Can SQL Be Self-Taught?


When working with data—be it as a data analyst, data scientist, or database developer—SQL is likely to play an essential role in your daily workflows. The question is, can you learn SQL or advance your knowledge of it on your own?

SQL can be self-taught. The fact that it is a high-level, single-domain language makes it less complicated than general-purpose languages. Being the de facto standard language for dealing with relational databases also allows for scalability of learning based on your job position’s role with data.

This article will explore what makes SQL easier for self-instruction than other computer languages. It will also look at some of the pitfalls you may face if you decide to learn SQL independently. If you are a SQL novice or if you want to expand your current SQL knowledge, read on and discover if the self-taught route is right for you.

Important Sidenote: I interviewed 100+ data science professionals (data scientists, hiring managers, recruiters – you name it) and identified 6 proven steps to follow for becoming a data scientist. Read my article: ‘6 Proven Steps To Becoming a Data Scientist [Complete Guide] for in-depth findings and recommendations! – This is perhaps the most comprehensive article on the subject you will find on the internet!

Considerations for Learning SQL on Your Own

Before embarking on a journey that involves self-learning, it is essential to take some considerations into account. In the case of SQL, there are three things that you should be asking yourself before getting started.

Where Can You Find Resource Material?

When learning a computer language, such as SQL, you need to have access to learning material. This material can be in physical books, digital books, online modules, and video.

Fortunately, SQL has been widely used for over four decades, meaning that there is plenty of reference and instructional material available in all media formats.

This amount of availability facilitates self-learning in that you will not have a shortage of instructional material, both free and paid, available.

Staying Motivated While Learning SQL on Your Own

Another important item to consider before getting started with SQL self-instruction involves your ability to stay motivated.

While this will vary from person to person, you need to understand that learning SQL yourself means keeping yourself motivated. Unlike a traditional classroom setting, there is no inherent support and motivational base.

The usual support that you would receive from instructors or fellow students will not be present. As a result, if you begin to feel overwhelmed or encounter a particular area where you are struggling, you will need to find an alternative conduit for support.

Such conduits can be as simple as talking to friends or coworkers who already are proficient at SQL or seeking out camaraderie and support via online platforms consisting of other individuals who are in the process of learning SQL on their own.

Proper Evaluation of Your Self-Taught SQL

When you learn a new subject or skill, you also want to know how well you have mastered it. In essence, that is why in a traditional classroom setting, students receive grades. It is a method of quantifying what they have learned. When learning on your own, you likewise want to know how proficient you have become.

Once you begin to put your newly acquired SQL skills into practical experience in the field, you will be able to gauge how proficient you are. However, in the interim, some form of evaluation is needed.

Imagine if you were to apply for a position that requires SQL. Almost certainly, this will involve at least one interview. It may also require you to answer questions or code hypothetical queries as requested by the interviewer. Entering such a scenario without having a real feel for your level of mastery can be daunting.

Fortunately, there are SQL assessment tests that you can take online that will provide you with your quantification as to the SQL knowledge that you have amassed on your own.

Benefits of Self-Taught SQL

Learning SQL on your own has certain benefits—the most significant being the following.

Setting Your Own Pace

When you are in a traditional classroom setting, you are the one that must adhere to the pace of the curriculum. It means that you must attend classes at a particular time and on specific days of the week. If you cannot sustain the schedule prepared for you, you will not benefit fully from the instruction. Under certain circumstances, you may even be forced to leave the class.

When learning SQL on your own, however, you are the sole person responsible for setting the pace. If you want an accelerated regimen, it is merely a matter of dedicating as many hours as you can within the shortest amount of time possible. If your current situation doesn’t allow you the luxury of spare time, you can lower the pace to just one or two hours per day for a handful of days during the week.

Additionally, you will not be forced to adhere to a specific schedule. You can accommodate your SQL education into whatever time slot you have free. Mornings, afternoons, or evenings, you are in control.

Being Self-Accountable

When you teach yourself a computing language, you quickly realize that you are accountable only to yourself. Much in the same way as you must be self-motivated, you must also understand that he will have to be self-accountable.

You will be the one who has to ensure that you keep up with the pace of your instruction. You will be the only person who will be able to keep yourself honest. In the end, you have to be the student and the teacher.

This self-accountability will help you identify areas in your SQL skills that you can highlight as your strengths and isolate your weaknesses. In this manner, you can seek additional ways to better yourself in the latter without bogging yourself down on the whole.

Testing Your Palette for SQL

Another benefit of self-taught SQL is that it provides you with immersive methods for testing your true palette for the language and coding in general.

It is not to say that you lack the ability or intellect to master SQL, rather that some people may not find it genuinely appealing once they put it into practice.

In other words, you may be able to master the skill, but in the long run, you find it to be more of a drudgery than a fulfilling activity. Learning and developing a skill set that you find unpalatable is not an effective way to build a career.

Unlike other learning methods—such as through paid courses, as part of a computer science degree, or even through boot camps—your front-end investment in monetary and time resources is minimal. If you discover along the way that SQL is not a skill that you want to develop, you can abandon the pursuit and not be the worse for wear.

Pacing Your SQL Self-Instruction

Since SQL is not a general-purpose programming language, comparatively speaking, there is a simplicity to the language that allows those learning it on their own to apply their own pace to the learning.

For example, an individual who will be using SQL for basic querying and data analysis may get by with beginner to intermediate level querying and data manipulation skills. Typically, this would involve mastery of the basic syntax and command structure of SQL. However, since it is a declarative and a high-level language, this is not as complex as other languages.

Once the basic syntax and commands have been mastered, you can acquire methods for using SQL in database architecture and database normalization later. The same holds true for learning how to integrate SQL with other general-purpose programming languages, such as Python and C++.

Author’s Recommendations: Top Data Science Resources To Consider

Before concluding this article, I wanted to share few top data science resources that I have personally vetted for you. I am confident that you can greatly benefit in your data science journey by considering one or more of these resources.

  • DataCamp: If you are a beginner focused towards building the foundational skills in data science, there is no better platform than DataCamp. Under one membership umbrella, DataCamp gives you access to 335+ data science courses. There is absolutely no other platform that comes anywhere close to this. Hence, if building foundational data science skills is your goal: Click Here to Sign Up For DataCamp Today!
  • MITx MicroMasters Program in Data Science: If you are at a more advanced stage in your data science journey and looking to take your skills to the next level, there is no Non-Degree program better than MIT MicroMasters. Click Here To Enroll Into The MIT MicroMasters Program Today! (To learn more: Check out my full review of the MIT MicroMasters program here)
  • Roadmap To Becoming a Data Scientist: If you have decided to become a data science professional but not fully sure how to get started: read my article – 6 Proven Ways To Becoming a Data Scientist. In this article, I share my findings from interviewing 100+ data science professionals at top companies (including – Google, Meta, Amazon, etc.) and give you a full roadmap to becoming a data scientist.

Conclusion

It is fair to say that SQL can be self-taught. It is not to say that it doesn’t have its challenges, but the scalability and modularity afforded to those learning it makes the learning curve for SQL less steep.

That said, you must not ignore the fact that learning SQL on your own does require self-motivation, self-evaluation, and self-accountability.

BEFORE YOU GO: Don’t forget to check out my latest article – 6 Proven Steps To Becoming a Data Scientist [Complete Guide]. I interviewed 100+ data science professionals (data scientists, hiring managers, recruiters – you name it) and created this comprehensive guide to help you land that perfect data science job.

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  2. Data science skills for business professionals | HBS online. (2020, November 20). Business Insights – Blog. https://online.hbs.edu/blog/post/data-science-skills
  3. Is it possible to become a successful self-taught data scientist? (2021, January 17). Analytics India Magazine. https://analyticsindiamag.com/is-it-possible-to-become-a-successful-self-taught-data-scientist/
  4. SQL online test. (n.d.). Programming and Interview Online Assessment Tests | TestDome. https://www.testdome.com/tests/sql-online-test/12
  5. The top data science skills. (2020, March 5). Maryville Online. https://online.maryville.edu/blog/data-science-skills/
  6. What does “Practical experience” actually mean? Here are four reasons it’ll put you on the road to success. (n.d.). Centennial College | Community Colleges in Toronto, Canada. https://www.centennialcollege.ca/centennial-college-blog/2016/august/31/what-does-practical-experience-actually-mean-heres-four-reasons-itll-put-you-on-the-road-to-success/

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Daisy

Daisy is the founder of DataScienceNerd.com. Passionate for the field of Data Science, she shares her learnings and experiences in this domain, with the hope to help other Data Science enthusiasts in their path down this incredible discipline.

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