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.
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. 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 to mastering this exciting and powerful technology.
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 are structures of data that have both columns and rows of data.
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 their email address.
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 since then has become a standard database technology. SQL will continue to be relevant in years to come. If you learn it, you should be able to apply your skills in the foreseeable future.
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Why Should You Learn SQL?
SQL is very popular. 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.
SQL is intuitive and easy to use. The SQL language is very 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 the learning curve is smooth.
Demand for SQL developers is high. The TIOBE Index reports that SQL is the eighth 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, jobs in computer and information research are expected to grow by 16% by 2028. This growth is described as “much faster than average.”
What is SQL Used For?
SQL is a database system. It stores data which can be retrieved using queries. SQL is used by programmers and data analysts for a range of purposes, from consumer behavior analysis to web application storage.
SQL is not just a technology used by programmers. Anyone whose job involves data can benefit from SQL. For instance, marketers or financiers can use SQL to derive insights from data.
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SQL is the standard when it comes to data storage. This means you’ll find it everywhere where 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. This, of course, depends on how much you want to learn this language and why you are learning it.
For real-world applications and to really make a career out of SQL, you will need to expand your knowledge beyond the basics. Fortunately, this can be done on the job.
How long it takes to become proficient depends heavily on how you’re learning. 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. But the next question we need to ask is: How do you learn SQL?
Let’s walk through a few steps you should follow when starting to learn SQL.
Step 1: Start with the Fundamentals
While you may have big ideas about how you can use SQL, you need to start small and master the fundamentals first. Luckily, because SQL is so widely used, there is no shortage of resources you can use.
Your first step should be to explore the syntax of SQL and its queries and commands. Then, once you feel comfortable with those topics, 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. 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 command sent to the database. The statement instructs a database to perform a certain action.
Here are the main topics and keywords you should learn:
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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 queries using the query keywords offered by SQL.
Here are some topics you should explore:
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.
These functions, which allow you to retrieve insights based on the data stored in a database, are called “aggregate functions.”
Here are the main topics you should learn when exploring aggregate functions:
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 allow 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:
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 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.
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.
When it comes to what project to work on, the sky is the limit. Of course, you should start small. Make sure you do not take on too many tasks at once. You can scale up your projects to use more queries and more complex SQL commands when you feel comfortable.
Step 3: Document Your Learning
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.
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.
Writing 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. And that’s not all! Writing reports can help you refine your thinking about a particular problem.
Step 5: Share Your Work
Documenting your work lets you seek feedback from other people.
There are a couple of ways you can share your work when you’re learning SQL. If you are using SQL on the job, you may want to seek feedback on your work from co-workers. Or you may want to write a series of blog posts to hold yourself accountable while you work on a 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 be 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.
Where to Learn SQL
The 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.
Free Online SQL Courses
- Price: Free
- Audience: Beginners
In seven hours, you’ll learn the basics of how to work with SQL. This 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.
- 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 course explores everything, from many-to-many relationships to working with multiple tables. You’ll earn a shareable certificate upon completion.
- Price: Free
- Audience: Beginners
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 class. Among many other topics, 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
- 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 videos across more than 300 lectures. You’ll cover everything from installing MySQL to planning and building a database for a real application. Naturally, it comes with a certificate of completion.
- Price: Standard plan 12.42/month (first chapter for free)
- Audience: Beginners
Through this 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.
- Price: $29/month (free 10-day trial)
- Audience: Beginners
An ideal course for those wanting to build a solid foundation on SQL. You’ll begin by learning how to query data and shape results. 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.
While a certificate isn’t necessary to land a job, having one will certainly help. When it comes to certifications for SQL, 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. Here we show you the most relevant ones.
A Microsoft SQL Server certification is an asset for anyone pursuing a career in database administration, analysis, or development. Microsoft has a range of certifications, covering beginner to advance 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.
The Oracle Database SQL Certified Associate is also a 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.
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.
We did say earlier that it may take a few weeks to learn SQL. This 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 is a good read for beginners. You’ll cover the basics in-depth and then quickly move on to advanced features. Toward the end of this book, you’ll learn how to create indexes, constraints, and subqueries.
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.
Online SQL Resources
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 blog is constantly being updated. What’s more, you’ll find a series of guides for beginners and experts in their “cookbook”.
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.
We have written a series of guides on all the basic SQL queries. Our series covers everything, from writing SELECT queries to managing sbuqueries.
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.
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 data sets.
We mentioned how SQL has become a crucial technology for data analysis, even among people who don’t know how to code. This is worth repeating because, unlike many other programming languages, there are very few technical barriers to entry. If you are ready to commit to learning SQL, you’ll have no trouble getting started.
As you proceed through your learning journey, you can start to take on more complex projects, and learn how to fine-tune your queries.
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