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The Future of SQL

Is it worthwhile to learn SQL? Or will a language that’s over 40 years old soon be outdated? Have relational databases been eclipsed by the advent of other database solutions like NoSQL? In this article, we answer these questions.

Do you need to upgrade your IT skills? What should you learn first? The choice is daunting. If you're looking to the future, you obviously want to invest your time in something that's still widely used and will continue to be in the years to come.

Should you learn SQL? SQL is relatively easy to master and has been said to be a good starting point. But some people are questioning whether this is still the case. I've heard people ask:

  • This technology is over 50 years old. Isn't there something better?
  • Isn't NoSQL the trend of the future?

In a world of constantly changing technologies, it’s logical to think that something that’s been an IT standard for half a century should already have its successors. Many solutions tried to threaten the dominance of SQL, such as XML databases.

The closest to dethroning SQL has been NoSQL. So why not learn that instead of SQL?

Let's look first at what SQL and NoSQL actually are. Then we’ll look at what some of the biggest corporations are using. Finally, we'll consider whether learning SQL is a worthwhile step towards improving your career path.

If you decide that SQL is for you, then is a great place to start. It offers interactive, hands-on courses at all levels of proficiency. Our SQL Basics course teaches beginners how to extract information from a database and how to group and aggregate it to analyze data in different ways. The SQL Practice track is suitable for intermediate users, while advanced users will benefit from the Advanced SQL track.

Meanwhile, let’s go back to the question: Is SQL the right thing to learn in 2022?

What Is SQL?

SQL stands for Structured Query Language. It was first developed by IBM in the 1970s to allow access to databases using an easy-to-learn, English-like language. It was quickly adopted by other software vendors and soon became the industry standard for working with relational databases. The history of SQL makes an interesting read for anyone who would like to know more.

SQL is simple to learn  whether or not you have any previous IT experience. A basic query looks like this:

	select name, grade from employee; 

SQL emerged at a defining time in the history of computers. Originally, computers were enormous (and very expensive) pieces of equipment based on valve technology. In the 1960s, they became smaller and cheaper thanks to the arrival of semiconductors. But even so, only governments and large corporations could afford them. Hardware was very costly. By comparison, programmers that developed the software were cheap.

	The Future of SQL

Then came the microchip. Suddenly, hardware prices dropped dramatically and the cost of developing software became the major expense. Obviously, ways had to be found to make software both re-usable and easier to develop. The cheaper hardware also meant that computers were now able to store enormous amounts of data.

This brought about a similar revolution in the software industry and in the way data was used. Relational databases made data easier to access and control.

The democratization of data – the concept of making data available directly to the marketers, managers, and planners within a company – soon gave the companies that adopted data-driven practices the leading edge; they were able to use data analysis to stay one step ahead of the game.

SQL made it possible for developers and database administrators to easily create, maintain, and analyze huge quantities of data. And it also made it possible for an organization’s decision-makers – data analysts, marketers, and managers – to easily explore and aggregate that data to meet their information needs. From then on, they could start making better business decisions.

Like the microchip (and, one may add, the wheel!) SQL is still with us because it does its job.

NoSQL – What It Is and Isn’t

Around 2009, the NoSQL trend hit the market. Proponents of non-relational databases argued that they were easier to use, more readily scalable, and faster when working with huge datasets.

NoSQL, although it had a place in the market, did not supplant SQL. The reason is simple – each solution serves a different purpose.

SQL is a language for extracting data. NoSQL refers to a type of database, not a language. It would be more correct to refer to NoSQL as 'a non-relational form of database storage.' But since all standard relational databases use SQL to control and access data, the term NoSQL was coined. The early NoSQL databases were termed 'Non-SQL', but most NoSQL database vendors now term them as 'Not Only SQL.'

NoSQL databases have their place in the data industry. They are suitable for extremely large volumes of homogenous data that must be easily scalable and accessed quickly. An example would be product details for a very large online vendor. All products have the same type of details stored about them: a description, a price, and an image. All are accessed via similar predefined searches.

This product database, while allowing very quick access by a web page, is not suitable for:

  • Marketing a
  • Viewing historical trends.
  • Maintaining the accuracy and integrity of data.

Typically, these tasks would still be carried out using a relational database. In fact, NoSQL databases are often layered on top of relational databases.

And many NoSQL databases do in fact use SQL syntax to query and manipulate data in the database. Amazon DynamoDB uses PartiQL, which is based on SQL. Apache HBase allows queries using Drill – and Drill uses SQL syntax.

One or two have their own query languages instead, but these are generally not easy to learn or to use and therefore don't support democratization of data. As an example, let’s look at the same query two ways. First, we’ll use SQL syntax, and second we’ll use the query language for MongoDB.

Here’s the query in SQL:

select * from sales where country = 'United States';

And here’s the same query in MongoDB:

db.sales.find ({country : "United States" } )

Do Large Corporates Use SQL Databases? Do They Use NoSQL?

The answer to these questions is often yes and yes. When we're going on a journey, we choose the type of transport that best fits our needs at the moment. We'd choose a boat to visit an island, a plane to visit a different continent, and our own feet to visit our next-door neighbor.

In the same way, a large corporation, which has many different needs, chooses the right type of software for different jobs.

	The Future of SQL

Most large corporations use polyglot persistence architecture – i.e. they use many different data storage techniques to cater for varying needs in the organization.

Google, for example, has a mix of relational and NoSQL databases, each suited to a different task. Google BigTable is a NoSQL database suitable for large loads. Layered onto this is Spanner, their own relational database. BigQuery is a relational SQL database used for data warehousing, which they use to extract various types of data analytics.

Google's subsidiary, YouTube, uses MySQL (a very popular SQL dialect and database system) as its primary data storage facility. But to give it scalability, they manage it using the database clustering utility Vitess.

So although Google does use NoSQL in its proper place, relational databases and SQL are, and will continue to be, an essential part of their technology.

Uber's data needs are varied. Large numbers of drivers and passengers need instant access to data in order to coordinate transport needs. Data analysts need access to petabytes of data in order to plan and synchronize the operation. Developers need access to data to improve and expand Uber’s services.

Uber uses Hadoop to allow their vast data stores to be scaled horizontally. The underlying database management is provided by MySQL servers. Querying can be achieved by several means, including pure SQL and Presto, which also uses SQL syntax.

Facebook is built on MySQL technology via their own MySQL database engine named MyRocksDB.

So, we can see that SQL is an integral part of large corporate operations, and is likely to remain so in the foreseeable future.

Did you know that Uber employees learn on So far, more than 10,000 Uber employees have benefited from courses on the platform. You can read more about our cooperation in the case study.

This brings us to another question:

Will Learning SQL Help Your Career?

Accessing data in order to analyze it and make decisions is important in many different careers. Marketing executives need to look at past trends and predict future ones. Managers need to look at various performance metrics so they can make sound decisions. Specialists in many areas – science, business, agriculture, and so on – need to be able to correctly interpret real-world data.

And IT staff need to remain on top of technology to keep their skills relevant. The annual Stack Overflow survey is a good measure of which skills are most used in the industry. Below are the top 20 skills currently in demand. You'll see that SQL ranks third in the most popular technologies of 2022:

	The Future of SQL

Source: Stack Overflow Developer Survey 2022

TIOBE is an organization that measures the quality of software. The TIOBE index tracks the current popularity of programming languages, maintaining a monthly Top 20 list. While other languages come and go as fads change, SQL consistently keeps a place on this list.

For those with few or no IT skills, SQL is a great place to start. Learning basic queries is simple and it very quickly opens a gateway into the world of data.

For those who are already IT savvy, improving your SQL skills to include complex queries and data manipulation is a must. This is true whether you're a software developer, a data analyst, a business analyst, or a data engineer.

What Careers Are Enhanced by Learning SQL?

SQL is an important steppingstone towards many careers, including:

  • Database administration
  • Business intelligence
  • Business analysis
  • Software engineering
  • Market analysis

What might you expect to earn in these careers? Let's have a look at some statistics taken from Indeed – a top online international job market:

	The Future of SQL

Data from

Also according to Indeed, the top employers in these professions are:

Business AnalystBusiness IntelligenceDatabase AdministratorSoftware EngineerMarket Analyst
IntuitUlineTata ConsultancyTeslaTacoma Public Utilities
Fannie MaeAcostaOracleCitiCredit Suisse
GoogleTwitterEYWalmartSelby Jennings
TIAAAppleUnited AirlinesMetaApplied Materials

Data from

How to Start Learning SQL

We’ve seen that SQL is still an extremely important skill, both for developers and for anyone who needs to analyze and make use of data. has a wide range of SQL courses that can take you from beginner to expert. At the time of writing, we offer 66 different courses featuring over 6,000 interactive tasks.

If you already know you want to learn SQL, our SQL Basics course is a great introduction. If you’re looking to take your skills all the way to expert level, the SQL from A to Z track is a comprehensive learning experience that will give you all you need to enhance your data analysis skills. Or just browse to find the SQL course that best fits your specific needs.

Bottom line: Learn SQL today – it could be the best career move you’ve ever made. SQL is future-proof!