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Everything You Need to Know About Python: A Beginners Guide to The Best Programming Language to Learn First

General Assembly
July 24, 2023
Everything You Need to Know About Python: A Beginners Guide to The Best Programming Language to Learn First

Do you know which programming language powers NASA, Instagram, YouTube, and Netflix? Meet Python. According to the TIOBE Index, Python passed Java and C in 2022 to become the most popular programming language worldwide. Developers everywhere love Python for its versatility, simple syntax, and extensive frameworks.

It’s also the fastest-growing, according to the Popularity of Programming Languages (PYPL) Index. PYPL found that Python dominated 28% of searches for programming tutorials on Google in 2023, a rise of 23% in the past five years.

In this post, we’ll walk you through the advantages of Python and why it’s a great first programming language for beginners to learn. We’ll also share real-world examples of Python applications and the best ways to learn Python. 

Python’s history dates back to 1991, when Guido Van Rossum published the first version. Though it has a long history, its growth to number-one popularity happened slowly over time, with acceleration over the past five years. The current version of Python is Python 3.

Here are five reasons why Python is so popular today.

1. It’s Simple

Python uses a very clean and user-friendly syntax. That means that its coding structure more closely resembles human language. It’s easier to read and maintain and uses fewer lines of code than other languages.

2. It’s Open-Source

Python operates under an OSI-approved open-source license. That means that any programmer or business can use or distribute it, paving the way for widespread adoption.

3. It’s Flexible

As a general-purpose language, Python can be applied to many different contexts, from web development to data analysis to AI. This stands in contrast to programming languages like JavaScript, which is specific for web development, or R, which is specific to data analysis. CapitalOne cited flexibility as its top reason for switching from Java to Python in 2020. By using a more flexible and versatile language, development teams can save time and rely on better support and community resources.

4. Community, Libraries, and Frameworks

Part of Python’s popularity is due to its large community as an open-source language. This community support means that developers can find support from inside and outside their organizations and can reference Python libraries and frameworks to cut out time and troubleshoot issues. The most popular Python frameworks and libraries include:

Django

Django is a web development framework based on Python. It gives developers tools and libraries to help them build and scale applications quickly. Django makes it easy for Python programmers to develop dynamic web pages, create secure databases, and interact with user input. Spotify and Instagram are classic examples of Django in action: Instagram relies on Python for its back-end and has the largest deployment of the Django web framework.

Pandas

Pandas is a Python library for data analysis, providing users with “recipes” in Python. It’s a valuable tool for new Python coders as it simplifies data manipulation, cleaning, exploration, and analysis tasks. It provides intuitive syntax and powerful functionalities, enabling beginners to work with structured data efficiently.

Matplotlib

Matplotlib is a plotting library that enables developers to create high-quality data visualizations in Python. It provides a wide range of plots, charts, and customization options. Matplotlib is helpful for new Python coders in understanding and communicating data effectively.

Flask

Flask is a popular Python web framework, equipping users with tools, libraries, and technologies to build a website. Its simplicity and extensive documentation make it an excellent choice for beginners to get started with web development in Python. It helps new Python coders build web applications quickly and efficiently.

5. Growth of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

One simple reason for the growth of Python in recent years is its applications in machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI). The growth explosion of these fields will cement Python as the most popular programming language for the foreseeable future, with Python as a must-have skill for software engineers.

As we’ve covered, Python is a very versatile programming language used across industries.

Here are the top ways programmers are deploying Python today. 

Web Development

Both Dropbox and YouTube use Python for the back-ends of their websites. Similar to Instagram, Dropbox chose Python to manage its file system and operations because of its simplicity, scalability, and support. YouTube uses Python to manage the site’s infrastructure, handle video transcoding, and process large amounts of data.

Data Analysis and Visualization

Have you seen or shared Spotify Wrapped? You’ve seen Python put into action for data analysis. Spotify uses Python to power its data intelligence operations and about 80% of its back-end. Developers can use Python to clean, segment, summarize, and analyze data in a number of industries.

Python also has powerful applications in data visualization. Libraries like Matplotlib, NumPy, and Pandas let developers build charts and graphs with minimal coding.

Machine Learning and AI

Companies use Python for machine learning and AI because of its powerful libraries such as scikit-learn, TensorFlow, Keras, and PyTorch. These libraries make it easy to build powerful ML/AI models with minimal code and without needing to understand the underlying algorithms. One popular use case of Python and machine learning is Netflix. Netflix trains its machine learning models using Python to analyze movie content, make content recommendations, and even create customized artwork.

Why You Should Learn Python First

As a simple and readable language, Python is a great first coding language for beginners. That’s why we teach it in our Software Engineering, Data Science, and Data Analytics bootcamps and have a dedicated Python Programming course. Because of its many applications, you don’t need to know exactly what you’re going to build or which career specialty you want to pursue to get started.

Is Python Worth Learning?

If you’re still unsure about learning Python, consider these statistics. LinkedIn named Python the #4 most in-demand hard skill in 2023 based on an analysis of job postings. To land a job as a developer or software engineer, especially if you want to get into lucrative specialties, you need to know Python. The top reason Python is one of the best programming languages to learn is because of its employability.

Hired’s 2023 State of Software Engineering named Python the top skill for data engineers, machine learning engineers, and security engineers and the second highest skill requested in software engineering jobs. High-demand jobs in data analytics and data science also require Python knowledge.

Is Python Easy to Learn?

Among programming languages, Python is one of the easiest. Traits like problem-solving skills, attention to detail, logic, and persistence transfer well to learning to code. Learning a programming language still takes time and dedication, though, which brings us to how to get started learning Python.

How Long Does It Take to Learn Python? 

The amount of time it takes to learn Python depends on your programming experience, learning style, and time investment. In an immersive environment, you can become fluent in two to three months. If you only spend a few hours a month completing tutorials, it will take you longer and will be more difficult to retain your knowledge.

Developers who already know other programming languages can pick up Python more quickly because they are already familiar with the theory behind development and computer science.

How to Learn Python

Start Googling “Python tutorials” or “learn Python” and you’ll find a deluge of resources to sift through. How do you know where to start?

First, determine what your goals are in learning Python and how much time you can invest. If you want to learn how to build a website or app as a passion project, you may be able to get by with self-taught tutorials. If you want to switch into a programming job, you’ll likely need a learning track with more structure and accountability.

Interested in Python? Here’s what to do to get started:

Best Communities and Resources for Python Learners

Python has one of the best development communities with a true spirit of learning and collaboration. Find communities to immerse yourself in; take advantage of the many resources available, and start building things. Here are a few recommendations.

Stack Overflow

Stack Overflow is a popular question-and-answer platform for programming. The Python tag on Stack Overflow is an excellent resource for finding solutions to specific programming problems.

YouTube

When you’re learning a programming language, it really helps to see it, and that’s where video tutorials can come in handy. Take Corey Schafer or TechWorld with Nana, whose popular coding channels have racked up millions of views. Can you really learn Python in five hours? Definitely not, but you can get a sense of the fundamentals or look for a specific topic like how to create plots in Matplotlib.

Python Reddit

The r/Python subreddit is a vibrant community where Python enthusiasts share resources, ask questions, and discuss various Python-related topics.

Python Discord

Python Discord is a community of Python developers where you can engage in discussions, seek help, and participate in coding challenges.

General Assembly

If you want to get up to proficiency quickly, especially with the goal of landing a job, look for a certification course that will give you the structure and support to succeed. While free online courses sound attractive, as many as 80% of students don’t finish. That’s because they’re missing the accountability and support of a peer cohort and two-way instructor engagement.

General Assembly courses offer flexible, immersive, and part-time options for all types of learners to learn hands-on coding as well as other fundamentals needed for job readiness. By having hands-on practice and feedback from expert instructors and peers, you can master both technical and communication skills.

Students graduate with a professional portfolio and career support for their next step, whether that’s becoming a data analyst or a machine learning engineer.​​

Ready to start coding with Python? Register now for a free workshop to learn more.

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