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Python or JavaScript: Which Should You Learn as a Beginner?

Ready to learn your first programming language? Python and JavaScript are two popular programming languages that are both beginner-friendly. In this article, we’ll discuss the benefits and drawbacks of each of these languages to help you make a smart choice.

Newcomers to programming often wonder what programming language they should learn first. The answer largely depends on the kind of IT career you want. For example, you might be looking for a career as an application developer, front-end developer, full-stack developer, or data scientist; each of these require knowledge of different programming languages.

Both Python and JavaScript have their specialization areas that we’ll discuss in detail later. Put briefly, JavaScript is one of the standard languages of the web, with 98% of websites using it. Python is a general-purpose programming language that can be used for just about anything and has a dominant role in data science and machine learning.

If you decide to start with Python, check out our Python Basics mini track. It includes three interactive courses with 229 coding challenges that cover conditional statements, loops, basic data structures, and more.

But while you are still choosing between Python and JavaScript, let’s have a brief look at how these languages emerged and where they are used nowadays.

Two Popular Programming Languages from the 1990s

Both JavaScript and Python emerged in the 1990s. They are about the same age, with Python first released in 1991 and JavaScript in 1995. However, the stories behind these programming languages are quite different.

JavaScript was released by Netscape as a scripting language for their web browser Netscape Navigator, which quickly became the most used browser of its time. JavaScript gained even more popularity as a web scripting language when Mozilla, a successor of Netscape, released the Firefox web browser in 2004 and Google released Chrome with the JavaScript engine in 2008. JavaScript became the standard scripting language of the web. Furthermore, the creation of Node.js (a runtime environment that executes JavaScript outside of web browsers) in 2009 sparked a significant increase in other uses of JavaScript.

Python was created by Guido van Rossum, a Dutch programmer, in 1991. Unlike JavaScript, which was developed by a large team and supported by corporations like Google, Python was launched by a single person. Of course, the Python language we use now received contributions from thousands of programmers from all over the world, but it all started from the concept introduced by Guido van Rossum over 30 years ago. At first, Python was mostly used as a scripting language, but its ongoing surge in popularity owes much to Python’s key role in data science and machine learning.

Let’s now dive deeper into the application areas for Python and JavaScript.

How and Where Python and JavaScript Are Used

Although both are extremely popular among beginners, JavaScript and Python tend to have very different use cases.

JavaScript is mostly used in web development:

  • Each modern web browser supports JavaScript and almost all web pages use JavaScript on the client side for webpage behavior. Essentially, JavaScript is what makes a web page interactive.
  • However, there are also server-side implementations of JavaScript, with Node.js being the most popular example.
  • Finally, JavaScript is also widely used as a scripting language in Internet of Things (IoT) applications.

Before you make your choice, it’s important to understand that even though JavaScript is considered a general-purpose programming language, it is tied to front-end and web programming. In practice, it’s usually not feasible to do non-web-related things in JavaScript.

In contract, Python is a general-purpose programming language that is used across a variety of applications and industries – you can even conquer Mars with Python! It often ranks as one of the most popular programming languages largely because of its wide range of applications:

  • When released, Python was primarily used as a scripting language to automate different processes and tasks. Today, we can use Python to automate renaming multiple files, splitting and merging PDFs, sending reminder emails, and much more.
  • Python is also actively used for software testing and prototyping. It is one of the best tools for bug tracking and testing software when releasing new products and features.
  • However, the key areas that have been driving Python’s popularity in the last decade are data science and artificial intelligence. With a rich ecosystem of libraries for scientific computing, Python is a dominant programming language used by data scientists and machine learning engineers. Python supports data analysis, data visualizations, machine learning models, and complex AI models for natural language processing and computer vision.

If you are not sure yet which career path to take in programming, Python can be a better choice; it allows a wider range of opportunities. But there are more factors to consider.

Should You Choose Python or JavaScript?

When choosing your first programming language, you need to consider more than just application areas. The following aspects might impact your choice:

Beginner-Friendly

Both Python and JavaScript can be suitable for beginners, but from different perspectives:

  • JavaScript is easy to use because all you need is a browser. You don’t need a separate compiler or development environment on your computer to start practicing JavaScript. It’s easy to play with code, do something useful, and have something to show to your friends and family. However, when it comes to the code itself, JavaScript is often considered messy. It doesn’t enforce good coding practices, and you may often have programs that work but are challenging to follow because of poorly written code.
  • Python, on the other hand, has a good reputation as a programming language. Guido van Rossum did a great job of creating a very clear and easy-to-use language. Python enforces good coding practices (e.g. consistent indentation) and usually results in well-written and easy-to-follow programs. However, you’ll need to install a Python interpreter on your computer to start practicing this programming language. Of course, you can always begin with interactive online courses that allow coding from the comfort of your web browser.

Learning Resources

Today, we are lucky to have lots of online learning resources that allow you to learn new programming languages quickly and effectively. But with a wide range of resources comes another challenge – selecting the best one.

If you want to start with Python, I recommend the Python Basics mini-track. It is perfect for people who are complete beginners. The track includes three interactive courses covering the basics of Python syntax:

Check out a review of this track here.

When it comes to JavaScript, I suggest looking for interactive courses with lots of coding right from the start. You can look for such courses on Coursera, Udemy, and other learning platforms.

Salary Prospects

The expected salary level should also be a factor when choosing your first programming language. The Stack Overflow Developer Survey 2021 revealed that Python developers are usually paid slightly better than JavaScript developers. Specifically, experienced JavaScript developers make an average of $56,616 per year, while experienced Python developers are paid $61,465 per year.

In the US job market, the salaries are generally higher than in the global market. According to Glassdoor, Python developers in the US get on average $109,472 a year, while JavaScript developers earn slightly more – about $110,718 a year. These include both base salary and additional payments.

Along with Python and JavaScript, Java is also often considered one of the best choices for a beginner’s first programming language. It is widely used for application and game development; if you are interested in these career paths, check out our guides that compare Python vs. Java in terms of simplicity, speed, and popularity and in terms of application areas, available toolkits, and salary prospects.

Hopefully, this article will help you choose your first programming language. Thanks for reading, and happy learning!