Are you considering a career in web development, but you’re not sure which programming languages to learn? The confusion is understandable—there are a lot of languages to choose from. But which languages you need to know will depend on what specialty you choose: front end web development, back end web development, or full stack web development. Let’s take a deeper look at each one of these areas plus the languages required by each specialty.

Front End Web Development

Front end web development deals with all the website elements that users can see and interact with, such as the text on the page, drop-down menus, images, and forms. The job of a Front End Web Developer is to program the outward appearance of the website according to project specifications while making it responsive, easy to use, and error-free.

Essential Languages for Front End Web Development

If you want to work in front end web development, there are three fundamental languages you must learn: HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Let’s take a closer look at what each one does and what makes them essential.


Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) is the standard markup language used to create documents that will be displayed on a web browser. HTML instructs the browser on how to display data on the page. These instructions often cover the layout of the page, fonts, colors, headings, title, tables, and graphics. HTML5 Boilerplate is the most popular HTML framework in use today.

Why HTML Is Necessary

The importance of HTML can not be overstated—it’s impossible to work in front end web development without using this essential language. HTML is the standard language used in the creation of websites and is supported by all modern Internet browsers including Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Safari, Samsung Internet, and Opera. HTML is so prevalent that it’s been used on at least 93% of all websites in the world. As the fundamental building block for all web pages, HTML should be the first language any potential Web Developer learns.


Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) is a language that’s used to style the text, color, buttons, and tables of a website plus structure how its pages are laid out. CSS allows for content and formatting to remain separate so webpages can adapt to different types of devices of various sizes. Some of the most frequently used CSS frameworks are Twitter Bootstrap, Tailwind CSS, Bulma, Foundation, Skeleton, UI Kit, Pure, Semantic UI, and Materialize.

Why CSS Is Necessary

CSS is necessary because, without it, webpages look awful. CSS easily adds style to boring webpages with just a few lines of code. And instead of coding each page of a website one by one, those few lines of code make it possible for styles to be applied consistently across an entire website, saving Web Developers an extraordinary amount of time.

If a website were to use HTML alone without incorporating CSS, it would just be text on a plain white background, which isn’t very interesting to look at. HTML and CSS must be paired together to create visually appealing websites. HTML is used to specify what content should be on the page while CSS provides all the style, including font type, color, layout, and more. When building websites, it’s practically impossible to create an inviting, interesting website without CSS.


JavaScript is a language used to program the behavior of web pages, making them more dynamic and interactive to engage the user. For example, JavaScript can be used to play audio or video, display animations, progress through a slideshow of various pictures, and alter a button’s colors when a mouse hovers over it. Vue.js, Angular, and Svelte are the most common JavaScript frameworks used in front end web development. The most popular JavaScript library in use today is React, which was created by Facebook.

Why JavaScript Is Necessary

The primary reason why JavaScript is necessary for front end web development is that it adds interactivity to webpages; HTML determines the content and CSS styles it while JavaScript brings it all to life. It’s difficult to create dynamic, user-friendly websites without JavaScript, which is why it’s so prevalent—JavaScript can be found on the front end of more than 97% of all websites in existence. It’s so ubiquitous that support for JavaScript is built into every modern web browser, including Chrome, Firefox, and Microsoft Edge.

JavaScript is also an essential language to learn because it’s so versatile; it can be used in a variety of ways, including on websites, web applications, games, and mobile apps plus it offers a wide range of frameworks, libraries, and tools to speed up programming. JavaScript also works well with other languages and can be inserted into any webpage regardless of the file extension. And thanks to the runtime environment Node.js, which allows JavaScript to run on the server side, it’s even possible to build an application from back to front using JavaScript.

Back End Web Development

Back end web development relates to elements on the server side of a website where data is stored and arranged. The role of a Back End Web Developer is to create, test, debug, and maintain all the technological components that support the front end of a website and allow it to operate.

Essential Languages for Back End Web Development

If your goal is to work exclusively on the server side of websites, then there’s a bit of good news—you get to choose which back end languages you’d like to learn. Some of the most commonly used server side languages are Python, JavaScript, Java, PHP, and Ruby but you don’t have to know every single one of these to be a successful Back End Web Developer; you can start out by specializing in one server side programming language then develop a working knowledge of at least one or two others to advance your career.

The choice of which programming languages to learn or how many to have in your skill set is completely up to you, but the more languages you know, the more job opportunities you’ll have access to. To help you develop a better understanding of these essential back end programming languages, let’s look at each one more in depth.


One of the three core programming languages for front end web development, JavaScript is also used on the back end. More specifically, Back End Developers use a JavaScript Runtime Environment (RTE) called Node.js to handle updates from the client side of the website and build expandable network applications capable of processing multiple user requests simultaneously. Node.js has become a popular tool for the back end because it’s fast, efficient, lightweight, and capable of managing heavy workloads. Some of the most popular JavaScript frameworks used on the server side include Express.js, Next.js, Mocha.js, Meteor.js, and Nest.js.

Why JavaScript Is Necessary

As a Web Developer working on either the front or back end, there’s no way to get around JavaScript. More than 68% of professional Web Developers surveyed by Stack Overflow in 2021 report extensive use of JavaScript in the year prior. JavaScript has been the most widely used programming language in the world for many years and doesn’t show any signs of giving up its top position, which makes it a necessary skill to learn.


Python is an extremely versatile object-oriented high-level programming language. Its simple syntax, libraries, frameworks, and adaptability makes Python a popular choice for back end programming where it’s used to build desktop, mobile, and gaming applications. Python is also frequently used in emerging fields like machine learning, AI, data analytics, and task automation. Python frameworks commonly used in back end web development include Django, Flask, Pyramid, CherryPy, Bottle, and Falcon, just to name a few.

Why Python Is Necessary

Python is a necessary skill for Web Developers to have because it’s a popular general-purpose language that offers multiple functionalities; Python is not only an integral part of web development, it’s also widely used in data science, machine learning, artificial intelligence, commercial and enterprise applications, games, computer-aided design (CAD) applications, audio and video applications, and more. Thanks to its versatility, Python is used by a wide range of well-known companies like Google, Netflix, Youtube, Instagram, Yahoo, Reddit, and Spotify. The prevalence, popularity, and versatility make Python an essential language for Back End Web Developers to learn.


Java is a high-level programming language that’s widely used on server-side projects. Java is a versatile language and can be used in a variety of contexts, including desktop, mobile, and numerical computing plus business applications and games. Its most common usage is in the creation of applications, which can then be run on any computer with a Java Runtime Environment (JRE) installed on it. Popular Java frameworks include Spring, Hibernate, Struts, Grails, Play, Google Web Toolkit (GWT), Vaadin, and Apache Wicket.

Why Java Is Necessary

Java is a necessary skill for Back End Web Developers to learn because it’s a mature language that’s widely used; it’s been around for 20 years, runs on 13 billion devices, and is used by more than 10 million developers worldwide. Thanks to Java’s ability to run across platforms, it’s used in a wide range of devices including smartphones, tablets, automobiles, televisions, and Blu-ray players. It’s also considered the standard for enterprise computing with more than 90% of Fortune 500 companies using Java on the back end. That means Java won’t be going away anytime soon and you’d be wise to learn Java coding skills.


PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor) is a general-purpose scripting language that’s often used to add functionality to interactive web pages. One of the first languages that could be embedded directly into HTML, PHP is also used for managing databases, performing system functions, encrypting data, handling forms, setting cookies, and restricting page access. Most notably, WordPress—the most popular content management system in the world—is written in PHP.

Laravel, Symfony, Yii 2, CakePHP, Zend Framework/Laminas Project, CodeIgniter, FuelPHP, Slim, and Phalcon are some of the most commonly used PHP frameworks.

Why PHP Is Necessary

PHP is necessary because it’s faster, more convenient, and more versatile than many other server-side languages; it’s reported to be three times faster than Python and works on a variety of operating systems including Windows, Linux, UNIX, and macOS. PHP also has a built-in database connection which allows it to easily link up with almost any kind of database, reducing the time it takes to develop web applications. Though the popularity of PHP has been declining in recent years, there’s no chance it’ll go away anytime in the foreseeable future—it’s just too prevalent to disappear; PHP is currently used on the back end of more than 78% of all websites including WordPress, Slack, Wikipedia, Etsy, and MailChimp.


Ruby is a high-level, object-oriented language that’s most commonly used to build web applications. A flexible, general-purpose programming language, Ruby can also be used in a variety of other ways such as prototyping, DevOps, data analysis, proof of concepts, web scraping, automation, static site generation, and more. Ruby is one of the easiest programming languages to learn and works across multiple operating systems including Linux, Windows, and Mac OS X. The most popular Ruby framework is Ruby on Rails; additional Ruby frameworks include Hanami, Grape, Cuba, and Padrino.

Why Ruby Is Necessary

The primary reason Back End Web Developers need to learn Ruby is so they can use Ruby on Rails. Ruby is considered one of the most time-efficient programming languages in existence when used in tandem with the Ruby on Rails framework; there’s no quicker or easier way to create web applications. This ease of use has made Ruby on Rails very popular among programmers. In fact, more than 57% of Web Developers surveyed by Stack Overflow in 2021 indicated that they love using Ruby on Rails. With the popularity of Ruby on Rails, it’s a good idea for aspiring programmers to learn how to use Ruby.

Full Stack Web Development

Full stack web development is the combination of both front end and back end web development; that means it deals with both the user-facing elements of a website plus all the technological components behind the scenes that users don’t have access to. A Full Stack Developer needs to have wide-ranging skills and knowledge of a variety of programming languages.

Essential Languages for Full Stack Web Development

Because full stack web development combines elements of front end and back end web development, you’ll need to learn languages from both the client and server sides. The required languages for the front end are already predetermined: you’ll need to be proficient in HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. On the back end, however, you have a choice; to keep things simple, you could use JavaScript or you could choose to use Python, Java, Ruby, or PHP instead.

Where to Learn Programming Languages

The best way to learn programming languages is to take web development classes through a well-established school like Noble Desktop. Noble Desktop offers in-person web development classes at their site in New York City plus live online web development courses that you can take from the convenience of your own home.

If you’re looking to launch a new career in web development, the best option would be to complete a web development bootcamp; these skills-focused programs operate on an intensive, abbreviated schedule to get you career-ready in a few short months. Noble Desktop offers several web development bootcamps live online including a front end web development bootcamp and a full stack web development bootcamp. To get started, all you have to do is enroll.