If you’re interested in a career as a coder, data scientist, analyst, or really any career in the tech industry, you’ve probably realized by now that you’ll be working with data. You’ll have to organize, store, retrieve, and manage vast quantities of information on a regular basis. How will you manage all this valuable data? Well, that’s where SQL comes in.
SQL stands for Structured Query Language. It’s a computer language, but it’s not just any computer language: it’s the hands-down favorite among data scientists and others who have to turn millions of numbers into a meaningful story for their organization. Using SQL, you can execute queries, insert records, retrieve data, and update or delete records from a database. You can also create new databases or insert new tables in existing ones.
This article looks at some of the best ways to start learning SQL, as well as the key skills you’ll need to develop along the way. So let’s dive in.
What Skills Should You Have Before Learning SQL?
Being well-versed in SQL will make your coding and programming life much easier, as you’ll be able to manage much more data than with, say, a spreadsheet, and it’s also faster. SQL can also handle the back end of most of the web applications in vogue today. In order to make good use of SQL, it helps to have a little prior knowledge under your belt. Listed below are some of the key areas you should have an understanding of before taking the plunge into SQL.
One of the first and most important things you need to have is a good understanding of databases. You should have a good grasp on their structure, tables, relationships, and how to create a database from scratch.
Next, you should learn how to use SQL queries to retrieve the information you want from databases. Studying SQL statements and clauses will make you an expert in manipulating data and using it to do your bidding.
Another important skill you’ll need to master is learning PHP thoroughly. PHP is an acronym for ‘Hypertext Preprocessor’. It is a widely popular open-source scripting language particularly suited for web development. Along with MySQL (which we will address next) PHP will help you to work on a large number of projects with ease.
It’s important not to confuse MySQL with SQL. The former is a database management system that is used to store data whereas the latter is the language that is used to interact with databases. If you go into the database management profession, MySQL will be very useful for you to manage access, limit users, and perform other functions as a database manager.
- Key programs
There are certain programs you’ll need a bit of familiarity with to prepare yourself for the job market. You should consider these among the bare minimum requirements to enter the field. As an SQL developer, need knowledge of Microsoft C#, Relational Databases, Microsoft Power BI, Oracle, Software Development, Data Analysis, Data Transformation, Information Systems, Java, and Python.
- Defining skills
To perform the day-to-day tasks of an SQL developer, your defining skills should include SQL, obviously, and SQL Server. But apart from these, there are Microsoft SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS), SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS), Extraction Transformation and Loading (ETL), Transact-SQL, Data Warehousing, Microsoft SQL, Database Design, Performance tuning, Data Modelling, Business Intelligence, Database Administration, and Data Warehouse Processing.
- Distinguishing skills
Most SQL developers are going to have the above “defining skills” on the resumes. In order to stand out from the pack, it’s worth considering which skills will set you apart as a candidate worth hiring. This is where distinguishing skills come in. Distinguishing skills require more time and training to master but are beneficial in a competitive job market.
Some of the distinguishing skills for an SQL developer include Data Architecture, MySQL, Informatica, Online Analytical Processing (OLAP), Database Optimization, Relational DataBase Management System (RDBMS), Database Architecture, Cubes, Database Tuning, Dimensional and Relational Modeling, Apache Hadoop, Database Schemas, and SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS).
- SQL for marketing
Effective use of SQL is especially beneficial for marketing teams. Technical SQL data analysis helps build a picture of user behavior and purchasing patterns. Marketing professionals can use this to target recurrent users, as well as acquire new customers. So it’s important for SQL experts to understand their interaction with marketing and how they can collaborate effectively with this area of a typical business.
- SQL database fundamentals and data warehousing
If you aspire to become a database administrator, web developer, or graphics designer, it’s highly recommended that you focus on SQL database fundamentals and data warehousing.
SQL Education Options
Most entry-level positions in SQL will require you to have a bachelor’s or associate’s degree in computer science, web development, or information technology. Each of these programs will include SQL server development and administration as a coursework component. You’ll get acquainted with the fundamentals of database theory, database design, and open-source languages.
Another way to learn SQL is through a certification course. Some certification schools will require you to have completed a COMPASS or ASSET test before admitting you to the program. Training will take place either online, in a classroom setting, or a combination of the two. Certification courses usually culminate in an exam, after which you’ll receive your certification.
Teach Yourself SQL
With so much learning material available online these days, it is possible to learn SQL on your own. But there are, of course, pros and cons to doing it this way. One of the benefits of self-learning is that you can set your own pace and decide how much time and effort to devote to each particular skill. You’ll also save money by learning with free or low-cost resources and not paying hefty college fees.
On the downside, you may come up against a knowledge gap between you and the instructor, or find that some free programs are less trustworthy. In a formal education setting, the fees you pay go towards ensuring you get a quality education that’s relevant, current, and precise.
Nevertheless, if you decide to learn SQL development on your own, there are some excellent resources out there. Free online courses like Introduction to Relational Databases and Stanford Database Mini-Courses will help you get a firm understanding of relational databases. You’ll find many tutorials that explain the basics of SQL in a step-by-step manner, like Study by yourself – SQL or Learn the hard way – SQL. The former is a course consisting of 11 chapters that deal with the basics of data modeling, aggregate functions, and advanced queries. The latter progresses from beginner’s to advanced lessons by building on concepts from the former.
Tools Used in SQL Development
One of the best ways to develop your knowledge on your own is through practice. The more you practice a new skill or task, the more refined and consistent you will be in it. Below are some of the most useful tools to help you learn SQL:
- SQLZoo.net provides practice tasks and quizzes to boost learning.
- SQLTeaching helps you learn by giving examples to introductions of new languages.
- SQLCourse is an interactive online SQL training.
- PGExercises immerses you directly into SQL exercises.
- SQLFiddle is an entirely free-form SQL practice in which you can build your own schema, practice a sample fiddle, or run queries; similar to JSFiddle.
If you’re already proficient in the language and working as an SQL Developer, there are a number tools used by practitioners that help in streamlining the development process. They’re capable of rapidly building tables, functions, views, stored procedures, XML, CLR, and more. Popular tools include:
- Aqua Data Studio
- DLM Automation
- Rapid Database Extractor
- SQL Clone
- SQL Multiscript
- SQL Prompt
A Career in SQL
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that database administrators will see a nine percent increase in employment between 2018 and 2028. According to another BLS report, database administrators earned a median salary of $90,070 annually in 2018. Now is the ideal time to get into the field and reap the benefits of the growth in job market demand.
If you’re ready to start upskilling in SQL, our Data Sciencecourse is the perfect starting point for anyone who wants to get better at debugging data or using ORMs of any flavor. It includes coverage of relational database fundamentals, SQL programming, Reporting Services, Integration and Analysis Services, as well as coverage of ASP.NET Webforms. Get in touch with us to find out more about this exciting field.