What is Python and What Can You Do with It?

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The world of computer and data science is constantly evolving. In recent years, one prominent change in the field is the rapid growth of the programming language Python.

Python is a general-purpose coding language that is used across many web development and information technology jobs to complete a variety of programming tasks.

“In addition to supporting a wide range of uses, it is considered a beginner-friendly language," said Adam Goldstein, an adjunct instructor for STEM programs at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU). "Notably, it was designed for readability in formatting and its attempt to mirror English as much as possible.”

This ease of use and flexibility has helped Python steadily rise up the ranks as an in-demand coding language. In fact, developer-focused analyst firm RedMonk ranked Python in second place - behind only longtime industry-standard JavaScript - on its 2021 list of top programming languages.

If you want to pursue a career in computer programming, data science or cybersecurity, understanding what Python is and what you can do with it will be key to your success.

What is Python Used For?

Because Python is a general-purpose programming language, it can be used for web development, back-end development, software development, data science and more.

It's often used in conjunction with other programming tools as a scripting language for web applications, allowing developers to automate series of tasks and boost efficiency.

According to Goldstein, Python can be used for everything from designing desktop and mobile apps to developing web server applications and analyzing data.

The programming language is even a major component of some of the top desktop and web apps used by millions today, including Dropbox and Venmo, according to an article from Skillcrush.

What Jobs Use Python?

Adam Goldstein with the text Adam Goldstein

With such wide-ranging applications, it’s no wonder that Python is becoming an increasingly in-demand skill among computer programmers and developers. But what can you do with Python to grow your career? According to Goldstein, there are many opportunities.

“With the rising popularity of Python, almost all information technology jobs may use Python,” he said. “System administration, network engineering, cybersecurity and digital forensics all utilize the scripting elements of Python to automate common tasks.”

Some of the fastest-growing careers that use Python as a vital component of their toolkit include:

  • Network and Computer Systems Administrator: As a network and computer systems administrator, you could be responsible for the day-to-day operations of an organization’s computer networks. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for network and computer systems administrators was $84,810 in 2020. Jobs in this field are projected to grow 4% from 2019 to 2029.
  • Information Security Analyst: With a job in information security, you could plan and carry out security measures to protect an organization’s computer networks, systems and data. According to BLS, information security analysts earned a median annual wage of $103,590 in 2020. Demand for information security analysts continues to rise with the rate of cyberattacks, and jobs in the field are projected to grow 31% by 2029.
  • Database Administrator: As a database administrator, you could use specialized software and programming knowledge to store, organize and protect an organization’s data, such as financial records or customer information. According to BLS, database administrators earned a median annual salary of $98,860 in 2020. Jobs for database administrators are projected to grow 10% from 2019 to 2029.

According to Goldstein, learning Python is an important part of preparing for these and other roles in the world of computer science.

“There are dedicated jobs for Python programmers, but in many cases, Python is used to support other roles,” he said. “Learning Python as part of a professional degree program is a great opportunity to incorporate the programming skills needed in the workplace.”

How to Learn Python

If you’re interested in a career in computer science or information technology, then learning Python can help prepare you for the job you want. 

While there are plenty of online training programs, books and tutorials that could help you learn Python on your own, the coding language is most valuable when learned as part of a computer science degree, said Goldstein.

“It is really helpful to incorporate Python into a particular discipline, so that students have context for how Python can be used to solve specific problems,” he said. 

Some programs will even award you course credits for earning relevant certificates. For example, SNHU now offers students up to six credits toward their undergraduate data analytics and tech degrees with a valid Google IT Automation with Python Professional certificate. Obtaining this certificate demonstrates their ability to automate tasks by writing Python scripts and the development of troubleshooting, debugging and programming skills, just to name a few.

While aspiring programmers may wonder if they should learn a specific coding language over another, such as Java or Python, many computer science degree programs allow you to explore a variety of programming languages, including Python.

A strong understanding of Python and what you can do with it in your chosen field can go a long way toward helping you get started in a technology career.

“In my experience with cybersecurity and digital forensics, employers are specifically looking for Python as the programming language of choice for new hires,” Goldstein said.

With so many evolving opportunities available across the computer science and information technology fields, adding an in-demand skill like Python could be the first step toward an a new or advanced career.

Danielle Gagnon is a freelance writer focused on higher education. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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