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Should I Learn Python or Java in 2021?

It’s an age-old question among student programmers the world over: Should I learn Python or Java as the first programming language? The answer, without making you wait for a virtual drum roll right at the end of this article, is that you should learn whatever language captures your interest and feels right to you. BUT if you’re looking for a concise comparison between Python and Java - read on! We’ve got all the differences covered.

Tom or Jerry? Brady Bunch or Partridge Family? Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel? Freddy or Jason?

Sometimes in life, you’ve got to make tough decisions. And one of those decisions may just be whether to learn Python or Java in 2021. If you’re a coding beginner and want to know which language makes most sense to pick up first, then read on - we’ve pulled together a comprehensive comparison of the two languages so you can make an informed decision before it’s too late to start slaying those New Year resolutions.

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So buckle up and get ready for some coding truths. Below we’ll cover:

  • Whether Java or Python is easier
  • Which language is faster
  • If Java or Python is more popular
  • Whether Java or Python has better job opportunities
  • Which of the two languages is better for data science
  • And some coding examples to help you understand the practical differences between Python and Java.

Let’s get into it!

The Difference Between Java and Python

Java and Python

Source: Somethingofthatilk Comics

In case you hadn’t realized yet, Python and Java are two very distinct programming languages. The cartoon above hints at their key differences: Python is known for being incredibly simple and concise, while Java is known for its many lines of more complex code. The outcome can be the same, but in the world of development it’s how you get there that matters!

Python is the older language of the two and was originally developed in 1991 by Dutch programmer Guido van Rossum. It’s an object-oriented programming language with vast libraries which help with implementing Python-based programs and algorithms. It’s the fastest growing programming language in the world.

Python is a dynamically typed language. This means that Python’s interpreter type checks code while the code is running, rather than before.

Python is also an interpreted language, meaning that it executes each command line by line. Interpreted programming languages are generally more flexible, and allow users features such as dynamic typing and smaller program size.

This is where the biggest difference between Python and Java lies. While Python is a dynamically typed, interpreted language, Java is a compiled + interpreted, statically-typed language. This means that its source code is initially compiled into a binary byte code before then being run through an interpreter.

Java was developed in 1995 by James Gosling and has found enormous popularity - holding its place as the top 1 or 2 programming language ever since.

But what does this all mean?

If Java is so popular - shouldn’t that be your obvious choice?

To find the answer, let’s whip through a few key comparisons. Maybe then you’ll have a better idea of whether Python or Java will be the first programming language you learn.

Which is Easier: Java or Python?

First things first: ease of learning, and Python wins this round hands down (although Java is still a beginner-friendly language to learn.)

Python was even designed to be easy to understand and easy to use. Because its syntax reads just like English, the whole Python learning experience is completely intuitive and logical. It doesn’t even take long to learn - especially with one of these LearnPython courses under your belt.

Python is particularly popular for data science because it is so easy to organize and analyze. Even those from outside the programming world find it easy to get involved with Python in their day to day work. If you’re interested in Python because you want to get into data science, a great place to start is this Python course for data science.

Java code, on the other hand,  is far more verbose than Python. It can take ten lines of Java code to express what Python can say with just two. When you’re setting out to learn the first programming language of your career, less is definitely more.

Which is Faster: Java or Python?

There’s a simple answer to this one too: Java is faster than Python because it’s a compiled language. That means that because it’s not having to interpret code, the compiling won’t require processing time and memory.

Java achieves this speed through its ‘Just-In-Time’ (JIT) compiler, which compiles bytecode into native machine code just before running it.

On the other hand, Python - as an interpreted language - needs a little extra time to put two and two together. That doesn’t mean Python is slow - far from it. The situation is a little more nuanced than one language being faster, and therefore ‘better’ than the other. Speed can also depend on the environment being used. Python is faster when it comes to running in massively parallel mode on GPUs, for example. Python also boots up more quickly. But yes, in general, Java runs faster - and if that matters to you then Java may just be the first programming language you decide to learn.

Before you settle on Java, however, remember that speed shouldn’t be the most important factor when choosing whether to learn Python or Java in 2021. More important are perhaps ease of learning, job market prospects, and general usefulness as a language.

Which is More Popular: Java or Python?

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This isn’t a popularity contest.

Ok, it is. This is a popularity contest.

When it comes to Python and Java, one language wins developers hearts and minds - and it’s Python.

Of course there are many ways to judge which language is more popular. Number of users. Those who state a preference for one language over the other. Those who want to switch to a given language.

In short, “popular” is relative. But there’s no denying the rise of Python, as witnessed in the 2020 Stack Overflow Developer’s survey.

In 2020, more people said they wanted to learn Python than any other programming language. I don’t know about you, but when I come out on top in a global survey, I like to think of myself as popular too.*

*The author has not recently come out on top in any global surveys.

In the image below, you can see that a whopping 30% of developers want to pick up Python as their next language. That’s compared to just 8.8% of developers who are interested in learning Java.

Survey

Later on in the survey, the most loved programming language is revealed, and Python comes in at a respectable bronze medal level - as seen in the image below. In this case, Java ranks way down the line as only the 17th most loved language. It also ranks as the 9th most dreaded language - ouch!

Survey

And finally - Python is used - often. It’s the 4th most commonly used programming language, according to the Stack Overflow survey, just ahead of Java.

Survey

Which has More Jobs: Java or Python?

There are plenty of jobs available for both Python and Java developers - so whichever you choose, you needn’t be worried about job prospects!

Both Python and Java are key languages for backend web development - which in turn is the most popular field of development among professionals.

Many backend web developers use Python frameworks to help build their backend technology - the two most popular being Django and Flask. Spring is Java’s most common backend technology.

Machine learning is a booming business and a field where Python in particular really shines. More and more people from different disciplines are using Python to experiment with machine learning in order to harness the power of Artificial Intelligence. The number of jobs in this particular field shows no signs of slowing - so if it’s job security or ease of access to the job market you’re after, then Python is an excellent bet.

Python is useful in a whole range of other industries and for many different job descriptions, including developers, analysts, engineers, and teachers. Read: What is Python Used For to understand more about its uses, and to get an idea about the kinds of questions you’d likely be asked in a Python job interview, have a read of 15 Python Interview questions for Data Science Jobs.

Which is Best for Data Science: Java or Python?

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Data Science is an industry that’s blown everybody’s mind in 2020 and it’s set to reach even greater heights in 2021. If you’re here because you’re looking to jump on the same gravy train, let’s take a look at which language is best for data science.

Although Java can be used for data science, and big data in particular, Python is by far the more popular language among data scientists - and for good reason.

Python is powerful and easy to implement, meaning students and researchers find it relatively simple to get the hang of and start using without a huge learning curve.

Python also comes with many different libraries that are specifically designed for machine learning and AI, including Tensorflow, Pytorch, matplotlib, and scikit. These libraries make math, data manipulation and data visualisation a breeze.

The developer community within Python is vibrant and many researchers will share their own libraries on platforms such as Github. This means data scientists who choose to use Python will benefit from a whole wealth of resources and community support.

While data science is still possible with Java, it’s really a language built for programming more than data work. The best thing about Python is that it helps data scientists carry out complex calculations without needing to become ‘fluent’ in a highly complex programming language.

Coding Examples: Java and Python

If you’re still not sure whether to learn Python or Java in 2021, perhaps dipping your toe in the water could help you choose which to pick as your new knowledge New Year’s resolution.

The main difference between the two languages is the complexity of the syntax. While Python is a slick, English-based syntax that makes coding swift and easy, Java uses a more complex syntax that requires more lines of code.

For example, here’s how you would ask ‘Should I learn Python or Java in 2021’ in Python:

print("Should I learn Python or Java in 2021")

It’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s closely aligned with everyday English.

On the other hand, Java’s script is a little more complicated and quite a lot longer:

public class HelloWorld{

     public static void main(String []args){
        System.out.println("'Should I learn Python or Java in 2021");
     }
}

Other tasks within Python are also easier - for example the simple act of opening a file.

With Python, that looks like this:

with open(file_name, "r") as in_file:

While with Java, it’s a little less intuitive:

try (BufferedReader reader = new BufferedReader(new FileReader(filename))) {

If you want to see more Python code and have a go at writing some yourself, I highly recommend checking out the interactive Python course and reading more about how to plan a full learning program on LearnPython.com.

The First Programming Language: Java or Python?

Choosing the first programming language to learn can be difficult and deciding whether to learn Python or Java in 2021 may feel overwhelming! The good news is that you can’t go wrong with either language. Both are highly popular, useful languages that will set you up for a wide number of roles in a variety of industries.

With Java and Python it’s a close race, but ultimately our pick has to be Python for its ease of use, its rapidly rising popularity among developers and employers alike, and it’s amazing library and community of fellow programmers.

If you’re new to the world of programming and want an easy, interactive, and affordable way of becoming proficient in Python, check out the popular Python courses in our interactive learning center.

Whether you’re new to the world of programming, considering a language switch, or simply curious if Java or Python is the one to learn in 2021, hopefully this comparison has helped you to make a decision.

Happy coding!

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