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5 Reasons SQL Is The Need-to-Know Skill For Data Analysts

Industry Advice Analytics

Is the skill set you have now enough to get you where you want to be in your career? For most of us, the answer is probably not a definitive “yes”—a fact that leads many professionals to enroll in graduate school in pursuit of more advanced knowledge.

For those in data-driven roles, specifically, the pressure to stay up-to-date on technical abilities and programming languages is vital in order to land or maintain a position in the industry.

For these professionals, advancing these constantly evolving computer science skills can feel daunting. Instead of letting the demands of the industry overwhelm you, however, start by honing your approach to the programming languaged used by over 50 percent of all developers: SQL. 

Considered a standard across all industries, SQL—or Structured Language Query—is a ubiquitous database programming language used to store, query, and access data. During its 45-year existence, SQL has been integrated into all aspects of business, developing into one of the most crucial skills for anyone in a data-driven role.

But what makes the development of SQL skills one of the most strategic moves a computer science specialist can make? Read on to explore the top 5 reasons.

1. SQL skills are in high demand.

The pure amount of data produced globally continues to grow at an alarming rate; humans were creating 2.5 exabytes of data per day in 2018, and are predicted to create an astounding 463 exabytes daily come 2025. With this increase in the quantity of data has also come substantial growth in the application of that data across industries. From data science to marketing, to healthcare, professionals with the SQL skills necessary to properly handle this large amount of data are in increasingly high demand.

What’s more, all major DBMS (Database Management Systems) have integrations with SQL, making those who are versed in this language beneficial to teams that consistently utilize more than one. In the competitive job market, having even a base understanding of this coveted skill set can give you an edge over other applicants in a hiring process.


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2. SQL is considered industry standard.

In the 1970s, there were many different types of databases, all with their own operating systems, making migration extremely difficult. As a result, things got messy. Birthed from the idea of relational databases and algebra, SQL was designed to be the industry standard platform, making databases easier to use for everyone, everywhere.

Over time, it became clear that every issue couldn’t be solved by relational databases alone, resulting in the development of different versions of SQL such as MySQL, SQLite, and Firebird—all of which are still popular today.

3. SQL is easy to use.

With over 250 different programming languages to choose from, why is SQL the one so many choose to invest in? Well, it’s simple and easy to learn compared to some of the more complex processes. For example, languages like Java require memorization of a series of steps to complete a task, whereas SQL uses declarative statements to pull data. In SQL’s case, either the query works, or it doesn’t. You don’t need to understand how it pulls the data, because SQL does all the heavy lifting. Starting with SQL as a programming language is a good move for any career in today’s tech-driven society, even compelling non-technical professionals to explore this skill set in support of their professional growth. 

Exploring Relational Databases: When you search for an item on Amazon, it generates a series of suggestions based on that search. This is done using a relational database, which provides a list of similar products based on broad variables. These data-points, which might include your purchase history, similar product descriptions, other users’ preferences, and more, are each taken into consideration in order to provide you with personalized content. Your search essentially acts like a SQL query, as it drags information out of the database based on what you input.

4. SQL allows for quick access to useful information.

With millions or even billions of cells of data, businesses face the challenge of leveraging hordes of information effectively. From product prices to sales to customer information, this information can be used to help make better, more strategic business decisions

For example, if a company wants to test how many purchases happened in a particular area during a sale, with SQL, they can pull that information in seconds. The data can then provide helpful insight for running that sale in a different region or possibly trying a different sale altogether in another region. These statistics can help the company make more informed decisions and ensure efforts aren’t wasted. This is especially useful for analyzing large sets of data and pulling only the information you want to see.

Did You Know: SQL is a core component of data practices for more organizations than you may think. Even popular business applications like Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics use SQL as a foundation for their other data practices. 

5. SQL provides a gateway to programming.

If you have been interested in programming for a while, learning SQL is a great place to start. Due to its simple language structure, status as an open-source (i.e. free) application, and the fact that it is already heavily used in business, SQL can be a great first step toward programming. It is a simple language using English words to draw information out of a database, where other coding languages are often made up of strings of numbers and letters that require heavier memorization. SQL can provide you practice in using and interpreting data, and give you an idea of the mindset needed to grasp more intricate coding languages down the line.

How to Improve your SQL Skills 

Though some might worry their technical skills aren’t up to par or that their particular career path won’t require SQL training, almost any professional can benefit from at least a baseline understanding of this tool. Especially today, when knowledge of data tools has evolved into a necessity across industries, developing these skills can be incredibly beneficial. 

Consider online courses and bootcamps for tailored SQL training, or gain a more robust understanding of data with a master’s in analytics from a top university like Northeastern. Obtaining these skills in either capacity can give you an edge in a competitive job market and ensure you’re staying on top of the ever-changing digital landscape of today. 


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