What Is a Scripting Language?

The tech world includes countless languages responsible for constructing the digital environments with which we interact. Scripting languages are computer languages consisting of a series of commands that do not need to be compiled to be executed. These scripting languages consist of scripts that are often easy to learn and comprise the building blocks of what you see on your computer screen every day.

But what are scripting languages? What is scripting in the first place? And how are scripting languages different from programming languages?

In this article, we’ll explore not only what is a scripting language, but also how they work, the different types of scripting languages and their functions, and which future careers may require scripting languages.

Programming vs. Scripting Languages: What’s the Difference?

A programming language is basically a set of instructions telling a computer what to execute, much like a recipe tells a cook what steps to take. However, there are two methods programming languages use to speak with computers:

Sometimes referred to as “computer-native language,” a low-level language speaks directly to the computer and primarily deals with a computer’s hardware and components. It is not intuitive for programmers to use, as it’s made up of binary code (i.e.., ones and zeros).

More commonly used by programmers, high-level languages primarily deal with programming logic rather than a computer’s hardware components. And, since they are written using alpha-numeric characters, they’re much easier to write and debug.

One important thing to note about low-level vs. high-level languages is that low-level languages do not need to be translated so that a computer can understand them. However, high-level languages must be translated so that computers can understand them. This is because high-level languages use alpha-numeric characters as opposed to binary ones.

There are two ways that high-level programming languages are translated into low-level language and, as a result, these subsets of high-level programming languages are referred to interpreted languages and compiled languages.

Interpreted vs. Compiled Languages

Computer languages consist of interpreted and compiled languages. Scripting language is an interpreted language which means that, line by line, it is interpreted from alpha-numeric code into binary code.

Compiled languages, on the other hand, are translated from alpha-numeric code to binary code all at once, rather than line by line. This compiling step takes longer than interpretation line by line, and often requires more effort as it can be a manual process.

As you can imagine, aspiring coders are often interested in learning scripting languages because they are alpha-numeric, and therefore easier to write and debug. Plus, they don’t need to be compiled, which makes them more nimble.

Reserve your spot in an
upcoming boot camp.

It only takes a minute to request information and receive a full curriculum overview. You will also be put in touch with an admissions representative who can answer questions and get your application started.

Review previously provided information.
* indicates required field.

Not ****@domain.com ?
Share some information to gain exclusive access to our articles.

Server-side Scripting Languages vs. Client-side Scripting Languages

Within scripting languages, there is also a delineation between what’s called the client side (or front end) and the server side (or back end). An easy way to remember the difference between the two is that the client side refers to most of what a user sees and interacts with, including web browsers and websites while the server-side refers to the web servers, databases, etc., which support functionality.

In relation to scripting languages, here is a breakdown of the differences:

Server-side script languages create code used on a web server, regulating anything from the operations of a website to a response generator for user questions — anything that has to do with populating website content. Server-side scripting builds a link between the server and the client. The browser sends a request to the website server to perform a function, the script processes the request, and the information is provided to the user. Server-side scripting languages include PHP and Python.

Client-side scripting language creates code that runs in the web browser, without ever needing the server side to process the request. The advantage of client-side scripting languages is that by excluding the server, they free up the server to process other requests. JavaScript is the most popular client-side scripting language due to its ease of integration with other languages and its broad support across the top web browsers.

Most programmers or data analysts will interact with both server-side and client-side scripting languages, so it is advantageous to learn how both function.

Types of Scripting Languages

Scripting languages certainly have value on their own, but they work well with other script languages too. When used together, each often complements the other’s functionality, creating far better results together. Many of these languages are commonly taught in coding boot camps, as they are in high employer demand, and include JavaScript, Python, Ruby, PHP, and R.

JavaScript is one of the key building blocks that provide the modern internet’s functionality. Almost all websites use JavaScript to make their content interactive rather than static. Whenever you’re clicking on a dropdown box, exploring an interactive map, or using a website’s chat function, that’s JavaScript at work.

JavaScript is also used in multimedia: both streaming services and browser games operate in JavaScript. As you can imagine, given its broad use and functionality, JavaScript is an important tool in every programmer’s skill set.

Python is a general-purpose, server-side scripting language — and one of the most popular. Due to its natural language syntax and ease of use, Python is usually one of the first languages aspiring programmers tackle.

In addition, using Python can help programmers complete projects quickly with its large number of libraries filled with open-source code, and its robust, supportive community. And, given its ability to function across cloud, big data, and machine learning environments, Python is a valuable skill for every programmer to have.

Ruby is an interpreted scripting language invented in the mid-1990s. While it had been on the decline due its problematic relationship with CPU consumption, this language is seeing a resurgence due to its speed in development, fewer lines of code, cross-platform flexibility, and available resources and libraries. Corporations such as Amazon, Etsy, Spotify, eBay, and Uber all use Ruby for these reasons.

PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor) is a building block in many websites as it’s a good scripting language for sending information back and forth between the client and the server. Often, websites will use PHP as a go-between for different website functions and often in conjunction with JavaScript or HTML (HyperText Markup Language). PHP also works across all platforms and syncs with all databases, so many developers find value in learning it.

R is a client-side scripting language commonly used in data science, statistics, and scientific research. If you are working with data sets, R is the scripting language you will want to use with math-based applications. In addition, R is open-source, works across all platforms, and is a key language in machine learning. While R can take longer to learn, developers working in fintech applications, developing statistical tools, and transitioning vast amounts of unformatted data into insights find it invaluable.

An image that highlights the programs considered to be server-side and client-side scripting languages.

Jobs That Use Scripting Languages

Learning to code is a useful, necessary skill in many jobs and career paths, and your knowledge of scripting languages will be an asset no matter which role you choose. Here are a few jobs that often use scripting languages to deliver results.

Web developers, also known as full stack developers, are responsible for working with both the client side and the server side of websites. This means they handle everything from what you see in your browser window to what is happening behind the scenes with servers. For this purpose, web developers typically know several scripting languages, including JavaScript, Python, and Go.

Having a diverse background in multiple scripting languages benefits aspiring web developers, granting them flexibility and nuance in their work. Web developers use scripting languages to maintain and enhance the user interface (UI) to the computing and data processing of a website. Web development is a lucrative career that allows plenty of room for growth and the opportunity to work on exciting projects.

All web developers are, in a sense, software developers. They work on the front and back ends of a website, both of which require a knowledge of software. Software development, however, is not limited to web development only.

Software developers can work on an operating system (OS) like Windows, a video game, or an app. Software developers need a foundation in scripting languages like JavaScript, HTML, Python, R, and PHP; depending on the functionality of the work they’re doing. Python may be useful to software developers working on more versatile projects, whereas R may be the scripting language needed for a developer working on data management and processing.

Those who study computer languages and scripted languages may veer away from the development side of computer and web production and into the world of data. Keep in mind, not all database jobs are in analytics: these career paths are as varied as those in development.

Some career paths in coding and computer languages lead to database administrator and architect positions. These roles design and manage database systems. They set the parameters for the query taking place, establishing borders and guidelines for what information will be included. As a database administrator or architect, you can expect to use scripting languages like Python and R — or other languages that can quickly organize and protect systems and private information. Database administrators and architects are also responsible for the maintenance and optimization of the website’s database. They keep up with new and popular scripting languages, using them to make real-time modifications to their databases.

Data analysis is one of the most popular career paths someone with a background in scripting languages can pursue. Rather than designing and developing the systems, data analysts review information for businesses, organizations, nonprofits, schools, and other establishments to help them determine results, trends, and forecasts relating to economic indicators or KPIs.

Data analysis requires some knowledge of scripting languages. Specifically, a basic understanding of Python, SQL, and NoSQL will help data analysts develop their insights, while HTML and JavaScript can help them present their findings to stakeholders and clients.

Data scientists not only need to have a working knowledge of scripted languages, but also a confident background in advanced mathematics in order to perform their roles effectively. Data scientists work across a variety of industries, but their skill set is largely similar.

Through their work, data scientists establish studies to acquire and standardize data, build tools to automate data processing and calculations (called algorithms), use algorithms to identify non-intuitive trends and meaningful patterns, and present their insights to various audiences. Scripted languages, like Python and R, can also help data scientists process data quickly, as well as incorporate machine learning into their studies

A key difference between data scientists and data analysts is the complexity of the algorithms developed for data analysis, as well as the higher-level math used such as calculus and linear algebra.

What is a Scripting Language FAQs

As you consider which scripting languages to learn, it’s very likely that you have questions. Below you’ll find some of the most commonly searched questions relating to scripting languages to help you along.

The difference between scripting and programming is that programming is an all-encompassing term that covers several aspects of computer and tech work. Scripting is one aspect of programming that revolves around generating a code that gives a command to a machine. Programming may involve linking several scripts or anything that has to do with computer hardware in general.

Yes, Python is a scripting language. Because Python is an interpreted language, meaning it uses an interpreter to translate and then run code, it is considered a scripting language.

Yes, JavaScript is a scripting language. JavaScript, like Python, is an interpreted, rather than compiled, language. It is best known as the scripting language used for the majority of websites, though it can also be used in a non-browser capacity as well.

The best scripting language for Windows is Python due to its ease of use and optimization. Other scripting languages that Windows users may find helpful are Bash, WAMP, and R. Most developers and programmers will need experience on various systems, not only Windows, so knowledge of multiple scripting languages is of great value.

Scripting Languages: Next Steps

Scripting languages are important tools that provide the internet with its automation and fluidity, as well as enable efficient and meaningful data analysis. As a result, many programmers, data architects, data scientists, and more find scripting languages to be indispensable in their day-to-day job performance.

Whether you learn through a coding boot camp, traditional degree, or independent study, scripting languages can help you fully realize your career goals and set you on the path to success. Take the next step in your career today and begin your scripting language learning journey.

Reserve your spot in an
upcoming boot camp.

It only takes a minute to request information and receive a full curriculum overview. You will also be put in touch with an admissions representative who can answer questions and get your application started.

Review previously provided information.
* indicates required field.

Not ****@domain.com ?
Share some information to gain exclusive access to our articles.