Data science is vital in today’s technology-driven world, where extracting insights from large and complex datasets is critical. With that, programming languages have become an integral part of the data science toolkit, providing data scientists with the ability to process, analyze and visualize data efficiently.
However, with so many programming languages available, it can be overwhelming to know which languages to focus on when starting in data science.
In this blog post, we will highlight six programming languages that are widely used in data science, and are prominent in 2023. We will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each language and provide resources to help you learn and use them effectively.
Whether you’re a student or researcher in any computing domain, this post aims to give you a comprehensive overview of the programming languages you should know to succeed in data science.
Let’s get into it, shall we?
Python is one of the most widely used programming languages in data science. It is known for its simplicity, readability, and flexibility, making it an ideal choice for beginners in data science.
Jonathan Faccone, Managing Member & Founder of Halo Homebuyers, says, “Python is like a Swiss Army Knife for programmers – it has a tool for every job and fits comfortably in your pocket.”
Not to mention, Python has a vast community that provides numerous libraries and tools specifically designed for data science.
Python libraries like NumPy, Pandas, and Matplotlib are essential for data science.
NumPy provides an efficient way to work with arrays and matrices, which are commonly used in data science applications.
Pandas, on the other hand, provides a powerful data manipulation and analysis tool that allows data scientists to clean, transform, and visualize data.
Matplotlib is used for data visualization and provides a variety of charts and plots to display data.
Here are some examples of how Python is used in data science:
Machine Learning: Python is used to build machine learning models that are used in various applications such as image recognition, speech recognition, natural language processing, and more. Libraries such as Scikit-Learn, Keras, and TensorFlow make it easy to build and deploy machine learning models.
Data Visualization: Python is used to create visualizations that help data scientists to understand and communicate insights from data. Libraries such as Matplotlib, Seaborn, and Plotly provide various tools to create visualizations like scatter plots, histograms, heatmaps, and more.
Web Scraping: Python can be used to scrape data from the web, which can then be used for analysis or to build datasets. Libraries such as Beautiful Soup and Scrapy make it easy to extract data from websites.
Where to learn
Online course platforms like Coursera, edX, and Udemy offer introductory and advanced courses in Python for data science. There are also numerous books and tutorials available that provide step-by-step instructions on how to use Python for data science.
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R is another popular programming language used in data science, particularly for statistical analysis. It has a strong user community and a vast array of packages, making it a versatile language for data analysis.
R is particularly useful for statistical analysis, as it has built-in functions for regression analysis, hypothesis testing, and data visualization. The Tidyverse package, which includes libraries such as ggplot2, dplyr, and tidyr, provides data manipulation and visualization tools that make it easy to clean and explore data.
Jeoffrey Murray, Digital Marketing Expert at Solar Panel Installation, says, “R isn’t just a programming language; it’s a powerful tool for transforming data into knowledge, unlocking the full potential of your analytics and insights.”
Here are some examples of how R is used in data science:
Statistical Analysis: R is commonly used for statistical analysis in fields such as economics, finance, and healthcare. Packages like stats and lme4 provide functions for regression analysis, hypothesis testing, and mixed-effects models.
Data Visualization: R is used to create data visualizations that help data scientists communicate insights from data. Libraries like ggplot2 and lattice provide tools to create plots like scatter plots, histograms, and heat maps.
Machine Learning: R has several packages like caret and mlr that provide machine learning tools, such as regression models, decision trees, and random forests. These models can be used for various applications, such as fraud detection, customer segmentation, and recommendation systems.
Where to learn
The official R website provides tutorials and resources for beginners. Online courses like DataCamp, Coursera, and edX offer introductory and advanced courses in R for data science. There are also numerous books available that provide step-by-step instructions on how to use R for data science.
SQL, or Structured Query Language, is a domain-specific programming language used to manage and manipulate relational databases. It is commonly used in data science to extract, transform, and load (ETL) data, as well as to perform data analysis and reporting. SQL is a declarative language, meaning that it specifies what operations should be performed on data rather than how to perform them.
“SQL is the language of data manipulation – unlocking insights from the vast amounts of information that power our world today,” nicely explained by Brad Anderson, Founder of FRUITION.
Here are some examples of how SQL is used in data science:
Data Extraction: SQL extracts data from relational databases, such as MySQL, PostgreSQL, and Microsoft SQL Server. Data scientists can use SQL to query the database and retrieve specific data subsets based on certain criteria.
Data Transformation: SQL transforms data, such as joining two or more tables, filtering data, and aggregating data. This is particularly useful in data preparation and ETL processes.
Data Analysis: SQL analyzes large datasets, such as calculating summary statistics, generating reports, and creating dashboards.
Here is an example of a SQL query:
SELECT customer_name, SUM(order_total) AS total_spent
JOIN customers ON orders.customer_id = customers.customer_id
GROUP BY customer_name
ORDER BY total_spent DESC
This query retrieves the top 10 customers who spent the most money on orders. It joins the orders and customers tables on the customer_id field, groups the results by customer_name, calculates the sum of order_total for each customer and sorts the results by total_spent in descending order.
Where to learn
Online courses like Udemy, Coursera, and edX offer introductory and advanced courses in SQL for data science. There are also numerous books available online.
Julia is a high-level programming language designed for numerical and scientific computing. It is a relatively new language, first released in 2012, but it has gained popularity in the data science community due to its speed and performance. Julia has a syntax similar to MATLAB or Python, making learning easy for those familiar with those languages.
Julia is the language for the modern scientific era – designed to be fast, flexible, and user-friendly, empowering scientists to tackle the world’s most complex problems with ease.”
Here are some examples of how Julia is used in data science:
Machine Learning: Julia has several packages that provide machine learning tools, such as Flux.jl, MLJ.jl, and ScikitLearn.jl. These packages provide functions for regression models, decision trees, and neural networks, among others.
Data Visualization: Julia has several packages for creating data visualizations, such as Plots.jl, which provides a high-level interface for creating plots, and Gadfly.jl, designed for creating interactive visualizations.
High-Performance Computing: Julia’s performance makes it a popular choice for high-performance computing tasks, such as scientific simulations and large-scale data processing. Julia provides a distributed computing model, allowing computations to be distributed across multiple processors or even multiple computers.
Here is an example of a Julia program that performs linear regression:
using CSV, DataFrames, StatsModels
# Load data from a CSV file
data = CSV.read("data.csv", DataFrame)
# Perform linear regression
model = lm(@formula(y ~ x1 + x2), data)
# Print the model summary
This program loads data from a CSV file, performs linear regression using the StatsModels package, and prints the model summary.
Where to learn
The official Julia website provides tutorials and resources for beginners. Online courses like Coursera and edX offer introductory and advanced courses in Julia for data science. There are also numerous books available online.
MATLAB is a high-level programming language for numerical computing, data analysis, and visualization. It has a wide range of built-in functions and toolboxes for various scientific and engineering applications.
MATLAB is widely used in academia, research, and industry for data analysis and modeling.
Patrick Smith, Growth Strategist at Skill Courses, says, “MATLAB is more than just a programming language, it’s a trusted partner for engineers and scientists – enabling them to innovate and push the boundaries of what’s possible.”
Here are some examples of how MATLAB is used in data science:
Data Analysis: MATLAB provides built-in functions for data analysis, such as statistics, data fitting, and signal processing. It also has tools for data visualization, including 2D and 3D plots, images, and animations.
Machine Learning: MATLAB has several toolboxes for machine learning, including Neural Network Toolbox, Statistics and Machine Learning Toolbox, and Deep Learning Toolbox. These toolboxes provide functions for classification, regression, clustering, and neural networks.
Signal Processing: MATLAB is widely used for signal processing applications, such as audio and image processing, speech recognition, and radar signal processing. MATLAB provides a range of functions and toolboxes for digital signal processing, including filter design, spectrum analysis, and signal visualization.
Here is an example of a MATLAB program that performs principal component analysis (PCA) on a dataset:
% Load dataset
% Perform PCA
[coeff, score, latent] = pca(means);
% Plot results
scatter(score(:,1), score(:,2), 10, species, 'filled');
title('Principal Component Analysis');
This program loads the famous iris dataset and performs PCA on the dataset using the built-in pca() function. It then plots the results in a scatter plot, where each point represents an iris sample colored by species.
Where to learn
The official MATLAB website provides tutorials and documentation for beginners. Online courses like Coursera and edX offer introductory and advanced courses in MATLAB for data science. There are also numerous books available online.
C++ is a high-performance programming language for developing applications, operating systems, and embedded systems. It is a popular language for scientific and engineering applications, including data science. C++ is known for its speed and efficiency, which makes it a popular choice for applications that require high-performance computing.
Tom Miller, Director of Marketing at FitnessVolt, says, “C++ is the language of choice for those who demand precision, performance, and power – it’s the backbone of modern software engineering and the key to unlocking the full potential of computer systems.”
Here are some examples of how C++ is used in data science:
Machine Learning: C++ has several libraries and frameworks for machine learning, such as TensorFlow, Caffe, and MXNet. These libraries provide functions for building and training deep neural networks, as well as tools for data preprocessing and visualization.
Numerical Computing: C++ has various libraries for numerical computing, such as the Armadillo library and the Boost library. These libraries provide functions for linear algebra, matrix operations, and numerical optimization.
High-Performance Computing: C++’s speed and efficiency make it a popular choice for high-performance computing applications, such as scientific simulations and large-scale data processing. C++ supports multi-threading and parallel computing, allowing computations to be distributed across multiple processors or computers.
Here is an example of a C++ program that performs linear regression using the Armadillo library:
using namespace std;
using namespace arma;
// Load data from a CSV file
// Extract features and labels
mat X = data.head_cols(2);
vec y = data.tail_cols(1);
// Add a column of ones to X for the intercept term
// Perform linear regression
vec beta = solve(X.t() * X, X.t() * y);
// Print the beta coefficients
cout << "Beta coefficients:" << endl << beta << endl;
This program loads data from a CSV file, performs linear regression using the Armadillo library, and prints the beta coefficients.
Where to learn
The official C++ website provides tutorials and documentation for beginners. Online courses like Coursera and edX offer introductory and advanced courses in C++ for data science. There are also numerous books available that provide step-by-step instructions on how to use C++ for data science.
A Few Additional Languages to Consider
While Python, R, SQL, Julia, MATLAB, and C++ are among the most popular programming languages in data science, several other languages are also worth considering. Here are some examples:
Java: Java is a popular programming language used in enterprise applications, web development, and mobile app development. It also has libraries and frameworks for data science, such as Apache Mahout and Weka.
Scala: Scala is a programming language that runs on the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) and is known for its concise syntax and functional programming features. It has libraries for machine learning and data analysis, such as Apache Spark and Breeze.
Go: Go is a programming language developed by Google, known for its speed and efficiency. It has libraries for data science, such as Gorgonia and Gota.
Perl: Perl is a high-level programming language known for its powerful text-processing capabilities. It also has several libraries for data analysis, such as PDL and Statistics::R.
Ruby: Ruby is a dynamic programming language known for its simplicity and productivity. It has libraries for data analysis, such as NArray and Daru.
Rust: Rust is a systems programming language known for its speed, safety, and concurrency. It has libraries for machine learning, such as Rusty Machine and Leaf.
C#: C# is a modern, object-oriented programming language developed by Microsoft. It has libraries for data analysis and machine learning, such as Accord.NET and ML.NET.
SAS: SAS is a statistical software suite used for data management, analysis, and reporting. It has several modules for data mining and machine learning, such as SAS Enterprise Miner and SAS Visual Analytics.
Data science programming languages are essential tools for any data scientist, and mastering them can lead to a successful career. Python, R, SQL, Julia, MATLAB, and C++ are among the most popular languages used in data science due to their versatility, ease of use, and extensive community support.
However, other languages such as Java, Scala, and Go also have their strengths and can be useful for specific tasks or industries.
When deciding which programming language to learn for data science, consider your specific needs and goals. Some languages may better suit certain tasks or industries, while others may be more versatile and widely used. Consider factors like ease of use, community support, and job market demand.
Regardless of which language you choose, continually learn and improve your skills as the field of data science is constantly evolving.”
About the Author
Kruti Shah is a content writer and marketer at The Marketing Drama. She loves to write about insights on current trends in Technology, Business and Marketing. In her free time, she loves baking and watching Netflix. You can connect with her on Linkedin.
Disclaimer: The author is completely responsible for the content of this article. The opinions expressed are their own and do not represent IEEE’s position nor that of the Computer Society nor its Leadership.