Many people hesitate to start learning SQL (Structured Query Language, pronounced “sequel” or “s-q-l”) because they’re afraid that it’s going to be difficult to learn. In reality, it’s not hard to learn SQL at all. You just have to have the right tools and a good plan for how you’re going to approach it.
Learning anything, especially a technology that you’re not familiar with, can be daunting. One of the biggest barriers is understanding the terminology that experts use. Sometimes when an expert tries to teach a beginner something, they use terms that are unfamiliar. If they don’t take the time to make sure that their student knows what those terms mean, the student will get lost very quickly. That makes it much more difficult to master the skill. It is the same way when you’re starting to learn SQL.
It’s important to have a clear learning plan before you dive in. Your plan should also take into account the way that you learn most effectively. The best way to learn SQL is the way that makes the most sense to you and that will help you retain the information. This will make it much easier to master the technology.
Learning SQL in Five Steps
When you first start learning how to write SQL, there are a number of things that you will need to know and do before you actually start writing code.
First, you will need to understand what databases are and how they work. These are the underlying concepts behind database technology. When you understand these concepts then it makes it easier to grasp the details.
Next, you’ll need to choose a SQL platform to learn with. That could include Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL, Oracle, or PostgreSQL. These are the four most common and widely used SQL platforms. They all have functionality that is similar and the differences between them from a beginner’s perspective are not major. Because you’ve taken the time to understand the core concepts, switching between platforms is a matter of filling knowledge gaps. You never have to start from scratch once you have the basics down.
The third step is understanding how to design a database. This means that you need a proper use case to work with. You will need to understand how real-world entities relate to database structures like tables, columns, and table relationships, which are defined through foreign keys. It is helpful to learn how to create an Entity Relationship Diagram that documents your database in a visual format. This gives you a blueprint for how you will actually create your database structure.
Once you reach this point, you’re ready to actually get into the real work. You can now create your tables. You can do this either by writing SQL code or by using a SQL tool (called an Integrated Development Environment or IDE) to create your database visually.
From there, you’ll need to know how to populate your database with data and then how to extract data from your database using common queries and database statements.
Getting Help Learning SQL
Learning SQL becomes a lot easier if you have the right support. There are tons of articles and beginner SQL tutorials that can be found on the internet about the topic. You’ll also find forums and discussions as well as questions that others have asked on sites like Quora, Reddit, and StackOverflow.
Another great way to learn is with an introduction to SQL course that will explain the basic concepts described above and teach you how to code. The course should provide you with the database structure and the data you need as well as exercises and quizzes to challenge your knowledge.
Finding a good book about SQL, whether a physical book or an eBook or PDF, can also help because it gives you an organized and consolidated reference point when you’re learning.
Additionally, a tutor or mentor can help you greatly because it gives you someone to ask or bounce questions off of whenever you get stuck or have trouble with a concept. They can help you troubleshoot or find new ways to explain the concepts to you that will make sense. Sometimes it’s easier to learn something when you can talk it through with a person and get your questions answered.
Finally, on-the-job training is a huge help. If you have the opportunity to apply what you’re learning in your day-to-day work it will accelerate your learning. This exposes you to real-world situations, which are often not as ideal as most classroom situations you’ll run into. That means it will challenge your problem-solving capabilities. Learning is often most effective when you’ve expanded your knowledge in the process of solving an actual problem.
SQL is not hard to learn when you have a good plan in place. You also need the right resources to support your efforts. In fact, SQL is one of the easiest languages for beginners. The syntax that it uses is easily readable and intuitive. That’s why it has become one of the most used technologies today. It is also one of the most in-demand skills.