Chris Castiglione Co-founder of Adjunct Prof at Columbia University Business School.

The Complete Guide to Learn SQL in Just 15 Minutes for Free

3 min read

Girl walking yellow SQL

Over my career as a web developer, SQL is the one coding language I’ve used on nearly EVERY SINGLE PROJECT. Whether I’m coding with Python, PHP, or Ruby, I also write SQL code. That’s because SQL is the language of databases, and it works together with nearly every other programming language. 

Here at One Month I teach a 30-day online SQL Course, and for the past eight years I’ve taught SQL to developers, CEOs, and MBA students in New York City and San Francisco. In this post I’m going to share answers to the three most commonly asked SQL questions: What is SQL? Why should you learn SQL? and How do you get started learning SQL?

1. What is SQL?

  1. What is SQL?: SQL is the language of databases. If you plan to pursue machine learning and artificial intelligence, build websites or apps, or work with data analytics, you need to know SQL.  
  2. What companies use SQL?: Netflix, Airbnb, Uber, Twitter, Amazon, Google, Dropbox, Shopify, just to name a few. 
  3. Should I choose SQL or Python?: You need to learn them both! SQL and Python serve different functions. Read more about SQL vs. Python. You need to know five fundamental languages to reach your greatest potential as a web developer. They are: HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Python, and SQL. 

Listen to this episode of the Learn to Code podcast for more on how to learn SQL:

II. Why should you learn SQL?

Here are six reasons why I love SQL, and feel that everyone in the world should take the time to learn it: 

1. SQL is popular

SQL is one of the most popular languages among developers! According to StackOverflow, it’s the third most popular programming language. 

2. SQL is a common standard

SQL is the universal database query language.  That means SQL can be used with nearly any other programming language (Python, PHP, Ruby, etc.). 

3. SQL is easy to learn

SQL is easy to learn! I taught myself SQL one summer while in college. You can fairly easily master SQL with just a few dedicated weeks of practice. 

4. SQL databases allow millions of rows of data

SQL is mighty! With data spreadsheets like Excel, you can only store hundreds of thousands of rows of data before it starts to choke. With SQL, on the other hand, you can quickly parse through millions of rows of data. 

5. Everyone can use SQL

SQL isn’t just for computer science nerds. SQL is also by business analysts, entrepreneurs, and people in finance. 

6. SQL is in high demand!

SQL developers are in demand. Knowing SQL will help you land a higher paying job and reach greater professional success. Read more about jobs you can land if you know SQL.

Girl learning to code

III. How do you get started learning SQL?

To get started with SQL, all you need is access to a MYSQL database, and some datasets to play with. Let’s go through the steps together!

1. Install a Database

If you want to learn SQL you’re going to need a SQL database.  One of the easiest ways to get a database is to signup for a shared hosting account with a service like Hostgator, Bluehost or MediaTemple.

In this YouTube video, I take you through the steps for setting up a shared web hosting plan. Once you setup web hosting, you can easily create and manage a MySQL database.

If you want to setup a MYSQL database for only $0.01 here’s what you have to do:

  1. Go to 
  2. Enter the code “onemonthcode″ at checkout for a discount that will get you hosting and a MYSQL database together for just $0.01. (For the first month only).
  3. Once you’re in cPanel, click the option to create a new database, and then click on “PHPMyAdmin” for access to your MYSQL database.

If you don’t want to pay for shared hosting, you can use MAMP. MAMP allows you to run a version of a server and a MYSQL database on your home computer. The setup is more involved than Hostgator, but if you’d like a free option give it a try!

2. Download a (Free) SQL Dataset

In order to learn SQL you need a dataset. Here is a free SQL dataset (.sql file) that you can download and upload to your MYSQL database. Once you’ve completed the MYSQL installation (step #1) go to your MYSQL database and “Import” this .sql file.

3. Find a great SQL book to learn from!

Learn SQL Best BookI recommend Sam’s Teach Yourself SQL in 10 Minutes! I’m not sure why they call it “In 10 Minutes” because it will take you a few hours to go through. But in Sam’s Teach Yourself SQL you’ll find all the knowledge you need to write SQL statements. In this book you’ll learn SQL commands like SELECT, INSERT, UPDATE, WHERE, ORDER BY, JOINS and all the SQL fundamentals you need to use SQL on the job.

I taught myself using a combination of books, asking questions to my nerdy friends, and experimenting (aka. messing around blindly at first) with Hostgator hosting. 

Ready to take learning SQL seriously?

Once you’re ready to ramp things up and become a true SQL expert, consider signing up for my 30-day One Month Learn SQL course. During the course, we’ll go step-by-step together as you’ll learn to read, write, query, and analyze data using 20+ of the most popular SQL commands.

Upon completion of the course, and all the project you will receive SQL Certification that you can add to your LinkedIn page. And of course, if you have any questions let me know! 





Learn to Code Comment Avatar
Chris Castiglione Co-founder of Adjunct Prof at Columbia University Business School.