10 Ways to Start Learning SQL for Free
If you're considering a career in tech—especially if you want a job as a data analyst or data scientist—you need to learn SQL. SQL, short for Structured Query Language, is a standard programming language used since the 1970s to design, create, and manage relational databases. But how can you learn SQL for free? Are there free trainings and resources to learn SQL online? The short answer is yes—and this article outlines great ways to learn SQL for free.
Unlike other programming languages that build apps, websites, and software, SQL enables storage, retrieval, and data manipulation within databases. For instance, while applications are commonly coded in popular languages like Ruby or Python, databases require a different configuration entirely. That’s where SQL comes in. SQL is commonly pronounced “Sequel”, although many in the industry refer to it by its acronym “S.Q.L.” No matter the vernacular, SQL helps programmers working with data to:
- Add, update, and delete rows of data
- Modify database table and index structures
- Generate tables and database projects
- Retrieve information from databases for transaction processing and analytics
SQL’s unique markup and use of tables allows SQL to configure data in columns and rows, letting SQL users easily access, manipulate, and analyze specific datasets. In this post, we'll explore why SQL is a foundational database tool for aspiring programmers and data scientists, and how to start learning SQL basics for free.
Why learn SQL?
SQL is old. So old, in fact, that learning it has been a rite of passage for programmers working with databases for nearly 50 years. So why learn SQL if it’s such an “ancient” programming language?
For one, SQL is everywhere. Nearly all businesses today, from mom-and-pop start-ups to Fortune 500 companies like Facebook, Netflix, and Uber, use data to run their operations. To manage this data they rely on databases, which have scaled consistently to meet growing commerce demands. Thankfully, SQL is the perfect tool to query data and perform analysis within large scale, high-performance database systems.
Second, to meet the growing needs, employers consistently need tech professionals with SQL skills, from entry-level data analysts to data scientists and data engineers.
Finally, SQL is consistently the top language for data work. In fact, according to a 2020 Stack Overflow survey, more than 70% of all developers who work with data use SQL, which is greater than any other language. Further, SQL remains the most popular technology amongst data scientists and analysts, even beating Python and R. With its relevance and staying power, SQL will undoubtedly remain a staple technology for many years to come.
How to learn SQL for free
There are thousands of ways to learn SQL online, some of which can get you started with the basics and others which can help you launch your career. So out of all the free resources out there, what is the best way to learn SQL?
Here are 10 ways how to learn SQL free. Read on to see which options is the best route for you—including what we think of as the best way to learn SQL.
1. Watch a Video
Visual learners rejoice! An online tutorial is a great way to get familiar with the visual components of coding in SQL while learning SQL vocabulary. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular video options out there.
- YouTube. We all know YouTube is a treasure trove for tutorials, and SQL videos are no exception. Try StatisticalProgramming.Net’s Learn Basic SQL in 10 Minutes, Web Dev Simplified’s Learn SQL in 60 Minutes, or Edurika’s SQL Basics for Beginners to get your feet wet with SQL fundamentals for free. When you get stuck, search YouTube for the specific SQL topics you need the most help with. You will find a video for literally everything!
- FreeCodeCamp’s SQL Tutorial. This 4-hour YouTube tutorial for beginners covers database management basics and SQL using MySQL and RDBMS. As a bonus, the tutorial uses characters from The Office to learn concepts, helping to keep you engaged AND entertained.
2. Walk through an Online SQL Tutorial
Tutorials can be a helpful tool for beginners, self-paced learners, and programmers needing a quick refresher. Here are a few of our favorites.
- SQLCourse.com. Full of interactive lessons and tutorials, this self-paced online resource is great for beginners and pros who want to brush up on the basics. Lessons include creating your own unique tables and performing selects, inserts, updates, deletes, and drops, and the site’s SQL activities provide immediate feedback to help you learn as you go.
- SQLBolt. These 19 self-paced, interactive lessons start from the basics of SQL queries and work their way up to creating tables and beyond. Each lesson ends with an exercise to solidify learning, and users can skip ahead if they already feel comfortable with the lesson topic.
- W3Schools. These beginner-friendly, self-paced tutorial chapters cover how to use SQL in database systems such as MySQL, SQL Server, MS Access, Oracle, Sybase, Informix, and Postgres. Lessons are full of examples, exercises, quizzes, and references to keep you learning as you go.
- SQLZoo. Full of practical references and exercises, this free SQL tutorial site is the perfect landing page to bookmark. Visit as needed for SQL hacks, using SQL with C#, or for a quick tutorial on JOIN, using Null, or SUM and COUNT.
3. Take a Free Class to Learn SQL
Learning SQL can be easiest with industry professionals and within a structured environment. Thus, here are a handful of quick and popular courses to get you started with the SQL fundamentals.
- Kahn Academy's Intro to SQL: Querying and Managing Data. This beginner-level course is a great introduction to the SQL basics, including foundational SQL skills like creating tables, selecting, storing, querying, and manipulating data. Later sections cover advanced SQL inquiries, relational queries, JOIN functionality, modifying databases, and more. The best thing about the course is that it is self-paced.
- EdX. With free courses sourced from major universities like NYU, Harvard, and Stanford, edX provides a host of resources for new and seasoned coders. Learn SQL basics, advanced SQL concepts, or SQL for specific topics like querying or structured database environments. For a more in-depth, self-paced course covering SQL and other programming languages, consider their 12-week Intro to Computer Science class through HarvardX.
- Udacity's Intro to Relational Databases. This free, self-directed course helps intermediate programmers level up relational database skills in 4 weeks with rich learning content and interactive quizzes.
- Udemy. This online course provider offers over 13,000 video resources and a variety of tips from industry experts without the commitment of a fully interactive course. Try a free online class like Introduction to Databases and SQL Querying, SQL Foundations, and Advanced Databases and SQL Querying.
Not ready to dive into more advanced SQL topics? Then you can learn the foundations you'll need to fully take advantage of learning SQL by testing out BloomTech's Data Science course—with no financial commitments. The Risk-Free Trial gives you 3 weeks to test out the course, no payments or deposits necessary!
4. Consult a Resource
Visual learners, take note (and bookmark)! Here are some free and easy go-to resources to reference as you learn and use SQL.
- SQL Cheatsheet. This GitHub repository is filled with useful SQL queries and how to use them, including finding data, data modification, reporting, JOIN, view, altering table, and creating table queries.
- SQL for Web Nerds Ebook. MIT Professor Philip Greenspun has synthesized his knowledge and experience with SQL down to what’s most important, from the history of SQL to its current applications. This online ebook and reference page contains examples drawn from real production and reads to an audience of intermediate to seasoned programmers.
5. Consult a Thread
When in doubt, ask a fellow programmer. Thankfully there are millions of forums discussing and answering your questions as you learn SQL. Here are a few threads to get you started.
- Reddit. From the basic functions discussed in Learn SQL to interactive lessons and exercises in Learn Programming, Reddit forums and threads can connect you with other programmers to help answer your most pressing questions and find resources fast. Have something specific to ask? Use the search bar to find just what you are looking for. Chances are others trying to learn SQL online have been stuck right where you are!
- Stack Overflow. This popular programming discussion site covers every tech topic out there, including SQL. Join their community to search topics or create a team to share technical SQL knowledge.
- Stack Exchange. This tech savvy site contains expert communities on every programming topic you can think of. Start with their search function and view the best and most relevant SQL answers at the top of each page.
6. Try a free bootcamp
Although not always thorough, free bootcamps can be a quick way to hone your SQL skills. Consider these bootcamps that can take you out of your programming newbie comfort zone.
- Udemy’s SQL 101 Class: Bootcamp Beginners Intro to SQL NYC. This class is based on an in-person NYC bootcamp and is a true beginners’ course covering the basics of SQL analytics. The bootcamp teaches MYSQL using online platforms and covers querying and table creation. While the class is very hands-on, students need no prior SQL knowledge or coding experience to attend.
- Datacamp’s Introduction to SQL. This free, 4-hour bootcamp focuses on querying tables in relational databases like MySQL, SQL Server, and PostgreSQL. With 41 exercises, it will quickly cover and test your skills related to selecting columns, filtering rows, aggregate functions, and sorting and grouping.
7. Earn a SQL certification
While you may not have the time to earn a traditional degree, knowing where to find the best SQL certification can put you miles above the pack. After you earn a SQL certification, you can list it on your resume or job applications.
Here are a few options to get you started.
- SQL Essential Training through LinkedIn Learning: This 3-hour course for beginners will give you a broad overview of SQL, along with real-world examples to get your feet wet. Instructor and industry expert Bill Weinman will teach students to create tables, define relationships, sort and filter, use aggregate functions, use triggers to automate actions, use views, and more. At the end of the course, students will learn to build a simple application using SQL and will earn a certificate of completion.
- University of Michigan’s Introduction to Structured Query Language (SQL). This free, 16-hour Coursera course boasts flexible completion deadlines and covers SQL basics, MySQL, queries, foreign keys, the JOIN operation, relational databases, and more. Taught by Professor Charles Severance, the course concludes with a free certificate of completion.
- University of California Davis’ SQL for Data Science. This free, 14-hour beginner-level Coursera course covers Data Science and Analysis basics including SQL queries, tables, and commands. Taught by AI Strategy Consultant Sadie St. Lawrence, the course concludes with a free certificate of completion.
- Codecademy’s Learn SQL Course. This beginner-friendly, 7-hour course will teach you how to use SQL to access, create, manipulate, and update database data, perform complex queries, aggregate functions, and use multiple tables. The course will help students create portfolio projects to showcase your new skills. While the course is free, you can update to a Pro account for $15.99 per month to earn a certificate of completion and gain access to real-world projects, guidance, and peer support.
8. Install a Free SQL Database System
Many of the most common SQL database systems are free or have trial options to get you comfortable. Free, open source SQL databases such as MySQL and PostgreSQL remain popular options, while industry leaders like Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle have free trial options. Downloading an SQL database like these will give you the opportunity for hands-on trial and error as you learn to use SQL.
9. Work on a real project
Start small, and find a project using SQL to play with. Once you get comfortable, familiarize yourself with a real-life dataset that interests you and use a database to play around.
Daily coding practice with this will improve your skills and help you search out answers as you go. Not only will your practice improve your confidence, but you can use side projects like this to your portfolio.
10. Learn SQL at Bloom Institute of Technology
Although there are thousands of courses online, most do not prepare programmers for the complexities and challenges of the real world. That’s where BloomTech comes in.
To truly learn SQL and other programming languages, you must not only learn the most in-demand technologies from industry experts but take learning a step further. Thus, the best way to learn SQL is at BloomTech, where the rigorous Data Science Program helps students master the languages and frameworks needed in the industry today. Our in-depth coding curriculum focuses on SQL and other data science essentials such as Python, data visualization, machine learning, linear algebra, databases, statistics and modeling, natural language processing, and more.
Why are we so confident our Data Science course is the best way to learn SQL? A few main reasons make our online training program the best way to prepare for a future tech career by learning SQL:
- Support to learn SQL and more. Unlike nearly all of the free SQL trainings in this article, BloomTech is interactive and provides support as you learn. If you need more direction than a bunch of recorded videos, want to ask experts questions as you go, and need job hunt support, BloomTech is the better option.
- Learn with real-world projects. Following along on a video and completing homework can teach you the basics, but applying what you learn is where you'll make huge progress. That's why at BloomTech, assignments are based on real-life scenarios (e.g. using SQL to build databases and query public data sets). BloomTech learners also work in teams to build and ship products for mission driven-organizations to tackle big challenges, such as addressing homelessness and helping kids learn to read.
- Job search support. Beginning on Day 1 of your BloomTech course, you'll get support from our Career Services team. That way, you'll graduate ready to work—no matter how much (or how little) coding background you start with. We'll help you with every step of the job hunt process so you find a well-paying job you love.
At BloomTech, we are committed to providing more people with a direct and lower-risk path to a rewarding tech job. That’s why we offer our Risk-Free Trial. The trial lets you experience everything an official learner gets, from in-depth curriculum (via both live and on-demand classes), events, 1:1 coaching and support, and more. With the Risk-Free Trial, you get 3 weeks to test drive BloomTech—without making any deposits, payments, or inputting credit card information.
Sound good? You can unlock your Risk-Free Trial in about 20 minutes by starting an application and taking a quick assessment.
Ready to take your SQL skills to the next level?
Perhaps you’ve started learning some SQL on your own but realize the tutorials and free classes can only get you so far. Maybe you need more structure, support, and in-depth immersion to deepen your learning but don’t want to spend an arm and a leg going back to school. Well BloomTech might have the special sauce you’re looking for.
To get a comprehensive computer science education, consider BloomTech’s Data Science, Web Development, and Backend Development programs, where industry professionals will teach you everything you need to know about frameworks and languages like SQL leading the industry today. Have a passion for SQL and want to dive deeper? Then the Data Science program will be a great fit for you and can help you launch your career in applied statistics or machine learning. The program includes job preparation, supportive mentorship, and peer-to-peer support to help you stay motivated. Additionally, BloomTech offers Computer Science coursework and group labs projects to highlight your skills when you enter the field.