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Learn SQL in 4 Steps

Want to work with data? You’ll need SQL. Fortunately, you can learn SQL in just 4 steps!

If you are interested in data crunching or working with data in general, you’ve probably heard something about SQL.

Now that data storage is cheap and accessible, data from every transaction can be stored and analyzed. Hence, there’s great demand for people who can capture and work with this data. We’ve even seen entire companies profit from being proficient with data; for example, consider the ever-growing value of Google and Facebook (now Meta).

Most data is stored in databases. SQL is the language of databases; it was first developed in the 1970s and has become more popular than ever because of the data boom. In fact, learning SQL is a necessity for data-related jobs.

In this article, I will cover a step-by-step approach to learning SQL. I’ll also give you some resources that can make your learning process smoother.

Let’s start by understanding what SQL is and where it can be used.

What Is SQL?

SQL (short for Structured Query Language) is a programming language that lets you communicate with databases. You can use it to create tables to store data or insert information in existing tables. Using SQL queries, you can retrieve the data already present in the database. You can also perform basic to advanced computations on data using just SQL.

SQL’s ability to work with large datasets is one of its key advantages. The database provides computational speed and data handling, while SQL acts as an enabler for you to work with the information – gigabytes of it if necessary.

The other great benefit of SQL is its scalability: no matter the size of your data set, your query’s syntax usually change very little. Syntax (i.e. the basic commands and structure of the language) also remains similar over a multitude of different database systems. For instance, some of the relational databases that use SQL syntax are:

  • Oracle
  • MySQL
  • SQLite
  • Microsoft SQL Server
  • PostgreSQL

Learning standard SQL will help you work with any of these databases (and others). Although each database has its own SQL dialect, you’d just need to learn a few more details and extra commands; the concepts and syntax are almost the same across databases.

Plus, data warehouses, spreadsheets, some NoSQL databases, and other data tools also support SQL. Check out this article to understand how widespread SQL is.

SQL knowledge is therefore essential to almost all tech professions, including data analyst, data scientist, software engineer, and data engineer. However, non-IT professions can also use SQL to generate insights that help in their decision-making.

As a result, SQL is one of today's top skills. And you can learn it with just a bit of time and effort.

You Can Learn SQL in Just 4 Steps!

The intent of this article is to present a structured approach to help you learn SQL. I will cover a few resources that will help you create a strong foundation for future SQL mastery.

Given the choices available today, both offline and online, it can sometimes get confusing about where and how to begin. I hope the following information proves useful.

Let's dive straight in.

Step 1: Learn the Basics – SQL Syntax

Most college courses on SQL start with a lengthy introduction to databases and then slowly approach SQL. Given how intuitive it can be to learn SQL, I would recommend starting by getting comfortable with SQL syntax. A general idea of how databases work is enough at this point. Learning about databases can continue as you learn more about SQL.

A thorough grounding in the syntax of SQL is important. Once you form a good understanding of writing queries, you can concentrate more on the results and the data itself.

There are some great websites for you to get started with SQL basics. My top picks are:

  • You probably have heard of this website already. If not, give it a visit; it offers good material for starting your SQL learning journey.
  • offers both free and paid material for you to learn SQL. Its blog articles provide a good base to get acquainted with SQL syntax and basic constructs. For example, you can pin this beginner-friendly SQL basics cheat sheet to your learning board for a quick reference.
  • If you work in tech, you must have surely googled some questions and landed on this well-known question-and-answer website. You may not find very structured content here, but you can surely rely on it for questions related to SQL syntax (or tech in general).

Step 2: Take an Online Course

One of the biggest advantages of the Internet in terms of education is the immense growth of online learning content. For a skill like SQL, an online course is a perfect way of getting the foundation right.

Most good SQL courses are designed with a very pragmatic approach. They are more application based than theoretical. They’re also structured in a manner that will help you learn the concepts in the required order. Any worthwhile course will cover the necessary constructs for most major applications of SQL. And they’ll do it interactively, in  your browser; you don’t have to install any software or do any complex configurations to get started. You can simply enroll and start writing queries.

For instance, take the SQL Basics course from It offers great learning content and covers more than 129 exercises for you to get confident with the basics. You don’t need to install anything; a browser and an Internet connection is enough for you to learn. More than 33,000 users have already taken the course and rated it more than 4.5 stars. The first two chapters are free, so you can get an idea of whether you’ll find it useful before you pay.

If you want to cover everything SQL has to offer, consider taking our SQL from A to Z learning track. It features seven courses (including the SQL Basics course mentioned earlier) and has 84 hours of interactive learning.

If you know you want to focus on one area, like data science, you can find courses that offer that as well. The SQL for Data Science course by Coursera covers SQL basics for data analysis and data science using the SQLite database system.

Some other popular courses you can take are Intro to SQL by Khan Academy and The Complete SQL Bootcamp at Udemy.

Step 3: Get Plenty of Practice

For any kind of skill involving scripting or coding, you must practice. You need to become comfortable with various use cases to make sure that the concepts and syntax come effortlessly to you.

Some of the courses I mentioned in the previous section contain a lot of hands-on exercises, which means you’ll get a good amount of practice. But when it comes to practice, more is better.

Regularity is an important part of practice. offers a Monthly SQL Practice track that provides 7-15 new exercises per month. It alternates between basic and advanced queries and encompasses important practical applications.

You can also do the practice exercises on It contains hundreds of tasks based on a few classic database structures.

Step 4: Read Up and Keep Learning

And last but not the least, it is important to stay abreast with the latest developments happening with SQL. I usually read blogs and articles published on trusted websites to make sure that I am updated.

For regular reading about SQL, the blog covers SQL constructs, syntax, learning tips, data analysis, and databases in general. SQL Authority is another blog that offers some nice articles and also some videos for learning.

Another great website to follow is Towards Data Science. It publishes articles related to data science as well as SQL.

If you are more of a book person, there is no dearth of good books for SQL. Here is a great article listing the best SQL books to read.

Don’t Be Afraid to Learn SQL

I hope you now have a good idea of how to learn SQL. The resources cited in this article are well known and have been useful for most people who want to learn SQL. Having said that, I acknowledge that everyone has their own way of learning; this approach may not fit all.

The important thing is to start and complete at least one course or book. Then stay updated with regular practice and reading. Once you get good at writing queries, every data analysis or data crunching task you do with SQL will be a cake walk.

I wish you all the best! Happy learning!