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Learn Lua with online courses and programs

Lua is a scripting language often used in game development. Learn more about how to use it through edX.

What is Lua?

Lua is a lightweight, embeddable scripting language. “Embeddable” means you can use it inside of a larger system to grant low-level access to the device hardware.Footnote 1 It can increase the scope of what you can do within the original application without the need to make changes to the system at large. Embeddability also means you can integrate it with code written in other languages to extend the functionality of a program. Moreover, you can use libraries written in other languages to extend Lua’s programming functionality.

Lua code is relatively light, with only 22 keywords throughout the entire language.Footnote 2 These are predefined reserved words that determine operations and specify the flow and structure of the program. It’s also lightweight and highly portable because it works out of the box with minimal modification on various systems.

Lua | Introduction Image

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Lua tutorial curriculum

A course on programming in Lua could start with an introductory unit on the basics, covering topics such as:

  • Definitions of key terminologies

  • Capabilities of the language

  • Syntax, such as Lua for loops, while loops, and other conditional statements

As you move into intermediate levels, you can cover how the language works in embedded systems. These units can also look at how to integrate other languages and libraries not written in Lua.

In advanced units of the Lua course, you may learn about object-oriented programming and more intensive uses of the language, such as game development.

Start building the knowledge you need to work in the software development field with edX. From accelerated boot camps to comprehensive programs that allow you to earn a bachelor’s degree or (for more advanced learners) a master’s degree, there are many different learning formats available to fit your needs. Busy professionals can take advantage of executive education courses tailored to those in leadership and management positions. Find the right course for you.

Explore Lua jobs

Lua knowledge can be useful in a variety of industries and jobs. Some examples of career paths you could pursue include:

  • Software engineer: Builds embedded systems that integrate the language for various applications. These include different types of applications with smaller applications within them, such as automation systems in smart devices.Footnote 3

  • Game developer: Programs different systems within video games, from physics to simulations. Some of these could function as embedded systems that players can interact with even more closely.Footnote 4

  • Machine learning engineer: Develops and trains algorithms for systems that can learn and adapt on their own for analytics, predictions, and more.Footnote 5

  • Technical writer: Creates articles, documentation, and other forms of written content to explain technical concepts and help others learn Lua.Footnote 6

Each of these roles will have different education and skill requirements. For example, in a coding boot camp, you can build essential programming skills and develop a portfolio of projects. However, some employers may specifically seek out candidates with higher level degrees like a bachelor’s degree in computer science.

How to use Lua in your career

There are several ways you can apply your Lua knowledge, both within and outside of software development. You can use Lua in your career as a software engineer to build embedded systems, and you can develop large, robust applications with smaller, less complex environments within them where the end user can make changes.

For video game development, you can apply this approach to games that support user-generated content, such as custom animations and avatars. Even if you work with a different programming language, you can still embed Lua within it and not worry about compatibility. Moreover, you can use it with standard libraries made for other languages.Footnote 7