Figuring out the best way to learn SQL can be a daunting task. There are lots of resources, both free and paid, and so it can be hard to know where to start.
The first thing to determine is what your personal learning style is. Some people need interaction with others and the ability to ask questions in real time. Others want to read a book from start to finish. Still others prefer a self-paced course that includes plenty of hands-on exercises. So determining the best place to learn SQL (or anything) is subjective since it will depend on what works for you.
Let’s start by providing an overview of the various tools that are available to you. Once you understand what’s available, you can formulate a plan to accomplish your goals.
Resources for Learning SQL
There are resources available both online and offline to help you learn how to develop SQL databases. These include in-person classes, physical books, on-the-job training, self-paced online courses, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), and web based tutorials and guides.
In Person SQL Classes
It used to be that in order to take technical classes, you would have to enroll at a college for a full Computer Science curriculum. However, with the rise of coding boot camps this is no longer the case.
Many colleges now offer boot-camp style curriculums that could take a few days to a few months to complete. These might cover a broad range of topics such as all the technologies related to web development. Or they might cover a single narrow topic, like database programming using SQL.
These programs can vary widely depending on where you are located. The best way to find these is to do a Google search to find technical courses, SQL courses, or technical boot camps near you. For me, it didn’t take long to find the Nashville Software School, which covers a variety of Data Science topics.
Be aware that in-person schools and boot camps generally have less flexibility and more expense involved than other options. However, if you need a high degree of structure and accountability, it can be a worthwhile investment.
SQL Coding Books
Sometimes having a physical or electronic book available can come in handy. You may be the type of learner that needs to read a book from cover to cover before getting hands-on. Or maybe you prefer to work through the book chapter-by-chapter and try exercises as you move through it.
In either case, if having a book is helpful to you then there are many books that are available to you. One of the better resources is Sam’s Teach Yourself SQL in 10 Minutes. It breaks topics into small enough components that they’re easy to learn in a short period of time. It also has the benefit of serving as an effective reference guide whenever you need to lookup the syntax for a particular SQL statement.
There are plenty of other books available as well. You can always take a peek inside on Amazon or visit your local library or book store to review them before buying something. Make sure that it covers all of the SQL basics that you need to learn before you buy anything.
Self-Paced Online Courses
One of the biggest shifts that has happened in technology over the last few years is the introduction of self-paced online courses. Sites like Udemy have made it easy for individuals to create full courses. It also makes it easy for students to quickly start learning on their own schedule. These courses tend to be much more affordable than in-person courses as well.
When looking for a self-paced online SQL course, look for courses that have good reviews. Review the course content to make sure it covers all of the basic SQL topics and concepts. Most courses also include free previews that you can watch to make sure that the instructor’s style will work for you. The audio should be clear and the instructor’s pace should be comfortable – not too slow and not rushed.
Another benefit of self-paced online SQL courses is that you often get access to ask the instructor questions through Q&A or through direct messages. So if you get stuck on something you can reach and get a response. It might not be as immediate as an in-person course but that’s the trade-off for the ability to work at your own pace.
Massive Open Online Courses
Similar to self-paced online courses, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are completely digital. You generally work at your own pace for the coursework, but there is typically a schedule for the course material and assignments. Sites like Coursera offer courses like this from colleges and universities around the world.
These courses tend to be setup more like an actual college course, with a dedicated instructor, a syllabus, and a schedule for submitting assignments. You’ll get high quality content from these courses and there will be some level of support from professional instructors. Many of these courses are free, but some may have a cost associated to them.
If you’re looking for a fast-track to learning SQL, these may not be the best option since they do tend to follow a set schedule. You might not be able to start the course until a specific date and then you may have time constraints for when you need to finish the course work. This can make it difficult if you work full-time or have other commitments.
Web Based Tutorials and Guides
For the truly self-driven learner, web based tutorials and guides can provide a low cost, less structured alternative for learning how to code in SQL. Sites like W3 Schools have tutorials on a wide range of topics, including SQL.
These tutorials can be very in-depth and can help you start learning from the ground up. Keep in mind that getting support or questions answered may be very difficult since it’s not structure as a course. You may find that you have to combine some of these tutorials with research on sites like Stack Overflow or watching a lot of YouTube videos to fill in the blanks.
These tutorials can serve as an effective reference point even after you’ve mastered the basics. It is helpful to bookmark some of them to return to whenever you need a quick question answered or need help remembering the syntax of a query.
The Best Way to Learn SQL is Your Way
When it comes down to it, the best way to learn SQL is your way. You might choose to use a single method described above or you might combine several methods. Ultimately, whichever approach helps you to learn the concepts and then build on those is the best way. That can be different from one person to another.
However you choose to approach it, make sure that you commit to spending some time learning SQL every day. The more you practice, the more you will remember and the easier it gets. Finding projects to work on at your job will be a tremendous benefit as well. And finally, if you can find a mentor to help answer questions then you can accelerate your learning.