How to Learn SQL

If you're curious about SQL or even wondering "What does SQL mean?" this guide can show you how to learn SQL basics and beyond.
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  • Structured Query Language, or SQL, is a programming language for managing databases.
  • Several online classes and coding bootcamps teach students how to learn SQL.
  • Individuals who learn SQL find jobs as SQL developers, database administrators, and other data-based roles.

If you work or dabble in the computer world, you may have heard of SQL. SQL stands for Structured Query Language, and it serves as a standard language for accessing and working with databases.

Developed at IBM in the 1970s, many programmers continue to use SQL to this day —as well as business professionals, data scientists, marketing managers, data journalists, and anyone who works with databases in their day-to-day jobs.

In addition to answering the question, "What is SQL?," this guide offers advice on the best way to learn SQL and recommends bootcamps for aspiring programmers.

How to Learn SQL

The good news is: You don't need to identify as a computer whiz or possess prior programming skills to learn SQL. You don't even need to enroll in college to master this database language.

That said, although some people teach themselves, this requires intense discipline —and beyond SQL basics, it can become frustrating without guidance. Two popular options for learning SQL include online courses and coding bootcamps.

Online Courses

Online courses are a popular option for individuals who prefer flexible learning. They often come with low costs, and some are even free. For SQL learners who may need to fit their practice into already busy lives, online courses often allow them to work at their own pace without committing to a specific timeframe.

Still, some online courses are better than others, so make sure you read reviews from previous students so you know what to expect.

Coding Bootcamp

For students who are looking for a more intensive or structured option, coding bootcamps could prove a better fit. Bootcamps usually use a cohort model and allow students to practice their skills with hands-on projects. Bootcamp students often learn SQL through data science or data analytics bootcamps. These programs teach other advanced skills as well, like Python and machine learning.

Find the Right Coding Bootcamp For You

Pros and Cons
Online Courses Coding Bootcamps
Typically less expensive, and sometimes free Usually more expensive, but sometimes offer financing options or scholarships
Flexible Structured
Covers only SQL Covers other programming and data-related skills as well
Sometimes less intensive Typically more intensive

Coding Bootcamps to Learn SQL

Coding Dojo

  • Locations: Remote, Bellevue, Boise,Chicago, Los Angeles, Silicon Valley
  • Programs Starting At: $8,745
  • Technical Disciplines: Software Development, Cybersecurity, Data Science
  • Learning Formats: Online, In-Person
  • Time Commitment: Full Time, Part Time, Self Paced

Accepts GI Bill®
Career Services
Evening & Weekend Options

Students can learn SQL through Coding Dojo's part-time data science bootcamp, which lasts 12-16 weeks. The course covers SQL, SQL Lite, and SQL Alchemy, in addition to several other skills such as Python and machine learning.

Equipped with a full portfolio by the end of the course, graduates can take advantage of career support with one-on-one mentors. Learners can also apply for a variety of scholarships, including scholarships for minorities, military veterans, and women in tech.

Flatiron School

  • Locations: Remote, Austin, Chicago, Denver, Houston, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington D.C.
  • Programs Starting At: $16,900
  • Technical Disciplines: Cybersecurity, Data Science, Software Engineering, UX/UI Design
  • Learning Formats: Online, In-Person
  • Time Commitment: Full Time, Self-Paced

Career Services
Evening & Weekend Options

As a part of the Flatiron School's data science course, students learn how to master SQL and other data analysis skills. Students can either enroll in a 15-week, full-time course, or a self-paced course that lasts 20-60 weeks.

Flatiron breaks the course down into four phases, with SQL basics covered in the first phase. Learners complete a large-scale data science and machine learning project to complete the course. All students can access 180 days of career coaching as well.

General Assembly

  • Locations: Remote, Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington D.C.
  • Programs Starting At: $3,950
  • Technical Disciplines: Data Analytics, Data Science, Software Engineering, UX/UI Design; Web Development
  • Learning Formats: Online, In-Person
  • Time Commitment: Full Time, Part Time, Self-Paced

Accepts GI Bill®
Career Services
Evening & Weekend Options

With campuses in major cities around the world, General Assembly operates several programming bootcamps. That includes the data analytics course, which students can take through a 10-week evening format or through a one-week intensive accelerated course. The course covers SQL, Excel and Tableau. Students practice their skills through real-world projects that they turn into a portfolio.

The Tech Academy

  • Locations: Remote, Portland, Salt Lake City
  • Programs Starting At: $11,600
  • Technical Disciplines: Data Science, Mobile Web Application, UX/UI Development, Web Development, Cybersecurity
  • Learning Formats: Online, In-Person
  • Time Commitment: Full Time, Part Time

Career Services
CIRR Member
Evening & Weekend Options

At The Tech Academy, students can master SQL and other programming and data analysis skills through the data science bootcamp. The Tech Academy offers a 16-week full-time or 30-week part-time option, and the program covers topics like data visualization, statistical analysis, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. The course culminates with a two-week team coding project and a job placement course.


  • Location: Remote
  • Programs Starting At: $8,000
  • Technical Disciplines: Data Analytics, Data Science, Software Engineering, UX/UI Design
  • Learning Format: Online
  • Time Commitment: Full Time, Part Time

Career Services
Evening & Weekend Options
Money-Back Guarantee
Start For Free

For students who do not live in a major city, or for those who prefer remote learning, Thinkful offers an online data analytics course. The course lasts 4-6 months, depending on whether learners choose part- or full-time study.

Along with SQL, students learn about statistical analysis, Tableau, advanced Excel, and Python. Mentors guide students through personal video consultations, and students also receive personalized career coaching.

Get the Qualities You Want in a Bootcamp

We use icons to make browsing bootcamps easy for you. Use this breakdown to quickly identify program qualities you are looking for.

Accepts GI Bill®

Accepts the GI Bill® as funding for tuition.

Also Available In Person

This online bootcamp also offers in-person options.

Career Services

Offers career services to help you land your dream job after graduation.

CIRR Member

This bootcamp is a current member of the Council on Integrity in Results Reporting. Learn more at

Evening & Weekend Options

Bootcamps are offered during convenient evening and weekend hours.

Job Guarantee

Employment is guaranteed as soon as you finish your bootcamp.

Money-Back Guarantee

Tuition is refunded if you don't land a job within a given time frame after graduation. Visit the bootcamp website for terms and conditions.

Start for Free

No deposit is required to get started. Begin your bootcamp for $0.


Bootcamp Ranking Guidelines

At BestColleges, we believe the best bootcamp is the one that fits your schedule, your learning needs, and your career aspirations. That's why we often present our recommendations in alphabetical order -- because the real best bootcamp is the bootcamp that's best for you.

Our Methodology

The Bootcamp Team at BestColleges has collected data for over 150 bootcamps to help you find the best bootcamp.

At BestColleges, we believe the best bootcamp is the one that fits your schedule, your learning needs, and your career aspirations. That's why we often present our recommendations in alphabetical order -- because the real best bootcamp is the bootcamp that's best for you.

At this time, our recommendation round-ups feature only immersive bootcamps designed to prepare students for job placement upon graduation.

To be included on our lists, bootcamps must meet the following criteria:

  • Must offer at least one bootcamp in the United States.
  • Must offer at least one bootcamp that is a minimum of 4 weeks long.
  • Must require at least 15 hours of work per week if the bootcamp is part time.
  • Must encourage at least 10 hours of work per week if the bootcamp is self-paced.

Pricing disclosure: The prices listed were collected from product websites in 2022. However, given the dynamic, fast-paced nature of the tech space, prices are subject to change throughout the year. To get the most up-to-date information about pricing, contact providers directly.

Methodology for Recommending Cheap Bootcamps:

  • The bootcamp must meet all of the general criteria listed above.
  • The bootcamp must cost less than $8,000 if it is offered full time, and less than $5,000 if it is offered part time. These numbers were chosen based on data collected by BestColleges in 2020 that determined the average cost of a coding bootcamp is $13,580.

SQL Jobs

Once you learn SQL, you'll be an expert in managing and working with databases. You can leverage this expertise in many careers, such as SQL developer, database administrator, data analyst, or SQL server developer.

Other career paths that are well suited for individuals with SQL skills include big data engineers, who use databases and SQL to manage their datasets; quality assurance testers, who keep track of and find patterns in their findings through SQL; and investigative and data journalists, who use SQL to crunch numbers.

Plus, many business professionals often need to analyze large sets of data. Business analysts, product support analysts, and marketing managers often shine in their jobs when they use SQL skills.

What Are the Benefits of an SQL Certification?

Although positions typically do not require job candidates to possess SQL certification, an SQL credential can boost job prospects. Certification shows employers that you hold legitimate expertise in the area instead of a passing interest or a quick line on your resume. This can result in more job opportunities and even higher salaries.

You can earn certification by taking a professional exam. Oracle University offers the following credentials that you can earn through an exam:

  • MySQL Database Administration Professional
  • MySQL Database Administration Specialist
  • MySQL Database Developer Professional

Frequently Asked Questions About SQL

Is it difficult to learn SQL?

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Many in the programming world say SQL is one of the easier programming languages to learn. The commands are generally straightforward with practical application, especially since the syntax remains similar to English. Individuals without any programming or computer technology-related background can learn SQL. For that reason, it can even serve as a starting point for people who want to begin to learn to code.

That said, everyone learns at their own pace, and learning an entire programming language still requires study, practice, and commitment.

What is the difference between SQL and MySQL?

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Although SQL and MySQL sound similar and are both related to database systems, they are two distinct elements. Standing for Structured Query Language, SQL is the programming language used to manage databases.

In contrast, MySQL is not a programming language —instead, it's a relational database management system (RDBMS). This system allows administrators to access data in relation to other data within the database. Oracle, a computer software company, owns MySQL. But MySQL remains an open source database management system, which means that anyone can access it for free.

Is SQL worth learning in 2022?

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SQL remains a skill worth learning in 2022, and that's unlikely to change soon. Many companies and organizations deal with large quantities of data, and they need experts to organize, analyze, and calculate that data. If you add SQL to other programming or computer skills, you can only become more marketable as a job candidate in your field.

Additionally, database administrators and architects remain an in-demand job, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projecting the field will grow 8% from 2020-2030.

Is an SQL developer a good career?

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SQL developers find patterns in data and make sense of numbers. So for anyone who enjoys working with numbers and prefers thinking in a quantitative, analytical way, becoming an SQL developer can prove a smart career move.

On a practical note, this field continues to grow. Although the BLS does not provide data specifically for SQL developers, the profession broadly falls into the category of software developer, quality assurance analysts, and testers. The BLS projects the job outlook for these professionals could grow 22% from 2020-2030, with over 400,000 jobs added to the field —that's much faster than average growth.

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