Learning how to program can be a fun, exciting, and very rewarding process. It doesn't matter if you're a recent high school graduate or a middle-aged person looking for a career change, you can still learn how to program. If you're thinking about learning a programming language and you're interested in data management and analysis, you should think about learning SQL for beginners.
SQL is a very specialized programming language with a very specific use case. SQL is used to access, analyze, and manipulate data in large digital databases. This is extremely valuable for larger companies who base a lot of their company decisions on the stories that their company data tells. For example, if you run a large eCommerce store, you might decide to collect data about the demographics of the people who are purchasing from your store. This data can then help inform future marketing decisions.
This is a very simple example, but learning even the basics of SQL for beginners can give you the skills to do things like this.
Table of Contents
- 1. What Are The Best Ways To Start Learning SQL?
- 1.1. The Interactive SQL Tutorial
- 1.2. The Unity Database Interaction Tutorial
- 1.3. The Text-Based SQL Tutorial
- 2. Other Resource Possibilities
- 2.1. Language Reference Guides
- 2.2. Videos
- 2.3. Coding Challenges
- 3. How Long Does It Take To Learn SQL?
- 4. What's The Best Way To Practice SQL for beginners?
- 4.1. By Working Through Coding Challenges
- 4.2. Creating And Manipulating Your Database
- 4.3. Networking On Forums
- 5. Top Tips For Learning SQL
- 6. Conclusion
What Are The Best Ways To Start Learning SQL?
Learning SQL can be difficult. Although it isn't a super complex language, it is structured differently to the majority of other languages. However, this doesn't mean that you can't learn SQL basics - just that you need to think carefully about how to do it.
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In my honest opinion, the best way to learn SQL for beginners is by enrolling in and working through an online course. Online courses offer a wide range of features and other resources that you can draw on to help you discover how to learn SQL. DataCamp, one of the best-ranking data science and analysis learning platforms, offers a broad selection of gamified beginner-friendly SQL courses. You can find our overview of the DataCamp SQL Fundamentals skill track here.
Is learning SQL worthwhile given its complexity and very specific use cases? Absolutely! Some of the main benefits of learning via an online course include:
- They are flexible. If you're trying to figure out the best way to learn SQL and move from beginner to pro level, then I'd recommend using an online course. Online courses are flexible, which means that you can learn when it suits you. However, this means that you also need to make sure that you're quite self-motivated, otherwise you'll never get anywhere!
- They are affordable. If you want to learn how to code by taking a university course, you will probably have to pay a significant amount of money (depending on where in the world you are of course). However, basic online courses teaching how to learn SQL are usually either free or very cheap. And even if they are not cheap, you can apply for a scholarship to get the course fees funded and study for free.
- You can go over content as many times as you want. In my opinion, this in itself would be enough of a reason to enroll in an online course teaching SQL for beginners. Being able to return to difficult concepts and go over them as often as you want will help you build a complete knowledge of SQL as you journey towards becoming a pro database programmer.
With this in mind, I'm going to quickly introduce you to a few of my favorite online SQL courses. They include:
The Interactive SQL Tutorial
Online courses are great, but I think that interactive online courses offer the best of the best when it comes to learning SQL for beginners. Courses like the Interactive SQL Tutorial allow you to write code directly in your browser. You will receive feedback on every piece of code you write, which means that you can quickly modify and improve your coding style.
If you decide to work through this course, you will learn a wide range of different SQL core concepts, including basic syntax, how to write commands to access your database and the difference between different types of data.
The Unity Database Interaction Tutorial
If you've already got a basic understanding of how to learn SQL for beginners, you might be able to skip the simplest courses. You may find that you have enough knowledge to move straight onto a course like the Unity Database Interaction Tutorial. This course will teach you how to use both SQL and PHP to interact with Unity video game databases built on MySQL.
I would recommend working through the Interactive SQL Tutorial outlined above before you take this course, even if you already know a bit of SQL. Doing so will make sure that you have enough basic knowledge to move on to this more complicated course.
The Text-Based SQL Tutorial
Alternatively, you might decide that you want to learn SQL by working through a text-based tutorial. In this case, have a quick look at the BitDegree SQL tutorial. This comprehensive guide can be used as both a learning resource and a language reference.
To use it as a learning resource, I would recommend working through the different sections of the guide slowly, practicing your code and taking notes as you go. Start with the What Is SQL introduction section and work through the rest of the Tutorial in order. I'll go into more details about language references in the following section.
Other Resource Possibilities
Although online courses are the best way to learn SQL - in my opinion anyway - there are plenty of different resources out there that you can draw on to help you become a pro coder. I've focused on free resources here, but there are plenty of paid resources available as well. A quick Google search will turn up some of the best.
A few free resources to help you learn SQL for beginners include:
Language Reference Guides
It doesn't matter if you're learning SQL for beginners or Python for professionals, language reference guides are always a great resource to get familiar with. In most cases, language references contain comprehensive information about everything to do with a language - including syntax, core concepts, and coding best practices.
When you're having trouble remembering something or you can't quite seem to get your syntax right, all you need to do is head over to your language reference and find the necessary information to help you out. Have a look at the BitDegree Learn SQL Guide to get specific information on various constants and syntax parts.
Note that different databases will have slightly different ways of doing things, so you should always try and find a database-specific reference when you're working on a single database.
Other great reference guides are the SQL cheat sheets offered by DataCamp. You can use them as easy reference guides, whether you're studying or working on a real project. The DataCamp cheat sheets are completely free to access and offer additional industry insight as well as fun tips and tricks.
Short educational videos are one of the most underrated learning resources out there. They can be used to find information about difficult concepts, to practice your skills, or to simply learn more about SQL basics.
You can use videos when you're having a lot of trouble with a particular piece of syntax or concept. Just head over to YouTube and do a quick search of the things you're having trouble with. Then try and choose a video which looks like it will explain things clearly, which has a lot of views, and which has a good rating. Watch the video, take notes, and don't forget to subscribe to your favorite SQL channels.
Coding challenges are another great way to practice SQL. Hacker Rank is a good website when it comes to finding challenges and exercises to practice SQL for beginners. It boasts a whole range of different exercises which are all carefully categorized by difficulty and topic. Most of them will provide you with clear instructions, including an endpoint that you have to get to, and will then ask you to write the code to fulfill these instructions and complete the challenge.
And if you're up for a challenge, why not try out one of the DataCamp Projects? They're a great way to learn to work on your SQL code. The projects are based on real-world data, so you'll be working with similar databases that you'd encounter in a data science job. Essentially, you can use these challenges to start building your portfolio, even if you're still at the SQL for beginners stage.
How Long Does It Take To Learn SQL?
When it comes to SQL for beginners, one of the most common questions that gets asked is "How long does it take to learn SQL?". Well, the good news is that, for most people, learning SQL basics shouldn't take more than a few weeks of moderate study. More difficult and in-depth concepts will take longer to learn, and the best programmers will continue learning new skills throughout their careers.
Table: Subjects available on BitDegree VS DataCamp
However, everyone is different, and everyone learns differently. Some people learn a lot faster than others, which means that it will take some people a lot less time to learn SQL than it does others. There is no real answer to the question "How long does it take to learn SQL?". The best answer that I can give is that it depends. The best advice you can get right now is not to worry about how long it's going to take to learn and to simply start learning.
What's The Best Way To Practice SQL for beginners?
When it comes to learning a programming language like SQL, regular practice is the key to building and maintaining knowledge. If possible, you should try and practice every day. If not, practice as often as you can. Even a few minutes per day is enough to keep important concepts and syntax fresh in your mind. Read over your notes before bed, work through a few coding challenges, or simply participate in a few forum discussions. Some of good ways to practice SQL include:
By Working Through Coding Challenges
Coding challenges are one of the best ways to practice your SQL skills. I've already gone over them above, so I won't spend too much time here, but be sure to check out a few of the following websites:
- Hacker Rank
- Hacker Earth
- Coder Byte
Have a look at some of the challenges on offer and work through them when you get a spare moment.
Creating And Manipulating Your Database
SQL is used to manipulate, modify, and analyze data within databases. It, therefore, makes sense to practice your SQL for beginners by creating and playing with your database. Doing this will help you become familiar with the skills that you will need to become a SQL pro.
One of the most widespread database management systems in the world is MySQL. I would, therefore, recommend setting up your database on this platform and playing with it so that you become familiar with the way it works and with the kind of things that you can do with it. Try and get out of your comfort zone and learn new skills as often as you can. Doing this will help you get the most out of the time you spend practicing your code.
Networking On Forums
Online SQL forums are also a great way to practice your coding skills. Although you won't find set challenges or step-by-step instructions to practice your SQL on a forum, you will find a lot of questions that you can answer and problems that you can help people solve.
Working through someone else's problem can help you reinforce your existing SQL knowledge. Start by heading to your favorite forum or online community - I like Stack Overflow - and scroll until you find an interesting topic that you can help with. Do some research if you need to, and answer people's questions to the best of your ability. If you can't answer a question or solve a problem, participate in the discussion - it's amazing how much you can learn from more experienced coders by doing this.
Top Tips For Learning SQL
Now, learning SQL can be hard - trust me, I've done it myself. Unless you've managed to find a decent support network, you might find that you have trouble staying motivated and working on your code regularly. With this in mind, I've drawn on my experience to put together a shortlist of tips to help you move from SQL for beginners to become a pro SQL coder.
Tip 1: Network As Much As Possible
Building a strong support network is essential when it comes to learning how to program in any language. SQL is no different. Get familiar with forums, and make a name for yourself on your favorites. Try and find any physical meetup groups in your area, and get down to events whenever you can. I find that a quick Facebook or Meetup.com search usually turns up plenty of physical SQL and general programming groups. If you can't find any groups in your area, consider starting one!
Tip 2: Perfect Practice Makes Perfect
According to the old saying, 'Practice makes perfect'. Unfortunately, this isn't entirely true. Instead, I like to work with the motto that:
"Perfect practice makes perfect."
When you're practicing your SQL code, it's important to follow best practices. If you get into bad habits early in your coding career it can be difficult to break them later on. You will find yourself running into problems with your code, and you might not know how to do things properly if you practice lazily. Always do things the right way, even if it takes longer or is more difficult!
Tip 3: Don't Expect To Become A Pro Overnight
Learning to program in any language takes time. Unfortunately, a lot of beginners start their first course with expectations of becoming an expert overnight. This simply doesn't happen. Take your time, make sure that you take plenty of notes, and make sure that you understand concepts and syntax before you move onto further learning. Above all, be patient and practice as regularly as possible!
If you enjoy playing with, manipulating, and analyzing data, a career as a SQL programmer could be right for you. Learning SQL for beginners will set you up with the skills and knowledge that you need to work with databases of any complexity or size.
Start by enrolling in an online course and learning the basics of SQL. Make sure that you understand how SQL works and what it's used for, and get familiar with some of the most common types of database. Get in the habit of using some of the other resources that are available to you - reference guides and videos are just a couple of my favorites - and make sure that you practice writing code as often as possible.
Above all, make sure that you're always following best practices, that you're continually working to build your skills, and that you're writing code as often as you can. Get active on SQL forums, try and meet other coders in your area, and make sure that you have fun on your journey from SQL Beginner to pro database manipulator.