It’s estimated that approximately 380 new websites are created every single minute. The world is becoming more and more connected and the Internet is growing like never before. Huge amounts of new data are being generated across a range of different industries and markets.
This incredible expansion has brought along certain challenges, such as how to organize, manage, and analyze these vast databases in a secure and efficient manner. This is where SQL (Structured Query Language) comes in. SQL is designed to ease the process and make database management simple.
Almost all businesses today, whether small-scale online stores or multinational corporations, rely on data to run their operations. The data they collect and generate is managed using databases. That means there's a high demand for database management professionals, and pursuing a career as a SQL developer offers lucrative and rewarding career prospects. Here's what to expect if you decide to learn this powerful language.
What is SQL?
SQL stands for Structured Query Language and is a computer programming language designed to read, write, and maintain data contained within a relational database. It’s particularly useful for handling and organizing the relationships between database entities and variables.
Professionals looking for ITSM (IT Service Management) certification need to be thoroughly familiar with SQL.
Data is an integral part of any modern-day app. For example, Facebook stores a wide range of information for every user on the platform. Personal details like user name and date of birth are held, together with any content the user posts.
All this information is stored in a database system and SQL is the language used to communicate with that data.
Most RDMS (Relational Database Management Systems) use SQL as their standard database language. This includes MySQL, MS Access, Oracle, Sybase, Informix, Postgres, and SQL Server.
Let’s go through some of the prominent features of SQL:
- SQL is a computer language that offers looping, logic directives, and variables. However, this programming language does not belong to the same generation as Java or C++.
- While Java and C++ are considered third-generation languages (3GLs), SQL is a fourth-generation language (4GL).
- Although SQL may not have some of the features and functionalities of other languages like Java or C++, it is still considered a language.
- SQL is a vast improvement on predecessors like ISAM or VSAM. SQL was the first language to allow access to multiple records, with a single command. Also, SQL removes the need to specify how to reach a record in the database (for example, with or without using an index).
The History of SQL
SQL was one of the first commercial computer languages to incorporate Edgar F. Codd’s relational model from 1970. Even though it didn’t adhere to Codd’s relational model completely, it still became the most widely used database language in the world.
In 1986, SQL became an ANSI standard (American National Standards Institute) and in 1987, became recognized by ISO (International Organization for Standardization).
Since then, these standards have been revised to include a broader set of functions. However, despite these standards, SQL code usually needs to be modified before being exported to various databases.
How Useful is SQL?
SQL offers programmers the following advantages:
- Users can quickly and efficiently access data in a database.
- SQL allows users to describe data in a database.
- Users can not only define, but also manipulate data in a database.
- With the help of modules, libraries, and pre-compilers, SQL can be embedded within other languages.
- Users can create and delete databases and tables.
- Users can create a view, store procedures, and functions in a database.
- SQL lets users set permissions on tables, procedures, and views.
How to Use SQL
An application can be programmed using a variety of languages, such as Python, PHP, and Ruby. However, databases are not configured to understand these languages. Barring a few exceptions, SQL is the only language understood by database systems. As a result, knowledge of SQL is paramount, particularly for those wanting a career in web or app development.
Like any programming language, SQL uses a unique syntax which must be mastered in order to write efficient code. The most commonly used SQL commands are as follows:
- SELECT – to locate or extract data from the database
- UPDATE – to make adjustments and modify data
- DELETE – to delete data from the database
- CREATE DATABASE – to create a new database
- CREATE TABLE – to create a new table in the database
These are just a few examples of the most basic commands in SQL. The actual usage of commands depends on the complexity of the database.
Commands are used to write queries, which allow you to manipulate data. The system interprets these commands and processes them for various operations like creating a new record in a table or creating a new table within a database.
Commands in SQL
To interact with relational databases, SQL uses standard commands which can be classified into the following categories:
- DDL (Data Definition Language)
- CREATE – To create a new table, view, or object in the database
- ALTER – To modify an existing database object, like a table
- DROP – To delete a view of a table, an entire table, or other objects in the database
- DML (Data Manipulation Language)
- SELECT – To retrieve specific records from a single, or multiple tables
- INSERT – To create a new record in the database
- UPDATE – To make changes to, or modify existing records in the database
- DELETE – To erase existing records in the database
- DCL (Data Control Language)
- GRANT – Give permission or privilege to the user
- REVOKE – Cancel or take back a previously granted privilege
Common SQL Database Management Systems
A database system allows a developer to work with databases through a user interface. Generally, database systems have pre-installed tools like templates, builders, and constructors, all of which make the job of the database programmer easier. These tools automate common tasks like cleaning up the database system.
Here are some of the most popular SQL database systems:
- Oracle Database
Oracle is a leading database management system and is used in many different industries. It’s particularly popular in fields like data warehousing and online transaction processing.
- Microsoft SQL Server
Developed by Microsoft, it runs on all major versions of Windows. SQL Server has a large user base and is used in consumer software and web servers operating on Windows.
MySQL is an open-source database system which is completely free to use. As there's no license fee, it’s particularly popular with startups and small businesses. It’s used in many open-source software programs and applications.
To avoid confusion, it’s important to remember that SQL is a language and MySQL is a database management system.
How Quickly Can You Learn SQL?
Generally speaking, SQL is an easy language to learn. If you understand programming and already know some other languages, you can learn SQL in a few weeks. If you’re a beginner, completely new to programming, it can take longer.
One of the most effective ways to kickstart your SQL education is by working on different projects. Jump in and start building a website that uses a database. Write code and solve problems, to gain experience, and learn quickly.
Begin with the basics. Create a database, connect your website, and read/write data to the database. Eventually, you can move on to more advanced skills like optimizing the database for speed.
Your Future Career Starts Here
SQL is by far the most popular language for database programming. It’s used by companies and websites across the globe. If you’re interested in learning this in-demand skill and want to land a well-paid web developer job, enroll in our online Web Development Bootcamp. You’ll learn SQL, along with a range of other essential skills to eventually become a fully qualified full-stack developer.
You can also schedule a call with one of our in-house experts who are ready to answer any of your questions.