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Python vs. Java: Which Should You Learn as a Beginner?

Willing to start a programming career but not sure where to begin? In this article, we explore Python vs. Java in terms of key application areas, syntax differences, and expected pay level, among other things.

Aspiring programmers and software developers often wonder what programming language they should learn first. Python and Java are two of the most popular choices. But which one should you learn first?

There is no lack of online learning resources. If you go with Python, I specifically recommend the Python Basics learning track. With 229 coding challenges, it covers all the basics of the Python syntax. Similarly, there are many online courses for Java provided by Codecademy, Udacity, and Coursera.

Before starting your learning journey, you need to pick your first programming language. This should be a well-informed decision. In this article, I’ll discuss the benefits and the drawbacks of Python and Java, each specifically as the first programming language to learn.

A Brief Look Back

Both Python and Java were released in the 1990s and are approximately the same age.

Java was first released in 1995 by Sun Microsystems Inc., an American company focused on selling computers, computer components, software, and IT services. The Java programming language provided interactivity and multimedia particularly well suited for the Web. Thus, it became very popular in the early 2000s as a programming language for web applications.

Python was created by Guido van Rossum, a Dutch programmer, and first released in 1991. That it was developed by one person is unique to Python. Traditionally, new programming languages have been created and released by large companies rather than single programmers. While the Python we use today has been developed with the contributions of thousands of programmers from all over the world, it all started from the concept introduced by Guido van Rossum.

Python has been quite popular as a scripting language for a while. However, its popularity has skyrocketed in recent years. To a great extent, this is because Python is a key programming language in data science and machine learning. With applications in these areas becoming mainstream, Python’s popularity is growing further and further.

So, Python and Java have some important differences in terms of their key application areas. Let’s explore this further.

Python vs. Java: Applications

If you already have some ideas about the kind of programming career you are looking for, it is important to understand which programming languages prevail in which IT areas.

Java is one of the most popular and widely used programming languages:

  • First, it is very often used to build mobile applications. Most of the Android applications are built using Java. Spotify, Twitter, and Signal are just a few examples.
  • Java is also one of the top choices for building web-based applications. For example, popular websites such as LinkedIn and AliExpress are built using Java.
  • Game development companies love Java because it supports the open-source 3D engine that powers the designing of the leading 3D games. These games include Minecraft and Mission Impossible III.
  • In addition, Java is often used to build desktop GUI applications, distributed and cloud-based applications, IoT applications, and big data tools.

Python is a general-purpose programming language used across a variety of applications and industries:

  • It is often used as a scripting language to automate processes and tasks. Examples include checking for errors across multiple files, renaming files, removing duplicates, etc.
  • Python is one of the top choices when it comes to software testing and prototyping. It helps in bug tracking and software testing for new products and features.
  • Python is a key programming language used in data science, machine learning, and artificial intelligence. It has a rich ecosystem of libraries for data scientists and other professionals to create complex data visualizations, build machine learning algorithms, and manipulate and analyze structured and unstructured data.
  • Finally, as a general-purpose programming language, Python is used in a variety of other applications including web development and game development. You can even conquer Mars with Python!

As you can see, Java is mainly used in software development. If you select it as your first programming language, you are basically choosing a career as a software developer. Python, on the other hand, provides a wider array of opportunities for beginners in terms of career paths. After learning Python, you can become a software developer, a data scientist, or a machine learning engineer. You can even keep a non-IT role while using Python to automate routine tasks in marketing, HR, healthcare, and other areas.

According to the 2021 Stack Overflow Developer Survey, Python is the most wanted programming language for the fifth year in a row. But what makes it so popular?

I believe Python’s concise and simple syntax makes it very accessible to beginners. Python is written and reads a lot like everyday English. Moreover, to improve readability, it enforces good coding practices, including, for example, uniform indentation.

In contrast, Java is much more verbose with a lot of boilerplate code. Often, there are many different ways to do the same thing in Java. This may be good in some cases, but it also makes it harder to follow somebody else’s code.

Python vs. Java

To illustrate the difference, let’s try to do something in both Python and Java. Specifically, let’s see how we can print “Hello World” using each of these programming languages. This is a very simple task, frequently used to introduce a new programming language to a newbie.

If you want to print “Hello World” in Java, you need to write a program:

class HelloWorld {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
        System.out.println("Hello, World!");

It is short but not that simple for a beginner. The syntax looks complicated. There is definitely a lot to learn before you understand every piece of this code.

And here’s all you need to do, to print “Hello World” with Python:

print (“Hello World”)

Pretty straightforward, isn’t it?

The Python syntax looks much simpler for a newbie. But there is something else beyond Python’s simple and concise syntax. I am talking about Python’s rich ecosystem of libraries, built-in packages, and functions that eliminate the need to implement everything from scratch. For example, with a wide range of existing visualization libraries, you can create complex, professional-looking, and valuable graphs and charts with just a few lines of code. Sometimes, even one line of code does the job.

Java has fewer built-in functions. Often, you need to import external libraries or write your own code from scratch. This means Java programmers need more time to learn how to write large programs to be productive.

So, when it comes to syntax and toolkit, Python is the clear leader for me. But let’s look into some other considerations before you make your final choice.

What Else Do I Need to Consider?

You already know Python is more beginner-friendly and offers a wider range of career opportunities. What else do you need to take into account in choosing between Python and Java? Here are some additional factors to consider.


When it comes to salary, it looks like Python developers are usually paid better than Java developers. The 2021 Stack Overflow Developer Survey demonstrated that Java developers with a 10-years’ experience were paid $53,616 a year on average, while Python developers with approximately the same experience level were paid $61,465 a year on average.

If you are in the U.S. job market, you’ll be interested to know salaries are higher there on average than in the global market. According to Glassdoor, Python developers in the U.S. get on average $96,890 a year, while Java developers earn slightly less, about $93,118 a year.

Python vs. Java


As a newcomer to the programming world, you may wonder: is it free to use Python and Java? When it comes to Python, everything is quite simple. Python is developed under an OSI-approved open-source license, making it freely usable and distributable, even for commercial use.

Things are not that easy with Java, especially since Sun Microsystems, the company that created Java, was acquired by Oracle. As of today, the license permits certain uses for free, including personal and development uses. However, for business, commercial, or production use, you need to pay some regular fees to Oracle.

Learning Resources

There are plenty of tutorials and online courses available for both Python and Java. However, it may be difficult for a beginner to identify high-quality learning resources that help you learn a new programming language effectively and efficiently.

When it comes to Python, I recommend starting with the Python Basics mini-track. It is perfect for complete beginners who want to see if programming is for them. The track includes three interactive courses covering the basics of the Python syntax:

Following this track, you can learn the Python basics in less than a month.

If you choose to learn Java as your first programming language, I recommend searching for interactive courses where you practice coding right from the start. You may want to check Coursera, Udacity, and Codeacademy for high-quality online Java courses and tutorials.


Both Python and Java have strong communities with millions of members worldwide. When you start with a new programming language and unfamiliar syntax, it’s very common to find yourself in the situation: “why this code doesn’t work?” In these cases, it’s great to have the option of getting help from more experienced users. Stack Overflow and Reddit forums are especially useful in these cases.

From my personal experience, the Python community is very friendly towards beginners. That said, I am sure getting help from the Java community is not a problem if you get stuck. In any case, always start by searching through the Q&As already online, and ask your question only if nothing similar comes up. This is just good practice.

So, Python or Java?

Thanks for reading, and happy learning!