What Is C Programming Language? Benefits and Career Advice

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 12 June 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you are looking to develop your skills as a software developer or a computer programmer, the wide variety of programming languages that exist may overwhelm you and make you wonder which one you should invest in learning. Though different languages are useful for writing specific types of code, the C programming language is perhaps the most universal and beneficial. In fact, learning C could help you develop skills that will benefit you throughout your professional career by simplifying the process of learning additional programming languages in the future.

In this article, we will explain what C programming is, list its features and applications, detail just a few of the many benefits of learning this foundational coding language and provide a simple explanation of how C works, along with some information about the different career paths available as a C programmer.

What is C programming?

C is a programming language that is both versatile and popular, allowing it to be used in a vast array of applications and technologies. It can, for example, be used to write the code for operating systems, much more complex programs and everything in between. Its simplicity and flexibility are largely because it can function independently of machines, which has lent itself to becoming one of the foundational programming languages in the industry.

Acquiring an understanding of C will help you learn a wide range of other programming languages that use C as their basis by borrowing the features and syntax of C, such as Java and C++.

Why is C programming so popular?

C is a highly efficient programming language that was initially developed to write operating systems. It has many features that make it flexible and easy to use. It has low-level access to memory, a clean and concise style and a simplistic set of keywords. The source code written using C for one system can work effectively on another operating system without experiencing any changes.

Though C was developed as a programming language for UNIX operating systems, it now has many compilers that allow it to be used across almost all hardware platforms and operating systems. When it was first beginning to become popular, the American National Standards Institute, also known as ANSI, found it necessary to create a commercial standard for the programming language. Since then, it has also been approved by the International Standards Organisation and is now sometimes referred to as "ANSI C."

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Features of C programming language

Here are a few important features of the C programming language:

  • It offers functions and operators that are inbuilt. These can be used to solve all kinds of complex problems.

  • C combines the functionality of both low-level and high-level languages.

  • All operating systems can be used to write a C program.

  • C provides great support in terms of the data types and operators it offers. These features make C programs very speedy.

  • C is extendable.

  • The libraries required to support the different functions and operators are provided by C itself.

Where is C used?

C programming finds its application across industries and can be used in many ways, such as:

  • In embedded systems

  • For the development of system applications

  • For the development of desktop applications

  • For the development of a majority of Adobe applications

  • For the development of browsers and the different extensions for these browsers

  • In the development of databases like MySQL

  • In the development of operating systems

  • To produce compilers

  • In IoT-related applications

How does the C programming language work?

C is a compiled programming language. A compiler is a tool used to compile a program and convert it into a machine-readable object file. When the compilation gets completed, the linker combines the various object files and produces one executable file that can be used to run the program.

These days, many compilers are available, and you may choose any of them. The functionality remains the same, and almost all of these compilers allow you to execute programs both in C and C++.

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Benefits of learning C programming

As one of the foundational languages in programming, C is used more widely than other interpreted languages, such as PHP and Ruby. Learning C will time, but the benefits are worth the effort. Here are some of the primary advantages of learning C:

It will help you understand how a computer works

By learning C, you will be able to understand and visualise the inner workings of computer systems (like allocation and memory management), their architecture and the overall concepts that drive programming. As a programming language, C also allows you to write more complex and comprehensive programs. In turn, this teaches you how to write code that is exceedingly more efficient in C and other programming languages.

Almost all other programming languages can interface with it

A majority of high-level programming languages, such as JavaScript, Python and Java, can interface with the C programming language. In fact, when a program is written in C, the code can be executed and the program can be run on another computer. Additionally, C can be beneficial when communicating ideas and concepts in programming because of its universal nature. Regardless of whether the other person you are talking to knows C programming, you will still be able to find a way to clearly express your idea and make it easy to understand for them.

You will be able to work on open-source projects

Though many applications use various programming languages aside from C, most of those languages were developed using C. Therefore, by learning C, you can open yourself up to work on large, open-source projects, like making contributions to Python, that will impact millions of programmers worldwide.

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It will be easier to learn other programming languages

Because so many programming languages are based on or related to C, your knowledge of C will simplify the process of learning other languages. These languages typically share similar syntax, operators, control statements, data types and more.

It is an efficient programming language

There are 32 keywords contained within C, along with built-in functions and data types. Additionally, C programs contain a library of functions that can be added to by users, allowing you to access all the features and functions at any point in the program. These attributes make C both efficient and simple to work with, especially when creating complex programs.

Career path in C programming

It is easy to learn the basics of C, but you will have to be an expert in order to build a successful career in C programming. C programming is extensive and primarily used for developing various kinds of operating systems and network drivers. It also finds applications in developing other programming languages. The C programming language is high in demand, despite the emergence of a host of other programming languages. Due to such varied applications, C provides a lot of opportunities for building a successful, programming career.

You can go to the indeed job search portal to look for open positions in C programming. This will give you a sense of what skills, qualifications and experience levels employers usually look for in a potential candidate. Knowing C makes you a good fit for all kinds of domains. Almost every organisation associated with programming and software development needs a C programming expert. You will also find job postings that specifically look for a C programmer.

How to learn C programming

Here are a few steps you can take to learn C programming:

1. Learn through self-study

You can teach yourself the basics of C programming. This study could be a combination of some or all of the following elements:

  • Reading C programming books

  • Completing training modules online

  • Getting help from online coding communities

  • Taking relevant classes

  • Completing coding challenges available online

2. Pursue formal education

If you are looking for a career in traditional, large enterprises, you may need a formal bachelor's or master's degree in computer programming or software engineering. For instance, you can try getting admission to The Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) or The National Institutes of Technology (NITs) for a bachelor's degree in software engineering.

3. Earn certifications

With certifications in C programming, you can demonstrate your qualifications to potential employers and show that you are serious about building a career in this field.

4. Practise your coding skills

Programmers usually learn by doing. So look for opportunities to practise coding. You can start by working on independent C projects and small freelance projects. Another good idea would be to see if anyone in your family or friends needs help with C programming and work for them.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in the article is affiliated with indeed.

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