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

Which is better for you to start with: Python or PHP? Here is a brief comparison between these popular programming languages.

At some point during our exploration of the wonderful IT world, we have all wondered: what programming language do I learn first? Specifically, you may have wondered whether to choose Python or PHP. Which is better for beginners?

There are plenty of popular programming languages, old and new. The veteran PHP or the trendy Python? In this article, we discuss the benefits and drawbacks of each language.

A Byte of History

Python was developed in the late 1980s by Guido van Rossum, a Dutch programmer. Its first version was released in 1991, and the language has evolved with two significant changes in its lifetime.

While Python was popular as a scripting language in the 1990s and early 2000s, it is currently living a second life with the growing importance of data science and machine learning. According to Stack Overflow, Python is one of the most used programming languages by professional developers, far ahead of PHP.

If you want to start learning Python online, I strongly recommend you take a look at the mini-track Python Basics on It gives you a solid foundation for beginning your programming journey.

The development of PHP began in 1994 when Rasmus Lerdorf, a Danish programmer, wrote several programs in the C language to maintain his personal website. Later, he generalized his work and released the first public version of PHP in 1995.

PHP gained popularity as a language for creating dynamic web pages and became very famous in the 2000s. Although it is slowly fading in popularity, it remains an essential player in the field of web development.

Comparing Their Uses


Python is a general-purpose programming language. It is used for AI and machine learning, web development, data analytics, game development, and financial predictive models, among others. Almost all modern tech companies like Google and Netflix use Python.

Python is one of the most used languages among data scientists for cleaning data, visualizing it, and building machine learning models. The fraud detection use case is a great example: historical data is analyzed, processed, and segmented to discover associations and patterns you can use to prevent future fraudulent activities.

Python is also used as a scripting language. You can execute Python scripts on a server command line without the need to compile them ahead of time.

Python lets you create light and fast automation tasks. For example, you may periodically run a script to deactivate users of your website if they have not renewed their membership after several notifications. You may also use Python scripts to automate everyday tasks like backing up your work or posting on social media.

Python is also used often for test automation. Test cases are easy to create in Python, and there are great testing libraries such as Unittest, Pytest, or Django-test.


PHP is used mainly as a programming language for creating dynamic web pages and applications. Have you ever noticed the changes in the YouTube homepage after watching a couple of videos? Well, this is a dynamic web page: different content is displayed each time you refresh the page. PHP allows connections to databases and perfectly embeds HTML to show custom content.

Ever heard of WordPress? WordPress is a complete PHP content management system (CMS) that helps you build a website with little or no programming. According to HubSpot, WordPress is used by 43.2% of all websites on the internet, and its use has been growing constantly since 2011.

More generally, 77.4% of all websites with server-side programming use PHP according to W3Techs. That is… massive! Even Wikipedia and Facebook use PHP.

While PHP may be losing popularity, its use remains vast. Its importance in web development is undeniable.

Comparing Python vs. PHP as the First Programming Language


Python is a perfect fit as the first programming language.

First, it enforces good coding practices. Python emphasizes syntax readability by making you write clean code with consistent indentation and without redundancies like useless parentheses and brackets. Python is also strongly typed, which prevents you from mixing different data types and thus compilation errors.

To illustrate this, let's compare a class declaration with a constructor in both Python and PHP. A class is a basic element of OOP (object-oriented programming) for creating objects.

To declare a class in Python, you can write the following:

class Fruit:
  def __init__(self, name, color): = name
    self.color = color

fruit = Fruit("Apple", "Green")

In Python, the indentation (the spaces or tabs at the beginning of a line) is not only for readability; it is also used to define code blocks. It is mandatory and forces you to write well-indented code.

Let's see the equivalent in PHP:

class Fruit {
  public $name;
  public $color;

  function __construct($name, $color) {
    $this->name = $name;
    $this->color = $color;

$fruit = new Fruit("Apple", "Green");
echo $apple->color;

Curly brackets surround each part of the code. Good indentation is optional and is only for readability. In fact, this messy code also works in PHP:

<?php class Fruit {public $name;
public $color;
    function __construct($name, $color)
$this->name = $name;
    $this->color = $color;}}

$fruit = new Fruit("Apple", "Green");
echo $apple->color;?>

Second, Python has a vast and friendly developer community that constantly contributes new libraries and features. You find plenty of great Python packages and libraries on the official repository, PyPI.

Python also has outstanding frameworks like Django or Flask. They are easy to understand and well-documented.

If you are concerned about professional opportunities, don't worry! Python offers a large array of career path options that range from software developer to ethical hacker. According to ZipRecruiter, the national average for a Python developer is $111,601 per year in the United States. Not bad!

If you want to see a detailed salary analysis by career path, I recommend this article on Python jobs and salaries.


PHP does not enjoy the same reputation Python does. Although PHP is pretty easy to learn and understand, it is not an ideal first programming language because of its syntax and general design inconsistencies. It is also loosely typed and sometimes unpredictable, leading to bad habits.

That said, PHP has one of the most important developer communities. The resources on the internet (documentation, podcasts, forums, etc. ) are infinite. This is a major plus for a beginner. PHP has excellent frameworks like Laravel and Symfony, although Rasmus strongly disagrees.

PHP has another seriously cool benefit: it is sooo easy to run a PHP application! You can do so with the awesome XAMPP in your local environment. And if you want to run it online, you only have to upload your PHP files to a PHP host like BlueHost, without the need to install anything!

The career paths are somewhat limited; most of them are web development careers. According to ZipRecruiter, the national average for a PHP developer is $86,003 per year in the United States. This is a bit less compared to that of the Python developer.

That said, working with PHP teaches you the basics of how web development works. It may be a good choice if you want a web development career.

Which Should I Learn: Python or PHP?

The topic of Python vs. PHP is a perennial debate. Both languages have benefits and drawbacks. Both are very popular and have great developer communities. However, I recommend Python as the first programming language for its enforcement of good coding practices and wide range of career opportunities.

Have I convinced and strongly motivated you to learn Python? Check our Python Basics track!