Popular Computer Programming Languages

  • Python
  • C/C++
  • Java
  • Ruby
  • JavaScript

Obtaining a computer programming degree from online courses makes sense for many students with family obligations or full-time jobs. Employment prospects remain best for competent programmers who keep up with the most widely used languages, especially Web-oriented languages.

The focus of degree programs across the country varies considerably, but a few major languages stand out for their durable popularity.


Once an oddball idea with niche appeal to academics and programming language enthusiasts, the clean lines of Python, have marched it into a vast swathe of degree programs and into production environments at Google, NASA and many other organizations. Driven to maturity by an enthusiastic open-source community, Python has expanded from its roots as an interpreted scripting language into industrial-strength Web frameworks like Zope and Django.

Teachers like its philosophy of one right way to perform each task, and programmers like its focus on code readability and syntax efficiency. The language fully supports structured and object-oriented programming and offers significant support for functional and imperative programming.


No programming degree is complete without understanding the Godzilla twins of computer science, C and its object-oriented big brother, C++. As hoary as they may be, these closely related powerhouses of low-level programming and object-oriented complexity remain the standards against which other languages are judged. A burly body of C libraries mud-wrestles with the bare-metal strength of assembly language and the lofty yet scary ideals of C++ reach for the ultimate in abstractions.

The immensity of the decades of development work poured into the C/C++ family defies description, but old-school teachers and software developers continue to press these monster languages into yeoman duty for educational, industrial, scientific and commercial applications.


Despite a checkered development history, heavyweight computational requirements and enduring complaints about lumbering development platforms, Java remains one of the top languages for enterprise applications frameworks. Designed from its inception to emphasize object-oriented programming, Java most notably holds pride of place at industry giant IBM and at a disproportionate number of commercial banks as a secure, reliable language suitable for heavy-duty data processing.

While slowly fading in popularity before an onslaught of newer languages, Java still is popular among a large number of programmers who appreciate the thousands of freely available open-source libraries available for an immense array of applications.


The rising tide of Web-oriented applications over the past decade has pushed Ruby into widespread acceptance as an excellent language for complex websites. Invented by Yukihiro "Matz" Matsumoto to make programming fun and heavily influenced by the popular Perl, Lisp, and Smalltalk languages, Ruby grew rapidly into an open-source phenomenon that reached escape velocity with the eventual arrival of its Ruby on Rails development framework. Although designed to be a clean, efficient object-oriented scripting language, Ruby also strongly supports procedural and functional programming.

While primary course schedules at many online degree programs tend to focus on Java, Python, C/C++ and other languages favored by academics, subsequent courses at some educational institutions branch quickly into Web-oriented approaches like Ruby on Rails. Forward-looking students likely will wish to check carefully for such opportunities.


Notwithstanding the name, JavaScript has nothing to do with Java. Originally a lightweight scripting language for client-side applications, JavaScript has matured into a solid, object-oriented language for both server-side duties and responsive website applications. The exploding popularity of industrial-strength frameworks like Angular.js, React.js and Meteor.js over the past few years has quickly propelled JavaScript into the frontier of agile website development.

As with Ruby on Rails, forward-looking students likely will wish to verify the opportunity to add familiarity with modern JavaScript libraries to their skills portfolio.


The stodgy if vital computer programming curricula of the past have been blasted into the future by a shock-wave of fast-moving Web technologies. Adding a deep understanding of modern computational trends to a solid grounding in basic programming concepts will ensure the best in employment opportunities.

See also: Affordable Online Computer Programming Degree Programs (Bachelor's)

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