What Language Should I Learn?

Intro to RPython, C#, PHP, C, C++, Java, Perl, D3, R, Ruby, Swift, Go, and more…

The list of programming languages reads like alphabet soup, and every year a new language seems to enter the market.

There is increasing pressure for workers both seasoned and new to the marketplace to learn programming languages, and it’s true that learning a new language can make you more marketable to future employers.

But when thinking about what new programming language to learn, choosing from so many different programming languages can be overwhelming. Cue the analysis paralysis!

I often hear “I don’t know where to start!” when it comes to learning programming languages. As with any new skill, learning a programming language is an investment of your (very limited) time, and you need to be strategic in your choice so you still have time for your job, family and life! The good news is that in the realm of data science we can winnow down the language list to one recommendation: R.

R is “increasingly the lingua franca for cleaning, analyzing and telling a story with data, and there’s plenty of studies and surveys that back this up.” This plays out in compensation as well. O’Reilly Media conducts an annual survey of “the various factors that impact the salaries of data analysts and engineers, with a focus on highly-paid data workers.“ In their most recent 2016 Data Science Salary Survey, R is one of the top three tools used by those highly paid data workers. So if you’re looking for a programming language that can help you boost your earning power, consider R.

Look back to the list at the top; that is a sampling of all programming languages (not just those used for data science). It’s interesting to consider where R sits among all programming languages. We don’t need to look further than the TIOBE Programming Community index, which is updated monthly and is an indicator of the popularity of all programming languages. Their ratings “are based on the number of skilled engineers world-wide, courses and third party vendors. Popular search engines such as Google, Bing, Yahoo!, Wikipedia, Amazon, YouTube and Baidu are used to calculate the ratings.” The TIOBE index has indicated a strong rise for R year over year. R is now making appearances on other “top languages” lists such as Business2Community’s Top 20 Most Popular Programming Languages in 2017.

We’ve recently talked about how R is a critical tool in your quant toolkit and how companies such as John Deere and Google are using R for data analysis, statistical modeling, and more. But as we found out last year, a lot of market researchers had never even heard of R!

So, if you want to learn a new programming language, our advice is to learn R first. You can learn R with our expert instructor here.

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