Is Java good for learning as a first language? Let's explore possibilities and talk about pitfalls

Published in the Java Developer group
What programming language should you use when you start learning how to code? This is a classic question that has been an eternal dilemma for future coders. Is Java good for learning as a first language? Let's explore possibilities and talk about pitfalls - 1 Even a superficial study of the topic is enough to discover that the two most popular programming languages for web development are currently Java and Python. Both of them are very powerful languages with an extensive arsenal of capabilities tailored to solving various problems. It should be remembered that Java and Python differ and have their own strengths and weaknesses. But there's probably no point in maintaining a false sense of intrigue, so here's a big fat spoiler: we believe that Java is the best option for learning your first programming language. And now we can talk in more detail about why this is so, since there are plenty of reasons.

1. Java is the most popular programming language in every respect

In terms of its popularity and ubiquity, Java will easily beats everyone else, even C, a language that is almost 50 years old. After all, Java is now used everywhere: on desktops, on mobile platforms, in smart cars, smart homes, and even in kettles and irons, which along with other household appliances had gotten a lot smarter by the end of 2019. Today, there are nearly 8 million Java programmers worldwide. Due to this extensive pool of skilled professionals, many organizations choose this language for new projects. Despite the fact that there are other popular programming languages, Java remains the recognized leader and has no plans to yield its position yet. According to the TIOBE Index, Java is the most popular programming language in the world, with a reach of 16%, ahead of C and Python.

2. Knowledge of Java gives you plenty of job opportunities

This is the same reason why Java surpasses all the others in terms of the number of employment options. And this is crucial for beginners, because it allows you to find work once you've mastered the basic features of the language, and then to get steady pay once you progress further in Java. Is Java good for learning as a first language? Let's explore possibilities and talk about pitfalls - 2At the same time, Java's widespread use also gives developers many opportunities for career growth and upward mobility along the management track. By the way, it is interesting to note that, despite the abundance of such opportunities, most professional Java coders are unwilling to trade coding for any other profession. According to research by Indeed, a popular job search engine, Java developers are the least likely to change careers — at a rate of only 8%. This suggests that Java is an excellent foundation for a long and financially stable career. But that's not all. Java's popularity and, most importantly, the number of job openings for Java experts, are only growing. According to statistics from Collabera, a leading IT recruiting agency, from the beginning of 2017 to the end of 2018, the number of Java-related job openings rocketed upward by 80% — from 35,000 to 62,000. That's excellent performance for a language that is almost 25 years old.

3. Learning Java is easy (well, relatively speaking)

It is easy in comparison with some programming languages (for example, C++), and, of course, more difficult than others. But even a basic knowledge of Java makes it possible to create simple but functional components, while any mistakes in the code are easy to recognize and fix. This is one of Java's big advantages over C or C++. In those languages finding and recognizing bugs in code is often difficult, confusing, and, honestly, sometimes even depressing. Also, Java uses a simple and clear syntax with a minimum of special characters, which makes code for readable and simplifies learning. In general, once you've passed the first stages of learning the language and overcome the initial difficulties, writing programs in Java becomes quite simple. And sometimes it's also pleasant.

4. A well-developed community and huge body of publicly available educational materials

Java's massive and ever-growing global community is undoubtedly one of its strengths as a programming language and platform. The community plays a huge role in the life of any language by supporting newcomers, helping solve problems, and simply distributing the latest information. Hundreds of active forums and social network groups are dedicated to Java, not to mention organizations that develop their products in Java using open source code and share their groundwork with third-parties. Is Java good for learning as a first language? Let's explore possibilities and talk about pitfalls - 3One of the advantages of the Java community is that it helps and supports not only beginners, but also experienced professionals. Even Java experts often turn to the community for help and assistance. At the same time, active involvement in the community by participating in discussions and getting and giving assistance is promoted and popularized among Java coders. This means that any newcomer to Java can be confident that he or she won't be left without support and a friendly kick in the pants when necessary. Considering that learning any programming language from scratch is still a challenge, it's worth a lot to know that you don't have to go it alone.

5. Huge collection of open source libraries

To a large extent, the availability of open source libraries is what makes Java so popular among developers around the world. Apache, Google, and a host of other companies and non-profit organizations have released publicly available libraries that make Java development easier, faster, and more efficient. That is why experienced Java coders often advise newbies to simply google the functionality they need before writing their own code. It is highly likely that the required functionality already exists as part of an open source library that has been tested and is available for everyone to use. In other words, all the work has already been done for you. Is this a dream?

Experts: Java is growing and spreading. 90% of Fortune 500 companies use it, and the future isn't going to bring less work for Java coders.

Professional developers and industry experts agree that most often it makes sense to start learning with Java, and the language itself remains trendy and popular. "Java is one of the best programming languages created ever, and I am not saying this because I am a passionate Java developer, but Java has proved it in the last 20 years. Two decades is a big time for any Programming language, and Java has gained strength every passing day. Though there are times when Java development slows down, Java has responded well," says Javin Paul, an experienced Java developer and owner of several Java-related blogs. "However, it would be unwise to think of Java as a “has been” language. Java developers keep adding new functionality and making Java smaller, faster, and more flexible when it comes to large-scale development. The powerful Java Virtual Machine (JVM) makes it easy to create cross-platform compatible Java applications, and Java continues to excel at building large traditional applications that represent the kind of coding that most businesses engage in today—it’s used by 90% of the Fortune 500! No matter how you cut it, the huge installed base of Java application code—and Java programming jobs—isn’t going away any time soon," says John Mueller, an IT expert and author of many books on programming. Is Java good for learning as a first language? Let's explore possibilities and talk about pitfalls - 4

What challenges might you face when learning Java?

So, at this point, beginners should already understand that Java is objectively the best option for a first programming language, and the doubters and those of little faith should be ashamed and repent. In all seriousness, along with listing all the advantages of choosing Java to start your coding career, we should also talk about the challenges that await beginners along the way. Just to be sure that after reading this article you don't get the wrong impression — that learning Java is a piece of cake. This is not so. Despite all the advantages that have been mentioned, such as the huge number of open source libraries and a friendly community, you should understand that learning anything from scratch is not an easy task (unless you are planning on becoming an Instagram model). Since Java is a middle-aged language and, let's say, very mature, the amount of information that must be studied to master it is also large. Is Java good for learning as a first language? Let's explore possibilities and talk about pitfalls - 5One of the basic questions that anyone considering to learn Java asks is "how long will it take?" Of course, it is difficult to give a definite answer here because of the influence of a huge number of factors. So, we'll just give a couple of quotes. "Well, if you must learn Java within 10 months, you don’t have much choice. Learning the language is not the big hurdle, though. Learning how to program is. They are NOT the same thing. And make no mistake: programming is hard. It’s all about developing your analytical and logical skills to problem-solving. The actual programming language that you use to express your programming solutions is largely incidental," said Kenneth Richard, an experienced developer and former team leader in ATI Technologies. "If I had an experienced engineer who'd spent years writing C++ and C#, the answer would be a couple of days, or, frankly, apply without learning it and deal with it if you get the job. Because it's not Java, the language, which is the problem. It's the fundamentals, the actual skill of programming. When someone says "3-5 years of Java experience" what they're really saying is, "I need someone whose programming fundamentals are completely solid in the rough domain I'm dealing with and who's had to deal with the quirks of the JVM enough to not be brought to a halt by them," said Fred Ross, a developer at Facebook.

In summary

Does it make sense to start with Java when learning how to program, or is it better to choose a different language? Yes. Java is definitely the best place to start, despite the fact that it has its pros and cons like any other programming language. But does it make sense to start learning Java now as we enter 2020 and making long-term plans? Again, the answer is affirmative: Java's popularity is only growing, and with it the demand for Java programmers is increasing. Finally, one last question that invariably worries anyone looking to start learning Java. How much time will it take? There is no one answer here, but according to a CodeGym study, the average time required to learn Java is between 3 months and several years. As for finding employment after your training, the average job search takes from one to three months. Considering the fact that the demand for Java coders is only growing, it is better to hurry and get started with your training.

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