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Learn SQL online

Become familiar with the fundamentals of Structured Query Language (SQL) including data sets, SQL commands, SQL code, and more. Learn SQL with online courses and develop data management and interpretation skills.

What is SQL?

Structured Query Language (SQL) is the standard programming language for managing data in relational databases. With SQL, individuals can retrieve, modify, insert, and delete multiple data records using a single query.Footnote 1 Other SQL functions can create new databases, tables, and stored procedures.

There are a few different versions and frameworks for SQL. PostgreSQL, MySQL, and Oracle are examples of relational database management systems (RDMS) that provide a coding environment for SQL and data. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) ensures certain shared traits across the various systems. All SQL database systems use the major commands such as SELECT, UPDATE, DELETE, WHERE, and INSERT. These are common queries to grab specific data from relational databases.Footnote 2

There are three primary phases when compiling a SQL query:Footnote 3

  • Parsing: checking the syntax

  • Binding: checking query semantics

  • Optimization: generating the query execution plan

SQL queries make it easy to grab data from relational databases. For example, to view all the data available in a table titled “Purchases,” the following query will work:

SELECT * FROM Purchases;

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Why learn SQL?

Many industries rely on relational databases to manage their data and make predictions. For example, a retail company may have a table for every customer, for every purchase made, and for every item in stock. 

Through unique identifiers, such as a customer or item ID, multiple tables can relate to one another. With relational database management (RDMS) systems and SQL, those tables’ connections can help provide valuable insights. For example, which customers are purchasing the highest volume of a product? What time of year are certain products in demand?

SQL can be more intuitive and easier to learn than more complex data analytics languages. It is used in industries ranging from finance to music and can be a requested skill for roles that manage and interpret data.

How to learn SQL online

The edX platform has SQL online courses and SQL tutorials available, many of which are self-paced and can be completed in only a few weeks. There are plenty of additional resources online to learn SQL. The best way to learn SQL is dependent on each person’s goals and resources. For example:

  • Tutorials and documentation: Available RDMS systems such as Microsoft Azure, MySQL, and Oracle will include their SQL-specific documentation. This can help resolve differences between management systems. Additionally, sites like w3schools and Tutorialspoint offer written tutorials and explanations of SQL syntax.

  • Online short courses: SQL short courses can be completed in as few as a couple of weeks and can provide a more structured and interactive environment than tutorials or documentation. For example, a four-week short course can cover the basic syntax as well as nested commands.

  • Boot camps: A boot camp offers an instructor-led and cohort experience that may be useful for individuals seeking fellow classmates. A boot camp will also often include a portfolio project. These kinds of SQL courses will likely teach more than SQL in the time allotted, such as data analytics.

  • Bachelor’s programs: A four-year program in data science or data analytics will often include an introduction to SQL, as well as additional coursework that will require relational database management. 

  • Master’s programs: A master’s program in business intelligence or data science will cover advanced data analytics skills, often including SQL. These degrees may require students to use SQL as a part of larger data science projects.

Learn SQL for beginners with online courses and training

An introductory-level course will help beginners learn about SQL queries, commands, syntax, subqueries, data types, and more. Some of the curriculum topics covered may include:

  • Building tables

  • Designing relational schema

  • Creating indices

  • Implementing views

  • Ensuring data integrity

More advanced online SQL courses may cover topics like relational algebra, database constraints, and semistructured data.

Explore SQL jobs

Data-centric job openings may seek applicants with SQL skills. Some job positions that may ask for SQL expertise include:

  • Data Analyst

  • Database Administrator

  • Database Architect

  • Data Scientist

  • Data Visualization Developer

  • Business Intelligence Analyst

SQL jobs vary across teams because SQL is such a versatile and useful language. It is possible to find SQL positions in almost any industry. A coding boot camp can be a quality option for a candidate who wants to quickly learn SQL skills. A bachelor’s degree or master’s degree will be useful for candidates who want to learn SQL as well as broader data science or analytics skills.

How to become an SQL developer

SQL jobs often require a mix of technical skills. For example, a database architect should be familiar with RDMS systems such as Oracle, DynamoDB, and MySQL. Most database architects have a bachelor’s degree, while a significant portion also have a master’s degree.Footnote 4

A business intelligence analyst often uses many of the same technical skills, such as database management systems and web development platform software. Among business analysts, most have at least a bachelor’s degree.Footnote 5

A coding boot camp can be an effective alternative to degree programs, too. Individuals who already have a degree in a different field or who are interested in SQL can consider shorter-term options.

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