Having knowledge of databases is crucial if you want to explore a career in data. Whether you want to be a data scientist or an engineer, databases will come up at some point. If you want to work in data, you will need to learn SQL.
Structured Query Language, or SQL, gives developers a way to efficiently and securely store their data. SQL is a standard. This means that there are clear instructions on how you should write SQL. SQL powers many aspects of the technologies you use every day. When you sign up to a site like Amazon, your name and email will be stored in a database.
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With this in mind, it’s clear that learning SQL can have a major impact on your career in technology. This guide will discuss the best way to learn SQL online. We’ll give you a clear roadmap you can use to start your journey of mastering this exciting and powerful technology. Discover more about how to learn SQL in the guide below.
What is SQL?
SQL is a technology used to create and manage databases. SQL works with a type of database called a “relational database,” which is a structure of data that has both columns and rows of data. In fact, it is the standard language used to manage relational databases.
Each column in a table stores information about a category of data, such as a name or an email address. A row stores values for a particular entry. So, one row in a database could store a single user’s name and email address.
To understand exactly what SQL is, it is helpful to have a basic understanding of how databases function. If you are a database developer or database administrator, SQL offers a wide range of features that make it a useful language to learn. These include:
- Adding, updating, and deleting rows
- Creating tables to store information
- Modifying tables to change the structure of a database
- Retrieving rows from the database
- Filtering entries in the database
The SQL language has been around since the 1970s and has become a standard database technology. SQL will continue to be relevant in years to come. If you learn SQL, you should be able to apply your SQL skills to various job opportunities for the foreseeable future.
Why Should You Learn SQL?
SQL is very popular, and there is a multitude of reasons why you should learn SQL. It has many applications in many 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
The list goes on and on. This language is everywhere. Companies of all sizes use SQL for applications large and small. This includes the likes of Adobe, Facebook, LinkedIn, Microsoft, and more. Many of these companies rely on SQL for database design and expect their engineers to learn SQL for database architecture.
SQL is intuitive, practical, and easy to use. Even with no background in technology, you can master the fundamentals of the language. SQL uses a syntax that is very similar to English, which means that learning SQL is a smooth process.
Moreover, the demand for SQL developers is high. The TIOBE Index reports that SQL is the ninth most commonly searched programming technology on the Internet. This index tracks the most popular coding technologies in the world using data from search engines.
That’s not all. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer and information research jobs are expected to grow by 22% by 2030. This growth is described as “much faster than average.” As such, people skilled in SQL and other computer information technologies will have ample job opportunities.
What is SQL Used For?
SQL is a database system used for storing data that can be retrieved using queries. It is used by programmers and data analysts for a range of purposes, from consumer behavior analysis to web application storage.
Anyone whose job involves data can benefit from SQL. For instance, marketers or financiers can learn how to use SQL to derive insights from data. Overall, SQL is useful across a variety of industries. However, SQL is not just a technology used by programmers.
SQL is the standard when it comes to data storage. This means you’ll find it everywhere that large volumes of data are stored. For instance, a company may use an SQL database to store employee records. Alternatively, an insurance company may keep track of claims using an SQL database. Learning SQL will also allow you to use relational database management systems like MySQL.
How Long Does it Take to Learn SQL?
Learning the basic SQL concepts can take as short as two to three weeks. However, determining how long it takes to learn SQL depends on your commitment. You should consider how much you want to learn this language and why you are learning it when calculating how long it will take to learn SQL.
For real-world applications and to really make a career out of SQL, you will need to expand your knowledge beyond the basics. Fortunately, you can start with a fundamental understanding and build SQL skills on the job.
How long it takes to learn SQL depends heavily on how you’re learning. A coding bootcamp may help you gain basic knowledge quickly, but you can also learn through an online SQL tutorial and other resources. Let’s take a look at some ways to learn SQL.
How to Learn SQL Fast
So far, we’ve discussed the basics of SQL and why you should learn the language, even if you are not a programmer. We have established that it is a valuable language, even if you don’t work in database administration. The next topic we will cover is how to learn SQL fast.
Let’s walk through a few steps you should follow when starting to learn SQL. These steps lay out how to learn SQL fast and ensure that you won’t miss any key points. If you follow these steps, you can develop background knowledge about SQL in order to create basic SQL reports and, with lots of practice, move on to advanced concepts.
Step 1: Start with the Fundamentals
While you may have big ideas about how you can use SQL, you need to start small and learn SQL basics first. Luckily, because SQL is so widely used, there is no shortage of resources you can use to gain basic SQL knowledge.
Your first step should be to explore the syntax of SQL and its queries and commands. Then, once you feel comfortable with those SQL fundamentals, you’ll be ready to start investigating more complex applications. Here are the main topics you should explore as you start your learning journey.
The term “manipulating data” may be confusing to those who are not familiar with database basics. In simple terms, it means learning how to add, change, and remove data in a database. The first step to mastering SQL is learning how to write an SQL statement. A statement is a simple command sent to the database. The statement instructs a database to perform a certain action.
If you want to learn SQL and how it can be used for manipulating data, here are the main topics and keywords you should learn:
SQL querying skills are an important aspect of learning SQL. SQL allows you to write queries that filter out data based on a set of conditions. For instance, you may only want to search for email addresses that begin with “s” in a database. You should explore how to write SQL queries using the query keywords offered by SQL.
Here are some topics you should explore to develop SQL querying skills:
- Database management software
- INSERT INTO statement
- SELECT, WHERE, LIMIT, and ORDER BY clauses
- AND, OR, IN, AND BETWEEN OPERATORS
- UPDATE and DELETE statement
As we discussed earlier, SQL is often used for data analysis. As a result, it offers a number of different functions that allow you to perform mathematical operations on the data in a database.
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These functions, which allow you to retrieve insights based on the data stored in a database, are called “aggregate functions.” Here are the five aggregate functions of SQL:
In SQL, it is possible to work with multiple tables at the same time and run queries that reference them. In fact, this is an important part of maintaining a well-structured database. Connecting tables allows you to work with multiple sources of data contained within different tables.
Here are the main topics you should learn about when you’re ready to explore connecting tables:
- JOIN operator
- INNER JOIN
- LEFT JOIN
- RIGHT JOIN
Step 2: Work on an SQL Project
There is no better way to practice SQL code than to work on a real-world project. This allows you to work on SQL projects that interest you instead of projects that are listed in an online SQL course or tutorial.
Once you’ve mastered the fundamentals, start thinking about what you want to do that requires SQL. For example, you may want to build a database for your blog or analyze an interesting dataset you found online. There are endless simple SQL projects that you can practice with. Focusing on SQL projects for beginners will help you build foundational knowledge.
Are you looking for ideas to help you get started? Here are a few that you could explore:
- Inventory control management system
- Restaurant order management system
- Employee records storage system
- Airline reservations system
- Online shopping cart
Instead of building your own database, you could use tools like Kaggle to find a dataset. You can use SQL to analyze the dataset you find. Thankfully, there are a variety of SQL tools online today. Many people use these tools to learn SQL as it is a very popular language.
When it comes to what project to work on, the sky is the limit. Of course, you should start small and focus on simple SQL projects. Make sure you do not take on too many tasks at once. When you feel comfortable, you can scale up your SQL projects to use more queries and more complex SQL commands.
Step 3: Document Your Learning
When learning SQL, it can be tempting to write an elaborate SQL query, download its results, and call it a day. Once you’ve written a query, you’ll have generated the data you need. However, this approach skips one key part of the development process: documentation.
Writing documentation allows you to analyze your findings and test your results. You’ll learn to validate whether an outcome of a query or project was what you expected. When you’re getting started, your documentation can be as simple as taking notes throughout your development process.
Ask yourself questions like: “Why did I write this query using these statements?” and “Is there a more efficient way to accomplish this task?” These questions will help you flex your learning muscles and keep track of why you have made certain decisions.
WritiWriting documentation can help you reflect on your project. After you’ve written a query, you can go back and read the documentation. This will help you better understand why you approached a problem in a certain way. You’ll be in a good position to evaluate whether the result of your project is, in fact, what you were after.
Step 4: Write Reports
Writing reports is a more intensive way of documenting your work, but it is an important part of working with SQL. You’ll have everything you need to write an insightful report on your findings once you have written a query.
Reports serve a couple of purposes. In a professional development environment, managers and data analysts prefer to work with reports after a dataset has been analyzed. This is because reports are written in a way that allows anyone with the relevant knowledge to understand their contents. You don’t usually need to have SQL experience to read a report.
Businesses rely on reports from their engineers and data analysts to make decisions. As such, these reports often play a crucial role in the direction a business takes. Writing reports can help you refine your thinking about a particular problem. If you want to learn SQL, you also need to put time into learning how to write effective reports.
Step 5: Share Your Work
Documenting your work lets you seek feedback from other people. There are a couple of ways to share your work when learning SQL. If you are using SQL on the job, you may want to seek feedback on your work from co-workers. Alternatively, you may want to write a series of blog posts to hold yourself accountable while you work on an SQL project.
Blogs are a great way to share your work because anyone can read them at any time. People who are just starting to learn SQL could come across your post and use it to learn. Alternatively, an SQL expert could land on your page because they are stuck with a problem. They might reach out with a few comments on how to improve your work.
Even a recruiter or a hiring manager could read your blog. They could help you break into a career in tech if you’re not already in a technical position. If you’re not ready to start a blog, you could also share your queries and projects in a community such as Dev.to. Or you could join an SQL-specific community and share your knowledge
How to Learn SQL Free
If you want to learn SQL for free, there are a variety of resources you can use. However, learning SQL for free may take additional effort on your part. As with learning any programming language, learning SQL will take some time and practice. Find out more about the steps you can take to learn SQL for free below.
Step 1: Follow Interactive Tutorials
One great way to learn SQL for free is to follow online tutorials that allow you to learn while also getting hands-on practice. There are many organizations dedicated to helping people enhance or develop their tech skills. Thankfully, many of these organizations offer free tutorials on various subjects, including SQL.
Step 2: Read Through SQL Community Threads
Beginners can learn SQL online for free directly from experts. One way to do this is to join an online SQL community or chat room. These spaces allow beginners to ask questions and also follow along as experts discuss how they use SQL.
Step 3: Take an Online Class
Companies such as Udemy and Coursera host a variety of free online classes that learners can take advantage of. The great thing about learning SQL through a free online class is that you can do so at your own pace.
Step 4: Join a Free Bootcamp
Though many bootcamp programs come with steep tuition costs, there are also a variety of free bootcamps available. Joining a free bootcamp to learn SQL will help you gain basic knowledge in the programming language quickly.
Step 5: Watch YouTube Videos
If you want to learn SQL online for free, YouTube is one of the best resources. For the price of watching a few advertisements, you can access a wealth of knowledge about SQL. You can find YouTube tutorials on a variety of SQL functions that are geared toward beginners.
Where to Learn SQL
The next question youThe next question you’ll have is: where can I learn SQL? To help you get started on your learning journey, we’ve listed a few online intro-to-SQL resources that will help you understand the language. To find out more about where to learn SQL, read through the sections below.
Free Online SQL Courses
Learn SQL by Codecademy
- Price: Free
- Audience: Beginners
In seven hours, you’ll learn the basics of how to work with SQL. This free SQL course covers manipulating data in a database, queries, aggregate functions, and working with multiple tables. You’ll earn a certificate of completion if you have a pro membership.
Introduction to Structured Query Language by Coursera
- Price: Free
- Audience: Beginners
This introduction to SQL will help you master the basics of SQL. You’ll cover how to create a database and the basic SQL syntax. This is one of the best free SQL courses because it explores everything, from many-to-many relationships to working with multiple tables. You’ll earn a shareable certificate upon completion.
Introduction to Transact-SQL by Alison
- Price: Free
- Audience: Beginners
This certificate course is ideal for those that want to know how to query a database. Those interested in learning This certificate course is ideal for those that want to know how to query a database. Those interested in learning Transact-SQL, a Microsoft variation of SQL, should also consider this free SQL course.
Among many other topics in this free SQL course, you will study the select statement for creating queries and the clauses you can apply to the select statement. The different data types that a database can hold is also in the curriculum.
Paid Online SQL Courses
Ultimate MySQL Bootcamp by Udemy
- Price: $179.99
- Audience: Beginners
This course is an excellent primer on how to use SQL and MySQL. If you enroll, you’ll be able to access over 20 hours of SQL training online across more than 300 lectures. You’ll cover everything from installing MySQL to planning and building a database for a real application. Naturally, this online SQL course comes with a certificate of completion.
Introduction to SQL by DataCamp
- Price: Standard plan 12.42/month (first chapter for free)
- Audience: Beginners
Through this online SQL course, students will attain a thorough understanding of the basics of querying tables in relational databases, including MySQL and SQL Server. Selecting columns, filtering rows, and aggregate functions are some topics that will be explored.
Introduction to SQL by Pluralsight
- Price: $29/month (free 10-day trial)
- Audience: Beginners
An ideal course for those wanting to build a solid foundation in SQL. You’ll begin by learning how to query data and shape results with this SQL training online. You will also learn how to create and modify data and how to change the tables themselves. If you pursue Pluralsight’s premium membership ($299 per year), you’ll gain access to certificate practice exams.
In-Person SQL Courses
SQL Bootcamp by NYIM Training
- Price: $1,075
- Audience: Beginners
This is a three-day bootcamp that takes place in New York City. Students will learn about queries and subqueries, database fundamentals, and different joins with SQL. This in-person SQL training will provide students with hands-on experience.
Data Analytics Course by BrainStation
- Price: $3,250
- Audience: Beginners
Students can choose from in-person SQL training courses in New York, Toronto, London, or Vancouver. It is a part-time program that teaches students about data processing, data visualization, and more. Using SQL, you will learn to manage and analyze data.
SQL Level I by NYIM Training
- Price: $325
- Audience: Beginners
This in-person SQL training covers how to use the language as it relates to relational database management systems. It is an eight-hour program that covers major clauses, aggregate functions, how to filter data, and more. Students can also retake this course for free within one year.
While a certificate isn’t necessary to land a job, having an SQL certificate will certainly help. When it comes to SQL certifications, it is kind of a mess out there. SQL has no true “official” certification. Every company has its own certificates based on its own standards. In this section, we will show you the most relevant SQL certifications.
Microsoft SQL Certifications
A Microsoft SQL Server certification is an asset for anyone pursuing a career in database administration, analysis, or development. There is a range of Microsoft SQL certifications, covering beginner to advanced levels.
Beginners can aim for the Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA): Database Fundamentals SQL Certification. More advanced users can target the Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA): SQL 2016 Database Development Certification.
Oracle Database Certifications
The Oracle Database SQL Certified Associate is also a good certificate to shoot for. It is awarded only to candidates who pass the Oracle Database SQL | 1Z0-071 exam. This exam targets topics relevant to the workplace. This Oracle SQL certification is specifically created for those who work with Oracle’s software.
SAP, a German software giant, also has a host of courses and certifications that tackle SQL and data management. Some examples are its courses HDW410 – SAP SQL Data Warehousing and HA150 – SAP HANA 2.0 SPS05 SQLScript for SAP HANA.
In addition to the variety of online resources, you can also learn SQL through books. An SQL book can teach you everything that an online course can. Below, you can learn more about three of the best bootcamps to learn SQL
Sams Teach Yourself SQL in Ten Minutes by Ben Forta
We did say earlier that it may take a few weeks to learn SQL. This SQL book pushes our time frame to the limit. You’ll learn the basics of writing SQL in 22 short lessons. Each lesson only takes about ten minutes to complete. This book is recommended for all beginners to SQL.
Learning SQL by Alan Beaulieu
Learning SQL is a good read for beginners. You’ll cover the basics in-depth and then quickly move on to advanced features with this SQL book. Toward the end of this book, you’ll learn how to create indexes, constraints, and subqueries.
SQL: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide by Steve Tail
This book does what it says on the cover. The author tries to describe SQL in very simple terms so that anyone, even people without programming experience, can learn the basics. You can learn SQL with this book even with zero prior knowledge.
Online SQL Resources
If you are not into reading books, there are also online SQL learning resources that you can utilize. Online SQL resources may include blogs, chat rooms, and more. This section will detail several of the best resources to learn SQL.
Whether you’re new to SQL or already have some experience under your belt, you’ll find something to read on the LearnSQL blog. This SQL blog is constantly being updated. What’s more, you’ll find a series of guides for beginners and experts in their “cookbook.” This is one of the many SQL blogs that you can use to learn SQL.
SQLZoo provides a range of tutorials and reference guides. You’ll learn about the basics of SQL. In addition, you’ll find a series of pages on common queries and combinations, which may help you if you get stuck.
Career Karma SQL Guides
We have written a series of guides on all the basic SQL queries. Our series covers everything, from writing SELECT queries to managing subqueries. These resources cover all the basic topics you need to know when building SQL knowledge. Once you’re ready, you can take the next step on your journey: work on a project.
Learn SQL Today
Learning SQL can be time-consuming, but it is a worthy investment, whether you want to be a marketer or work in data science. SQL is everywhere in technical careers that involve working with datasets. With that, it is an extremely useful tool when it comes to organizing, processing, and analyzing data. SQL can help you or your company gain valuable insights from a database.
Those who want to learn SQL are also in luck because there are very few technical barriers to entry, unlike many other programming languages. If you are ready to commit to learning SQL, you’ll have no trouble getting started. You can use the tips and resources in this guide to begin learning SQL today.
From books to bootcamps to online forums, there are a variety of ways to learn SQL. As you proceed through your learning journey, you can start to take on more complex projects and learn how to fine-tune your queries. With the SQL resources in this guide, you can become a professional in no time.
Learn SQL FAQ
Yes, you can teach yourself SQL online by taking advantage of free SQL learning resources. In addition, you can download a free SQL database that will allow you to practice your skills and learn how to use SQL through hands-on experience.
Is SQL hard to learn?
No, SQL is not hard to learn, even for those without prior programming knowledge. When considering how hard it is to learn SQL, you should know that SQL has a simple syntax, so you do not need technical coding skills to start learning this language. In addition, many online tutorials and courses help beginners learn SQL.
Is SQL useful?
Yes, SQL is an extremely useful language for relational database management. Learning SQL is useful no matter what industry you are in. With today’s popularity of data-driven businesses, learning SQL is a skill that will pay off well.
How fast can you learn SQL?
You can learn SQL in a week if you are just trying to master the basic statements. For a more robust understanding, the answer to the question of “how fast can you learn SQL?” would be two to three weeks. The quickest way to learn SQL is through a bootcamp or intensive online course.
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