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How Developers Can Build SQL Skills

Even though you cannot build an application using SQL, employers continue to add SQL skills to their job requirements for software developers. In this article, I’ll elaborate on why developers need to know SQL and how you can learn SQL most efficiently.

As a developer, you may work on different kinds of projects. Not all of your projects require doing string manipulation, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to know how to do this. Similarly, not all of your projects require interacting with databases, but this doesn’t mean you don’t need to learn SQL.

Experienced programmers know SQL is required in a variety of applications, and ignoring this area just because you may not need it every day is a poor choice. It is very useful to have SQL in your arsenal, especially if you are striving for excellence in your profession.

In this article, I’ll discuss in detail the most efficient approaches to learning SQL for developers and programmers. But let’s first figure out what you gain from knowing SQL.

Why Programmers Should Learn SQL

I am sure you have seen many job postings for roles in programming and software development over the course of your career. Looking at qualification requirements in these postings, you have probably noticed there are very few IT-related skills employers are NOT interested in. The larger your arsenal of skills, the more job opportunities you have.

You’ve learned SQL? You’ve got a whole new bunch of options in front of you. And that's not only about meeting the demands of the employers – you are also personally gaining a lot from knowing SQL:

  • Ability to work on new and interesting projects. A lot of exciting projects are data-driven. Think about social media, gig economy applications, or e-commerce. If you work with these applications, the chances are high you have to deal with relational databases. SQL has proven to be the most effective tool for this. Read this article to learn how programmers in different roles leverage SQL. And yes, iOS and Android developers also benefit from learning SQL.
  • Opportunity to join the IT teams of the tech leaders. The business model of companies like Facebook, Google, Alibaba, Uber, and the like, is built around data. To store information about their users, their preferences, connections, and actions, these tech giants leverage different relational databases and interact with them using SQL. Would you like to join a leading tech team one day? Then consider picking up SQL.
  • Less dependence on the data management team. In large organizations, there is typically a database administrator (DBA); in fact, there is often an entire data management team. They are usually responsible for the process of creating database objects and interacting with data. However, many programmers find it much more efficient to write SQL queries themselves and include them within the application code. That way, they avoid time-consuming communications with DBA teams. Meeting project deadlines becomes much easier when you don’t need to rely on other teams for anything related to interaction with databases. Of course, this is possible only if the organization’s internal rules allow such practices.
  • Deep understanding of the underlying processes when interacting with databases. Even if there is a specialized DBA team tasked with building all processes related to data in your organization, it is often very useful to understand SQL just to debug or investigate the systems related to what you are working on. Similarly, your organization may be using tools to abstract SQL, but these technologies may leak or underperform. You need a good understanding of SQL to investigate what's going on under the hood and notice when the results you get look surprising.

By combining your SQL knowledge with other programming languages (e.g., Python, R, Java, and C#), you become a versatile programmer with a broad arsenal of skills and qualifications. Specifically, when you understand SQL, you become more confident to participate in projects that require skills in data filtering and analysis, online analytical processing (OLAP), and managing database architecture, among others.

How Developers Can Build SQL Skills

Do you feel excited about all these new opportunities? I bet you do. But here is a cherry on top – SQL is really easy to pick up! Of course, it’s important to choose the right learning resources so that you can learn the things you really need in your work and do so most efficiently.

So, let’s see what the best way is for a programmer to get comprehensive knowledge of SQL without wasting time on inefficient tools and resources.

How to Learn SQL Efficiently

Let’s say you are a junior developer writing applications in Python or Java. You realize you need to learn SQL to advance your career.

Maybe there is another team in your company that works on a really exciting e-commerce project, but you cannot join them because you lack SQL skills. Or maybe you have just been going through job postings of companies like Facebook, Uber, and Google and have noticed all of them require SQL skills for your dream positions.

Anyway, you are now determined to learn SQL. Where do you start?

SQL, like any other programming language, is best learned with specific problems to be solved. When approaching real-world problems with SQL, you can understand the “why” while learning the “how.” In this regard, reading books and watching YouTube tutorials do not provide you with practical experience and may just be a waste of your time.

You could choose to learn SQL directly by searching for solutions to your work problems on Stack Overflow and the likes. You might acquire knowledge on a few SQL topics, but you could miss out on the comprehensive understanding of this language, its core principles, and possibilities.

To get both comprehensive knowledge and practical experience in SQL, you should consider starting with interactive courses. By choosing the right course provider, you get a clear learning path and hundreds of coding challenges for practicing your newly acquired skills, and you learn SQL as fast as possible.

If you want to master all the necessary SQL tools so that you can work freely and efficiently with any type of data, I recommend starting with’s SQL from A to Z track, or its versions in MS SQL Server and PostgreSQL dialects. These are well-constructed and well-thought-out learning paths. The SQL from A to Z track includes 7 interactive courses:

  • SQL Basics (129 interactive exercises) covers basic queries for retrieving information from a database (SQL JOINs, filtering data, grouping data using aggregate functions, and subqueries).
  • Standard SQL Functions (211 interactive exercises) teaches how to use SQL when working with different data types (text, numeric, date and time) and NULL values.
  • How to INSERT, UPDATE, and DELETE Data in SQL (52 interactive exercises) is crucial for programmers working with databases. It covers retrieving, storing, modifying, deleting, inserting, and updating data with the SQL data manipulation language (DML).
  • Creating Basic SQL Reports (97 interactive exercises) will be of interest particularly to junior programmers and software developers. After completing this course, you’ll be able to classify your data, organize long queries, calculate multiple metrics, and compare different business groups in a single report.
  • "Window Functions" course (218 interactive exercises) explains how window functions can be used to compute running totals and averages, build rankings, investigate trends across time, and more.
  • Recursive Queries (114 interactive exercises) covers all types of common table expressions (CTEs), including simple CTEs, nested CTEs, and recursive CTEs. After completing this course, you’ll be able to organize complex queries and calculations clearly and process hierarchical data efficiently.
  • GROUP BY Extensions in SQL (63 interactive exercises) covers some of the advanced SQL features. Specifically, you’ll learn how to use ROLLUP, CUBE, and GROUPING SETS operations to generate subtotals and multiple GROUP BY clauses in a single SQL statement.

As you can see, this track provides you with a well-structured learning path to complement your programming skills with comprehensive knowledge of SQL.

Now, you may wonder how long it takes to learn SQL. Well, the estimated time for completing the above track is 84 hours. Not much for a new programming language, is it? Of course, to master SQL skills, you need to spend some more time practicing SQL at your workplace or in individual projects. But in any case, the SQL from A to Z track gives you a very strong foundation.

Time to Master SQL!

It’s been 51 years since Edgar F. Codd’s article “A Relational Model of Data For Large Shared Data Banks” changed the rules of the game by introducing relational databases. SQL grew in importance with the development of databases and is still an industry standard half a century later. Every programmer who seriously thinks about his or her career should learn SQL, at least the basics.

If you haven’t started your SQL journey, now is the time to do so. It can also be a good idea to validate your accomplishments with SQL certifications. Check out this article to learn which certifications are well recognized in the IT industry.

Thanks for reading, and happy learning!