What Languages Will I Learn In A Computer Science Program?

The keystone of any Computer Science course will be the programming languages students learn. A typical Computer Science program will teach at least one language used in software development such as Java or C++. However most colleges will provide a number of concentrations that will teach a number of languages designed for more specific uses such as PHP or COBOL. Because object oriented languages are the most prevalent today, Java or a closely related language is the most popular choice, as the fundamentals of object oriented programming are very different from non-object oriented procedural languages.

Java

Java is popular because Java applications will run on virtually any operating system, and Java is the language of choice for writing apps on Android phones and tablets. There are plenty of opportunities for anyone who knows Java, but because it is so common this also means competition is high and salaries tend to be lower than what more specialized programmers can command.

C/C++

C/C++ is less common but in great demand, especially in applications that require very high performance. While these are technically two separate languages, C++ is an ‘enhanced’ C and most C programs are valid C++ programs. The games industry especially makes great use of C++ and as C++ compilers are easily found as free, open-source software such as GCC).

Nearly any Computer Science program that is worthwhile will begin with a base of one of these two languages as learning Java or C++ will teach a student all of the essential fundamentals of programming. Later in the program other languages will be available and while a good grasp of general programming technique is good, a serious Computer Science student will want to focus on a specific skill set. Assembly language, for example, is not widely used for typical applications development but is extremely important to learn for software that must run with limited resources or interacts directly with the hardware such as device drivers or firmware for telephones.

PHP

A second type of language more programs teach is the wide variety of web-specific programming languages. PHP is the undisputed leader in this field, running on the majority of all web servers, and is usually matched with a SQL database software (such as MySQL). SQL itself will be taught in any web development course. While SQL is not a full programming language, PHP and SQL work together to power the back end of most websites.

Ruby

PHP is not the only choice, however, as Ruby has become more popular. Unlike PHP it is object oriented much like Java, and has several advantages such as speed and faster development. Alternatively there are ‘client side’ scripting languages that power most interactivity on the Web. The standard here is Javascript, which is not the same as Java. By learning the combination of creating an HTML5 web page with Javascript elements talking to a PHP script and MySQL database, a Computer Science student will learn what powers most of the modern Web-based internet.

Some colleges will offer programming languages that have a more niche use. COBOL is the most significant here, as it is used widely in business and banking transactions. As a result, COBOL programming may not be as glamorous, but it tends to be very well paid. Similarly, Fortran is mostly found in scientific and engineering applications, and Perl is used as an alternative or alongside PHP on the Internet. Even if not specifically taught by your chosen program, it’s often worthwhile to learn these on your own after you have a solid understanding of programming principles through a more typical language.