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Is SQL Worth Learning?

We’re in the 21st century. These are the “ultimate data times” in which loads of information on all kinds of things is available. We want to explore this info even more, slice and dice it, understand where it comes from and what triggers it.

With such large amounts of data coming in, people have discovered that spreadsheets aren’t enough. There’s a need for a greater solution, something like a spreadsheet on steroids. That’s when relational databases (and SQL) stepped in. If we want access to all that data, we have to consider the question “Is SQL worth learning?”.

What Is SQL? Who Uses It?

Relational databases store and logically organize large amounts of data. The data “lives” in tables, which can be linked (i.e. to show the relationships between the data in the tables).

Look at the example below. There’s a sample table called doctor, where you can find information about doctors in the US. And there’s another sample table called hospital, with data about US hospitals.

IDf_namel_namespecializationhospital
1MickMeisteroncology4
2MekishaAbduldentist5
...............

The doctor table

IDnamecityaddresspostal_code
...............
4Saint Francis Memorial HospitalSan Francisco900 Hyde StCA 94109
5Total Health Dental CareSan Francisco1880 Pleasant Valley AveCA 94611
...............

The Hospital table

Looking at such a small amount of data – what we call a small sample size – you can spot links. It’s obvious that Dr. Mick Meister must work at Saint Francis Memorial Hospital and Dr. Mekisha Abdul must work at Total Health Dental Care. But what if you have a list of thousands of US doctors and you need to connect each one with the hospital where they work? Or what if you only wanted to see a list of oncologists? Or only oncologists in San Francisco? You can do this and more with SQL!

SQL is the most common language for dealing with databases. If you learn SQL, you can communicate with databases; you “ask a question” using SQL queries, which are instructions that you send to a database to retrieve information you want.

Why Learn SQL?

While SQL is mainly associated with the IT industry, it’s becoming standard in the fields of finance, banking, and marketing. Additionally, SQL is essential for anyone who works with large amounts of data, such as data analysts or business analysts.

Knowing SQL lets you quickly retrieve and process data without any assistance from the IT department. (And we all know they have a lot of other work, most of it more important than getting your data.) Fortunately, learning SQL is easy like Sunday morning (to quote a Lionel Richie song) and doesn’t take much time. Moreover, you don’t need any prior programming knowledge to start learning SQL.

But what if you don’t work in a company that deals with large amounts of data? You might still wonder why to learn SQL. Is SQL worth your time in your particular situation? It sure is! Analyzing data is incredibly important for staying ahead of the competition, and most modern organizations seek specialists who have analysis skills. Knowing SQL and understanding databases might help you find a job with a higher salary.

Besides the money, it’s simply smart to learn SQL. It allows you to build reports on how the business is performing. And, with just a few adjustments, you can reuse your SQL code instead of writing future reports from scratch. This way you save time, effort, and stress.

Where Should You Learn SQL?

Although each database has its own version of SQL syntax, I suggest learning standard SQL, as it will let you work in all databases. The only situation where you might want to learn a SQL dialect (such as PostgreSQL) is if you’re working at a company using that particular database management system.

In my opinion, the best way to learn SQL is with an interactive online platform. Look for one that explains the theory and then gives you a chance to write your own queries. You should be given a lot of hands-on exercises where you have to write your own code.

Once you learn the basics, you will be eager to broaden your SQL knowledge.

Final Thought

SQL and databases are a great tool. They are especially useful when you’re dealing with large amounts of data or searching for particular insights. When you know SQL, you can help your company beat its competitors and be a bigger player on the market. And with this skill on your resume, you’re more likely to get a higher-paying job. Employers are looking for people with data literacy.

If you want to see how cool it is to work with SQL, go to LearnSQL.com. It’s a great place for non-techies to learn SQL fundamentals from scratch.

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