In short, Functional Programming is a paradigm, or style, that focuses on mathematical functions. It is a fundamentally different way of thinking about programming, and offers a refreshing change from Object Oriented, or Procedural coding.
Functional Programming languages are popular in academia, and experience here will offer an advantage for your own studies, research, or a unique skill for academic co-op work positions. Functional languages have also found commercial applications when dealing with statistics, financial analysis, or even making an operating system.
Though just because it is different, you should not feel intimidated. It is amazingly simple to get started. For those who know only Turing from highschool, there are syntax references to both O’Caml and Haskell comparing them to Turing. It is even as easy to implement graphics!
As wtd says – Just do it:
“Take a few hours and just throw yourself into a functional programming language. O’Caml, SML/NJ, Lisp, Scheme, Erlang… just pick one and learn the basics. For the most part, these language have small conceptual bases, so you can learn more in that amount of time than you might think.
It’s worth it, but I don’t know that I can explain the benefits more than I already have. You’ll just have to see for yourselves.”
Take a look through the forums.