Which programming language should you learn?

Like any other career, choosing to enter the world of machine learning or data science requires a very particular set of skills. In the case of data science, knowing how to code in a particular language could open up the doors to many opportunities. However, many programmers working in the field would argue that a different language is necessary to succeed in the industry, depending on their personal experience, background and projects they have worked on. In fact, this topic is so much debated that KD Nuggets hosts an annual poll to see what languages are used for data science work at that time.

While it seems there is no ‘golden answer’ to this on-going discussion, there are certain programing languages that are simpler to learn or more appropriate than others, enlisting you with the skills you need to embrace your chosen data-heavy career path.


Python is one of the leading languages that employers look for when recruiting for machine learning or data science positions. For this reason, it would be a good idea to focus on it when refining your skills, ready to enter the field of work As well as supporting functional and structured programming methods, it can also be used as a scripting language or can be complied to byte-code. Using python, it is possible to implement machine learning algorithms from scratch and the scikit-learn package contains the implementations of many machine learning algorithms, making it ideal for this sector.


While python is popular, Java is another programming language that will enlist you with the skills needed to work in a data science role. Java is a high-level programming language and for this reason, is traditionally used for machine learning. Amongst other features, it is robust, object-orientated and architecture neutral. While it is popular amongst programmers and employers, it is thought that only programmers who have extensive experience working with Java in previous projects use the language in data science applications. If you’re a newcomer, other languages might be more appropriate.


R is gradually taking over popularity from Java, so we’d certainly recommend considering it if wanting to enter machine learning or data science. Largely, this statistical programming language is favoured in academia rather than within organisations (unlike Python) however, R is much faster than Python and it has much better data visualisation capabilities, making it perfect for data science applications.

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