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How To Become an SQL Developer Where To Start in 2023
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How To Become an SQL Developer: Where To Start in 2024

10 minute read | April 28, 2023
Sakshi Gupta

Written by:
Sakshi Gupta

Ready to launch your career?

With the increasing amount of data that companies store today, database management has become all the more important. SQL developers—the tech professionals who build databases—have become key to these efforts, and are increasingly in demand. 

Being an SQL developer requires a specific set of skills that isn’t easy to come by. SQL development requires its own, idiosyncratic language, and managing a database requires a broad set of skills. 

So how does one go about becoming an SQL developer? This guide is a great place to start. Below, we’ll outline eight steps that you can take to launch a career in SQL development. 

What Does an SQL Developer Do?

SQL developers use Structured Query Language to build databases. They apply their skills to tasks like database design, database architecture, and optimizing database performance. SQL developers often do so with the help of a database administrator, business analysts, and other software professionals. 

Is It Hard To Become an SQL Developer?

Becoming an SQL developer is well within your reach if you methodically acquire the requisite technical skills and apply them to increasingly complex practical problems. It’s also important to keep up with ever-evolving database technologies and ETL tools.

How To Become an SQL Developer: An Eight-Step Guide

How To Become an SQL Developer An Eight-Step Guide

Follow these eight steps to launch your career in SQL development:

  1. Learn the Fundamentals

  2. Meet the Educational Requirements (and Continue Learning)

  3. Hone the Essential Skills

  4. Remember: Practice Makes Perfect

  5. Create a Strong Portfolio

  6. Start Developing Your Network

  7. Pursue an Internship

  8. Work Towards the Job You Want

Learn the Fundamentals

Start by getting familiar with relational databases, a kind of database in which all of the data points are related to each other in some way—each row in the table represents a record and the columns represent individual data attributes. Then, you can move on to studying how SQL is used to construct these databases. Once you understand how SQL databases work theoretically, then it’s time to start learning how to write queries to create databases and carry out specific manipulations on its data. 

Meet the Educational Requirements (and Continue Learning)

Here are some of the most common educational paths for learning SQL: 

University Degree

You can pick up foundational database developer skills by completing a degree in computer science or information technology. There are also graduate degrees that focus on database development skills, although that’s usually not a requirement to land a job. The university route is a dependable one but it is also time and resource intensive. 

Bootcamp

Bootcamps are a great alternative to university degrees. They’re more affordable and some bootcamps, like those from Springboard, come with a job guarantee. So whereas the university path takes multiple years and several unrelated classes, bootcamps allow you to become job ready in a matter of months. 

Resources for Continuous Learning

There are various advanced courses that you can take to fill in the gaps in your education. Here are some of the most popular options for this:

Online Courses

Online courses are often interactive and allow you to pick up practical skills quickly. Check out this list of the 12 best SQL courses.

Books, Websites, and Blogs

SQL books are great for gaining a basic understanding of SQL. Make sure to choose a book that caters to your level of understanding of the subject and addresses any specific topics you’re working on. 

Websites and blogs are also great resources for continuous learning. SQLCourse, SQLZoo, and SQLBolt are all websites that you should peruse regularly to advance your technical knowledge. 

Follow Experts on Social Media

Social media is a great way to keep up with developments in SQL and database technology in general. Here are a few accounts to follow. 

Hone the Essential Skills

how to become a SQL developer, Hone the Essential Skills

If you want to work in SQL development, you’ll need a combination of technical and soft skills.

Technical Skills

The following are the technical skills required to make it as an SQL developer. 

Database Concepts

A broad understanding of database concepts is a fundamental skill for SQL developers. That means that you should have a grasp of things like creating database objects, database programming, and building database applications. You should also be able to run complex queries to efficiently retrieve or manipulate database items. 

Software Development and Programming

SQL developers play a role within a larger software development lifecycle. So it’s useful to know techniques like Scrum and Agile and how database developers fit into that process. 

It also helps to have a basic understanding of programming languages like Java, Python, and C++. This is because SQL programmers connect front-end applications and back-end database programming requirements. So you should have practical experience working with these technologies. 

Cloud Service Providers

Most of the work that SQL developers do nowadays is on a cloud platform like Amazon Web Services or Azure. For that reason, it’s important that you know how to set up database instances on the cloud and work within these cloud platforms on database management tasks. 

Soft Skills

The following soft skills are essential to succeed in your professional career as an SQL developer. 

Communication skills

Database development projects are a team effort, so SQL developers have to be able to communicate with network engineers, application developers, and project managers. 

Analytical Skills

Analytical skills come in handy with things like studying project requirements, optimizing database efficiency, and implementing data security measures. 

Remember: Practice Makes Perfect

Here are a few ways that you can gain hands-on experience as an SQL developer before you enter the professional world. 

Pursue Open-Source Projects

Open-source projects are a great way to dip your toes in the world of database development. You get to work on projects that have already been set up and executed by others, so you don’t have to work on things from scratch. You’ll also get an idea of how experienced professionals set up and maintain production environments. 

Participate in Hackathons

Hackathons force you to think about how you can apply your theoretical knowledge to real-world problems. Most of them will require you to work with a team, so you’ll also quickly learn the importance of collaboration and communication. Websites like SQLPad and HackerRank regularly organize challenges and hackathons that anyone can take part in. 

Find a Mentor

A mentor is someone who has extensive experience in the field and is eager to share it with you. You can approach experienced SQL developers in your network with a request for mentorship or reach out to them via LinkedIn. 

Create a Strong Portfolio

Recruiters love when candidates come to them with an existing portfolio of work. It’s evidence that you possess the skills that you’re looking for and have used them to solve real-world problems. 

Build Your GitHub Profile

GitHub is a must for anyone looking to land a job in the technology industry. It’s a platform where you can view the source code for other projects and figure out how they work. You can also contribute to projects that you’re interested in and point recruiters to your profile as evidence of your practical experience. 

Start Developing Your Network

Building a network can benefit young SQL developers in several ways. You can use your connections to learn more about the industry, find out about vacancies, and identify a mentor. Here are a few avenues to grow your network. 

LinkedIn

The one website that you should definitely start being active on is LinkedIn. The platform allows you to meet new people easily and build relationships in a seamless manner. Don’t forget to have your own profile up to date and post regularly so that your connections know about what you’re up to. 

Online Communities

You can use the following online communities to meet others who are working on SQL projects. 

Conferences and Meetups

Conferences like SQL Server Live provide SQL developers with an opportunity to attend keynotes and meet others who are passionate about database technology. Here’s a list of events for database developers that you can use to find one close to you.

Pursue an Internship

Internships are an opportunity to learn how SQL developers work within an organization. Interns are usually assigned small tasks and get to work on them with a full-time member of the team. Along with helping you pick up key skills, they’re also an opportunity to add valuable items to your portfolio. 

Get To Know Other Software Engineering Students

Rafael Alvarado

Rafael Alvarado

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Promise Morka

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Geraldo Gomes

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Work Towards the Job You Want

Take these steps to land your dream job: 

Polish Your Resume

A resume is your first impression, so make sure that your resume is well-formatted, uses crisp copy, and is relevant to the job. Make sure to check out our guide to creating a great tech resume

Practice Your Interview Skills and Prepare for Each Interview

You can practice your interview skills by having a friend or family member do mock interviews with you. Another option that you have is to record yourself delivering answers to standard SQL interview questions and rewatching them to gauge things like clarity, body language, and coherence.  

Consider Entry-Level Roles

Since you’re just starting out, you should look at different entry-level positions that are available to SQL developers in your area. Go through several job descriptions so that you get an idea of what hiring managers are looking for from their entry-level SQL developers. Reading job descriptions can also give you ideas for new tools or programming languages that you might want to work on. 

Career Transition to SQL Development: Where To Start

Here’s how you can go about transitioning to a career in SQL development:

Related Career Transition

Job roles like database manager, data analyst, and backend developer are all related to the SQL developer role. If you’re in such a position already, then you’ll have an easier time transitioning. Start by covering whatever new skills you need to pick up that are specific to the SQL developer role and check if you can make a lateral career transition within your company. 

Unrelated Career Transition

Getting into SQL development from an unrelated career is a more complicated process. You have to start by gaining a generic understanding of how software applications work. So take some time to learn about general software architectures and the basics of programming. Once you have that down, practice by writing queries and building portfolio projects. 

Becoming an SQL Developer: Real-Life Examples To Learn From

Jakub Romanowski

how to become a SQL developer, Jakub Romanowski

Jakub Romanowski used to be a TV journalist, but then decided to foray into a career in IT, and began to learn SQL. His story is an inspiring one because it shows how you can come from a completely different career and still make significant progress with database technology.

A Hackathon Story

how to become a SQL developer, Ninja Hustlers

As we noted earlier, hackathons can be a great way to test your skills as an SQL developer. The linked post is a story about how a budding SQL developer built an SQL project at a hackathon in collaboration with others in a similar stage of learning—her team called themselves the Ninja Hustlers. There’s plenty to learn from it about how to approach hackathons and how they can become a part of your learning journey.

How Much Can You Earn as an SQL Developer?

Let’s look at the salaries that you can command as an SQL developer at different stages of your career. 

Entry-Level

The average salary of SQL developers in the United States is $60,398 per year. 

how to become a SQL developer, Junior SQL developer salary

Mid-Level

The average salary of SQL developers in the United States is $97,266—that’s about where your salary will be as a mid-career professional in the industry. 

how to become a SQL developer, Mid-Level SQL developer salary

Senior Level

Senior SQL developers have an average annual salary of $107,759. 

how to become a SQL developer, Senior SQL developer salary

Resources To Find Jobs as an SQL Developer

Resources To Find Jobs as an SQL Developer

Here are a few ways you can find companies that are hiring SQL developers. 

Job Boards

Any job board that carries technology jobs will include jobs for SQL developers. That includes LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and Indeed

Network 

Networking locally is a great way to increase your chances of landing an SQL developer job. You can do so by attending data science or software engineering meetups, being active on LinkedIn, and letting friends and family know that you’re looking to land a job or internship as an SQL developer. 

Slack Communities

The following Slack communities provide young SQL developers with a way to keep up with what’s happening in the industry and find out about job opportunities. 

How To Become an SQL Developer FAQs

We’ve got the answers to your most frequently asked questions.

Are SQL Experts in Demand?

Yes, SQL experts are in demand. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, database administrator and architect roles will grow at a 9% rate between 2021 and 2031.

Can a Non-Tech Person Learn SQL?

Yes, non-tech people can learn SQL. There are many who transition into SQL developer roles from unrelated, non-tech careers. 

Can I Become an SQL Developer Without a Degree?

Yes, you can become an SQL developer without a degree. You can get an alternate education in this field by completing a bootcamp or self-learning using online resources. Make sure to complement that with building your own projects and crafting a strong resume.

Since you’re here…
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About Sakshi Gupta

Sakshi is a Managing Editor at Springboard. She is a technology enthusiast who loves to read and write about emerging tech. She is a content marketer with experience in the Indian and US markets.