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JavaScript Vs. ReactJS: Which Is The Best Programming Language To Learn?

JavaScript Vs. ReactJS: Which Is The Best Programming Language To Learn?
Photo by Annie Spratt / Unsplash

If you’re new to coding then you might be considering learning JavaScript or ReactJS as your first programming language.

But what is the difference between the two and which one is best to learn first?

This article aims to answer these questions, and more.

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Table of contents

  • What Are JavaScript and ReactJS?
  • JavaScript and ReactJS Fast Facts
  • Why Choose JavaScript?
  • Why Choose ReactJS?
  • JavaScript vs. ReactJS: What to Choose for a Project
  • JavaScript vs. ReactJS Play-Off
  • Learning JavaScript vs. ReactJS: Where to Start
  • JavaScript vs. ReactJS: Which Developers Earn More?
  • JavaScript vs. ReactJS: Which One Should You Learn?
  • The Final Verdict
  • Learn JavaScript and ReactJS with Altcademy

What Are JavaScript and ReactJS?

JavaScript is a front-end programming language that is mainly used to add interactive elements to web pages—the search bar at the top of this page is a good example.

ReactJS, on the other hand, is a JavaScript library.  A library is a set of pre-written codes that makes programming quicker. ReactJS provides code for making powerful user interfaces (UIs).

Another useful term to know is “framework”. This is a collection of libraries that provide developers with a basis for entire functions, or even websites and applications.

What Is Plain JavaScript?

JavaScript and ReactJS can both be used for front-end development. JavaScript can also be used in the back-end environment.

However, for going head-to-head, we will consider only plain JavaScript. Plain JavaScript refers to using the language without additional libraries or frameworks. Plain JavaScript is also called pure JavaScript or vanilla JavaScript.

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JavaScript vs. ReactJS Fast Facts

Plain JavaScript





Year launched




One long file

Small building blocks called components

Maintained by

ECMA, various companies, community

Meta (formerly Facebook), various companies, community

Why Choose JavaScript?

Three programming languages are used in modern dynamic and interactive web pages:

  • HTML: Structures webpages.
  • CSS: Is used to create the design elements.
  • JavaScript: Is used to create interactivity.

Pain JavaScript forms part of almost all websites—98% of all of them, in fact.

There are many reasons to choose plain JavaScript as your first programming language. It has a simple syntax and is easy to understand. Developers can write code in any text editor and do not need additional software. The simplicity and versatility of plain JavaScript make it a viable choice for many projects.

You can use plain JavaScript to develop dynamic and interactive applications and websites.

You don’t need much equipment or software to get started with JavaScript. You only need a computer, a text editor, and an internet connection. Once you are ready to upload and publish your code, it is executed in web browsers from top to bottom, line by line.

Benefits of plain JavaScript

✔️Lower learning curve

✔️High performance

✔️There are no complex libraries or settings to configure

✔️Can be used for front-end and back-end (additional resources are usually recommended for the latter)

✔️Seamlessly integrates with other programming languages

💡What are front-end and back-end?

  • Front end: These are the parts of your website that users see and interact with.

  • Back-end: These are the underlying structures, systems, and data that websites are built on.

Disadvantages of plain JavaScript

❌Time-consuming, as developers have to write a lot of code

❌Does not always work well for large applications with complex features

❌Lack of debugging facilities

Why Choose ReactJS?

ReactJS is a JavaScript library that allows developers to quickly create powerful user interfaces (UI). ReactJS is popular because it is efficient and versatile. It allows developers to quickly build complex web applications by combining small, reusable components.

For example, a social media application can have over 10,000 components, but when they are pre-written, the time to develop an app is reduced.

Some examples of famous apps built using ReactJS include:

  • Facebook
  • Dropbox
  • Instagram
  • WhatsApp

ReactJS can also be used for mobile application development with React Native.

Benefits of ReactJS

✔️Renders complex content quickly on web pages

✔️Able to build rich user interfaces

✔️Easy to maintain and update the components

✔️High performance

✔️Extensive debugging tools

Disadvantages of ReactJS

❌Steep learning curve

❌Geared for front-end only

❌Does not support older browsers

JavaScript vs. ReactJS: What to Choose for a Project

Whether you opt to use plain JavaScript or ReactJS depends on the nature of your web development project.

When to use plain JavaScript

Plain JavaScript is generally used for:

  • Creating small applications
  • Building landing pages
  • Designing dynamic and interactive personal or company websites

When you find that you have too many things to code manually, it is time to think about introducing a JavaScript framework or library such as ReactJS.

When to use ReactJS

ReactJS is suitable for developing complex applications such as social networking platforms or large-scale enterprise applications. ReactJS’s capabilities are especially useful for creating single-page applications (SPAs) that render real-time updates as users scroll through the screen.

The clocks used on are a good example of an interactive element that is updated in real time.

JavaScript vs. ReactJS Play-Off

A group of developers recently conducted a detailed comparison between plain JavaScript and ReactJS. Here is how the two contenders fared:

❤️Popularity: ReactJS

Most developers prefer to use ReactJS. According to Statista (Statista), ReactJS was the web tool used second most among software developers worldwide in 2022 (the first was Node.js). As many as 42.62% of developers said they were using ReactJS.

🎓Ease of learning: JavaScript

JavaScript wins because it is much easier to learn, especially for people without previous programming experience.

📈Performance: Tied

Some developers say that JavaScript performs better. Others maintain that ReactJS is known for its fast performance, which makes it ideal for high-traffic applications. All in all, both have high performance, so it’s a tie.

🔮Future outlook: Tied

Demand for ReactJS is growing exponentially. However, since plain JavaScript is necessary for every JavaScript framework and library, including ReactJS, we can call it a tie.

⏱️Testing: Tied

We also have a tie here. It is easy for developers to test plain JavaScript code, and it is just as easy to test ReactJS.

🔒Security: JavaScript

ReactJS can be vulnerable to some security threats, while plain JavaScript fares better. Plain JavaScript wins in this category.

😀UI Manipulation: ReactJS

ReactJS wins here! ReactJS has something called a virtual DOM which automatically and efficiently updates your project’s UI while you code. In plain JavaScript, the UI needs to be updated manually.

👍Convenience: Tied

ReactJS and plain JavaScript are convenient, but ReactJS offers more functionality, which is why many developers prefer it. Let's call it a tie.

🔧Maintenance: ReactJS

The winner is ReactJS because it is made up of components that are much easier to maintain than web applications coded in plain JavaScript.

🔄Updates: ReactJS

ECMA JavaScript standard is updated once a year. ReactJS is updated more often. ReactJS is the winner in this respect.

💰Cost to develop: Tied

It may be cheaper to develop plain JavaScript applications, but companies usually prefer to hire a developer skilled in ReactJS. No clear winner in this category!

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Learning JavaScript vs. ReactJS: Where to Start

If you’re learning to become a developer, then it’s a good idea to ensure you have a solid knowledge of plain JavaScript before using frameworks and libraries like ReactJS.

That’s because ReactJS is based on plain JavaScript and having knowledge of the latter makes ReactJS much easier to use. In fact, beginners who skip straight to ReactJS often struggle because of their lack of experience with JavaScript.

Here are a couple of reasons we think you should start your programming journey by learning JavaScript.

JavaScript is the foundation

If you learn plain JavaScript first, you’ll understand some of the core principles of web development and more career opportunities will be available to you. Luckily, the fundamentals of JavaScript are relatively easy for beginners to grasp.

You can learn frameworks later

Once you’ve learned JavaScript, you can decide which framework or library you need for a specific project. Your knowledge of JavaScript will help you get to grips with any new frameworks or libraries more quicker.

That is why, for example, the Altcademy full-stack web development online course ensures that students first gain knowledge of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript before moving on to coding with frameworks and libraries like ReactJS.

JavaScript vs. ReactJS: Which Developers Earn More?

If you learn HTML, CSS, and plain JavaScript, you will have all the fundamental web development skills you would need. Provided that you are also creative and dedicated, you will probably be able to make a tidy sum as a freelance web developer.

According to online jobs board BuiltIn, the average base salary for a front-end developer is over $109,000 per year.

However, it may be difficult to get a high-paying job in a big company with only plain JavaScript credentials. Instead, you would probably land a junior position—from where you would be able to improve your skillset and gain experience over time.

Plain JavaScript is a foundational language and you can quickly build on it—for example, by completing Altcademy’s full-stack web development course online, at your own pace.

Approximate salaries of ReactJS developers at the beginning of 2023

ReactJS developers can expect to earn more than JavaScript developers.

ReactJS is a popular and in-demand library for building user interfaces. Many top companies rely on ReactJS developers, including Facebook, Atlassian, Airbnb, Dropbox, Netflix, and more.

  • The job posting platform reports that the average ReactJS developer’s salary in the U.S. is $119,846 per year. Entry-level positions start at $100,957 a year, while most experienced workers make up to $150,000 per year.  
  • The ZipRecruiter job posting platform states that the average annual salary for a ReactJS developer in the U.S. is $108,594. According to them, the salaries of most ReactJS developers range between $84,500 to $131,500 per year, with top earners making $145,000 annually.

Top industries where ReactJS developers work

  • 16% Software as a service (SaaS)
  • 13% Cloud-based solutions
  • 10% Consulting
  • 10% Financial technology
  • 7% Retail or e-commerce

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JavaScript vs. ReactJS: Which One Should You Learn?

Mastering plain JavaScript first will make you a better ReactJS developer. You will be able to better understand the overall picture and figure out how to solve programming challenges.

That is exactly why Bailee, who holds an MBA degree and dreams of becoming a front-end developer, decided to study with Altcademy: “The material is very thorough and well thought out and helps the learning process go smoother because of the great examples and the practice exercises. I have already learned so much and am growing more and more confident every day in my development skills”, she says.

Student Stories: Bailee Roby

The Final Verdict

As you may have guessed by now, you should not be trying to choose whether to learn plain JavaScript or ReactJS. You should learn both because it’s better to know plain JavaScript before you dive into ReactJS.

Even if you want to become a front-end developer, you should get a solid plain JavaScript foundation first. It would be unwise to skip learning plain JavaScript and immediately try to master ReactJS.

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Learn Plain JavaScript and ReactJS with Altcademy

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✔️Support when you need it from experienced instructors and mentors via private one-on-one chats

✔️Career advice to help you build a portfolio and prepare for the job market

Altcademy’s programs are the perfect way to kick-start a successful career. More than 85% of Altcademy alumni are hired within 6 months after they’ve graduated.

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