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How Long Does It Take to Learn SQL?

If you are looking for a lucrative career in technology and want to get stated quickly, consider learning SQL. If you study diligently, you can learn SQL thoroughly in three months and potentially find a well-paying job.

It will take you perhaps one month or so to learn basic SQL, and then when you are ready, you can learn more advanced skills, like tuning databases, that will allow you to potentially have a lucrative career as a database administrator if you wish. There are plenty of other careers, however, that require SQL, as we will see later in this post.

SQL is also a good segue into learning a programming language because it will teach you valuable tech skills that you can then apply to web or software development.

If you are attempting to learn a programming language like JavaScript, however, it can take much longer to gain enough mastery to find a job. For more on this topic, please see my post How Long Does it Take to Learn JavaScript.

In this post, I will attempt to break down why SQL is a valuable skill to learn and suggest some of the best online SQL courses that will allow you to learn SQL quickly.

What Is SQL and Why Should You Learn It?

SQL stands for structured query language. It is a language that allows us to manage relational databases. And, even though it is technically not a programming language, it often referenced as such. Widely used by businesses all over the world, SQL was rated the third most popular programming language on the Stack Overflow Web Developer survey in 2019.

In addition, in allowing you to manage databases, there are many other real-world applications for SQL developers. Many people don’t realize this, but SQL is often one of the most prized skills in data science. PostgreSQL and Python is a popular combination, so if you are interested in eventually becoming a data scientist, you can start with PostgreSQL and see if you like it.

There are also some data scientists on Quora who are starting to question interview candidates about their SQL skills over the phone before granting an interview. If you have aspirations to eventually become a data scientist, knowing SQL could give you an edge over other candidates.

Types of SQL (and NoSQL) Databases

Since there are several types of SQL databases, it will be important to begin by learning one form of SQL. If you are just starting out and would like to land a join in technology quickly, try starting with Microsoft SQL Server or Oracle since these forms of SQL are highly valued by many large employers. Knowing either SQL Server or Oracle in some depth and getting certified in either of these technologies will allow you to get started with a career in technology.

Microsoft SQL Server

Often referred to as SQL Server or simply SQL, Microsoft SQL Server is widely used in web applications, websites, and any place where Microsoft products are in high demand. SQL server used in conjunction with the C# programming language and the ASP.NET framework to create robust websites, web applications, and software.

These Microsoft technologies are extremely prolific, especially in parts of the Midwest. .NET technologies are popular because they allow professionals to build almost any kind of application that will run on nearly any platform, which allows businesses to be versatile.

If this sounds like a skill set you’d like to gain, consider doing some research on a local job site to ensure these technologies are popular in your area. Search for web developer or software engineer jobs and look for terms like “SQL Server”, “ASP.NET” and “C#”. If you see a number of jobs with these technologies listed as required skills, then you can feel confident in your choice to learn C# and SQL server.

Oracle

Like SQL Server, Oracle is a widely used form of SQL. And while it is similar to SQL server, Oracle SQL allows for some additional capabilities beyond SQL server, including the ability to store procedures in packages. Packages allow a database administrator to bundle related code and use the package across multiple applications. For this and other reasons, Oracle is sometimes seen as a more powerful form of SQL, even though SQL server has plenty of capabilities.

computer keyboard with BIG DATA key

PostgreSQL

PostgreSQL is actually the first form of SQL that I learned, and I must admit, I really enjoyed learning it and wanted to do little else for several weeks. I completed a Udacity nanodegree, with a third of the program focusing on PostgreSQL. The nanodegree Programming for Data Science, was expensive, though, and I have since found other, less expensive SQL courses that I can recommend. I will go into this in much more detail in a follow-up post about where you can learn SQL.

PostgreSQL is often used in data analysis and in data science. If you are looking to embark on one of these careers, you will want to focus your efforts on learning how to write complex SQL queries rather than learning how to fine-tune databases.

MySQL and SQLite

These forms of SQL are frequently used with web development, particularly with PHP and Python. If you’re interested in learning back-end programming and connecting databases to websites, these forms of SQL with knowledge of PHP and/or Python is a powerful combination. For more information, check out my posts on PHP and Python to see which one might be right for you.

Mongo DB (NoSQL)

Mongo DB is also referred to NoSQL since it is not a relational database. Data stored in a NoSQL database is not structured with columns and rows like the other forms of SQL we’ve discussed. There is definitely a business need for those who know and understand how non-relational databases work; however, learning a NoSQL database is typically a skill you’ll acquire after you’ve learned about relational databases.

Careers for Those Who Know SQL

Database Administrator

If you discover that you truly enjoy working with databases, then becoming a database administrator could be a great career choice. As a database administrator, you may be responsible for generating reports for others, troubleshooting technical issues, migrating large amounts of data, and ensuring that the databases your company uses are performing well.

Data Scientist

SQL skills are a necessity for data scientists. In addition, data scientists need strong programming skills in Python and R. If you wish to become a data scientist, start out with PostgreSQL and concentrate on your ability to write complex queries rather than learning about the ins and outs of databases.

Once you learn PostgreSQL and Python, you can then start learning Mongo DB and other kinds of NoSQL databases. Data scientists definitely need to be able to work with both SQL (relational) and NoSQL (non-relational) databases.

Back-End or Full-Stack Web Developer

If you are interested in becoming a web developer, unless you are going to concentrate exclusively on the front end, you will need strong programming and SQL skills. You will need to know how to connect websites and web applications to databases. If this kind of career interests you, there are a few skills paths you can consider:

  1. SQL Server + C# Programming
  2. PHP + MySQL
  3. Python + PostgreSQL + SQLite

Your geographic location will likely determine which combination of a programming language and SQL you will start learning. Where I live, SQL Server + C# is a powerful combination that is prized among employers.

SQL Training

In a follow-up post, I will recommend some online courses that are great for SQL beginners. Be sure to check back soon for specific course recommendations to learn the SQL language. As we have seen, the time to learn SQL is three months or so. After learning SQL basics, you can add more skills to your repertoire, like programming languages or advance your knowledge with databases.

In the meantime, if you have specific questions, please feel free to leave a comment below, and I will answer as soon as I am able to do so!

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