The Best Way to Learn SQL

If you’re looking to advance your career as a database developer, administrator or analyst, SQL (Structured Query Language) skills are a necessity. Being proficient in SQL enables you to develop and maintain complex database and information solutions – highly demanded skills in 2019.

Still, you might be wondering: Is it difficult to learn SQL?

The answer? It can be. 

But given enough time and the right approach, learning SQL is surely within your reach. Here’s the best way to learn SQL and advance your career in database management.

What Is SQL?

SQL is the standard programming language used to design, create and manage relational databases. Relational systems are made up of a set of tables containing rows and columns of data. Each column in a table represents a category of data, such as a customer name or address, and each row contains a data value for the intersecting column.

Functions of SQL include:

  • Modifying database table and index structures
  • Adding, updating and deleting rows of data
  • Retrieving information from a database for transaction processing and analytics
  • Generating tables and other database projects

Used since the 1970s, SQL will be a technology staple for the foreseeable future. It’s a universal coding language that will help you transition into learning other computer languages, including JavaScript and Python.

SQL doesn’t require prior programming experience, so it’s a great coding language to learn if you’re just getting into programming. But with so many resources available to learn SQL, where do you begin?

The Best Way to Learn SQL

First, you need to understand the basics. Here are a few steps you can take to jumpstart learning SQL on your own.

1. Start Simple

No matter what method you use to learn SQL, you may be anxious to quickly dive in and test your new skillset. However, take it slow and focus on learning simple queries first. Don’t move on to complex query writing until you’ve mastered the basics.

2. Watch Tutorials

Microsoft’s free SQL Database Fundamentals tutorial gives an in-depth introduction to database terminology, skills and concepts. SQLZOO and Codecademy also offer interactive tutorials that let you manipulate data and build queries to test your SQL knowledge.

3. Take a SQL Class

While you can teach yourself some basic SQL commands, most people find that taking a SQL class is helpful for acquiring new skills. Learning fundamental SQL concepts through hands-on training will best prepare you for advanced SQL topics and prepare you for certification testing.

Here are some SQL classes to get you started:

  • Introduction to SQL Databases
  • Querying Data with Transact SQL
  • Developing SQL Databases
  • Analyzing Data with SQL Server Reporting Services
  • Oracle Database – Introduction to SQL

4. Install a Free SQL Database

The best way to learn SQL is by practicing it. Install a free open source database so you can start writing and running simple queries using your own data. MySQL is a popular free database that is compatible with most operating systems.

Once you’ve learned the fundamentals of SQL and feel comfortable running queries, it’s time to get certified.

How Long Does It Take to Learn SQL?

You can learn the basics of SQL in a class or online course pretty quickly. More complicated concepts might take a few weeks to develop, but practice makes perfect. With real world, hands-on experience, you could be writing SQL code in just a few months.

What Else Should I Learn to Complement My SQL Skills?

While there are many programming languages that developers can learn, SQL doesn’t require prior programming skills. However, SQL developers can benefit from having experience with JavaScriptPHP and C++. 

Benefits of a SQL Certification

Once you’ve comfortably learned SQL, you can take the next step. If you want to stand out to employers or move up within an organization, you’ll need to back up your SQL knowledge with a professional certification.

SQL Server certifications are a key differentiator for candidates seeking roles in database development, administration or analysis. 

Certifications not only demonstrate your depth and breadth of technical knowledge, but also show that you’re committed to your career. Technical certifications can boost your salary up to 10 percent over the national average.

Also, earning certifications will help you earn higher-paying jobs faster than your colleagues. Consider these average U.S. salaries for careers with SQL expertise:

  • SQL Developer: $88,800 per year
  • Database Developer: $84,000 per year
  • Database Administrator: $93,000 per year
  • Data Engineer: $129,000 per year
The Best Way to Learn SQL
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