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Python vs. R: Choosing the Right Language for Data Science

Last updated on: 
February 9, 2024
Swaminathan Iyer
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About The Author!
Swaminathan Iyer
Swaminathan Iyer
Product Manager at Interview Kickstart. The intriguing mind brainstorming ideas day and night for the creation of projects from simple “Hello World” to building strategies and frameworks.

Python and R share numerous similarities; both are open-source and freely accessible and have a significant influence in driving data science projects. The question isn't about determining the superior programming language for data science tasks but rather understanding how to use and extract value from both Python and R effectively.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • What is R Programming Language?
  • What is Python Programming Language?
  • Python vs. R: Use Cases
  • Python vs. R for Data Science: Data Collection, Exploration, Modeling, and Visualization
  • How do you choose between Python and R for data analytics?
  • How to learn R or Python: Options to get started
  • FAQs about Python vs. R

What is R Programming Language?

In 1993, R was designed as a programming language for activities such as machine learning, statistics, and data analysis. Ross Ihaka and Robert Gentleman created the language, which is open source and used in applications like linear regression, time series analysis, or statistical inference. It runs on operating systems such as Windows, Linux, and macOS with a Command-line interface. R is a modern and widely used tool for data-related work.

Advantages of R Programming

  • Open Source: R is an open-source language, which means it's free to download and use. One can also contribute to code optimization.
  • Platform independent: R is cross-platform compatible, making it possible to work on different OSs such as UNIX, Windows, and Mac.
  • Data Wrangling: R can transform messy code through its packages, such as read and dplyr.
  • Plots and Graphs: R uses ggplot2 and plots to produce graphs with notations and formulas.
  • Package Availability: There are many packages in R for creating machine learning and other projects such as data analysis or statistical ones.

Disadvantages of R

  • Memory: R uses more memory because all the objects are placed in physical memory. As the program data accumulates over time, this process decelerates.
  • Security: Built into web architecture, R lacks basic security that makes it impractical to embed in most cases.
  • Difficult to learn: Compared to Python, R is a complex language with many complications, making it quite difficult for a beginner.
  • Slow Runtime: R is a language of slow operations. Compared to other languages like MATLAB and Python, it takes a longer time for an output.
  • Data Handling: R data handling is cumbersome since all the information needs to be placed in one location. It is not suited for Big Data. But it has an integration that simplifies handling.

What is Python Programming Language?

Developed by Guido van Rossum in 1991, Python is a popular and dynamic programming language. It has been characterized by high readability and brief syntax, which allow programmers to produce shorter code lines. The Python Software Foundation still supports the development of Python, and it's widely used for different applications.

"Python programming has been an important part of Google since the beginning and remains so as the system grows and evolves. Today, dozens of Google engineers use Python language, and we're looking for more people with skills in this language. " 

-Peter Norvig

Director at Google.

Advantages of Python

  • Versatility: Python is one of the most flexible languages. It is concise, easy to use, and well-organized. Python is object-oriented, but it transforms itself to include functional characteristics, thus opening a doorway into alternative programming paradigms.
  • Open Source: Python can be downloaded easily. It has one of the lively support forums where any individual can contribute to the enhancement of libraries and their functionality.
  • Libraries: Numerous libraries for Python should be used in order to perform the major functions associated with data science.
  • Productivity: Its ability to integrate and control helps save a considerable amount of time.
  • Embeddable: Python codes are embeddable. It is possible to combine Python codes with other programming languages, such as C++.

Disadvantages of Python

  • Speed: Being an interpreted language, Python is rather slow compared to many other programming languages.
  • Mobile environment: However, Python programs are incompatible with Android and iOS platforms. It is a weak language for developers in such an environment. But it can be used with more work.
  • Memory consumption: Python is quite a RAM hog. Slowly, the process becomes slower when many objects are accessed.
  • Database Access Layers: However, the database access layers in Python are immature compared to Java Database Connectivity(JDBC) and Open Database Connectivity (ODBC), which makes it a less preferred type of database connectivity.
  • Threading: The GIL creates problems in threading or the simultaneous flow of multiple functions into Python.

Python vs. R: Use Cases

The table below shows a comparison of Python vs. R use cases based on prominent applications in various industries.

Use Cases Python R
Deep Learning Widely used for deep learning applications. It is not a primary focus but can be used for some statistical learning tasks.
Machine Learning Is Highly popular for machine learning tasks. Commonly used for statistical analysis and visualization projects.
Web Applications Ideal for developing large-scale web apps. It is not a primary strength, but used in certain web-based statistical applications.
Testing Python is used for testing purposes. Not a primary use case for R.
Software Development Python is extensively used in software development. Not the primary focus, but used for statistical projects.
Industry Examples - Dropbox is written in Python.
- Mozilla utilizes Python for code exploration.
- Walt Disney uses Python for creative processes.
- Other products: Cocos2d, Mercurial, Bit Torrent, Reddit.
- Ford uses R and Hadoop for data-driven decision support.
- Lloyd’s uses R for creating motion charts in analysis reports.
- Google uses R for analyzing advertising campaigns and predicting economic activities.
- Facebook analyzes status updates using R.
- Zillow uses R for predicting housing prices.
Others - Python finds applications in various domains like testing, web development, and more. - R is specifically designed for statistical analysis and visualization.

Python vs. R for Data Science: Data Collection, Exploration, Modeling, and Visualization

Data Collection:


  • Supports various data formats (CSV, JSON) and can import SQL tables.
  • Uses the requests library for web-based data collection in web development.


  • Imports data from Excel, CSV, and text files and converts files in SPSS or Minitab format to R data frames.
  • It is not as versatile as Python for web-based data collection.

Data Exploration:


  • It uses Pandas, a powerful data analysis library, for filtering, sorting, and displaying data.
  • Efficiently stores and displays large datasets with multiple features.


  • Offers a wide range of options for data exploration and data mining techniques.
  • Includes easily accessible statistical tests and algorithms without additional installations.

Data Modeling:


  • Standard libraries like NumPy are for numerical modeling, sci-kit-learn is for machine learning, and SciPy is for scientific computing.


  • Relies on external packages, like Tidyverse, for specific modeling evaluations.
  • Certain packages make it easy to visualize, manipulate, and report on data.

Data Visualization:



  • Superior to Python in data visualizations, designed for displaying statistical analysis results.
  • It uses a fundamental graphics module for band c charts and ggplot2 for advanced plots like complex scatter plots with regression lines.

How do you choose between Python and R for data analytics?

Choosing between Python and R for data analytics cannot be done as right or wrong since both of these skills are in high demand. It depends on your personal goals and professional background. Consider the following factors as you make your choice:


  • Based on the TIOBE, Stack Overflow PYPI, and RedMonk programming language indices, Python is more well-liked in the broader tech community.
  • A greater community implies improved long-term support and growth possibilities.

Learning Curve:

  • Both Python and R are considered easy languages.
  • Python has a smoother learning curve in that it is written with very readable syntax, even for those who are familiar with software development.
  • In the beginning, R may have a steeper learning curve in general, especially for those with some statistical background, but after gaining understanding, it becomes quite simpler.

Company Compatibility:

  • When cooperating with the teams, consider the language they prefer.
  • Look at job postings of your target companies and industries to find out which one leans more towards R or Python as a necessity.

Strengths and Weaknesses:

  • Python is a great language for managing huge amounts of data, producing deep learning models, and performing web scraping or workflows outside the statistical sphere.
  • R excels at plotting and data visualization and has an extensive library of statistical packages.

Career Path:

  • Plan your language according to what kind of career you want in the future.
  • If you are passionate about statistical calculations and data visualization, R could be a suitable option.
  • For data scientists dealing with big data, AI, and deep learning, the best choice is Python.

Python is a general-purpose language for various applications, such as programming development and computer science. Due to the fact that both Python and R are effective tools for data analytics, consider your needs, preferences, and career goals when picking one of them. Think about which option is better suited to your goals.

How to learn R or Python: Options to get started

Need help with learning technical languages? Check out Interview Kickstart's Data Science Interview Course – the first-of-its-kind program designed and taught by FAANG+ instructors.

Interview Kickstart is your go-to solution for Data Science Tech interview prep, offering a comprehensive curriculum, top-notch instructors, and career coaching. Sign up for our FREE Webinar to learn more!

FAQs about Python vs. R

1. Why do some people prefer R over Python?

R is favored for its strong focus on stats and visualization, making it ideal for tasks like data exploration and plotting.

2. Should I learn R if I know Python?

Learning R can enhance your skills, especially if you work with stats or data visualization or in industries where R is common.

3. Is Python tougher than R?

Python is often seen as easier due to its readable syntax, while R may be trickier, especially for those with a stats background.

4. Is Python or R more in demand?

Python is more in demand due to its versatility across various domains.

5. Is R less popular than Python?

Yes, Python is more popular and widely used compared to R.

Posted on 
February 7, 2024

Swaminathan Iyer

Product @ Interview Kickstart | Ex | Business Management - XLRI Jamshedpur. Loves building things and burning pizzas!

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