SQL is one of the most widely used programming languages in the world, and if you learn SQL, you open up some clear paths to finding new work and employment opportunities. While some of those roles may seem obvious, such as becoming a Software Engineer, there are plenty of other positions that require SQL that you might not expect.
Mattan Griffel, adjunct professor at Columbia Business School, explains why everyone in business should learn to code SQL:
The business applications for data analytics and programming are myriad. Community managers are learning HTML and CSS to send better formatted email newsletters, marketers are learning SQL so they can connect directly to their companies’ databases and access data, and financial analysts are learning Python so they can work with data sets too large for Excel to handle.
The trend is clear: whether you’re a product manager, a business analyst, an MBA, or a developer — SQL will upskill your career.
What is SQL?
SQL is a coding language for querying data in databases.
SQL database vs. Excel: What’s the difference?
Both a database and Excel organize data into rows and columns, but databases are more powerful than Excel spreadsheets for two reasons:
- Databases can process more data than spreadsheets. Whereas Excel can handle up to 1 million rows of data, a database like MYSQL can handle over a billion rows.
- Databases can interact with other programming languages such as Python, Ruby, or Java, allowing you to execute many more powerful tasks and queries with your data.
- Databases can connect to the internet, allowing millions of users to access them at the same time.
Why do you need to learn SQL?
- SQL is used by Google, Amazon, Apple, Airbnb, Netflix, Uber, Wells Fargo, Shopify, WordPress, and hundreds of thousands of other companies. In short, SQL is everywhere!
- SQL job skills are in high demand
- SQL is one of the most robust and easy to use programming languages.
Let’s explore some of the top jobs for applicants with SQL skills.
1. Business Analyst
A Business Analyst helps guide businesses towards better processes, products, services, and software through business analysis. Business Analysts usually perform what is known as a gap analysis to identify the necessary steps to get from a current state to a desired future state.
When data is of interest in the gap analysis, SQL can be used to find gaps in data such as dates or number sequences. A thorough gap analysis is a critical piece of any business analysis, therefore a good understanding of SQL can be an essential tool for Business Analysts.
2. Data Scientist
A Data Scientist is someone who is an analytical expert and utilizes their skills in both business, technology, and social science to find trends and manage data at a massive scale.
Harvard Business Review (HBR) has called the Data Scientist, “The Sexiest Job of the 21st Century.” And, according to HBR, “The shortage of data scientists is becoming a serious constraint in some sectors.”
Data Scientists are usually focused on using machine learning techniques to get the most out of data, nevertheless, they aren’t necessarily required to have the business know-how and soft skills that might be required of a business analyst.
Bloomberg reports that necessary skills for Data Scientists include,
A strong grounding in some of the fundamental tools of analysis (i.e. some combination of SQL, R or Python, Hadoop, Excel, D3, and Java/C/C++) and the theoretical basics that underpin analysis (e.g. statistics, data warehousing principles, accounting, general numeracy) are great, and I’d be reticent to hire someone who didn’t have some of these.
3. Software Engineer
Software Engineers are the creative minds behind computer programs. They develop applications that allow people to do specific tasks computing devices such as laptops and smartphones. It’s probably no surprise that Inc Magazine has called Software Engineering, “One of the most important careers of today and the future.”
Knowing SQL is a fundamental skill required to be a good Software Engineer. Furthermore, Software Engineers with SQL knowledge are more likely to get paid more than their peers that do not have any SQL know-how.
Most, if not all, Software Engineering roles require SQL skills. So, getting a grip on SQL is becoming almost an indispensable requirement for landing a Software Engineering job.
4. Database Administrator
A Database Administrator (DBA) manages the database software to store, organize, and access data successfully. DBAs usually oversee a team of SQL developers and need to be skilled with computer programming, software engineering, and data architecture.
A DBA’s function is to analyze an organization’s data management, input, and security requirements, by helping develop processes that support access and information security for the data stored within SQL Server databases.
While a SQL Server DBA only writes code on specific occasions, they do play an essential role in optimizing SQL queries and oversee backups, audits, and data replication to ensure that SQL databases remain accessible, secure, and stable.
5. Quality Assurance Tester
A Quality Assurance (QA) Tester is primarily responsible for checking new software products, such as those for web applications, gaming systems, or mobile apps, for defects or issues. Responsibilities to the role include: reviewing and analyzing system specifications, executing test scripts, reviewing results, and providing extensive reporting and documenting.
For example, if an app web page is required to display all sales database data for 2019, a QA Tester can write and execute a query pulling all of the necessary data from the sales database and compare it with what is already displayed on the app’s user interface. Through this comparison, the QA Tester can confirm the row count, that columns are being displayed correctly and that the data itself is accurate.
6. Researcher / Educator
Researchers can work in academic, industrial, government, or private institutions. Quite often, Researchers are also educators. Researchers are responsible for collecting, organizing, and analyzing opinions and data to solve problems, explore issues, and predict trends.
A journalist collects, investigates, writes, or distributes news or other current information to the general public. Journalists who know SQL are in demand because of their ability to rapidly analyze, organize, filter through information.
Several journalistic organizations around the world, such as the National Union of Journalists in the UK, are using SQL to dig into databases, and have frequently organized events on this topic, given it’s increased importance in journalistic activities. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists named SQL among their list of “Nine essential tools” for data journalism.
By Chris Castiglione based on the research Ed Freitas