When you post a Tweet, submit a web form, send a text message, or buy something on an online store, data is created. In fact, data was created when you clicked on this web page.
Computers are powered on data. Businesses use data to make better decisions, doctors use data to provide top-notch healthcare services, and governments use data to track demographic information. In short, there is no escaping the influence of data on our lives.
But as we gather more data, there is a growing need for people who can organize and analyze that data, and turn it into something useful. After all, raw data—data that has not been processed in any way—is not very useful.
That’s where SQL comes in. SQL, or Structured Query Language, is a technology that allows you to store and analyze data. And, it’s one of the most useful technological skills you can develop.
StackOverflow’s 2019 Developer Survey, which studied more than 90,000 developers and their programming habits, found that SQL is the third-most-popular technology in the world.
But why is SQL in such demand? Why should you learn a language that was built in the 1970s? Those are both questions we are going to answer in this article.
What Is SQL?
The history of SQL can be traced back to 1970 when Edgar Codd, an IBM computer scientist, authored a paper on how we could better organize data using databases. After releasing this paper, many people tried to implement a version of Codd’s system, which resulted in the rise of a technology called Structured Query Language, or SQL.
SQL is a tool that allows you to access and manipulate databases. Among other things, SQL allows you to:
- Store data in a database
- Retrieve data from a database
- Update data in and remove data from a database
- Create new databases
- Create new tables in a database
- Set permissions for data in a database
So, why should you devote your time to learning SQL? Let’s explore six of the main reasons why learning SQL is a good investment.
#1: SQL Is Used for a Wide Range of Purposes
One of the main advantages of learning how to code in SQL is that the technology can be applied in a wide range of different contexts. Here are just a few of the fields where SQL has become an essential tool:
- Social media
- Data analysis
- Scientific computing
- Web development
- Game development
This list could go on and on. The fact is that, no matter what your thoughts are on SQL, the language is everywhere, and is used for applications both large and small.
To reinforce this point, consider this—Uber, Microsoft, Amazon, Twitter, Quora, Dropbox, and StackOverflow all use SQL. In fact, you’d likely have trouble naming a technology company that does not use SQL in some way.
But it’s beyond that. SQL is also used within companies for other purposes. While SQL may be a programming technology, it can also be used by marketers to analyze data, financiers to analyze company finances, and sales departments to track sales.
#2: SQL Is Intuitive and Easy to Use
The SQL language is very literal and easy to use. This means that, even if you have no background in technology whatsoever, you should have no trouble mastering the fundamentals of how to use SQL.
SQL uses a syntax that is very similar to English, which means that the learning curve for SQL is smooth. Do you need an example? Here’s the command you would use to retrieve a list of names from an “employees” database:
SELECT name FROM employees;
In addition, there are only a certain number of keywords that you need to master when it comes to SQL, after which point you can do virtually anything with a database.
So, once you’ve learned the basic SQL keywords, how to filter and join tables, and mastered a few other beginner concepts, you’ll be able to quickly go on to use SQL for other, more advanced purposes.
#3: Demand for SQL Skills Is High
In any career, if you want to make a move, you should focus your attention on learning the skills that employers want to see. If you’re interested in any career in data—whether you want to become a data scientist, a data analyst, or a database administrator—learning SQL is one of the must-haves.
The TIOBE Index, which tracks the most popular coding technologies in the world using data from search engines, reports that SQL is the eighth most-commonly searched programming technology on the internet (as of April 23rd, 2020).
That’s not all. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in computer and information research are expected to grow by 16% by 2028, which is “much faster than average.” While this statistic does not specifically reflect growth in SQL, it does paint a clear picture of the overall direction of the tech industry toward more jobs in data.
As if that were not enough, according to Glassdoor, there are 22,911 job postings available (as of April 23rd, 2020) for positions as an SQL Developer. Clearly, SQL developers are in high demand.
#4: SQL Is Here to Stay
While some programming technologies come and go, there is no sign that similar fate awaits SQL any time soon.
The SQL language may be old, but it is so instrumental in how we build today’s technology that we can only assume demand for SQL developers will remain high.
Not only is SQL ranked as one of the most popular technologies in Stack Overflow’s 2019 Developer Survey, but it is also ranked as one of the most-loved—64.1% of developers reported that SQL was the technology they loved using the most.
This shows that, among developers, using SQL is still extremely favored. While there is a growing interest in tools such as Hadoop and NoSQL as methods of storing data, SQL is here to stay. So, if you learn SQL, you’ll have a skill that you can use throughout your career, no matter where it takes you.
#5: SQL Pays Well
So far, we have established that developers love using SQL and that SQL developers are in high demand. But what about the pay for SQL developers? That’s a great question!
As of April 23rd, 2020, Glassdoor reports that the average base pay for an SQL developer is $81,622, with more senior positions raking in salaries significantly higher. This salary is high even in comparison to other jobs in tech, thus showing that learning how to code in SQL does not just pay in knowledge, it pays in salary increases, too.
#6: SQL Has a Great Developer Ecosystem
The massive popularity of SQL has resulted in a great repository of resources being built up over the years that you can use to help you learn SQL.
Whether you want to use SQL in your company’s marketing department, or use the technology to power your blog, there is no shortage of great tutorials, videos, and courses out there that you can use to help.
In addition, the importance of SQL to careers such as data scientist has meant that many top coding bootcamps have embedded SQL into their curricula. So, if you want a job in data, you should have no trouble finding a bootcamp that can help you acquire the skills you need.
Learning SQL Can Pay off Well
Knowing how to code in any programming language can pay off, but learning SQL is an especially wise investment to make.
The SQL language comes with a simple syntax that makes it easy to get started and it is also accompanied by a strong developer community on which you can rely as you learn the ropes.
But it’s not just the simplicity of the technology that makes it wonderful—SQL also has tangible value in the labor market. SQL developers are in demand, and employers are willing to pay qualified SQL developers highly for their work.
Whether you want to be a data scientist, or just want to learn a new tech skill, it’s hard to find a reason why you shouldn’t learn SQL!
To help you get started, you should check out Career Karma’s Introduction to SQL series, which features a wide range of tutorials on common SQL queries and commands.