What do you think the number one most required skill for jobs paying over $75,000 in the US in the last year? You might think it is knowing how to code in one of the popular programming languages such as C#, Ruby or Python. Or you might think it is advanced knowledge in algorithms, stochastic processes or machine learning. You might even think it is business development, leadership and strategy for large-scale companies.

It is none of these things. The number one most important skill required for high paying jobs is SQL. Structured Query Language or SQL (pronounced sequel) was developed in the 1970s by IBM after Dr. E. F. Codd published his landmark paper, “A Relational Model of Data for Large Shared Data Banks.” SQL is primarily used for database management, querying and maintenance and underlies the vast databases that support much of the internet today.

SQL and You

But why SQL and what does this mean for you? All of us are currently living in the information age, a period of history characterized by a shift away from traditional industrial economies towards the economies of the future – those powered by technology, software and data. Not only are we creating more data than ever, we’re also using it in increasingly novel ways. Knowing the tools to cleanse, analyze and tell a story with data has become more important than ever. SQL sits at the top of long list of tools that data analysts and scientists must know to be effective and efficient in their work.

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Variants of SQL

SQL comes in numerous different varieties including MYSQL, POSTGRESQL, Oracle, DB2 and MSSQL and Informix. Each variant has its pros and cons, and which variant a business uses is often based on their unique needs at the time.

SQL Basics and Certifications

The barrier to entry for learning SQL is low. Many of the basic functions in SQL such as ‘SELECT’ and ‘GROUP BY’ are simple to learn and use, and have the added benefit of being words from everyday language. Picking up the basics of SQL can easily be done through various free tutorials, videos and articles available online. You can also earn certifications in SQL such as the popular Microsoft SQL Server Certification or Oracle’s SQL Database Certification.

Power and Limitations of SQL

SQL is a hugely powerful language for working with data. Excel, a popular spreadsheeting software, is limited to 1,048,576 rows by 16,384 rows of data. Moreover, as more and more data is stored in an excel spreadsheet this seriously slows down its runtime. Microsoft SQL Server on the other hand – one of the most popular platforms for running SQL databases –  is limited to storing a whopping 524,272 terabytes of data. To put that in perspective, one terabyte is equivalent to 310,000 photos or 85 million word documents.

However, despite its power Microsoft SQL server is limited in a variety of ways. However, SQL remains several orders of magnitude more powerful than Excel. It is no wonder that in a world increasingly powered by data that SQL is the number one most required skills for jobs paying over $75,000.


Opening graphic from Freepik.