To move up in the tech world, chances are you need to be good at SQL. SQL is a programming language that is used to manage databases. It is essential for many tech jobs, and being good at it can help you get ahead. This article will cover everything you need to know about SQL, from what it is to how to use it effectively.
What Is SQL?
Shorthand for Structured Query Language, SQL is an accessible programming language that allows users to insert and retrieve data into and from centralized databases using a straightforward programmatic syntax. Many relational database frameworks use SQL, including MySQL, Postgres, and BigQuery ―all open-source database frameworks― in addition to payware options such as Microsoft SQL Server, DB2, and Oracle Database.
Data professionals prefer SQL to CSV, Excel, or other flat files for three main reasons:
- SQL databases only require data to be stored in one location
- Single-copy data storage means that data only needs to be edited/updated once incorrect values are discovered (imagine discovering an incorrect data point or calculation appearing on 100 different Excel files – you would have to go in and edit every single file!)
- Databases provide a single source of truth, no matter how many users enter and retrieve data from the database.
Why Become A SQL Analyst?
SQL is a comparatively intuitive programming language to learn and compensation for SQL analysts is excellent. A quick scan of any job board, such as our our platform, reveals that most SQL positions pay upwards of $100K. And due to how ingrained data professionals’ usage of SQL is, along with 11.5 million new data-oriented jobs projected to be added by 2026, SQL is going to remain a highly relevant and in-demand skill in the coming years.
SQL is also highly ubiquitous; unlike most other programming languages and software packages, most data professionals regularly use SQL, including data scientists, data analysts, business intelligence analysts, statisticians, data engineers, machine learning engineers, and more. In fact, according to this article, data professionals use SQL more often than any other programming language by far (more than 70% of such professionals use SQL, which is around 15 percentage points higher than Python, the next-most-used programming language on that list). Furthermore, as that same article shows, SQL appears more commonly as a required skill in data job postings than any other technical skill. In other words, if your goal is to become any type of data professional, you will likely encounter SQL regularly. Here are a couple of job postings across various areas of the field of data which all require SQL:
- A data analyst position in NYC
- A data architect position
- A remote data scientist position in the healthcare sector
- A data-oriented corporate strategy role with compensation up to $130K per year
SQL Usage In Data Science Jobs
Among the many data-oriented jobs, data science positions stand out due to compensation and prestige. And perhaps no other data-oriented job uses SQL as regularly as data scientists. Thus, many of our users who are looking to land a data science role are interested in how data scientists specifically use SQL every day.
Data scientists are in the business of consuming data. Suppose data science is your preferred career path. In that case, it is important to focus on SQL queries that retrieve data ―such as the common SELECT/FROM/WHERE format, along with joins, GROUP BY/ORDER BY, window functions and partitions, calculations, and so on― rather than queries that insert data such as INSERT INTO, UPDATE, ALTER TABLE, and the like.
Where Can I Refine My SQL Skills Further?
Free SQL tutorials are easy to find on the web, but usually only cover elementary SQL skills. Standing out from the crowd requires more advanced tutorials and exercises. Thankfully, there are also a lot of payware tutorials that target the exact set of advanced SQL abilities that the world’s most data-savvy organizations are looking for. Whether you are looking to upskill within your current position or optimize your SQL knowledge for an interview, CO.CAREERS recommends this tutorial. In it, you will find advanced yet accessible lessons on everything from conditional logic to window functions to subquerying.
CO.CAREERS And Your SQL Journey
We at CO.CAREERS envision a world where everyone can achieve economic opportunity—without asking them to sacrifice their values to achieve work-life balance and get the pay they deserve. We consider SQL- and data-upskilling education to be especially important to this vision, as developing this skill set enables the construction of lucrative careers that do not require 60+ hour work weeks. View our current listings in the data world by visiting CO.CAREERS and get started on your new data-oriented career today.
Barbara Donnini is a data scientist and the president of Boxplot Analytics. She has a lot of experience with statistics and data analytics, and now does her own statistical consulting. Barb is also good with programs like Python, Excel, Tableau, and others. She likes to go camping and be outdoors when she's not working.