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Why Learn SQL?

Data is an important part of web applications, mobile apps, and, of course, data science. Data for these applications is stored in a database system. Developers and data scientists need to be able to access that data, manipulate it, extract it, and create it. That’s where SQL comes in! 

SQL is operating the databases behind the social networks we use, the apps on our computers, and even our online banking transactions. It’s useful for almost any industry and any application that needs to store or access data.

SQL is one of the most important languages for any data scientist, data analyst, and web developer to know. It’s open-source, easy to use, and it’s in high demand. Before we jump into why you should learn SQL, let’s go over what SQL is!

What is SQL?

SQL stands for Structured Query Language. It is a programming language that allows developers and data scientists to access and manipulate databases. Most people pronounce SQL like the word “sequel” but some people pronounce the acronym as its individual letters “S-Q-L.”

SQL is used to manage and share data, usually data that is stored in a relational database management system (RDBMS). Using SQL you can query, reorganize, and update the millions of lines of data that can be stored in a database system. 

What is SQL used for?

SQL is commonly used in web development. The back end of most web applications is programmed in a language such as Python, PHP, or Ruby. Most databases aren’t configured to understand those languages, so SQL is used to communicate with and manipulate databases. 

SQL can also be used by data scientists and data analysts to pull information from a database. SQL is by far the most common tool used by data scientists. They can also use SQL in combination with other popular data analysis tools like Python frameworks or R packages.

SQL can: 

  • Execute queries against a database
  • Retrieve data from a database
  • Insert records into a database
  • Update records in a database
  • Delete records from a database
  • Create new databases
  • Create new tables in a database
  • Create views in a database
  • Set permissions on tables, procedures, and views

How does SQL work?

SQL is usually used with a relational database management system (RDBMS). You can think of RDBMSs like the different flavors of SQL. Each one has its own syntax, but overall they achieve similar functions. 

The most popular RDBMSs include PostgreSQL, MySQL, SQL Server, and Oracle DB. Many of these database systems come with ready-made templates and tools which help make SQL more efficient. 

An RDBMS stores data in objects called tables. A table is a collection of related data entries consisting of columns and rows. Most databases have more than one table. Each table is named and contains records (rows) with data. 

Columns, vertical files of a table, are labeled with fields and contain all related entries to that field. Rows, the horizontal entities of a table, are called records. Records are each individual entry that exists in a table. 

An SQL programmer uses commands like create database, create table, select, update, and delete to access and modify data within the database. These commands are used to write queries. Queries allow the programmer to operate data in the databases. 

What is PostgreSQL?

PostgreSQL is a free, open-source database system. It places a stronger emphasis on following standard SQL syntax, unlike other databases like SQL Server. Its simple syntax makes it the easiest database system to learn.

Because it’s free, it’s often used by tech startups and independent SQL programmers. PostgreSQL works with macOS, Windows, and Linux. 

What is MySQL?

MySQL is an open-source database system that is free for individuals and businesses. MySQL is one of the most popular databases among startups and small businesses because of its free status. 

MySQL is also used in many open-source software applications. It has been owned by Oracle since 2010, the same company that owns Oracle DB. MySQL is compatible with Linux, macOS, Microsoft Windows, and Ubuntu. 

What is SQL Server?

SQL Server is a database management system owned by Microsoft. You can find SQL Server in consumer software and web servers that run on windows.

Because SQL Server is owned by tech giant Microsoft, it has a large user base but it isn’t used by small businesses, startups, or social media platforms the way that open source platforms are.

What is Oracle DB?

Oracle is the industry leader in SQL database systems. It’s used in large industries like data warehousing and e-commerce. 

It is not free or open-source. It is most compatible with Linux and some 64-bit operating systems. It’s primarily used by large corporations. 

Who uses SQL?

SQL can be found in the technology stacks of multinational corporations, social media platforms, music streaming sites, banking apps, tech startups, small businesses, and more. Just about every industry needs data storage and SQL is the standard.

Here’s how well-known companies are using SQL: 

  • Stripe uses SQL to store and operate data about financial transactions and users.
  • Spotify and Pandora use databases to store massive libraries of music files and use SQL to store user preferences and find what the user is looking for.
  • Instagram and Snapchat, like all social media platforms, store tons of data. They use SQL to store user profile info, update the app’s database when new posts are created, and record messages sent in the messenger. 

Why should I learn SQL?

SQL is in high demand and there aren’t enough SQL professionals in the workforce to meet the demand of the ever-growing needs of data users. There are over 1,000 SQL Developer jobs posted monthly across the US and only a fraction of them ever get filled. 

With a salary of $90,937 on average in the US, SQL Developer is a lucrative position that usually comes with other bonus perks too! It’s a valuable skill for huge corporations, small companies, tech companies, banks, hospitals, colleges, and more. You’re sure to be a valued employee with an SQL education. 

You don’t have to be an SQL Developer to find SQL useful on the job, though. Upskilling with SQL can boost your Data Analyst or Data Scientist career, make you a stronger web developer, and even optimize your market research workflow. 

Learning SQL unlocks big data as well as all of the efficiency of managing thousands of rows of data with a single command and the insights that come with this skill. Traditional spreadsheets are fine for a few hundred rows of data, but for managing huge records, SQL blows spreadsheets out of the water. 

You won’t have to deal with your spreadsheet crashing or spending hours hunting down that one row. SQL was designed to handle millions of rows of data without worrying about crashing or wasting time. 

SQL is a universal programming language that is standard. It’s one of the easiest languages to learn, especially if you choose to learn PostgreSQL. Since it’s been around since 1977, there is plenty of support online for this language. 

If you already know Python or you’re on your way to learning it, your skillset will be in huge demand. You can combine the magic of Python with the power of SQL to create complex web and mobile applications or pull information from a database for data analysis.

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