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Learning SQL for Free – Is It Worth Betting on Free Online Learning?

Everyone likes to get something for free, even when it comes to SQL courses. But is free always good? Find out how and where you can learn SQL for free – in a way that’s worth your time.

Beginner-friendly database courses and SQL tutorials often promise to teach SQL fundamentals like SELECT, WHERE, GROUP BY, HAVING, and ORDER BY. These commands are the basis of a powerful set of skills for entry-level jobs in data analysis or databases. But do free online SQL courses live up to their promise? Do they really teach good SQL techniques? Some courses introduce more advanced SQL, such as JOINs or window functions. Are they worth your time?

To be honest, not all courses are created equal. Even the free ones, while they won’t set you back any money, can be frustrating and time-consuming if they’re not well designed. In this article, I take a closer look at free online SQL courses that are worth your time. I’ve divided my list into courses that teach fundamental SQL, advanced SQL, or both (which I’ll call extended SQL).

Let’s get started!

Free Fundamental SQL Courses

Introduction to Databases and SQL Querying (Udemy)

Introduction to Databases and SQL Querying (Udemy)

This Udemy offering is an introductory online course in SQL querying and data analysis. You don’t need any SQL background to finish it – if you are a beginner and looking to understand basic database concepts and write queries, this course will meet your requirements.

In just over two hours of video classes, you’ll find out how to set up your database environment (Microsoft SQL Server 2014 Express + SQL Server Management Studio) and write simple SQL queries using the following statements:

  • SELECT
  • WHERE
  • GROUP BY
  • HAVING
  • ORDER BY
  • IN
  • BETWEEN
  • DISTINCT
  • CALCULATED COLUMN
  • TEMP TABLES
  • INSERT, DELETE, and UPDATE

This course also introduces the concept of SQL JOINs, but more advanced aspects like joining multiple tables are not covered.

One thing I disliked about this course is its lack of hands-on practical exercises. On the other hand, the author shares some knowledge that can be taught in an exercise.

Summing it up, Introduction to Databases and SQL Querying is good for beginners.

Learn PostgreSQL Tutorial - Full Course for Beginners (FreeCodeCamp)

This four-hour YouTube SQL tutorial from FreeCodeCamp will familiarize you with database management basics and common SQL statements. One of its biggest advantages is that the course recording is bookmarked – you can easily navigate to the SQL concept of your choice, such as ‘PostgreSQL Installation on Mac OS’.

After learning core database fundamentals and how to connect to a database, you’ll be introduced to PostgreSQL. The list of topics includes:

  • INSERT INTO
  • SELECT
  • FROM
  • ORDER BY
  • DISTINCT
  • WHERE CLAUSE
  • AND
  • Comparison operators
  • LIMIT, OFFSET, and FETCH
  • IN
  • BETWEEN
  • LIKE and ILIKE
  • GROUP BY (with/without HAVING)
  • MIN, MAX, and AVERAGE
  • SUM
  • INNER JOIN and LEFT JOIN
  • Arithmetic operators
  • Primary keys
  • Foreign keys

Learn PostgreSQL Tutorial - Full Course for Beginners is a great primer.  It deals with questions like “What is a database?”, “What is SQL?”, or even “What is PostgreSQL AKA Postgres?”. The course will serve anyone who wants to understand the basics of databases and explore some (more or less) advanced uses of SQL.

Introduction to Structured Query Language (Coursera)

Introduction to Structured Query Language (Coursera)

This free Coursera SQL course teaches users to write simple statements and work with basic database-related concepts. The course is created by Charles Russel Severance, a Clinical Professor at the University of Michigan School of Information and a top Coursera instructor.

In this course, you will learn about single table queries and the basic syntax of the SQL language. Moreover, you will find out how to perform CRUD operations (Create, Read, Update, Delete) and advanced SQL query techniques like SQL JOINS or stored procedures. Lastly, you’ll learn to model many-to-many relationships like those needed to represent users, roles, and courses.

SQL Practice Set (LearnSQL.com)

SQL Practice Set (LearnSQL.com)

Although this SQL course isn't normally free, it was the LearnSQL Course of the Month in June. (Each month, LearnSQL.com gives users free full access to one course.) What's more, this course may be free again soon. So I decided to mention this course; it complements the beginner courses and will reinforce what you’ve already learned.

By now, you’ve noticed that video tutorials have one minor defect: they lack practical exercises of what the tutor is explaining. Practice sets, on the other hand, can help you “catch up” on your SQL knowledge if it’s been some time since you last used it. 

The SQL Practice Set contains 88 practical exercises where you write SQL code by yourself. At the end, there’s a fun challenge where you need to combine all of the explained material for a comprehensive review.

The scope of this practice set includes:

  • Fundamental SQL (See this article’s introduction.)
  • Aggregate functions (COUNT, SUM, AVG)
  • Grouping rows and ordering results
  • JOINs (querying from multiple tables, self joins, LEFT JOIN, RIGHT JOIN, and non-equi JOINs)
  • Subqueries (simple subqueries, subqueries with multiple results, correlated subqueries, and subqueries in the FROM and SELECT clauses)

Free Extended SQL Course

How to INSERT, UPDATE, and DELETE Data in SQL (LearnSQL.com)

How to INSERT, UPDATE, and DELETE Data in SQL (LearnSQL.com)

At the time of writing this article (October), How to INSERT, UPDATE, and DELETE Data in SQL course is the free SQL Course of the Month at LearnSQL.com. For more info, read an interview with the creator of this great course. And, if you’re reading this later on, don't worry; maybe this course will be free again soon. It's worth checking the website from time to time.

This LearnSQL.com course is about SQL commands that will help you modify the data in your tables. If you work with SQL, this is something you will definitely need. The INSERT function adds new rows, UPDATE modifies existing data, and DELETE removes rows from a table. As simple as that sounds, it's not always easy. Knowing how to use these functions correctly is important; thus, we’ve included 52 interactive exercises that allow you to practice your new skills.

How to INSERT, UPDATE, and DELETE Data in SQL should take you approximately 8 hours to complete. You’ll learn both the basic command syntax and the lesser-used functions of these commands: working with NULL values, inserting data from one table into another table, updating with values from another table, and working with default values. The subjects covered include:

  • UPDATE, INSERT, and DELETE commands
  • Combining SQL data manipulation (DML) commands with auto-fill values and IDENTITY, SEQUENCE, and NEWID().
  • Using DML commands with NULL and JOIN.
  • Modifying data using default column values.
  • Understanding and correctly performing CRUD (Create, Read, Update, Delete) operations.

Free Advanced SQL Course

Databases: Advanced Topics in SQL (edX)

Databases: Advanced Topics in SQL (edX)

Databases: Advanced Topics in SQL is part of a larger SQL curriculum. It contains some pretty advanced stuff.

The subjects covered include:

  • Creating indexes for increased query performance.
  • Using transactions for concurrency control and failure recovery.
  • Working with database triggers and constraints (keys, referential integrity, and check constraints).
  • How views are created, used, and updated in relational databases.
  • Handling authorization in relational databases.

This Stanford University course is free on the edX platform. You can complete it without cost, but you’ll need to pay $50 to get a certificate of completion. However, if you are interested in the knowledge itself and don’t care about a certificate, this SQL course is a good choice.

If you are a beginner and have just mastered the SELECT clause, you should learn more about SQL before attempting this course. Come back to it later and you’ll understand a lot more.

Window Functions (LearnSQL.com)

Window Functions (LearnSQL.com)

The LearnSQL.com Window Functions course is intended for users who want to progress in their SQL skills. It consists of 218 practical exercises that you’ll have to write SQL code to solve. There are no video lectures, just explanations, examples, and interactive exercises. Bonus fact: This is the only online SQL window functions course I could find on the Internet.

This course covers the syntax and semantics of SQL window functions. It shows how effective they are, explains the typical use cases, and demonstrates how to use ORDER BY and PARTITION BY to create windows.

This course includes:

  • Setting up a frame for window functions
  • Using the ROWS and RANGE clauses
  • Computing running totals and running averages
  • Building rankings
  • Finding the best and worst performers in a group
  • Investigating trends across time
  • Calculating contributions to the whole (e.g. commission percentages)

Why did I add this course to the free list? It was LearnSQL’s first Course of the Month in April. However, a little bird told me that it may be available again soon! It's worth following our website for that, right? And if you want to know more about the course, read this interview with the course creator.

Free Online SQL Courses Can Be Worth It!

This list of free SQL courses proves that there are good free things on the Internet. However, it’s best to trust proven companies and developers when it comes to learning SQL and other career skills. Using an unproven platform can lead to disappointment. When you start learning SQL, you’re building habits that impact your future development. It’s so important to choose well when you’re learning SQL online!

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