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What is the Best SQL Training Online?

In today’s data-driven world, SQL is a highly sought-after skill, but it cannot be mastered merely over a fortnight. With so many resources at your disposal to learn SQL, where do you even consider beginning, and how do you practice SQL?

Savvy and knowledgeable database professionals have consistently been in high demand over the last five years. If you are aiming to advance your career as a database developer, administrator, warehousing specialist, or analyst, SQL training and mastery is an absolute necessity. SQL continues to be one of the top tech skills employers look for in their candidates.

In a world where data is widely considered the single most valuable commodity, being proficient in SQL empowers you to develop and maintain complex databases and information solutions to make informed, data-driven decisions for your businesses. Going beyond that, there are also many other benefits of learning SQL.

There are two overarching technical knowledge bases that database professionals must master. First, a good foundation in relational database management systems, or RDMS, is a basic prerequisite for database professionals in any functional role. This includes an in-depth understanding of SQL.

Second, although there are various ongoing efforts to standardize database technologies, much of the mainstream capability that database applications deliver come from proprietary, vendor-specific platforms. Heavy-duty database skills are mostly tied to specific platforms, including various Oracle product lines (such as the open-source MySQL environment) and the Microsoft SQL Server. And that is precisely why it is increasingly important to be familiar with these enormously popular platforms.

In this article, I will walk through a few of the different mediums that I have personally used for acquiring this knowledge base as well as SQL training and practice for developing proficiency.

The Initial Quest

I was never exposed to databases in school, and interestingly, most people working in the industry as database professionals weren’t either. Things might be somewhat different for college and university students today, but don’t for a second think that you are starting on the back foot simply because you have no academic database training.

I started with YouTube, just trying to understand the basic SQL terminologies: What is an SQL database? What is the difference between an SQL database and a NoSQL database? What are the high-level business use cases and applications of SQL? Additionally, I explored a few “free” introductory overview courses on Udemy.

Online Tutorials: Starting Simple

To get my feet wet, I delved into learning the basic implementation of SQL. You can consider this step the first milestone in the SQL learning journey towards becoming a database professional. I explored a few different channels on YouTube and then moved on to Udemy’s “beginner” course.

To be honest, it took a fair amount of time to find quality instructional content on either of the platforms, owing to their fully or partially open-source nature. Although I did manage to pick up a few of the concepts and basic functions, the content environment lacked the interactive aspect and did not mirror the real-world environment of SQL implementation on a server using a database.

Soon after, I registered on Codecademy for their SQL fundamentals training course, which offers interactive tutorials that allow you to manipulate the provided data and build queries to validate your SQL knowledge. If you are just getting started with learning to code in SQL, Codecademy might be a reasonable entry point.

However, putting aside instructional content structure drawbacks such as poor coverage of theory, heavy focus on syntax over application, and the sheer pace of content coverage, Codeacademy’s learning path isn’t far-reaching. You will need exposure to more material and practice to increase your proficiency.

Taking advantage of lots of different learning opportunities is part of building your proficiency. If you are starting to code, Codecademy should be just one of many resources you have in your toolbox.

No matter what medium or platform you use to learn SQL, it is natural that you may be anxious to quickly dive into the deep end and test your developing skillset. However, it is important to follow a reasonable pace, taking the time to absorb the material and reflect. Focus on learning and mastering simple queries first before moving on to more complex ones, such as subqueries and cases.

As a side note, if you would prefer reading a physical book in your spare time and want to learn some backend theory, I recommend “Learning SQL” by Alan Beaulieu as a complementing learning tool.

The Next Step

With a pretty good foundation in SQL, or so I thought, I stumbled upon LearnSQL.com a few weeks later. What I immediately liked about the instructional material was that it covered multiple SQL database systems, or dialects, including Microsoft SQL, Standard SQL, and PostgreSQL. Being a cross-platform (operating-system-wise) user, I preferred PostgreSQL because it is available for both Mac and Windows.

So, I decided to give the free trial a shot. Additionally, the courses in each track were very well-defined, starting from the basics to advanced. The tracks also included a special “practice” module, which I found to be quite unique compared to the other platforms.

The free trial from LearnSQL.com enables you to test out the first several exercises of each of the courses. It is here that I realized my foundation was not as strong as I had initially presumed. Quite a few exercises in the basic courses managed to trick me and indeed left me wondering.

I appreciated the sleekness and interactive design of the LearnSQL.com platform. Combined with the defined course track from introductory to advanced level, I was convinced that this platform provided good value. So, I subscribed and started with the “SQL from A to Z” course.

The material in the first three modules was familiar because of the other courses I had taken, but it was not a case of breezing through previously learned material. Even though I knew about topics like aggregates, I learned quite a few new tricks and performance-optimization techniques.

The later modules had material I was unfamiliar with, and it was delivered with consistency and uniformity. For me, those are two of the most underrated aspects of learning.

The Deal Breaker

An interesting concept I learned at work was “customer delight”. One of its key aspects is about businesses going above and beyond, providing a memorable and unique offering to a customer, client, or any other stakeholder. LearnSQL.com provides this very experience with its course dedicated to practicing SQL, aptly called “SQL Practice”.

This is where your learning experience truly pays off. You get to consolidate, test, and validate your knowledge by combining everything you have learned, from the more basic functions, such as JOINs, to the more advanced concepts, such as subqueries.

Of course, this too will be a learning process for some, and that is its intent. Whether you are brushing up on your existing SQL skills or testing your recently learned knowledge, this course provides one of the best real-life database environments for SQL practice. It is a great way to master your craft.

Each individual learns in a different way. But a commonality among all is knowledge application and improvement through practice, or learning by doing. And this course track does a stellar job of it. Furthermore, what makes LearnSQL.com one of the best websites to train in SQL is its dedicated support system, from the students as well as the mentors.

Driving Business Results

The end goal of learning all this is to bring value back to your businesses, either as an employee or as part of the leadership team. With a solid foundation in SQL implementation, I was able to draw upon years of operating history at my workplace, analyze it, and present extensive improvement initiatives for our fleet-wide asset management program.

By combining the technical knowledge of SQL, the power of data, and the business context of the data, the proposals played a key role in improving asset reliability and reducing business operating costs. This demonstrated the importance of data and the power of SQL, a tool available to everyone within our organization, including my peers who are not in functional roles directly associated with data.

Not everyone will be tech-savvy enough to learn a new programming language. However, it did nurture some interest among many of my peers to at least explore the potential of SQL as an enabling tool within their functional roles. Although your specific functional role might not be directly associated with managing, developing, or analyzing databases, everyone and anyone could benefit from data-literacy in their day-to-day work.

Be it a mom and pop shop or a multinational grocery chain, all businesses have vast amounts of data. Most of them still have substantial amounts of untapped data. With database knowledge and proficiency, you too can bring tremendous value to businesses and organizations at any operating scale.

Final Thoughts

To end, I think it’s important to touch on a few additional points.

How Long Does It Take to Learn SQL?

You can learn the basics of SQL relatively quickly. Skills associated with more complicated concepts might take a few weeks to develop, but a consistent and extensive instructional and practice material is critical to achieving your goal.

With real-world, hands-on practice and training, you could be writing SQL code in just a couple of months. That being said, excellence is something we have to continuously strive towards. You must learn every day to stay on top of your craft.

What Else Should You Learn to Complement Your SQL Skills?

While there are many programming languages that database developers can learn, SQL does not mandate prior programming skills. I certainly did not have any prior to learning SQL.

However, SQL developers can benefit from having experience with JavaScript, PHP, and C#. If your end goal is transitioning towards Data Science and Machine Learning, I highly recommend Python.

What Type of Jobs Should You Be Applying For?

For roles ranging from Data Analysts to Junior Data Scientists to Database Developers, SQL is a widely sought-after skill. There are multiple websites that will help you find jobs with SQL skills, and I encourage you to explore those. Keep your end goals in mind while you further polish and practice your SQL skills.

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