What Is SQL? Definition and Overview
The amount of data generated every year increases at an exponential rate. IDC reports that the Global DataSphere—the amount of data created and stored each year—is expected to double in size from 2022 to 2026.
With that increase in data comes the need to manage it. Structured Query Language (SQL) helps make data management and analysis easier.
What is SQL? It is a programming language with roots going as far back as the 1970s. SQL is used to manage and manipulate relational databases. Users can create, modify, and query databases with SQL. SQL also allows for data analysis and manipulation, which are integral to helping certain applications solve complex data problems. Individuals wanting to learn more about what SQL is and how it generates insights from relational databases should consider the advantages of enrolling in coding bootcamps.
What Is SQL?
SQL is a domain-specific language (DSL): It works for a specific domain or application. This means that it differs from general-purpose languages like C# or Unified Modeling Language (UML) which are designed for use in a wide range of applications and scenarios.
Understanding what SQL is means knowing its primary use case: to store and process information in relational databases. A relational database is structured as tables consisting of rows and columns. These tables are connected to each other through shared fields. A table can represent different entities. For example, a table can include data about customers or products, with each row representing a specific example of those entities. The columns within the table represent individual characteristics or traits of the entity.
Why Is SQL Important?
SQL was first developed in the 1970s. Originally referred to as the Structured English Query Language (SEQUEL), it was developed to extract and manipulate data from System R, IBM’s original database management system. SQL’s adoption grew in the 1980s. In 1986, it became the norm of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) adopted SQL the following year.
Today, SQL is used for different applications, including web development, data science, and machine learning. For example, data analysts use SQL to query data from databases. Data scientists use SQL in combination with statistical and machine learning techniques to analyze data. SQL can also help users see what the data says; this is known as data visualization, which helps identify trends and patterns in the data.
SQL is often integrated with various scripting languages, such as R and Python, to further enhance capabilities in web development, data science, and machine learning. For example, Python’s integration with SQL helps users create web applications that access and manipulate data from relational databases. It can also help users extract data from databases and analyze it using Python.
Why You Should Learn SQL
In addition to learning what SQL is, it’s important to also understand the benefits of learning it. SQL has become a standard language for managing data in relational databases. SQL is also widely used in industries where large amounts of data need to be stored, processed, and analyzed, such as finance, healthcare, and e-commerce. Common users of SQL include data scientists, database administrators, and software developers.
Another reason that SQL is a useful programming language to learn is that it brings order or structure to data. Data comes from all types of sources and devices. With SQL, users can create, update, and query data in a simple and structured manner. For example, SQL commands like SELECT, INSERT, UPDATE, and DELETE allow users to manipulate data within these tables.
When a user writes an SQL query, a database management system (DBMS) interprets and translates it into instructions that the database can understand. The DBMS processes the query and retrieves the requested data, which is returned to the user.
Since SQL provides a universal syntax for querying data across different DBMSs and platforms, it enables users to create queries that are portable and can be used on different databases.
Below are examples of activities that individuals can do with SQL skills.
Explore Data in a Database
SQL provides a powerful set of tools for exploring data in a database. Commands and functions such as SELECT, WHERE, and ORDER BY allow users to retrieve, filter, and sort data to gain insights and answer questions about that data. Other common SQL commands, including SUM, COUNT, and AVG, allow users to perform calculations and analysis.
Combine Data Sets From Different Places
The JOIN operation combines data sets from multiple tables; this can give users insights that would be difficult to obtain from a single data set. Different JOIN operations have unique characteristics. For example, INNER JOIN selects records with matching values from two tables.
Change Data Structure
Users can change the data structure of a database with SQL, for example, by adding or deleting tables or columns in a table or modifying data types. Changing the data structure can improve the performance of queries on large data sets.
Create Data Reports for Informed Decision-Making
Data analysts query and retrieve volumes of data from different databases. To help stakeholders and other decision-makers understand and apply that data, data analysts create reports. SQL can facilitate the entire process, from query to reporting.
Create and Manage Databases
SQL can also be used to create and manage databases. To do this, users need access to a relational DBMS (RDBMS): a type of DBMS used for storing, managing, querying, and retrieving data in a relational database.
Which Careers Require Knowledge of SQL?
SQL expertise is highly sought after in many professions across wide-ranging industries, making it a valuable choice for individuals considering a career in coding. Below are some roles that often involve the use of SQL.
Software developer roles are diverse, from application and system programming to web and mobile application development. Software developers often participate in data collection and analysis to build and maintain functional websites, software, or programs. SQL is a fundamental tool that software programmers use to access data.
Database developers create, maintain, and manage databases. This may involve using SQL to write scripts, procedures, and triggers for application development. Database developers who specialize in the use of SQL are known as SQL database developers.
The core of data science is the collection, analysis, and handling of vast amounts of data. These activities can be arduous with typical spreadsheets. SQL helps data scientists perform these tasks, so they can draw insights from data. SQL can also be integrated with scripting languages used by data scientists, including Python and R.
Quality Assurance Tester
Knowledge of SQL and relational database concepts is important for effective database testing. For example, SQL skills are essential for backend testing because it involves verifying the accuracy of database values. In addition to data validation, SQL can be used for data setup and cleaning, data migration testing, data integration testing, usability testing, and more.
SEO analysts often use spreadsheets. However, SQL can handle larger amounts of data, and it can combine and analyze vast data sets. SQL also allows SEO analysts to access and analyze data derived from Google Search Console and Google Analytics—among the most commonly used tools in the field of SEO analysis—providing deeper insights.
Business analysts analyze and report on data to inform business decisions. Often, this may mean working with SQL to navigate through an organization’s database structures. SQL can help business analysts in numerous areas, including data modeling, data mining, gap analysis, risk analysis, and root cause analysis.
Master SQL to Advance Your Data Career
Factors behind the exponential growth of data include the proliferation of devices and sensors that generate data, the increasing use of smart devices, and the expansive use of social media and online platforms. A primary benefit of SQL is its ability to handle large amounts of data generated from all these sources.
SQL is also flexible to work with and can be used with different types of databases. It is used in various applications, such as business intelligence, data warehousing, e-commerce, healthcare, and finance.
With all the use cases for SQL, it is no wonder that it is such a valuable language to learn for anyone looking to advance in a data career. If you are interested in learning essential SQL competencies from experts in the field, consider Fullstack Academy’s live online Coding or Data Analytics bootcamps.
Fullstack Academy’s bootcamps can give you the knowledge and skills to help data-driven organizations better manage their data and derive essential insights from it. Find out how Fullstack Academy can help you jump-start your career.
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