Learn Data Science

10 Ways to Start Learning SQL for Free

August 2, 2021
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SQL, short for Structured Query Language, is a standard programming language used since the 1970s to design, create, and manage relational databases. 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. Today we will explore why SQL is a foundational database tool for any aspiring programmer, and how to start learning the SQL basics for free. 

Why learn SQL? 

SQL is old. So old, in fact, that it’s 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 as well, from entry level data analysts to data scientists and data engineers. 

And 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? Let’s examine how to learn SQL free and get the most out of your time.    

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 a 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 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. 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 its self-paced, allowing students to learn at their own pace.
  • 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.

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. 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 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 and intensive 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. Taught by Shivgan Joshi, 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. 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.  
  • 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 your portfolio will thank you later as you enter the job field.

10. Land at Bloom Institute of Technology (formerly known as Lambda School). 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 with an immersive coding curriculum focused 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. BloomTech has multiple tuition options to fit your needs, including our Income Share Agreement (ISA) and CA Retail Installment Contract (CA RIC), which allow learners to pay no upfront tuition and only pay once they land a job post-graduation.

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.

How long does it take to learn SQL? BloomTech offers 6-month full-time data science courses that will prepare you for a career in tech with no upfront cost. 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.

Apply to BloomTech to start learning about our Data Science, Web Development, and Backend Development programs. Get started with your new career today!