When it comes to programming languages, Java is a huge mainstay of the tech industry. It's used by so many businesses that it's hard to imagine Java going obsolete anytime soon! That's why choosing to learn Java for beginners is a solid pick for those who want to maximize their future marketability.
In this special guest post, Nicholas Phelps from FRG Consulting gives us an overview of all things Java: which companies use it, what versions and platforms are available, where and how to learn Java, and much more.
Learning a new programming language can be tricky, but if you’re new to software development, picking up one of the most used languages in the marketplace could benefit your career.
Java is everywhere. It's especially well-liked by businesses developing desktop and mobile applications, which makes it a marketable skill as well. Perhaps it’s time you finally learned the basics of this immensely popular programming language and took the next step towards your career in development.
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Table of contents:
What Is Java?
First and foremost, of course, Java is a programming language. Owned and maintained by Oracle, it is one of the most popular programming languages used in business today and is normally implemented to create large enterprise applications.
A cornerstone of the IT industry with over 9 million worldwide users, Java is a general-purpose, object-oriented language that promotes a “write once, run anywhere” (WORA) development strategy.
Advocating ease-of-use for every developer, the fundamentals of Java mean it has few dependencies, which means any piece of software or application developed using the programming language can be compiled and run anywhere.
Why Should You Learn Java?
A highly portable development tool, Java is fast and simple to program. Its evolving techniques and systems have positively influenced the day-to-day lives of people around the world, since Java forms the basis of Android OS, banking applications, and other well-known apps.
Due to the versatility of the language, there is a big demand for those who can use Java, and research shows you could earn a higher salary in Java compared to specializing in other programming languages.
Which Companies Use Java?
Businesses of all shapes and sizes use Java. Global tech giants including Google and Amazon have found success using the programming language. The likes of LinkedIn and Netflix are also recognized as using Java to create mobile applications, web applications, and software tools to help their organizations grow.
What Method Is Best to Learn Java?
The fastest way to learn Java is by doing it. Practical experience is better than theoretical knowledge of the programming language. If you want to start from scratch and become a Java wizard, there are hundreds of online courses to choose from, and it's best to choose one that weaves learning together with hands-on application. (We'll look at a few specific course providers later!)
Formal education is another route you can take to learn Java. Computer Science degrees can teach you the basics of Java, as well as other programming languages and techniques and the relevant soft skills to help you prepare for the world of work.
If you’re more of a bookworm, then there are hundreds of books popular with Java developers that can help you learn all the ins and outs of the programming language before stepping onto the development floor. These are also tools you can keep for handy reference in the future. However, eventually book learning needs to translate into practice.
The final place I would recommend to learn Java is by going to direct to the source. Oracle has their very own beginners' guide to the programming language where you can start your learning process.
What Java Platforms Are Available?
Although Java is categorized as only one programming language, there are many platforms available for developers to use and create an application. But ultimately, the platform you choose will come down to how you want to use the language and the apps you want to develop.
Java SE (Standard Edition)
Java SE is the standard edition of Java and the core programming platform offered by Oracle, and contains all the tools you’ll need to get an application up and running. Complete with the Java Development Kit (JDK), APIs, relevant libraries and Java Runtime Environment, it offers a solid foundation for all other Java platforms.
If you’re looking to build on the standard edition of Java but keep all of the core features that come as part of the package, there are other products to enhance your experience, including the Advanced and Suite edition. Both add more features to the basic development tools that Java SE offers. Using the Advanced edition can provide more control over your deployments, while utilizing SE Suite will offer the chance to use JRockit Real Time.
You could face added costs if you decide to build on the basic level offered by Oracle, and this is something you’ll need to consider if you favor those extra features for development.
Java EE (Enterprise Edition)
Next on the list of Java platforms is Java EE. Used primarily with distributed computing and web services, it extends on the basic functionality of the Java SE platform.
Now maintained exclusively by the Eclipse Foundation, it has been renamed Jakarta EE and allows for the easy incorporation of other Java tools such as JavaBeans, servlets, and JavaServer Pages into the development process.
Java ME (Micro Edition)
If you want to work specifically with mobile, consumer electronics, and embedded devices, then Java ME is likely to be your platform of choice. Offering a range of technologies and features that developers can use to create and deploy applications, it’s available for download in two configurations: CDLC and CDC.
Connected Limited Device Configuration (CDLC) is designed to meet the needs of devices running with limited memory capacity and processor power. On the other hand, Connected Device Configuration (CDC) is primarily targeted at devices with a network connection such as smartphones.
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Is Java Available For Different Operating Systems?
Java will run on every operating system. Whether you prefer to use Windows, iOS, or Linux, there will be a version available to suit the needs of your PC. To install the JDK on your machine, head over to the Oracle website and click the link that matches your current specification.
What Versions of Java Are Available?
Before you download any versions of Java, you should take a look at the latest release from Oracle and find out the current long-term supported version and the rapid-release version of the programming language.
At the time of writing, Java 8 is the current long-term supported version of the programming language, and the newest version of the programming language is Java 11.
What Are JVM and JRE?
Java Virtual Machine (JVM)
As we’ve mentioned above, Java is a cross-platform language that can be compiled and run anywhere, but for this to happen you’ll need to have a Java Virtual Machine installed on your system.
A JVM provides a virtual environment where you can execute Java bytecode, and will load and verify code before allowing an application to launch.
Java Runtime Environment (JRE)
Part of the JDK, the Java Runtime Environment will provide you with the minimum requirements needed to deploy a Java application. Consisting of the JVM, core platform classes, and supporting files, it is one of the essential tools you’ll need to be familiar with to develop a Java application.
Where and How to Learn Java & Get Certified
After learning the basics of the programming language, you’ll need to improve both your practical and theoretical knowledge to help stay ahead of the competition. Here are some of the top options for picking up the newest Java skills.
Picking the right Java course to help you enhance your coding skills can be tricky. Some top-quality websites are offering free and paid learning tracks where you can build on the basic and even branch out into another development area.
Topping the list of places to learn Java for beginners is Udemy. The online course provider features a host of free options where you can learn the basics of Java, as well as how to code for mobile devices. There is also a paid course that offers a complete coding masterclass.
Codecademy closely follows Udemy as one of the most popular places to learn Java online. Boasting courses that have been passed by employees of NASA, Google and Facebook, the platform offers free options, but also has a subscription-based service that is needed to access the more elite training programs.
Top Java Certifications
Having basic Java knowledge in your arsenal can be beneficial if you’re looking to move into the software development sector. If you’re looking to add extra strings to your bow and stand out from the crows, gaining a Java certification can increase your chances of getting hired.
Granted by some of the top authorities in the field, certifications are professional qualifications that showcase individual knowledge and proficiency in a particular subject matter. There are a number of Java certifications available, no matter your level of programming skill. Some of the best in the market are offered by the Oracle University.
Java Standard Edition Certifications
If you’re looking to gain some extra knowledge of the basic platform offered by Java, then these certifications will suit your needs. Ranging from associate to master level, each will build on the experience gained in the previous certifications and the knowledge you have from working in the industry.
There is a cost to these certifications, though, with prices ranging from £60–£200, so make sure you have the basics under your belt before taking the plunge.
Java Enterprise Edition Certifications
After you have the Java SE certifications under your belt, adding the Java EE certs to your resume could help you stand out from the crowd. They build on the core skills you should already have as a developer, so you’ll need to have completed one of the other courses before you’re eligible for these.
The Java EE certification branches out into the more specialized Java services, including API development, web services, and JavaBeans, so you need to have a very solid understanding of the basics before you attempt one of these certifications.
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How to Land Your First Java Role
Dependent on their skill level, there are a variety of starting points for any developer looking to make a move into Java. Businesses are always on the lookout for junior developers and software engineers that they can mold and educate to suit their needs.
But if you’re a more experienced developer with knowledge of other programming languages, you can enter higher up the career ladder, especially if you also have other skills that can be transferred to a new role.
Take a look at local or national vacancy pages on company websites or search online for roles relating the skills you already have. If you’re struggling to find a new position, consider working with a specialist recruiter who can source jobs for you, making the entire process ten times easier as they’ll sort out the interview, prep you for it, and negotiate a salary on your behalf.
To stand out from the crowd during the job search and interview process, making sure you have a comprehensive portfolio or Git profile should be top of your list. Businesses want to see practical examples of code, so ensure you have something to show them.
If you choose to use the services of a recruiter, or you’re open to organizations headhunting you from the inside, make sure the rest of your online profile, including your LinkedIn page, is completely up to date. This is the primary tool people will use to check whether you have the right experience and by missing the smallest detail, it could see you miss out on your dream role.
So, those are the basics of the Java programming language! These fundamentals can help you become a more desirable programmer. If you’re looking to break into the sector, keep up to date with the newest skills, improve your technical experience, and continue the learning process—it's all part of becoming a better developer.
About the author
Nicholas Phelps is a Java team lead at niche IT recruiter FRG Consulting where he oversees the hiring of Java developers. He has over four years of experience in the Java marketplace.