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How to Learn MySQL

Karen Schwarze - July 20, 2022


Have you ever wondered what happens to data that is collected by a website? Every time the front end of a website collects data, it needs a place to store it. This place is called a database.

One type of database that you can use is a relational database, where categories of data can relate to, or interact with, each other. MySQL is a relational database and SQL is the language you can use to access, update, and manipulate the data within MySQL.

What Is MySQL?

MySQL is a relational database management system (RDBMS) that you can use with SQL (Structured Query Language). MySQL has many applications, including storing data, powering social media sites, and helping facilitate e-commerce services. MySQL is a combination of “My”, which is the co-founder’s daughter’s name, and SQL.

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MySQL is an important skill to learn for web development, whether you want to focus on front end, back end, or full stack development.

What Is MySQL Used For?

Here are the main ways that MySQL is used:

  • Powering social media sites. MySQL is used for websites like Facebook and Twitter. By using MySQL, these social media sites are able to store and retrieve information about users and then make that information available to users upon their request. That means that you’re able to easily see content that you’ve posted to these social media sites, such as text updates and photos.
  • Storing data like blog articles. MySQL is used for websites like WordPress. If you have ever started a blog on WordPress, you know that it is capable of storing many blog posts written by different users, along with other data like photos. To store all of this content as data, WordPress needs a database and tools for managing that database. That is where MySQL comes in. Users can create, store, and retrieve their blog posts.
  • Helping e-commerce flourish. The “shopping cart” feature is a common element of most online stores. It stores the items that you have selected and makes sure that all the articles are there when you are ready to check out. Those items are stored in a database like MySQL.
  • Querying and manipulating data. With a data manipulation language (DML), you can insert, delete, and modify data in a database. SQL is a DML that can retrieve and manipulate data in a relational database like MySQL . For example, you can use SQL’s “Select” command to retrieve data from the MySQL database by using a command line interface or a scripting language (such as PHP, Perl , or Python ).

Learning MySQL

MySQL is a valuable skill to learn if you want to be a full stack or back end software engineer, or if you want to be a front end engineer. This is because learning MySQL will help you understand how the entire application that you’re running works.

That said, what is the best way to get started with learning MySQL?

Why Should I Learn MySQL?

You should learn MySQL if you want to get into software engineering, as pretty much any website is going to store user data so it can be retrieved for later use. Companies such as WordPress, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube all use MySQL to power their databases that store user data.

MySQL is used for data analysis. Data analysis is crucial in many areas, from business to research and journalism. In a business context, you can use data to make decisions about how resources should be allocated and where growth has occurred. Pairing MySQL with SQL can help you dig into the data needed to make these decisions. If you perform research in an academic or journalistic setting, data analysis can help you identify patterns that can inform the content you produce.

MySQL and SQL are also valuable in data science . You can load data into a MySQL database, clean the data (remove inaccuracies), and then use SQL queries to lift insights from your data.

Here are some top reasons why you should learn MySQL:

MySQL is popular
MySQL is one of the most popular relational database management systems. It’s free and open source, runs on common operating systems like Windows, Linux, and MacOS, and is relevant for many data storage and analysis needs. According to the Stack Overflow 2020 Developer Survey , MySQL ranks as the most popular database, with 55.6% of all respondents choosing MySQL over other database options like PostgreSQL and Microsoft SQL Server.

MySQL has a strong community
With so many websites relying on MySQL for their database needs, you can bet that there are many people who are discussing ways to improve their MySQL skills. You can go to sites like StackOverflow to ask questions about MySQL and share what you are learning with the wider community. There are MySQL events, a Slack channel, and user groups. You can learn more about the MySQL community on the MySQL Community Resources page.

MySQL skills are in demand
As of this writing, there are over 19,000 job postings on LinkedIn that mention MySQL for jobs in the United States. On Glassdoor, there are over 13,000 . Based on these job descriptions, the type of roles where knowledge of MySQL is needed or helpful include positions like web developer, Python developer, and digital copywriter. Knowing how to manage a database can be useful in a variety of contexts, whether you are a full-time developer or have some other role.

To get some more perspective on the role of MySQL in today’s job market, let’s look at some salary numbers. According to Glassdoor , the average annual base pay of a MySQL database administrator is $76,526. Salary.com lists the hourly wage for a MySQL database engineer as being between $59 and $82 ($122,720-$170,560 a year).

How Long Does It Take to Learn MySQL?

If you already have some programming experience, learning the basics of MySQL could take you as little as two to three weeks. Keep in mind that really understanding how to use MySQL involves knowing how to use it with SQL and how to use a code editor like MySQL Workbench.

To fully comprehend the role that MySQL plays in websites, you’ll probably need some background in web development. In other words, before you start learning MySQL, it is good to have even just a basic understanding of HTML, CSS, and a scripting language such as Python, PHP, or Perl.

How to Learn MySQL: Step-by-Step

There’s no single right or wrong way to learn MySQL. Some people prefer to watch a lot of YouTube videos, go through tutorials and courses, and read the MySQL documentation before installing and using MySQL. Others like to do just a little research, install MySQL, and start actually using it while reaching out to the MySQL community and resources as needed. Wherever you are in your MySQL learning journey, following these general big-picture steps will help you.

Here is a basic framework for getting started with MySQL:

  1. Decide why you want to learn MySQL. What is your main motivation for learning MySQL? Do you want to get a job as a MySQL developer? Perhaps you want to use MySQL in a different role where databases play a part in the work you do, such as marketing.
  2. Learn how to install the necessary components. You’ll need to install MySQL and MySQL Workbench in order to get started.
  3. Practice your skills. Once you understand the basic setup of MySQL, you’ll need to practice your skills consistently to solidify your knowledge.
  4. Tap into MySQL resources like courses, books, and the MySQL community. As you’re experimenting on your own, you should also check out courses, books, and other resources (like the ones we’ve listed below) to continue expanding your skills.
  5. Teach others what you’ve learned. One of the best ways to find out what you actually know and don’t know in any area of expertise is to teach it to others. Explain what you’ve learned to a co-worker or friend who is interested in database management, or answer other developers’ questions on sites like StackOverflow .

The Best MySQL Courses

Udemy: MySQL, SQL, and Stored Procedures from Beginner to Advanced
Cost: $29.99

This course is a great beginner’s guide to MySQL queries, database design, and other aspects of MySQL. To complete this course, you’ll need to download and install MySQL Server Community Edition and MySQL Workbench (both are free).

MySQL Workbench is essentially a code editor built specifically for MySQL. You’ll progress from being a beginner to being an advanced SQL and MySQL developer. This course provides 18.5 hours of video content plus 66 downloadable resources. You’ll also get a certificate upon completion.

Udemy: Richard Stibbard’s “Practical MySQL”
Cost: $24.99

In this course, you will learn about managing MySQL queries, using MySQL on the command line, relational database design, and more. Other topics include how MySQL interacts with PHP, a scripting language.

This program will help you become a proficient MySQL user. The course includes 6.5 hours of video content plus other resources. When you have completed the course, you will be awarded a certificate of completion.

Coursera: Excel to MySQL – Analytic Techniques for Business (Specialization)
Cost: Coursera subscription (varies)

Are you ready to go beyond MySQL and see how it fits within the larger picture of business analytics? If so, this is a fantastic educational option, offered by Duke University via Coursera. In this specialization, you will explore how Excel, MySQL, and Tableau analyze data and how to share your insights with others.

You’ll also dive into topics like linear regression, data visualization, SQL, and binary classification. This program includes a capstone project where you focus on optimizing revenues from residential property, thus practicing your skills in a real-world context. This specialization takes approximately seven months to complete if you are dedicating to it at least four hours a week. You will earn a certificate upon completion.

LinkedIn Learning: Become a Database Developer
Cost: LinkedIn Premium subscription ($29.99/month)

If you’re interested in becoming a database developer, this course may just be for you. This program is composed of several courses, including Programming Foundations: Databases, Learning SQL Programming, Learning MySQL Development, and Learning MongoDB. It includes seven hours of content, and you are awarded a certificate of completion when you finish the course.

MySQL Books

Head First: PHP & MySQL by Lynn Beighley and Michael Morrison

Image credit: ThriftBooks

The Head First series has a very beginner-friendly approach to learning programming languages. If you are just getting started with MySQL and understanding databases, this is a helpful book to get started. You’ll be guided through examples and “brain-friendly” exercises that truly help cement your understanding of MySQL and PHP.

Learning PHP, MySQL, JavaScript, CSS & HTML5: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Dynamic Websites by Robin Nixon

Image credit: Amazon

Whether or not you have experience with other programming languages (such as HTML, CSS, PHP, and JavaScript), this book is a helpful guide to understanding how these languages, together with MySQL, can work to create dynamic websites. If you already understand the basics of front end development, this book will help you add MySQL to your toolkit.

MySQL Cookbook: Solutions for Database Developers and Administrators by Paul DuBois

Image credit: Amazon

This is a good book to read once you have some MySQL experience, as it is not a full-fledged tutorial but rather is “designed as a handy resource when you need quick solutions or techniques.” It can be helpful as a guide to the problems you may encounter on your journey to learn MySQL and database management.

Online MySQL Resources

Wikibooks: My SQL

Image credit: Wikibooks

This is an online guide to using MySQL. It is similar to using an e-book and includes chapters on the MySQL language, Pivot tables, and optimization. There’s even a guide on how to work through the debugging process.

W3Schools.com: MySQL Functions

Image credit: W3Schools.com

W3Schools.com has a guide to MySQL. This guide includes explanations, examples, and “try it yourself” modules that allow you to see how MySQL operates. You’ll find a list of MySQL’s built-in functions. These include numeric functions, date functions, and advanced functions to perform tasks like displaying the name of the database.

MySQL Documentation

Image credit: MySQL Documentation

The documentation for MySQL is robust, with manuals and articles about everything MySQL. Topics include connectors and APIs, MySQL Workbench (the editor used with MySQL), a MySQL Error Reference guide, and much more. MySQL also has a Twitter account , where you can learn more about what’s happening in the MySQL world.

Conclusion

MySQL is an open-source relational database management system that allows you to store and retrieve website data. It powers sites like Twitter, Facebook, and WordPress, and can be useful anytime you want users to be able to interact with data that they have posted to your website.

The job market for MySQL developers is strong, and salaries are high for people who have this skill set. Even if your job isn’t strictly that of a developer, knowing MySQL can still be useful—anytime you need to store data, you need a database. MySQL is a tool that you can use to manage that database.

What are you waiting for? Get started with learning MySQL today and add this valuable skill to your repertoire.

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Karen Schwarze

About the author: A former educator and edtech marketer, Karen is passionate about computer science education. She’s particularly fascinated by the connections between coding languages and English language/literature structures. This led her to build an edtech app where users create Python programs by manipulating literary devices like similes and metaphors. When she’s not writing, Karen enjoys watching comedy and reading books about history.

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