Is the skillset you have now enough to get you where you want to be? For most of us, the answer is probably not a definitive “yes.” Job seekers in every industry are feeling the pressure to add more technical skills and programming languages to their arsenals to land data driven jobs.

But where should you start? What’s the easiest skill to learn? What is the most important in finding a job? While the answers to all of these questions are subjective, we would like to put in our vote for SQL, or Structured Language Query, the ubiquitous database programming language used to store, query and access data. With over 50% of all developers using SQL, it is considered a standard across all industries. And, in its 44 year existence, SQL has been integrated in all ends of business. Truly, it is a data analyst’s bread and butter, and one of, if not the most, important skill required for a data driven role.  

1. High In Demand

According to Gooroo, over 16k job postings with SQL skills in the description occur monthly, with an average salary of over $84k. From data science to marketing, to healthcare, SQL skills are popping up on job descriptions. All major DBMS (Database Management Systems) have integrations with SQL, so one can quickly hop between systems. In the competitive job market, having even a base understanding of how SQL works will give you the edge.

2. Industry Standard

In the 1970’s, there were many different types of databases, all with their own operating systems making migration extremely difficult. Needless to say, 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. Not every issue was able to be solved by relational databases alone which resulted in different versions of SQL such as MySQL, SQLite and Firebird that are still popular today.

3. Easy to Use

With over 250 different programming languages, why learn SQL? Praised for its simplicity, even non-technical roles have been encouraged to learn SQL to support their professional growth. While languages like Java require memorization of a series of steps to complete a task, SQL uses declarative statements to pull data- either the query works, or it doesn’t. You don’t need to understand how SQL pulls the data because SQL does all the heavy lifting. Starting with SQL as a programming language is a good start for any career in today’s tech-driven society.

The most straightforward example of SQL and relational databases is Amazon. For example, when you search for an item on Amazon, it has the “customers who bought this also viewed x” – this is using a relational database to give you similar products based on broad variables like your purchase history, similar product descriptions, other users and a multitude of other things to deliver you personalized content. Your search is essentially a SQL query as it drags information out of the database based on what you input.

4. Quick Access to Information

With millions or even billions of cells of data, how can a business leverage all of this data? From product prices to sales to customer information, anything can be used to help make better business decisions. You may want to test how many purchases happened in a particular area during a sale, with SQL, you can pull that information in seconds. This can help provide insight for running that sale in a different region or possibly trying a different sale in that region. These statistics can help 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.

5. 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, being an open source application (aka FREE) and being heavily used in business you can consider it your training wheels towards coding. It is a simple language using English words to draw information out versus other coding languages that are often strings of numbers and letters that require heavier memorization. Getting SQL under your belt will provide you with the mindset to grasp more intricate coding languages.

SQL is in more places than you think and you may not even know it! Did you know other popular business applications like Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics have SQL running in the background as their foundation? Understanding how SQL works can help boost your knowledge of how these tools work. If you can query in SQL, you can quickly grasp report pulling in Salesforce for example.

So what holds people back from SQL? Technology scares a lot of us. We might think we aren’t tech enough or our career paths won’t require these skills. While that may be true now, it won’t be in the future. We are seeing these skills becoming a necessity as more and more jobs are lost to automation along with college students picking up these skills sooner. This can give them an edge over some seasoned employees. SQL is one of the easiest languages to get under your belt. Skill up now and get ahead of the curve!

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