When you’re starting to learn SQL development, one of the first questions you might ask is “How long does it take to Learn SQL?”. The answer isn’t necessarily going to be the same for everyone.
With most skills, and especially technical skills like programming languages, you start out as a novice. You’ll spend a good amount of time in that category as you learn the basic concepts. Over time, you progress to an intermediate level, which is where most people tend to stay. (And that’s okay! You can do a lot of things with an intermediate level SQL knowledge!) A few people will spend a huge amount of time learning a skill and progress to become true experts.
How Long Does it Take to Learn SQL Concepts?
Once you have decided on your own best way to learn SQL, you can become proficient with the basic concepts very quickly. If you have a good introduction to SQL course, you can likely be comfortable with the basics with 1-2 hours of work each day for about two weeks.
The great thing about SQL is that you don’t have to learn a lot of different commands to start using it effectively. In fact if you master the basic concepts and about six or seven common commands you can do about 85% of the work you’ll need to do with SQL.
The main thing that you want to focus on is understanding how relational databases work. You should understand that they operate based on set theory. Each table represents a set of data. Within that table, you can have columns that represent a discrete pieces of information. And then you have rows within the table – basically a grouping of the data elements represented in the columns.
For example, you can have a “customers” table that represents a set of data about your company’s customers. You might track the customer name, address, phone number, and website as columns within the table. That means that every row (also called a record or a tuple) will have a column for the customer name, address, phone number, and website.
Most of these concepts can be learned with just a couple of hours of course work along with a few hours of hands-on activities to create tables. This would include the time you spend learning about foreign key relationships between tables. You’ll use those concepts almost constantly when you work with real-world databases.
Learning Basic SQL Commands
Once you understand the basic concepts around how SQL databases work, it’s time to learn the commands. A SQL statement is composed using SQL commands and clauses. You put the commands together in a specific order and this tells the database to do something for you.
The most basic command to master is the SELECT command. We also call these types of commands “queries” because you’re essentially asking the database a question. The database will return an answer to you in the form of data that matches your question. SELECT statements generally have to include a FROM clause to indicate where the database should go to get the data. They may also include a WHERE clause that allows you to filter out data that matches certain criteria.
So you might formulate a SELECT query that gives you all the customers in the United States by sending this statement to the database:
SELECT * FROM customers WHERE country = 'United States of America'
The asterisk (*) that follows the SELECT command indicates that you want the database to retrieve all the columns from the database. So if you have the customer name, address, city, state, postal code, and country in the table, you will see all of those columns in the results coming back from the database. Because of the WHERE clause that we’re using, you will only see records where the country is “United States of America”.
So just from this example, we can learn 3 commands and clauses (SELECT, FROM, WHERE) and we’re well on our way to becoming proficient with SQL. In fact, if we couple these commands with JOIN clauses, that’s going to give us a lot more power because we can get data from multiple tables at the same time.
Learning SQL Can be Fast and Easy
As with anything, the results you get will be proportionate to the effort you’re willing to put in. But SQL is one of the easier technical skills to learn. Since it’s also one of the most in-demand technical skills in IT today (and has been for many years), it’s worth investing the time.
You can accomplish a lot with just a basic knowledge of a handful of SQL commands. But the great thing is that you can build on that knowledge very quickly over time. As you take on projects at work or explore on your own, you’ll stretch your knowledge.
It will take longer to reach an intermediate level of SQL knowledge. But practice is the most important key to getting to the next level. None of the concepts are really difficult to learn. You just have to build on them and more importantly, practice!
The Dev Playbook Introduction to SQL course can help you build the foundations you need. It covers the core concepts for database development. Further, it takes you through all of the most important SQL commands. The course is about 8 hours of video instruction. You can expect to spend another 4-6 hours with hands-on exercises. If you put in just 1 hour each day, you can be done in about 2 weeks.