If you’re interested in working with databases, you’ll almost certainly need at least a little bit of SQL training. Why? SQL is a programming language designed for managing and querying relational databases, which are the foundation of so many organizations’ data operations. Working with huge datasets in a business or government context, in other words, usually requires SQL knowledge.
What is SQL used for?
Relational databases organize data into rows and columns (like Excel!). If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, learn Codd’s Twelve Rules that granularly define a relational database management system.
SQL allows you to modify a database’s index structures, retrieve information, and generate new tables. Once you acquire working knowledge of SQL, you can add on all sorts of associated skills, such as commercial SQL IDEs that help you complete certain tasks (Squirrel!). In any case, SQL is pretty complicated, and employers expect anyone who works with it to exhibit a high degree of proficiency.
Where do I start learning SQL?
If you’re the kind of technologist who responds to formal online instruction, Udemy offers a number of SQL courses that range in price from around $100 to $175. Coursera lists numerous SQL courses in conjunction with major universities and colleges. For those who want a fast-paced tutorial, check out this offering from w3schools, which breaks down the various elements of SQL into “chapters.”
Microsoft also offers a variety of training materials and instructor-led courses, including lessons on developing SQL databases and working with SQL in the context of Azure, Microsoft’s massive cloud platform.
Is it in demand?
The short answer: yes. The slightly longer answer: According to Burning Glass, companies have posted some 919,209 jobs that list SQL skills over the past year—and that’s in addition to all the open SQL-related jobs that companies didn’t post. Although Burning Glass also predicts that growth of SQL-related jobs will decline 6.6 percent over the next decade, it’s clear that SQL is here to stay for the foreseeable future; it’s nestled so deeply in many companies’ infrastructure that they’re not giving it up anytime soon.
Another indicator of demand is compensation: The median compensation for SQL-related jobs is $92,000, rising to $122,000 and above with the right combination of skills and experience. That suggests employers are willing to pay quite a bit for technologists who’ve mastered SQL.
How do I start a SQL career?
Fortunately, you don’t need an advanced degree to launch a career working with SQL. According to Burning Glass, some 89 percent of jobs that ask for SQL skills also request a bachelor’s degree. More ask for either an associate’s degree or a high school diploma than an advanced degree such as a master’s or a PhD.
Do you need certifications to land a job working the SQL? That’s a great question. While SQL certifications (including database certifications such as MCSA: SQL 2016 Database Administration) aren’t necessary for every employer, they can assure a recruiter or hiring manager that you have the necessary skills to succeed at the job. Even if the job posting doesn’t explicitly ask for certifications, you’ll need to demonstrate that you have the skills necessary to do the job; many SQL-related positions come with a test (or two) during the interview process.
If you’re applying for an entry-level position as a database administrator, data scientist, or a software engineer working extensively with SQL, and you don’t have much work experience or many certifications, you may need to highlight your classwork and any personal projects in your application materials in order to land the position. As you advance in your career, you can rely on your previous work and successes to convince employers to sign you up. No matter what your career arc, though, SQL training will prove essential.