C++ vs Java: A Guide for Beginners

Rachel Meltzer

Written By Rachel Meltzer

Liz Eggleston

Edited By Liz Eggleston

Last updated on February 2, 2024

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New programmers who want to learn established, well-supported languages may be asking themselves, “Should I learn C++ or Java?” These two programming languages have many similarities since Java was replicated on C++. However, C++ is typically used for low-level programming, while Java is usually used for high-level programming. 

Learning either of these programming languages at a coding bootcamp can set you up for a lucrative and secure career. Read on to understand how C++ and Java are similar, how they differ, and what they’re used for. Plus, find out which jobs you can land with Java and C++, and how to dive into learning one of these programming languages. 

🔎 What's the difference between Java and C++? While Java and C++ are both object oriented languages with a similar syntax, they differ in platform dependency, memory management, and use of classes.

What is Java? 

Java is a general-purpose, object-oriented programming language that was first released in 1995. Java powers millions of applications and websites. It’s fast, secure, and reliable. Java is platform-independent and uses a compiler to run on any machine. Laptops, data centers, game consoles, scientific supercomputers, cell phones, web browsers, and websites all run on Java. Wikipedia, Minecraft, Android OS, LinkedIn, Uber, and the Mars Rover Controller were all built with Java. 

What is C++?

C++ is an object-oriented programming language used to build applications, websites, and more. C++ programming was developed to add classes to C in 1985. C++ gives programmers more control over system resources and memory. C++ was designed so that programs can be written once and compiled anywhere. C++ is not platform-independent. 

C++ works best when used for system programming, low-level applications, gaming, and native programming. Large and fast software like enterprise systems to manage large amounts of data like libraries, employees, and reservations are where C++ shines. Apple OS, Mozilla Firefox, Adobe Photoshop, Spotify, Amazon, and Youtube have all been created, in part, with C++.

C++ and Java: The Similarities

Java and C++ are similar in their type of programming language, use, and complexity. Java and C++ can be used to create applications, operating systems, web browsers, and parts of websites.

They also have a similar syntax, meaning the way they are written is comparable. Think of this like Portuguese and Spanish –different languages with some similarities. Java and C++ use the same primitive data types and many of their keywords are the same, too. 

Both C++ and Java are object oriented programming languages. This is a modular approach to programming that supports:

  • Inheritance of objects in classes
  • Polymorphism (programs that use a function for more than one purpose)
  • Abstraction (the ability to represent essential features without having to include background details)
  • Encapsulation (allows data and functions to be wrapped into a single unit)

C++ and Java: The Differences

There are many differences between Java and C++, some more nuanced than others. C++ and Java differ in their platform dependency, memory management, and use of classes. 

C++ Java
C++ is platform dependent and needs to be compiled on every platform. Java is platform-independent. Once it’s compiled into bytecode it can be executed on any platform.
C++ requires manual memory management.  Java’s memory management is system-controlled
C++ does not have support for documentation comments.  Java has built-in support for comments which allows developers to provide documentation within their source files.
C++ is procedural and object-oriented.* Java is a pure object-oriented programming language.*
C++’s source code, on the other hand, has no association with filenames.  Java’s source code uses file names as classes, so file names should match any classes.
C++ plays nice with other programming languages. C++ is built on C and is compatible with most high-level programming languages. It’s easy to create patches or supplement pieces of client-side code with C++.  Java is not compatible with other languages, despite being inspired by C and C++. 

*This means that Java has a single root hierarchy while C++ does not follow any specific root hierarchy. Most object-oriented programming languages use a single-rooted hierarchy which makes all classes inherit directly or indirectly from a single root. But C++ was designed to have no single object hierarchy in order to allow multiple inheritance. It’s a useful feature for creating libraries. 

How to Learn Java and C++

Want to dip your toes in C++ or Java? Try one of these free or affordable programming tutorials to begin learning one of these languages.

Java Tutorials

C++ Tutorials

Ready to start intensively learning Java or C++? If you’re looking for a career with either of these programming languages, a coding bootcamp is a great place to start. 

Learn Java at one of these bootcamps

Learn C++ at one of these bootcamps

Should I Learn Java or C++ First?

Most programmers agree that Java is easier to learn first. Java’s syntax is usually more straightforward for new programmers to understand. The syntax requirements in C++ are very strict. It is difficult to write C++ in a readable way and making a single mistake can set off a chain of errors. 

Since Java is more versatile, there are many Java job opportunities including Software Developer, Android Developer, and Web Developer. With cybersecurity becoming a major concern, learning Java may also be more relevant to your career goals. Learning C++ is great if you want to become a Software Developer. 

What is Java used for?

Java can be used for a variety of high-level applications and is used by Software Engineers, Web Developers, and Java Developers. Java is most popularly used for games, websites, and apps. Across the globe, Java is powering millions of mobile phones, televisions, enterprise applications, and more. 

With Java, you can create:

  • Mobile applications, both on Android and Google OS
  • Internet of Things (IoT) devices – Java connects devices like mobile phones, televisions, computers, or tablets to appliances or machines at home or in industries like healthcare, security, utilities, supply-chain management, and more. 
  • Cloud applications, such as storage, file-sharing, virtual machines, sales software, email, messengers, and more.
  • Secure, scalable web applications
  • Chatbots
  • Internet and Android games, such as Minecraft
  • Enterprise applications, such as employee management, reservations, data storage, file sharing, and more.
  • Scientific applications, such as healthcare and research computation, automation, and data storage. 

What is C++ used for?

From game development to scientific applications and everything in between, C++ is secretly powering millions of devices we use every day. From computers to cell phones, video games to space research, you’ll find C++ just about everywhere. 

C++ is used to create:

  • Operating systems – MacOS, Windows, iOS
  • Game development, such as World of Warcraft, Counter-strike, and StarCraft. 
  • Game engines, such as Unreal Engine, Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo Switch.
  • Internet of Things (IoT) devices, such as televisions, cars, smartwatches, medical devices, appliances, and more. 
  • Databases, such as MySQL and MongoDB
  • Web browsers, such as Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, and Opera
  • Machine learning, such as TensorFlow
  • Virtual Reality (VR), such as Unreal Engine
  • Scientific research, such as NASA and CERN
  • Financial technology, such as trading, banking, financial modeling, etc.
  • Flight software, such as military aircraft and commercial jets
  • Google Search Engine
  • Medical technology, such as MRI machines and data modeling
  • Telecommunications, such as telephone, internet, and telecom infrastructure
  • Movie production, such as special effects

The Disadvantages of Java

Java is an incredibly versatile and secure programming language, but, like every programming language, Java still has some downfalls. For one, Java is not suitable for low-level programming. Java is also memory-consuming and can be slower than C++. While C++ works natively (with the language the computer speaks), Java has to be compiled to be interpreted by the computer. 

Java performs automatic garbage collection, meaning the memory is controlled by the system. While automatic garbage collection can help memory and redundancy, it does consume more CPU time which can slow the application down. Along this same vein, Java does not backup data. 

For these reasons, Java requires a significant amount of memory and requires a longer runtime. That can mean that it’s slower. However, if it’s used appropriately with these hindrances in mind, it can run quickly and efficiently. 

The Disadvantages of C++

C++ is great for low-level programming, but C++ also has its own downsides. Firstly, C++ is not well-suited for larger or high-level programs. Unlike Java, C++ does not support garbage collection (automatic memory management) and dynamic memory allocation. C++’s lack of support for garbage collection can result in redundant data storage and an increase in memory use. However, some applications, like games, need this feature to avoid losing stored states. C++ is also 8-bit which can save memory and improve speed. 

C++ is not secure; pointers are what makes C++ insecure. Improper use of pointers can easily result in system failure or memory corruption. Debugging pointers is one of the most difficult aspects of learning C++.

About The Author

Rachel Meltzer

Rachel Meltzer

Rachel Meltzer is the founder of MeltzerSeltzer, where she is the lead writer, podcast host, and freelance writing coach. She attended a front-end web development bootcamp in 2020.

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