There are a number of reasons learning SQL is still beneficial to this day, even over 50 years after its conception. It’s used virtually everywhere in the tech world- many companies rely on it, so it’s in as high demand as ever.
Even if you’re not planning on entering a professional role in tech, there’s no harm in learning the most popular language in data work.
But is it hard to learn? Luckily, it’s actually very easy to learn all of the basic concepts of SQL, and usually only takes two to three weeks for beginners to get to grips with it.
The following will break down the best way to learn SQL, as well as everything else you might need to know about this language.
What is SQL?
SQL (which stands for Structured Query Language) is a technology that’s widely used for the creation and management of databases. The type of databases in question are referred to as ‘relational databases’. These are essentially structures of data, both in columns and in rows.
Every column in a table within the relational database will store information concerning a data category. This could be a number of things, like someone’s name, email address, or ZIP code. Each row will store specific values for their entries.
There are a number of elements to SQL that make it a useful language to know.
With SQL you’ll have the ability to add, update, and delete rows, create tables for the purpose of storing information, modify said tables to alter the database’s structure, retrieve rows from within the database, and filter entries within the database.
It’s a language that’s existed since the 1970s, and is now the standard when it comes to database technology. It’s very likely to remain the standard for many years to come, which is why it’s so beneficial to learn the language.
How Hard Is It To Learn Basic SQL?
SQL is generally a very easy language to learn, especially when it comes to the basics. If you’re already familiar with programming and you know any other languages, it’s unlikely to take you longer than just a couple of weeks.
For outright beginners it’ll probably take you closer to three weeks, if not a little longer.
There are a number of online courses that can teach you the basics of SQL in a structured way, but the best way to learn is to pair these courses with your own projects.
Start building a website where a database is required- write code to solve specific problems, and as you gain more experience you’ll learn all of the basics of SQL. Later you can move on to more advanced skills, such as optimizing your website’s database.
How Hard Is It To Learn Advanced SQL?
So, the basics of SQL are easy to learn- but what about the more advanced SQL skills? It’s certainly more involved and will take you quite a bit longer to learn than the basics, but it’s definitely achievable, especially if you’ve found that you enjoy SQL.
Much like the courses designed for beginners, there are many courses available that will gently lead you into the more difficult aspects of the language, including ‘GROUP BY’ extensions and window functions.
How to Start Learning SQL
The first step to learning SQL is by starting with the fundamentals. As we’ve mentioned, there are a vast number of resources available to help you get to grips with the basics.
Exploring the syntax of the language and the queries and commands involved will set you up well for the learning process.
As you get more comfortable with these concepts, you’ll be able to look into some of the more complex applications.
The main concepts you should be familiarizing yourself with include manipulating data, writing queries, aggregate functions, and connecting tables. Once you know the basics you can start work on an SQL project, such as the aforementioned website which uses a database.
If you’re unsure what sort of website you could start building, consider perhaps an online shopping cart, a storage system for employee records, or a management system for inventory control.
If you’d rather not start your own database, there are tools which you can use to find an existing dataset, like Kaggle. Using the basics of SQL, you can analyze this dataset.
The next step to getting to grips with SQL is documenting your learning. When you write an SQL query that’s fairly elaborate, download the results. This means that once you’ve written a query, the data you require will already have been generated.
This step essentially skips the actual documentation process, though, so you should also have written documentation. This will allow you to both analyze your findings, and test the results.
A more intensive method for documentation is writing actual reports. If you’ve been documenting your queries then you should have more than enough data to write a detailed report regarding your findings.
The final major step in the learning process would be sharing your work with others and receiving feedback on your findings. There are a number of different ways to share your findings. If you’re working in a tech job you could share your work directly with your co-workers.
Or you could start a blog, and create a series of posts regarding your projects. This is an ideal way to share your progress because your posts can be read by anyone, anywhere.
Conclusion: Is SQL Hard to Learn?
When it comes to learning tech languages, SQL is one of the easiest for beginners. It should only take you a few weeks to familiarize yourself with all the basic concepts and gain experience in your own database projects.
If you’re already familiar with programming and you know any other languages, you’ll likely get to grips with SQL even faster. There are a number of online courses designed to teach beginners SQL, some of which are free, like the Code Academy course.