Web Development

Top 10 Tips To Learn SQL

Top 10 Tips To Learn SQL
Are you thinking about trying to learn SQL? Data is everything in the modern world. Most major companies and websites have huge databases that they use to inform marketing and other business decisions. But how do they do this?

To put it simply, developers use a programming language called Structured Query Language (SQL) that allows them to communicate with, modify, and manage databases and the data they contain. The increase in the demand for data analysis and data-driven business decisions has led to an increase in the demand for SQL developers. This, in turn, has led to an increased number of people trying to learn SQL.

However – and I can say from experience – learning SQL isn’t always easy. It is a very specialized programming language, which means that it is only used for a limited amount of things. If you want to get a job as a database manager after learning to use SQL, you will need to make sure that you do things right from the beginning, and that you are gaining a complete understanding of the language.

To help you do this, I have put together a list of my top 10 tips to help you learn SQL basics. Enjoy!

Tip 1 – Make Sure You Understand What SQL Does

Now that you’ve started out on your journey towards master database manager and developer, it’s time to sit back for a moment and make sure that you really understand SQL and what it can be used for. You might finish your course and find that you actually don’t want to be a SQL developer if you don’t do this now.

You need to go away and do your own research – head over to the Learn SQL page for a complete overview of SQL and what it does – but here are a few language features that you absolutely have to be aware of:

  1. SQL is the language of databases. It is used to access, manage, and modify data, but it is only used for this. If you want to become a general purpose programmer with the ability to work on different projects, don’t learn SQL as your first language.
  2. Although a SQL developer is technically a ‘programmer’, you won’t actually be able to write ‘programs’ with SQL. All it lets you do is access and manage data, as explained above.
  3. Learning SQL won’t be easy. It is a complex language which could take you years to master, so make sure that you’re ready for the commitment.
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If you decide to continue on the road to becoming a SQL master, then keep reading – the following top SQL tips are really going to get you going!

Tip 2 – Choose A Decent Online Course

Unless you have already enrolled in an intensive SQL boot camp or a full-time computer science course, you need to start looking at ways to learn SQL online. One of the best ways is through a decent online course. Online courses have a range of benefits, including:

  • They generally work through syntax, conventions, and other language features in a clear, easy to follow manner.
  • Most online courses, including those on the BitDegree platform, allow you to learn SQL at your own pace. This means that you aren’t forced to learn when you don’t have the time or don’t feel like it, but instead can learn when it suits you most.
  • Online courses are usually free or very cheap, which is great for learners who don’t have a lot of money to spend on learning SQL.
If you are thinking about enrolling in a course to learn SQL online, then I would recommend starting with the Interactive SQL Tutorial. This tutorial will teach you how to write SQL code, how to use your knowledge of SQL to interact with databases, and exactly what SQL can be used for. You will have the chance to practice your code in an interactive code editor. Once you have developed a working knowledge of SQL, you should move onto a more complex course, such as the Unity Tutorials Database Interaction course. This will teach you more about how to use SQL to interact with databases, preparing you for a career in database management.

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Tip 3 – Familiarize Yourself With A Reference Guide

Once you have enrolled in your online course, it’s time to move onto deeper learning. As you work through your course to learn SQL online, you will probably come across concepts and syntax that you don’t understand or haven’t seen before. When this happens, you need to be able to go away and look them up.

One of the best resources that you can use to help you learn SQL is a decent SQL reference guide. Reference guides contain everything you need to know about a language, its syntax, and programming best practices. My personal favorite reference guide is the Oracle SQL Reference. It contains almost 500 pages of high-quality information that will teach you pretty much everything you will ever need to know about SQL. Bookmark it and make use of it when you are learning or practicing your SQL.

Alternatively, the BitDegree Learn SQL page also offers a wide range of information about SQL. This could be a good place to refer to when you are getting familiar with SQL basics. It provides clear, concise explanations of a range of concepts and syntax while staying simple enough for beginners to understand.

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Tip 4 – Always Follow Best Practices

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It is essential to make sure that you are always following industry best practices when you work with any programming language. SQL is no different and making sure that you always do things the right way will help keep you out of trouble in the future.

A lot of beginners become lazy after they have been learning how to code for a short amount of time. Basic concepts and syntax can be relatively easy to pick up, which can lead to a lack of care when people are practicing or working through an online course – I know that I’ve certainly been guilty of this in the past.

However, getting lazy and writing poor quality code is possibly the worst thing you can do as a learning programmer. Practicing writing SQL code without following best practices is a recipe for disaster. You will pick up bad habits, you might start taking shortcuts, and you will find that this will impact your ability to write high-quality code in the future.

Tip 5 – Connect With Your Peers

Learning SQL can be quite lonely and boring if you try and do it on your own. Unfortunately, not everyone is self-motivated and disciplined enough to sit down for hours at a time and teach themselves something difficult like SQL. However, the good news is that there are plenty of other people out there who are in the same position as you. Connecting with these people can help you stay motivated, can provide you with a way to get help with difficult problems, and may even result in new friendships!

There are two main ways that you can connect with your fellow SQL learners. The first is to join online forums and chat boards. In places like this, you will be able to ask questions about problems you are stuck on, while also using your knowledge to help less skilled developers learn. The Microsoft Developer Network is a great place to find help with your SQL. Alternatively, head over to Reddit or search Google for a SQL forum which suits you.

The second – and in my opinion, the best – way to connect with your coding peers is by joining a local learn SQL group that has regular physical events. My favorite ways to find local groups is through a quick Facebook search and via Meetup.com. Join a group, start networking, and meet other people who are interested in SQL and database management. You will find that doing this will make study easier, will help you find people to support you when the going gets tough, and may even help you find a job eventually!

Tip 6 – Learn SQL Error Codes And What They Mean

One of the most important things to be able to do when you’re writing SQL code is to understand what different error messages mean. Troubleshooting and tweaking your code is extremely important, and understanding error codes can help you pinpoint problems and fix them quickly.

Although a lot of courses won’t teach you about errors and error codes directly, it’s very important to put a bit of time into learning about them. The IBM Knowledge Center provides a comprehensive list of the most common SQL errors and what causes them. Bookmark the page, read through it, and spend some time familiarizing yourself with error codes. Make sure that you use this as a reference that you come back to when you are having problems with code that you have written.

Tip 7 – Understand The Different Database Systems

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Before you can work as a SQL developer or database administrator, you will need to learn about some of the different database systems that are available and how they work. There are literally hundreds of database systems out there, each of which has pros and cons that make it suited to a particular purpose. Some of the most popular database systems include:

  • Microsoft SQL Server
  • MySQL
  • Oracle
  • IBM DB2
Each of these systems has features which set it above the rest for particular use cases. I would recommend making sure that you are familiar with each of the above systems and how they are used. Doing so will make you much more employable, and will increase your chances of getting a job if you can successfully learn SQL.

Tip 8 – Practice By Hacking Someone Else’s Code

At this stage, you should have worked through an online course, familiarized yourself with online reference guides, and learned more about SQL best practices and error codes. Once you reach this level, one of the best ways to continue learning is to hack someone else’s code.

Start by heading over to GitHub or some other open source code repository. Search for SQL code, and choose something which appears interesting that you would like to have a closer look at. Download the code and open it in a text editor.

Now, you need to work through the code and make sure that you understand what every single line does. Take notes, write comments, and above all, make sure that you use your reference guide to look up things that you’re not familiar with! Learning like this will help you quickly make the transition from discovering theoretical SQL principles to being able to apply your SQL knowledge in a real-world scenario.

Tip 9 – Practice With Coding Challenges

Another great way to practice writing and using SQL code is to complete coding challenges. There are many websites out there that offer challenges that are designed to make you think about the code you’re writing. Most of these challenges begin with a set of clear instructions, with a predefined starting point and an end goal that you have to reach.

You will have to work through the problem and write the code that will let you reach the final solution. Some websites offer leaderboards and regular coding competitions, allowing you to try out your SQL skills against other learners.

One of my favorite coding challenge websites is HackerRank. They offer a wide range of different SQL coding challenges that are free to complete at any time. I have found these invaluable when it comes to practicing difficult concepts and improving my ability to write effective code, and I think that you will like them as well. HackerRank also offers regular coding competitions. These competitions allow you to compete with fellow coders in real-time events. These events usually require you to compete for a challenge or achieve a goal in a given period, with the winners often receiving cash prizes!

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Tip 10 – Download A Code Editor

Unlike most other programming languages, a dedicated desktop code editor is not essential when you are working with SQL. As you will see when you start to learn SQL basics, most database systems come complete with their own front-end code editors that allow you to access and manage your database. As a beginner, you will probably only work with one database at a time, which means that you will be able to use their default front-end code editors. For example, the Oracle system has the SQL Developer interface, while the Sybase system has the Interactive SQL front end.

However, this is only useful if you’re working with one database system – what should you do if you have a number of different databases that run on different systems?

In this case, it can be a good idea to download a SQL code editor that is compatible with a number of systems so that you can keep your work together in one place. One of the most popular open sources, multi-system SQL editors is the DBeaver Universal Database tool. This tool is compatible with all major database systems, and the fact that it is open source means that you can modify its code so that it meets your exact needs.

Remember, although there is no pressing need to download a SQL code editor when you first start to learn SQL, familiarizing yourself with some of the developers’ tools available to you can never be a bad thing.

Conclusion

If you are good with computers, enjoy managing and analyzing data, and are looking for a new job, then learning SQL could be the perfect place to start. SQL, or Structured Query Language, is THE programming language to learn if you want to become a database administrator, manager, or if you simply want to work in company data analysis. It allows you to access, manage, and modify the data contained within databases, providing information which can be used to inform marketing, strategy, or other business decisions.

However, it can be hard to learn SQL. This is why I have put together a list of my top 10 tips to help you learn. Start by doing some research about SQL and exactly what it is. Enroll in an online course, familiarize yourself with reference guides and other resources, and start connecting with your fellow learners. Make sure that you always follow SQL best practices, try out a few coding challenges if you get bored, and think about hacking someone else’s code for some extra training!

Whatever you do, remember that learning to write code with SQL isn’t something that you can do overnight. It takes time and commitment. Start coding, don’t give up, and most importantly, enjoy yourself!

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