Computer Programming Languages: SQL


Updated March 28, 2023

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SQL can be a valuable tool if you work with large volumes of data. Explore the history and applications of SQL in computer science, and connect with affordable opportunities to learn it. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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IBM created Structured Query Language (SQL) in the 1970s. Its development was based on a relational modeling system proposed by computer science pioneer Dr. E.F. Codd.

Today, data scientists, software developers, and IT professionals mainly use SQL to query or update databases.

Tech insiders widely consider SQL a relatively easy programming language to learn. It also has extensive applications, including nontechnical roles at the management and executive levels.

This guide offers a detailed overview of SQL in computer programming. Below, we'll cover where students and working professionals can learn SQL computer programming, and how SQL fits into a career profile.

What Is SQL?

SQL allows users to retrieve and process information from relational databases. Relational databases are structured data collections that document information in tables.

SQL supports many types of relational database operations, including:

  • Searching for and retrieving information
  • Adding, removing, or updating data
  • Improving database accuracy and performance

As a widely used standard, SQL has multiple important applications:

Relevance in Common Database Management Systems

Many common database management systems support SQL. Examples include MySQL, Microsoft SQL Server, Amazon Redshift, PostgreSQL, Oracle.

Integration with Multiple Programming Languages

In professional settings, SQL often pairs with other common programming languages. Combining SQL with languages such as Java, Scala, or Python enables programmers to create powerful, efficient, and customized data retrieval and processing solutions.

Nontechnical Uses

Business strategists and analysts use SQL to inform deep, original research. Process engineers draw on it for insights into areas of operational efficiency and weakness.

SQL continues to see new applications as businesses gather greater quantities of data. Its ability to quickly and efficiently return targeted libraries of data saves time and money. SQL also helps organizations identify and develop opportunities to build competitive advantages.

Why Use SQL?

SQL ranks among the most widely used database languages in computing. Its versatility for retrieving and organizing information in relational databases gives SQL broad appeal.

Virtually any professional who deals with collecting, organizing, analyzing, and interpreting data can benefit from learning SQL.

Proficiency in SQL can help career-minded people improve their productivity and efficiency. SQL expertise also offers potential financial benefits.

As of February 2023, Payscale cites an average salary of $83,000 per year among workers skilled in its use.

Pros and Cons of SQL in Computer Programming

In computer programming, SQL also has limitations. The following table summarizes its major pros and cons.

Pros Cons

Relatively easy to learn, even for beginners and people with limited computer science knowledge

Performance can be negatively impacted by high query volumes, especially on unstructured databases

Quick and efficient querying capabilities

complex interface

Portability across multiple operating systems, including cloud

SQL databases can require expensive upscaling

Well-established with a large user base

Supports multiple unique data views

Companies That Use SQL

SQL has been commercially available for more than 40 years. Its longevity as a querying tool has made SQL a fixture in both corporate and institutional settings.

Countless companies and organizations use SQL on a regular basis. Some particularly well-known and high-profile examples include:

  • Accenture
  • Adobe
  • Intuit
  • Microsoft
  • Oracle
  • Google
  • Meta
  • Amazon

SQL vs. MongoDB vs. XQuery

SQL databases use relational structures. These databases feature tables with vertical columns or attributes and horizontal rows. Many organizations use SQL databases, but there are alternatives such as NoSQL.

NoSQL databases can be structured or unstructured. At first, they did not support SQL querying. Over time, many such databases began integrating SQL queries because of SQL's popularity. Professionals now use the term "NoSQL" to mean "not only SQL."

Computer science professionals can use numerous methods to query NoSQL databases that do not support SQL.

In recent years, MongoDB has emerged as one of the more popular alternative database structures. MongoDB Query Language (MQL), now MongoDB Query API, executes queries in MongoDB databases.

Developers are creating a language known as XQuery. Their goal is for XQuery to become a standardized language for querying both structured and unstructured databases.

The following table compares key features of each of these three tools:






Portability Across Operating Systems




Required Skill Level

Suitable for users of all skill levels

Open to beginners but some supplementary computer science knowledge is helpful

Designed to optimize ease of use



Mostly community-based

Improving but limited

Where Can You Learn SQL?

Undergraduate computer science degree programs often include instruction in SQL and computer programming languages. Courses in programming, database design, web development, and other niche areas may cover SQL.

Learners who do not need or want to commit to a degree program have other options. Free online SQL courses are widely available, but they are of variable quality and may offer limited student support.

Paid programs often feature better student support and more reliable levels of academic quality when offered by reputable providers.

Many leading coding schools offer SQL bootcamps and short-term programs that teach SQL and other computer programming languages simultaneously.

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Additional SQL Resources

Learners can take advantage of many free, skills-focused online SQL resources. Examples include:

SQLZoo, a wiki-based program for beginners

SQLBolt, an interactive entry-level resource that includes lessons and exercises

Codecademy offers free introductory lessons that help learners develop SQL basics

SQLPractice, an online SQL terminal to practice solving SQL-based problems

The following subsection summarizes some of the many books learners can consult as they build SQL familiarity.

Books About Learning SQL

Beginning SQL Queries: From Novice to Professional: Written by Clare Churcher, this introductory book covers essential basics.

SQL Primer: An Accelerated Introduction to SQL Basics: This book by Rahul Batra explains standardized SQL features. An accelerated pace makes the book more suitable for intermediate-level learners.

Advanced Oracle SQL Programming: Donald Burleson and Laurent Schneider's book appeals to developers seeking to enhance their proficiencies with complex SQL querying.

FAQ About The Computer Program SQL

  • What is the history of SQL?

    Computer scientist Dr. E.F. Codd proposed the first widely accepted relational database model in the 1970s. IBM used Codd's model to develop SQL over the course of the 1970s, and SQL first became commercially available in 1979.

  • What is SQL in computer programming?

    In computer science, SQL is a querying language used to manage and extract data from relational databases. Professionals whose roles involve harvesting, organizing, and analyzing data use it widely.

  • Is it difficult to learn SQL?

    Educators often say that students can learn the basics of SQL in 2-3 weeks, even if they have limited technical knowledge. However, developing the more advanced SQL skills that people use in professional capacities tends to require more effort and time investment.

  • Do computer science programs teach SQL?

    Many undergraduate computer science courses cover SQL. Outside of a degree-based computer program, SQL instruction is also available through books, bootcamps, and free online courses.

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