Is SQL Enough to Get a Job?

The sheer number of languages can be overwhelming for someone starting out in data science. Python, Ruby, Java, JavaScript, C, C++, C#–those are just some of the 245 essential programming languages. How many languages does a data scientist need to learn, or is it possible to get a job knowing only SQL?

Knowing SQL is enough to get a job as a database manager. Industries use different SQL languages, so you should focus on those used in your chosen industry. If you want to advance to data science or machine learning, a programming language is essential, but you will still need to know SQL.  

Do not be scared off by individuals who claim you need to know a dozen languages to work in data science. Programming languages are helpful, but you can find plenty of data management jobs where SQL is the chief requirement.

Important Sidenote: We 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!

What Is SQL?

Ironically, Structured Query Language (SQL) is not a programming language like Python or Ruby. SQL is a specialized language for database management, which makes it a domain-specific language. SQL is a language designed for accessing databases. It is used to create tables, change the data in them, and locate the data later.

SQL is one of the oldest computer languages. It was developed in the 1970s, and by the early 80s, IBM and Oracle had released SQL products. Along with the Oracle-brand SQLs, SQLite, Microsoft SQL Server, and MySQL are variations of SQL. If you learn SQL fundamentals, you won’t have too many problems using one of these variations.

What Will You Be Able to Do With SQL?

With SQL, you can organize, manipulate, and analyze data in a relational database. This kind of database relies on sets of tables that each have columns that other tables key on. The database can then create a smaller table with the locations of data in other tables and the keys for each row.

For example, a small business that sells clothing will use relational databases. One table has customer information—name, order, address, payment information, and whatever else the business needs.  

A different table in the database goes to the production shop and indicates the sizes and designs that need to be made. The table that goes to the warehouse has only the information necessary to ship the product to the customer. All these tables are in the SQL database.

SQL databases are ubiquitous. Banks use them to track your debit card expenditures. Amazon uses them to ensure products get delivered and track you across the internet to show ads. Entertainment services like Netflix and Spotify rely on databases to organize your music, playlists and make suggestions.

What Kind of Jobs Can You Get With SQL?

Organizations that have data that needs to be stored require people with SQL experience. Positions that need someone with such experience include:

  • Database administrator. A database administrator ensures that data is being managed and stored accurately. If users cannot access data efficiently, the administrator needs to troubleshoot and fix the problem.
  • Data analyst. An analyst creates performance indicators or metrics for data analysis.
  • Database developer. Companies continuously need to modify existing databases or new ones. In larger companies, the developer does that. This could require programming skills.
  • Migration engineer. This person ensures that data is moved onto SQL servers so that it is usable. This might require programming knowledge.
  • Cloud database experts. Cloud databases like Microsoft Azure and AWS need database managers with SQL experience tailored for cloud applications.

There are many other database jobs where SQL experience is needed, but many of them also require programming languages such as Python or R.

How Many Database Administrator Jobs Are There?

A recent search revealed that Indeed listed over 2,100 database administrator job openings in the United States. US News reported the average salary of a Database Administrator (DBA) at $90,070 in 2018. US News listed Database Administrator #4 in Best Technology Jobs, just below Web Developer.  

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were over 130,000 data administration jobs in 2019, with a growth rate of 10%. Their statistics also indicate that salaries are increasing—in 2019, the median salary was $93,750—an increase of $3,000.

Knowledge of SQL is not enough to secure most DBA jobs. Established companies prefer to hire someone with a degree in a computer science field, experience and knowledge of their industry, and appropriate certifications. Companies prefer to hire those who have experience in the version of SQL used in the industry. 

Which SQL Should I Learn?

The SQL you choose to learn is determined to a great extent by the field and type of job you want to do. Here are some examples:

Online data processing and data warehousing DMBs focus on the Oracle 12c environment. This LinkedIn course is led by David Yahalom, a leading database expert and cloud solutions architect. Completing the course provides a certificate you can display on your LinkedIn profile.

If you plan to work with web servers that run on Windows or with consumer software, you will need Microsoft SQL Server certification.

Individuals planning to work with start-ups and small businesses often work in MySQL. An open-source SQL, it does not require a licensing fee. These types of firms often value certification and experience over a degree, so this would be an excellent way to break into the business. Check out the MySQL Essential Training on LinkedIn.

Technology start-ups gravitate to another open-source system—PostgreSQL. This database system is a purer SQL than MySQL because its syntax deviates less from the standard SQL. PostgreSQL also supports MacOS, Windows, and Linux. The PostgreSQL website offers learning opportunities and user groups.

Some newer SQLs, such as MongoDB, use non-relational databases. These newer languages can handle more data without losing speed.  

Of course, nothing says you need to stop with one. Once you learn one, learning a second will be easier.

When Should You Learn More Than SQL?

Many Database managers make a career knowing only SQL. So why should someone learn programming skills?  

Career advancement or transition are two reasons. Although there are DMB aplenty, web development and app creation are two hot careers that require programming languages.  

  • Data scientists typically need both SQL and programming knowledge. Python, R, and Spark are common languages you will often see in job postings.
  • Machine Learning positions also require fluency in programming languages.   

The good news is that data science and machine learning rely heavily on data, so knowledge of SQL is a must-have.

What Else Should You Learn?

A few other skills will help you get a job in database management.

  • Mathematics fundamentals. At a minimum, you should have a solid grasp of linear algebra.  
  • Statistics. An understanding of the basic principles of statistics is helpful when working with data sets.
  • Spreadsheets. Be familiar with Excel or Google Sheets.
  • Communication skills. Managing databases requires working with those who provide or use the data, and communication skills are essential to make sure users can access the data efficiently.
  • Teamwork. Companies look for people who can work well in teams.  

What if You Cannot Find a Job?

If you have mastered SQL but can’t find a job, do not give up. Consider getting industry experience. To analyze data and deliver it to users effectively, you need to understand who needs what kind of data. Once you have your foot in the door, your SQL knowledge will help you move up the ladder.

Another option is freelancing. Sites like Upwork and Toptal are full of people looking for database administrators and developers. Although starting pay will be low, you will be gaining experience. Most projects on these platforms are part-time, so you don’t have to quit your day job.  

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.


You can get a good data management job with SQL. Pick an industry you want to work in, learn the SQL program used in that industry, and find a job as a database manager. More advanced data jobs such as data scientists or machine learning require that you know programming languages, but will also need you to know SQL to handle the data.

BEFORE YOU GO: Don’t forget to check out my latest article – 6 Proven Steps To Becoming a Data Scientist [Complete Guide]. We 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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Daisy is the founder of 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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