games to building embedded systems. If you choose JavaScript or PHP, however, be prepared for a career in web development. Likewise, studying Matlab or R primarily qualifies you for a career in data analysis.

Salary

If money drives you, study Ruby, Matlab or Python. They have the three highest average salaries of the top ten languages and are the only languages that pay over $100,000 per year on average. If you study PHP or C#, expect a lower (though still lucrative) salary – both average a little below $90,000 per year.

Geography

The five states shown here have the highest number of job openings in the country for programmers according to Indeed.com. Java and JavaScript are the top languages hired for in most states, making them good choices if you prefer that your career doesn’t dictate your location.

California, of course, has job openings aplenty for programmers of all stripes, though that abundance comes with a high cost of living. Python and Ruby jobs are especially concentrated in California, where companies like Google use Python and Airbnb uses Ruby, but the state is comparatively low in C# jobs.

Popularity

Python, used at both Google and Facebook, is the fastest growing language of the bunch based on the percentage of Google searches in the US for Python tutorials versus other language tutorials. Java, PHP and C++ held a lot of interest a decade ago, but searches for related tutorials been on the decline (though there are still a ton of Java job openings across the country, including at Apple).

Conclusion

There are so many ways to combine the data to find what works for you. Python is a popular, growing, well-paid language that allows you to work in applications from web development to data analysis and embedded systems. There are JavaScript jobs available across the country, making JavaScript a great choice if you want freedom of location. If you live in California and want to find a career with the highest average salary to compensate for the high cost of living, you might consider Ruby.

Source: Data is based on IEEE Spectrum’s Top 10 Programming Languages 2014 Rankings.