As you’ll soon learn if you’re looking to start a career in data, there are plenty of skills you’ll need to succeed. Once you’ve familiarized yourself with basic data analytics theory, learning SQL (or Structured Query Language) is a good place to start.
SQL is a powerful tool for manipulating databases (the staple of any data analyst’s work). However, it’s also a prerequisite for landing any data-related job, whether you want to become a fully-fledged data scientist or simply want to be a database administrator. For any data role, you’ll not only need to learn SQL but you’ll have to prove that you have the necessary know-how. Enter SQL certifications!
So what are the best SQL certifications on the market? In this post, we’ll cover 11 of the top SQL certifications available right now, as well as some commonly asked questions about the topic. We’ll cover:
- What is SQL and why should I learn it?
- What are the best SQL certifications on the market?
- SQL certifications: FAQ
- Next steps
Ready to figure out which SQL certification is right for you? Then let’s dive in.
1. What is SQL and why should I learn it?
Structured query language, known as SQL (pronounced ‘sequel’), is a popular database query language.
As a standard language for interacting with relational databases (i.e. databases that use a tabular format in which discrete values are related to one another), SQL has countless applications in the modern world.
While the list is long, popular uses include extracting and manipulating data in customer relationship management (CRM) systems and enterprise resource planning (ERP) software. It also has countless financial, manufacturing, and project management applications. In short, wherever there’s data, somewhere along the way, SQL is involved.
While SQL is a fundamental skill for anyone who works with data, it’s especially important for aspiring data analysts. Its ability to probe data makes it a vital tool for driving better decision-making. And by learning SQL, you’ll also gain a better understanding of how databases themselves work, including how to store, retrieve and manipulate various data types. You can learn more about SQL by reading our definitive guide.
2. What are the best SQL certifications on the market?
In this section, we’ll summarize some of the top SQL certifications for aspiring data analysts currently available on the market. As a rule of thumb, we can split SQL certifications into two categories: general data analytics SQL certifications (for general use) and vendor-specific SQL certifications (which certify learners to use specific proprietary products).
Let’s look at these both now.
General data analytics SQL certifications
Price: $6,900 ($2100 upfront, then $600 for 8 months)
Duration: Approximately 5 to 7 months.
Pros: Ideal for beginners looking to dive deep into data analytics, comes with dual mentoring and a job guarantee.
Cons: A bit pricier than the other options on our list.
While CareerFoundry’s Data Analytics Program is not focused purely on SQL, it provides learners with everything they need to launch a data analytics career. The third of six projects (or ‘Achievements’) on the course is an in-depth exploration of databases and SQL for data analysts. While the course is not the cheapest on our list, its selling point is that it goes far beyond teaching SQL alone.
Graduates will learn about the entire data analytics process, from data collection to data visualization, and will come away with numerous portfolio projects to help them land a job. The program achieves this by offering dual mentoring (learners get a tutor and an industry mentor) and a job guarantee or your money back. These tailored aspects of the program make the higher price point well worthwhile.
Price: $19.99 per month subscription
Duration: 8 hours
Pros: There’s a free version (although you will have to pay for certification)
Cons: Limited information about the instructors or who wrote the course
Want to get straight into using SQL without any extra fluff? Codecademy’s Learn SQL course instructs learners on precisely how to use SQL with relational databases. This is a practice-led course with four projects that you can add to your portfolio. The manipulation project teaches learners how to use SQL to access, assess, create and update stored data, while the querying module shows learners more complex functions.
The final modules expand a learner’s SQL skills further still, helping them create and manipulate multiple interacting databases in various ways. At $19.99 per month for an annual subscription, it’s pretty good value for money, and is all suitable for beginners. However, while you will get an unaccredited certification at the end, there’s little information about who produced the course.
Price: $399 per month
Duration: 2 months, studying at 10 hours a week
Pros: High-quality content and career support
Cons: A bit pricy and offers no on-the-go learning (a common feature for similar courses)
Another SQL certification ideal for beginners is Udacity’s Learn SQL Course (we’re sensing a theme with the names here, but at least they do what they say on the tin!) Once again, this introductory course focuses on the fundamental functionality of SQL from a beginner’s perspective, including database manipulation and querying. However, it’s much more in-depth than Codecademy’s course, offering very high-quality content.
Although more costly, this also reflects the rigorous level of detail and mentoring support learners get access to (e.g. project reviews, student networking and help setting up a Github profile). If you like the course, you might even choose to progress with Udacity’s SQL for data analysis course.
Price: $159.99 for the course, or $16.58 per month.
Duration: 9 hours
Pros: Offers free supporting courses and has a 30-day refund policy
Cons: Content quality varies if you try out other courses
Udemy’s Complete SQL Bootcamp packs a lot of detail into a short space of time. Starting with the fundamentals of SQL statements, it progresses in difficulty towards more advanced SQL commands, such as timestamps, string functions, conditional expressions and procedures, and even how to use PostgreSQL (a popular open-source relational database management system) and Python.
At nine hours of video tutorials, it’ll give you a solid basis to build on. However, the content is so dense that you shouldn’t expect to come away as a total expert. If you want to learn more, though, Udemy offers swathes of additional SQL training for various specializations. Worth checking out.
Duration: 90 days of access, with 9 hours of self-paced video content
Pros: It is accredited and includes lifetime access to all of Simplilearn’s self-paced courses.
Cons: No free introductory courses, requires a diploma or undergraduate degree to start.
Like the other SQL certifications on our list, this course is self-paced and based online. It’s also comprised of video tutorials rather than face-to-face training and covers much of the usual content. Learners will get an in-depth breakdown of SQL’s fundamentals, before progressing to a walkthrough of its more complex functions including operators, different data types, stored procedures, and performance optimization.
Simplilearn’s stand-out feature, though, is that many of its courses are accredited. This gives their certificates additional weight. Even those certifications without accreditation are industry-recognized due to their association with the company. And unlike some courses (where assessment is a bit of a breeze) it’s not a total cinch to pass either. You’ll need to get 85% on the final exam to get your certificate, so pay attention during class!
Price: $19.99 per month for an annual subscription, or $29.99 for a monthly one (cancellable at any time)
Duration: 12 hours of content across 6 courses
Pros: Free trial and offline access
Cons: The courses feel a bit wedged together, and the later ones aren’t suitable for beginners
To take things a step further, LinkedIn Learning’s Master SQL for Data Science program goes beyond the need-to-know aspects of SQL. By bringing together additional courses into a data science learning path, LinkedIn Learning will grow your know-how from beginner to expert, setting you up for a career in data science.
Okay, so at $19.99 a month, we’ll level with you: you won’t come away with everything you need to know. Plus, the courses aren’t super interactive, which may not appeal to everyone. But they do explore how SQL is used in the real world. For example, by providing an overview of Presto, the open-source SQL query engine developed by Facebook and used by companies like Airbnb and Netflix.
If you want to get a feel for how SQL can take you from beginner data analyst to full data scientist (with plenty of practical examples), this could be a pathway worth checking out.
Price: $39 per month for a Coursera subscription
Duration: 4 months at 5 hours per week
Pros: A more affordable option
Cons: It calls itself ‘entry-level’, but learners will benefit from prior knowledge
Another course specifically targeting SQL for data science is Coursera’s Learn SQL Basics for Data Science Specialization. After starting with beginner-level functionality, it swiftly moves on to topics such as data wrangling, data analysis, and A/B testing. The third course in the specialization focuses on big data and how to manage distributed computing with SQL and Apache Spark (one of data science’s most common tools).
To complete the course and gain your certification, you’ll also have to submit a hands-on capstone project. The certification is accredited by the University of California Davis, which ought to add a little weight to your resume. Plus, there are many more SQL courses available on Coursera if you want to browse a few additional specialisms.
Vendor-specific SQL certifications
While the last section looked at SQL for general data analytics applications, those looking to develop further might prefer to invest in one of the following. These certifications are industry-recognized at the highest level and certify users to use SQL with particular industry products.
Price: Approximately $600 (training) + $99 (exam)
Duration: 1 day of training plus an hour-long exam
Pros: Well-respected certification with targeted learning
Cons: Exam price is not included in the course cost
Microsoft Azure SQL Database is a managed cloud database offered as part of Microsoft Azure cloud services. It’s also commonly used throughout the IT and data science industry. This one-day, instructor-led online training course explores Azure’s data services and how to apply core SQL data concepts to them. Content includes large-scale data warehousing, real-time analytics, and data visualization, and even covers considerations for working with non-relational data on Azure.
While it’s not cheap—the course comes in at $600 with an additional $99 for the exam—it’s widely recognized. You’ll be hard pressed to find a course that better prepares you for this niche topic than one provided by Microsoft itself. Want to review the content before you buy? Then check out this exam support guide.
Price: The course content is free, but it costs $245 to test out
Duration: 16 hours of video tutorials
Pros: Course videos are freely accessible
Cons: The cost is quite steep for the exam
The Oracle Database SQL Certificate Associate Certification is more than just a tongue-twister of a title; it’s also a learning path consisting of 16 hours of courses. What makes these courses unique is that they prepare SQL users to work on any project that incorporates Oracle Database deployments. Suitable for entry-level upward, it’s one of the best-recognized certifications available for this topic.
Among other skills, you’ll learn to query, insert, update, and delete SQL statements, as well as the fundamentals of data modeling and normalization. While the course content is free, be aware that you will have to pay $245 for the exam. A pass, however, certifies the learner as fluent in SQL, data modeling, and using SQL to create and manipulate tables in Oracle Databases.
Price: $200 for the exam
Duration: 19 modules
Pros: Course content is free
Cons: Definitely not suitable for beginners
PostgreSQL is a widely-used relational database management system that is built specifically to use SQL. It’s used by countless large organizations, including Apple, Microsoft, Meta, Nasa, and Spotify, to name a few. The EDB PostgreSQL Associate Certification validates a learner’s SQL skills to a global standard, proving that they are qualified to work as a PostgreSQL professional.
The course offers associate and professional-level certifications for both PostgreSQL and EDB Postgres Advanced Server. In layman’s terms, it certifies that a database professional has the core knowledge they need to maintain and manage a PostgreSQL server and related applications in a production environment. Once the paid exam is complete, learners receive a PDF certification and a badge for sites like LinkedIn.
While there are many more vendor-specific qualifications available, you don’t usually need to worry about getting qualified in one of these niche areas unless it is a listed requirement in a job description. Nevertheless, this should offer a taste of areas where you can specialize.
3. SQL certifications: FAQ
Want to learn more? Here are some common questions and answers about SQL certifications for aspiring data analysts.
What will I learn in a SQL program?
While this depends on the program, any good SQL certification should instruct you on the language’s basic functions. You should learn SQL’s primary functionality; namely, how to write queries that retrieve data from a database. Any good beginner SQL certification will also teach you how to insert, update, and delete data, how to sort it, and how to alter database objects.
For more advanced courses, such as vendor-specific certifications, you can expect to learn far more complex functions related to a vendor’s specific products and services.
Is learning SQL worth it?
The value of an SQL certification depends on what you hope to gain from adopting the language. For aspiring data analysts, SQL is worth learning (and, indeed, is a necessity) since it is usually a prerequisite for landing a job. For others, SQL may not be worth learning (for instance, if you’re not planning to use it for professional purposes). Presumably, however, if you’re reading this, chances are you are already interested in data-related roles, in which case: yes—SQL is absolutely worth learning!
How much does a SQL course cost?
The cost of an SQL certification very much depends on what you are looking to take from the course. If you want to learn SQL within a limited context, through passive tutorials, you can do so for a very low price online, if not for free. However, if you want greater interactivity, career support, mentoring, or to develop your wider data analytics skills, maybe opt for a longer course like CareerFoundry’s Data Immersion Program. In short, the cost is really up to you and should match what you have available to spend.
Which SQL certification is best?
For those with a passing interest in the topic, free online courses may be sufficient for satisfying your curiosity. But if you’re looking to use SQL professionally, consider investing in a more in-depth SQL certification within a wider data analytics program. This will set you up to succeed rather than merely providing you with a standalone skill that you don’t know what to do with. While an upfront investment can lead to a great return in the future, only do so if you can truly afford it.
How long will it take to learn SQL?
Since SQL is a relatively simple programming language to grasp, you should be able to pick up its basic functionality in a couple of weeks or even a few days if you’re a fast learner. In reality, it depends on how much time you can dedicate to learning SQL. Although it’s not always feasible in today’s busy world, we recommend immersing yourself in a training course. While self-paced learning can be useful, throwing yourself in at the deep end will help develop and build your skills more quickly.
Can I learn SQL on my own?
Yes, you can learn SQL on your own! To make the journey as painless as possible, though, you may benefit from additional resources to help. While many certifications come with supplementary articles and learning resources included, it never hurts to get a headstart. One popular resource is SQLBolt. This uses step-by-step tutorials in a simple, browser-based environment alongside practical, interactive tasks to help you learn the basics.
We also recommend bookmarking the SQL page on the W3Schools website. W3Schools has been helping people learn to code online since the 90s, and SQL is no exception. It’s a great reference guide if you have any immediate questions (it’s also good for learning other languages like Python, Java, HTML, and more, if you’re interested).
Check out the following video to see what other programming languages Tom, our in-house data scientist, recommends for new learners:
4. Next steps
So there we have it! Our guide to 11 of the best SQL certifications for aspiring data analysts. Remember, if you’re new to the world of data and SQL, you might find our beginner SQL cheatsheet helpful, just to get the ball rolling. But rest assured: whatever your level of data analytics expertise, there’s a suitable certification for you. Get qualified today and you’ll soon be on your way to becoming a top SQL data analyst.
To learn more about SQL and the skills you need to succeed in data analytics, why not enroll in this free, 5-day Data Analytics Short Course? Alternatively, check out the following guides: