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Java vs Python: How to Choose Which Programming Language to Study

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In the 90’s two momentous programming languages were released to the world, Python in ‘91 and Java in ‘95. Since the emergence of these languages, countless teams have battle-oputer tested and utilized each of them in a myriad of applications. Each of them with their own strengths and weaknesses. Twenty-plus years later, they’re both still going strong. It’s reasonable that you might ask, “Which language is best?”

 

Answering this question is not as simple as it may seem. In this post, you will learn the economic, performance, and nuanced differences between two iconic languages. This might help you form your opinion and figure out which of the two languages you should choose.

 

Statically Typed vs. Dynamically Typed

The first major difference is that Java is statically typed, compiled language. Python is a dynamically typed, non-compiled (scripting) language. Though those lines can get blurry because Java compiles to bytecode and not machine code, and Python has JIT compilers like PyPy, the languages innately feel very different. Java has a lot of rules, because it’s meant for a team of people to work on a problem by breaking it into smaller digestible parts, where Python has always found its way into smaller groups that are diving deep into science and data. Onboarding and quick iteration have always been important for Python developers. Java generally subscribes to the plan twice, code once philosophy.

 

Setup

Onboarding with each language is significantly different. Java takes a substantial amount of time and energy to get started, compared to Python. With Java, you’ll need to download the virtual machine, compiler and more commonly called the JDK, and then you’ll have to assure your knowledge of Object Oriented programming.

 

If you’re not familiar with OOP, then you have to make a significant choice. Do you want to learn a programming paradigm, although a popular one, at the same time you learn the Java programming language? Even the most straightforward “Hello World” program requires a Java class structure, compilation, and running.

 

With Python, the process is soundly more forgiving. A Mac comes with Python already installed, and it’s easy to download for most operating systems. Once you have Python installed, from any command prompt, you can run your code without even writing a file! Just type `python` and you’re dropped into a “Read Evaluate Print Loop” (REPL) which gives you the ability to interact immediately.

 

Simply type something like “5+5” and Python will evaluate it as code, and print the answer! 

 

One might erroneously believe that this is the structure of Python programming languages. Though the unstructured code works for beginners and experimenters, python supports an abundance of programming paradigms, including Object Oriented. Python can be written in Object Oriented, imperative, functional, and procedural paradigms.

 

Performance/Speed

Though it’s faster to get started with Python, it’s generally considered to be slower than Java, but that’s a hard fact to prove. Python, is a language, the thing that runs it is called a Run-Time, and there are lots of different run-time implementations. Each with their own speed benefits and tradeoffs. One implementation JYthon, is Python running on the Java Virtual Machine! Currently, it’s generally accepted that in most benchmarks, Java will commonly outperform Python.

 

Generally, statically typed languages are better at memory management and optimization because they contain specific data about the type of information being processed. That extra type information is provided by you, the developer while you write your program. In a few benchmarks, like the n-body benchmark, Java was up to 36 times faster than Python. When calculating digits of Pi, however, the two languages performed nominally the same.

 

Open Source Popularity

Both of these languages have great popularity in the open source world. They consistently rank 2nd and 3rd year after year. For a long time, Java was in the lead, but in 2017 Python replaced Java as the second most popular language on the open source giant, GitHub. Python landing 1 million projects, and Java with 986k according to Github’s annual report. Python also continues to include higher trending projects with the open source community, which means there’s little chance that Python’s popularity will be slowing.

 

Popularity in the Field

Java’s Security Technology lands some ideal use cases for leveraging the large set of APIs, tools, and implementations of commonly used security algorithms and protocols.Running on a stable and popularized virtual machine, Java encompasses a comprehensive security framework for writing applications, while allowing administrators clear tools for managing Java applications. Sun and then Oracle, work hard on consistency and security, to provide long-living, stable applications and compatibility.

 

Python, however, isn’t as concerned with backward-compatibility and focuses on fast moving projects, where the security and history aren’t in focus. You’ll find IoT devices, websites, and even wrapping complex historical C libraries, as a go-to advantage for Python. Emerging platforms and tinkering projects adore Python’s versatility, despite the broken promises of past versions and vulnerabilities.

 

Profitability

Economically speaking though, Java has had a lot of time in the professional sector. Workplaces want teams, and that’s what Java provides. The Latest TIOBE index shows Java at 3x Python. Though Java is dropping and Python seems to be increasing, there’s definitely a significant gap. 

 

And, though demand is higher, the salaries seem to be quite equivalent across the board, Java at 96k and Python at 99k in the US salary averages for 2017. Python developers generally make slightly more than your average developer, but Sr. Java developers are able to spike their salary as they manage teams.

 

Conclusion

Whichever language works best with you, it’s important to balance all the aspects. Neither of these languages will be going away in the next decade, and as these titans persist, it’s worth giving each of them their respect. In closing, it’s important to remember:

  • Java has been seated as a significant programming language for a long time and has a full head of steam, with large and productive teams in prominent companies.
  • Python has recently superseded Java in velocity for salary and popularity.
  • Both languages provide significant opportunities in the world of software engineering and provide positive scouting reports.

You may find yourself in an environment because of syntax, onboarding, jobs, popularity, and pay. But, it’s more important to evaluate how that balance works for you. Both of these languages are tangible for you experiment with, today.

Also, keep in mind that at any Computer Science degree program, you will learn both.

 

Computer Science at UoPeople: 

Learn more about our Computer Science degree programs  

To start preparing for your Java or python programming courses visit our “Prepare for University” section.

 

Sources:

The State of the Octoverse 2017. (2017). Retrieved from https://octoverse.github.com/https://octoverse.github.com/

 

TIOBE Index: TIOBE Index for December 2017. (2017, December). Retrieved from https://www.tiobe.com/tiobe-index/

 

Salaries: Developer Survey Results 2017. (2017). Retrieved from https://insights.stackoverflow.com/survey/2017