If you wanna do standalone app go with C or C++.
If you wanna do web go with VB.Net or C# or (JSP blah).
If you wanna support old mainframe systems go with Natural rather then COBOL.
The bottom line is JAVA sucks...but don't get me wrong...it's good to know it. It's just my opinion.
I do programming for living, and i would recommend Visual Studio 2005. Sometimes I have to jump from mainframe (COBOL) to VS 2005 and back, it makes you think...