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SQL for the Business Analyst

How can SQL benefit business analysts? In this article, we’ll discuss why SQL is a fundamental skill in this role. You’ll also learn what a business analyst does and what they need to advance their career.

According to BrainStation, the already high demand for business analysts is set to grow even more. One of the driving forces behind the rising demand is the digital revolution, which has been accelerated by the recent pandemic. Because they often perform many roles, business analysts are among the most sought-after professionals in the business world.

One of the fundamental skills every business analyst should have in their analytical toolbox is SQL. If you need to brush up (or begin) your SQL skills, provides interactive SQL courses for all levels of expertise:

  • Complete beginners with no experience in programming or IT should start with our SQL Basics
  • Intermediate users should take our SQL Practice
  • Seasoned IT professionals can grow their expertise with our Advanced SQL

But perhaps you need more reasons as to why SQL is such an important skill for a business analyst. Let’s take a deeper dive into this language and its uses.

What Is SQL?

SQL, also known as Structured Query Language, is a programming language that allows you to create, monitor, and access relational databases. It is the industry standard for relational database management systems (RDBMSs). Essentially, SQL allows you to communicate with your database.

SQL was created in the 1970s by IBM researchers to support the needs of the company's internal systems. If you are interested in its backstory, check out our article The History of SQL - How It All Began.

As SQL evolved, it became more powerful and turned into a necessary tool for Business Intelligence (BI) and Master Data Management (MDM). And it's good to know that SQL has a simple syntax that makes it easy to learn and understand. Most users have grown to love SQL because it combines power, speed, and flexibility.

Why Is SQL Worth Learning?

SQL enables businesses to improve efficiency and reduce costs; its implementation is a fundamental prerequisite to business growth. It enables the creation of databases that are specifically tailored to the needs of a business. Let’s take a closer look at why SQL is worth learning:

1. It Supports Large Databases

SQL enables you to create a large database that can be effortlessly connected to other databases. Thus, working with huge databases is a lot easier with SQL.

Data loss or corruption is also greatly reduced, because SQL lets you create backups and restore your data at any time if something goes wrong. This allows you to keep your system flexible and intact while avoiding problems along the way.

2. Implementation Is Easier

SQL allows you to implement a system that is specifically designed to handle your data, allowing for more efficient and effective data manipulation. As previously mentioned, SQL's ‘grammar’ is simple enough for even inexperienced computer users to grasp. Thus, its implementation is also fairly simple.

Without SQL, it would be much more difficult to implement the most recent database management systems. Because queries have to switch between several tables, database maintenance and updating can frequently cause confusion. However, using SQL makes it much easier to automate formerly time-consuming tasks.

3. It Offers Database Control

In terms of database control, SQL outperforms all other programming languages. Even if you are just starting out with databases, knowing SQL will make it much easier for you to get up to speed on the system. The SQL database you create can also be used in other database systems.

4. It Keeps You Current

SQL is always up to date, which is why it is the database programming language of choice. It is compatible with new technologies, which makes it easier to incorporate the latest technology and updates. In turn, this allows you to save time, money, and frustration in trying to integrate your database system.

Using SQL

SQL is widely used in business settings because of its numerous benefits and applications. It can be used by database experts, IT employees, and "ordinary" office workers who, thanks to the democratization of data, can benefit from it in their daily work.

Let’s look at some of its applications:

Data Selection

When it comes to data retrieval, no other programming language can compete with SQL. You can get data from various databases without being interrupted by other applications or third-party software.

Data Processing

SQL can process data even when multiple servers are involved. It can also ensure the data's stability and accessibility. Plus, it supports other applications while you work on your data system.

Data Manipulation

Data manipulation means you can rearrange your data based on any requirements at any time. SQL makes it easy to add or change records or even modify your database’s structure.

Database Creation

SQL can create even the most complex databases. With SQL, you can confidently build your own customized system. If you decide to design your own database, I recommend the Vertabelo Modeler. This solution is used by professionals all over the world. You can also check out the Vertabelo blog for data modeling tips, tricks, and ideas. (Full disclosure: is owned by Vertabelo SA.)

Data Integration

SQL can assist you in integrating various database systems. Because of its flexibility and power, it allows you to do more with your database and database system.

Now that we’ve looked at SQL, let’s discuss what a business analyst is and how learning SQL is beneficial to the role.

What Is a Business Analyst?

A business analyst (BA) is someone who helps businesses improve their processes, products, services, and software through data analysis. In other words, they act as a bridge between database developers, end users, database administrators, and quality assurance teams.

SQL for the Business Analyst

A business analyst must be able to accurately assess the needs of all parties involved. They are in charge of generating project requirements, which must be developed using process models.

To put it even simpler, a business analyst must be able to understand the business problem and formulate the right questions to ask. They will later find the answers for those questions in the data.

Unlike developers (for whom data is usually just records in a database) data is for BAs something that will help achieve a business goal. An SQL report can be a great basis for making a strategic business decision or, on a smaller scale, a new approach to a marketing campaign. For some other ideas why BAs find data helpful, see these articles:

Business analysts must be able to work with databases to conduct analyses. And, as you might have guessed, SQL is the most effective tool for this type of work. But BAs do more than just analyze data. Let’s see what else they do.

What Does a Business Analyst Do?

Let's take a closer look at what a business analyst's day-to-day entails.

Assessing Clients Needs

A business analyst’s first task to determine the needs of their clients or organization. They must learn about the client's requirements and the database system's capabilities to meet these requirements.

Capturing Business Objectives

The next step is to document the business objectives. This requires the analyst to communicate with others and document their work.

Working With Data

A business analyst must have the analytical capabilities to work with data. They must first be able to extract data from a database. Business analysts use SQL reports to track and analyze key performance metrics. If you want to learn more about creating these reports, we recommend our interactive course Creating Basic SQL Reports. It explains the aggregate functions and clauses essential for writing SQL reports.

Developing Improvement Plans and Strategies

A business analyst examines and evaluates business processes to identify areas for improvement. They must create road maps in order to put these improvements into action.In order for them to be understood, they must be able to present this to their clients. As a result, during implementation, business analysts frequently collaborate with various teams. It is also critical that they monitor the progress of these projects and make necessary adjustments.

Business Analyst Careers

Overall, a career as a business analyst offers a strong salary, a plethora of job opportunities, and a high level of job satisfaction and work-life balance.

SQL for the Business Analyst

Source: Glassdoor

According to Glassdoor, the estimated average salary for a US-based business analyst is $81,788; Indeed lists an average of $70,444. Find out more in our article How Much Do Business Analysts Earn?, where we go into greater detail about a career as a business analyst.

How Business Analysts Use SQL

SQL is used by business analysts to create, update, and manage related data in relational databases. A business analyst can conduct their analysis using SQL because it is such a versatile and adaptable programming language. Using SQL, they can retrieve data from multiple tables at the same time, allowing them to answer even the most complex questions.

SQL for the Business Analyst

Let’s imagine you are a business analyst. Here are some examples of how you might use SQL in your daily operations:

  • Identifying purchasing tendencies in the behavior of online store customers. You can quickly determine the type of customer and what they have purchased using SQL. Based on this information, you or your colleagues can then plan additional promotions and marketing activities.
  • Discovering the most profitable locations for chain stores over a given time period. Using SQL, the sales from each store can be easily retrieved and ranked. Based on this information, the HR team may decide to alter employee demand in these locations.
  • Finding the customer churn rate at various times of the year and developing strategies to reduce it (because the cost of keeping customers is far less than the cost of attracting new ones).

To learn more about how business analysts can use SQL to answer business questions, check out our article 3 Real-Life Business Questions That Are Perfect for SQL Common Table Expressions.

Other Business Analyst Skills

Aside from SQL, business analysts must be familiar with other programming languages. R is useful for statistical analysis, and Python is a useful general programming language.  Both can aid in data analysis.

If you choose to learn Python, check out our sister site, At the time of writing this article, their Python Basics: Part 1 course is free. So there’s no risk to trying out Python programming and seeing if it’s for you.

Business analysts often use other programs, such as Microsoft Power BI, Tableau and Qlik. You can learn more in our article Top 10 Tools for Business Analytics.

SQL for the Business Analyst

Business analysts must also be adept at problem solving, which requires decision-making and analytical abilities. More information can be found in our article Here's Why You Need Analytical Skills to Get Promoted at Work.

Learning SQL Can Help Your Business Analyst Career

Business analysts are in high demand in today’s job market. Learning critical skills such as SQL is essential for performing day-to-day business analysis tasks. So why not begin your career as a business analyst by learning SQL today?