How Difficult is it to Learn SQL?

Explore the world of SQL, a standard language used to communicate with relational databases and an essential tool for data-related careers. Discover what SQL is, what it can do, learn about the challenges in mastering SQL, and how learning SQL can lead to upward career mobility.

Key Insights

  • SQL (Structured Query Language) is used to access and manipulate data in relational databases. It operates on local intranet or internet systems and can be used on various devices.
  • SQL is used extensively across industries and disciplines due to its flexibility and its built-in functions useful for data analytics.
  • Learning SQL can be challenging due to advanced concepts such as recursive queries, query tuning, temporary functions, and self-joins. Enrolling in live online or in-person study can aid in mastering these concepts.
  • Learning SQL is generally considered easier than many other programming languages, and mastery of SQL can facilitate learning other programming languages such as Python or JavaScript.
  • Knowledge of SQL can open many professional doors across various industries including finance, social media, and music. SQL skills are in high demand for jobs involving regular data work.
  • Noble Desktop offers multiple course offerings in SQL for both beginners and those looking to advance their skills. In-person and online classes are available to cater to different learning styles and schedules.

Are you curious about learning SQL but worry that it might be too difficult? Of course, the challenges that come with learning a new skill are subjective in many ways. Understanding SQL depends on a host of factors, such as prior experience with other programming languages or familiarity with relational databases. It also can depend on the learning environment where you choose to study. Regardless of your current schedule or comfort level with SQL, plenty of tools are available to help make learning this programming language more accessible than you might think.

What is SQL?

SQL, or Structured Query Language, is a standard language used to communicate with relational databases. Organizations across industries rely on SQL to access and work with the data contained in their databases. Important business information about products, customers, or orders is just some data an organization may store in a database. Among its many uses, SQL has applications for searching, updating, and maintaining databases. It can also insert or delete records from databases and change the database's actual structure by creating or deleting tables and objects.

SQL operates on local intranet or internet systems and can be used on laptops, PCs, servers, and some mobile devices. Even though SQL is considered to be a relatively simple programming language, it is a powerful tool for helping users retrieve the specific information they need within a large database. Those working with SQL don’t need coding skills and can instead use basic keywords such as “update” or “select” to perform data queries.

Some of the most-used relational database management systems that use SQL are Microsoft SQL Server, Ingres, Access, and Oracle.

Read more about what SQL is and why you should learn it.

What Can You Do with SQL?

For anyone who works with data, SQL knowledge is a must. Many fields and disciplines use this language to communicate with relational databases. SQL’s flexibility is designed to help you use statements based on English to query a database in multiple ways. Because SQL is the most-used database language, nearly every organization that has to store relational data relies on SQL, including major corporations such as Amazon, Google, and Uber. In addition, websites such as Facebook use SQL to store back-end data and process data.

SQL has a wide range of built-in functions that are useful for data analytics:

  • SQL COUNT can count how many rows are in a table
  • SQL MAX provides a way to select the highest value for a given column
  • SQL MIN lets users choose the minimum value for a column
  • SQL SUM totals the values in a column
  • SQL AVG can calculate the average within table columns

In addition, SQL has other useful applications for handling large volumes of data:

  • It can add, update, or delete records within a database
  • SQL can create new databases
  • SQL users can add new tables to an existing database
  • SQL can create views or stored procedures in a database
  • It can establish permissions on views, tables, and procedures.

What Are the Most Challenging Parts of Learning SQL?

Although SQL is described as easier to learn than other programming languages, acquiring SQL fluency can pose challenges. The following are some of the most difficult concepts in SQL to learn:

  • Recursive queries: Hierarchical data is often stored in SQL. Recursive queries provide a convenient method for retrieving information from these graphs. Some examples of hierarchical data are organizational structure, links between web pages, and application menu structure.
  • Query tuning: It can be challenging for those new to SQL to know the best ways to execute a specific query. Query tuning, also known as query optimization, is a feature of most relational database management systems. SQL statements are created to retrieve data from databases. However, writing different SQL queries can help programmers arrive at the same results. It’s essential to use the best query when considering performance. Query tuning therefore plays an essential role in satisfying different search requirements.
  • Temporary functions. Temporary functions play an integral role in SQL. They allow users to break down blocks of code into smaller chunks and ultimately help them write cleaner code. In addition, temporary functions can help prevent repetition while still providing a way to reuse code.
  • Self-joins. SQL self-joins are used to join a table to itself. Self-joins have many applications in real-life settings where data is stored in a large table instead of several smaller ones. Self-joins are prevalent in SQL and can be used to solve an array of problems.

Each of these SQL skills is an advanced concept. For those looking to master them, enrolling in live online or in-person study can provide the necessary instruction, guidance, and support to make the process easier.

How Does Learning SQL Compare to Other Languages?

Experts consider learning SQL to be easier than many other programming languages. Because SQL is the actual language of the computer, those who master this language can more easily acquire other programming languages, such as Python or JavaScript. This open-source programming language has a robust community of developers, so topics related to SQL are often posted on sites such as StackOverflow. The sheer number of SQL users who post online can help SQL novices become more fluent in this language.

Another common language those who work with databases rely on is NoSQL. Unlike SQL databases, NoSQL databases are non-relational. Whereas SQL has a pre-defined schema, NoSQL databases incorporate dynamic schemas for managing unstructured data. NoSQL databases can be scaled horizontally, while those in SQL are vertically scalable. If you are working with multi-row transactions, SQL is the preferred database. For those handling unstructured data such as JSON, NoSQL is a better option.

If you are interested in finding free SQL databases, the most popular are MySQL and SQL Server. Several free NoSQL databases are also currently available as well, such as MongoDB.

Why is it Important to Learn SQL?

More data is being created each day than ever before. However, data isn’t actionable until it is organized and analyzed. Knowledge of SQL help with this process. SQL training opens many professional doors and can lead to upward career mobility. Here are just a few of the ways SQL can be of use to you:

  • Even simple SQL queries can unearth insights from data with greater speed and efficiency than other data retrieval methods.
  • SQL is helpful in the data manipulation process. It provides a way for you to view and interact with data, making it easier to test and manipulate by using simple queries.
  • For those who have to manage millions of records, spreadsheet programs like Excel do not provide a suffciently powerful solution. SQL can handle data pools larger than 100 million records.
  • If you need to combine data from two or more sources, SQL can make this process simple by supporting unions that join specified fields or entire databases.

Professional Applications of SQL

Despite the challenges of learning SQL, this programming language is one of the most in-demand skills, especially for those whose job involves regularly working with data. The following are some of the many applications SQL has across industries:

  • Finance: Most everyone who works in the finance industry regularly uses databases. Some of the most common uses of SQL in finance relate to payment processors and banking applications. Because the internet is poorly regulated, banks must implement additional security precautions to ensure that online transactions occur safely. SQL can be used to protect these transactions, as well as to provide necessary database support.
  • Social media: Platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and Facebook have millions of users who use a considerable amount of bandwidth every day. Social media users regularly share new content including posts and photos, and social media databases use SQL to continuously update the information and make the content available to millions of users. In addition, social media applications store users’ personal information for tracking purposes. Advertisers and marketers then use this data.
  • Music: In recent years, the music industry has rapidly pivoted to digital. Many streaming music sites are now listeners’ first choice for hearing music. These sites use SQL to provide users with vast music libraries with songs that must be available to hundreds of millions of customers at any given moment.

Learn SQL with Hands-on Training at Noble Desktop

When learning SQL for a career, many people choose instructor-led classes, which provide personalized assistance and in-the-moment feedback on their code. If you’re interested in learning the basics of SQL or receiving more advanced instruction, Noble Desktop has multiple course offerings in SQL. Classes are available in the live online environment as well as in-person in New York City.

Those new to using SQL can enroll in Noble’s SQL Level 1, a beginner-friendly class designed to teach students the basics of working with this language. Throughout this instructor-led, one-day course, students build a foundation in SQL by learning about rows, columns, tables, and basic filtering. By course completion, participants will have a solid understanding of database architecture and will be able to write basic SQL queries for Microsoft SQL Server.

If you’re looking to learn more advanced SQL concepts, Noble also offers an SQL Bootcamp led by expert instructors. Those enrolled in this 18-hour course receive hands-on instruction on core SQL skills, such as how to write queries, filter and group data, and combine information from various tables using join statements. Participants in this small class also gain experience working with PostgreSQL as well as the free DBeaver app. All students have the option of a free retake of the course if they wish to brush up on their SQL skills. Prospective students can also learn more about SQL with Noble’s learning resources.

How to Learn SQL

Master SQL with hands-on training. SQL is one of the most in-demand programming languages and is used across a variety of professions.

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