What is SQL Used For?

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What is SQL Used For?

Saumya Rastogi
Last updated on July 9, 2022

    SQL is an acronym for Structured Query Language. It is a language to interact with relational databases. Well, a database is a well-organized collection of data that you can store and retrieve electronically from a computer system. Meanwhile, a relational database is something that organizes and stores data in the form of tables, i.e., rows and columns.

    Structured Query Language (SQL), often pronounced as ess-kew-ell or sequel, is the standard language for accessing and managing data stored in relational database management systems (RDBMS). It is capable of performing various operations, including creating a database, view, table, or procedure, storing and retrieving data, and inserting a new record, deleting a record, and updating an existing record.

    Donald D. Chamberlin and Raymond F. Boyce developed SQL at IBM in the 1970s after learning the relational model proposed by E.F. Codd. However, they first developed SQUARE (Specifying Queries in A Relational Environment), which leverages subscript/superscript notation, and hence, was difficult to use. Later, they developed SEQUEL and renamed it SQL.

    Later in 1986, SQL became the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard and in 1987, the standard of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

    Since its inception, SQL has been a popular query language used in various domains, including data science, finance, and marketing. Not only is SQL beneficial for technical teams but also for non-technical teams.

    Well, in this article, we shall discuss what exactly SQL is used for. Also, we shall walk you through some reasons for the popularity of SQL and some job roles that require individuals to have SQL expertise.

    So, let us get started without wasting time!

    Why is SQL Popular?

    Here are some reasons why SQL is still a popular query language:

    1. Universal Language

    SQL is a universal language for all relational database management systems (RDBMS). This means that for all relational databases, you can use the basic SQL commands, including CREATE, INSERT, DELETE, and UPDATE. Though each DBMS has a different query language, for instance, SQL Server leverages TL/SQL and Oracle uses PL/SQL, the basic SQL queries for all RDBMS will be the same. Hence, SQL is a universal language.

    2. Easy to Learn and Open-Source

    SQL is open-source; hence, it has a huge community of developers. In addition, it is easy to learn since it uses English-like sentences in queries, such as CREATE, DELETE, INSERT, and UPDATE. The column names and table names are also lengthy so that anyone can understand what kind of data they contain.

    Due to its open-source nature and ease of learning, SQL is among the most popular query languages.

    3. Manage Millions of Rows

    Many of us might have worked with traditional spreadsheets to manage data. However, those spreadsheets can handle only small or medium-sized data sets. But for large datasets to be stored and managed efficiently, SQL is an ideal choice. It has the ability to retrieve huge heaps of data, whether they contain 1,000 records or 10 million records.

    Relational databases store and manage millions of records without the fear of crashing, as might happen with spreadsheets when storing a huge amount of data in them. Also, with just a single SQL query, it is possible to retrieve multiple records from one or more tables of a relational database.

    What is SQL Used For?

    Let us now discuss some dynamic uses of SQL in today’s era.

    1. Relational Databases

    One of the most fundamental uses of SQL can be observed in relational databases. SQL is the only way to manage and manipulate data stored in all the relational databases, including Oracle, SQL Server, MySQL, PostgreSQL, and MariaDB. With SQL, it is possible to perform various operations on relational databases, as follows:

    • Create and drop a database, view, table, or stored procedure .
    • Insert new data into a database.
    • Delete existing data from a database.
    • Modify the data stored in a database.
    • Execute various queries on a database.
    • Set permissions on tables, views, databases, and procedures.

    2. Basic Operations in Relational Databases

    In order to communicate with relational databases and perform various tasks and functions, SQL commands come in handy. There are five different types of SQL commands, each one having its own specific function. These commands are as follows:

    • Data Definition Language (DDL)

    DDL commands in SQL are responsible for modifying the structure of a database and table. The following are different DDL commands:

    • CREATE: It creates a new database and table.
    • DROP: It deletes the entire structure of a table or database, along with the records stored in it.
    • ALTER: It modifies the structure of a database or table.
    • RENAME: It renames the old name of a database, table, or column to a new name.
    • TRUNCATE: It deletes all the records from a table but retains its structure.
    • Data Manipulation Language (DML)

    When we need to modify the data stored in relational databases, DML commands come in handy. The following are the different DML commands:

    • INSERT: It lets you insert a new record into a table.
    • UPDATE: You can update any existing record in a table.
    • DELETE: It enables you to permanently delete any record from a table.
    • Data Control Language( DCL)

    When you want to set permissions to a database, you can use the DCL commands. There are two DCL commands, as follows:

    • GRANT: Use this SQL command to grant a specific user the right to access a database.
    • REVOKE: This command lets you take back the authority of a user to access a database.
    • Data Query Language (DQL)

    When you want to retrieve data from a database, you can leverage the DQL command, i.e., SELECT.

    3. Transaction Control in Databases

    Another primary use of SQL in relational databases is to manage and control the transactions taking place in a database in order to maintain a database in compliance with the ACID properties. ACID stands for Atomicity, Consistency, Isolation, and Durability.

    For controlling transactions in relational databases, SQL provides three different commands, namely COMMIT, ROLLBACK, and SAVEPOINT. More importantly, you can use these commands only with the DML commands because DDL, DCL, and DQL commands are auto-committed.

    4. Union and Join

    With SQL union, it is possible to combine the result sets of two or more different SELECT statements. It removes all the duplicate rows from the combined result and displays a single distinct result set.

    On the other hand, SQL joins are used to retrieve rows from multiple tables with a related column between them. In simple terms, SQL join lets you combine the rows of two or more tables by leveraging the common values in both.

    5. Websites

    Websites that deal with a vast amount of data associated with users, products, and services, definitely use databases. In order to manage that data, they use SQL as a query language. Each website requires its own database to store the information of its users and to manage that data, using SQL is the standard way.

    One such type of a website that deals with a large amount of user data is IRCTC. It stores user data in its database and manages it using SQL. Not only IRCTC but also all other booking websites leverage SQL to manage the data stored in their databases.

    6. Data Science and Analytics

    The data science and data analytics processes heavily rely on enormous amounts of data to extract hidden trends and patterns and derive meaningful insights. Many organizations still leverage relational databases to store humungous data sets, and data scientists and data analysts use simple SQL queries to manage those data sets.

    Data filtering is one of the most popular uses of SQL in data science and data analytics. In order to set a criterion to filter the data from a database, it offers a "WHERE" clause. Apart from this, SQL lets you perform various operations with data sets, such as slicing, aggregation, indexing, etc.

    7. Machine Learning

    Like data scientists and data analysts, machine learning engineers also deal with tremendous amounts of data sets to train and build accurate machine learning models. The best example of the use of SQL in machine learning is BigQuery ML. It is a toolset that helps ML engineers in creating and implementing ML models using standard SQL queries.

    Job Roles That Need SQL Expertise

    The following are some job roles that need you to possess a profound knowledge of SQL:

    • Data Scientist

    A data scientist is an IT specialist who works exclusively with extracting massive amounts of data from diverse sources. They then examine the data and produce insightful findings that assist organizations in making more useful decisions. Data scientists always use SQL to work with the data and databases because they are at the center of their duties and responsibilities.

    If you aspire to become a data scientist but have no idea where to kick-start, you can check out here .

    • SEO Analyst

    An SEO Analyst’s roles and responsibilities revolve around analyzing data and optimizing websites’ content to boost organic traffic. As SEO analysts need to work with heaps of data, most of them leverage databases rather than excel documents to manage that data. They definitely require SQL to manage data when they work with databases.

    • Software Engineer

    Software engineers are IT professionals whose roles and responsibilities involve designing, developing, deploying, and maintaining software applications. Along with the knowledge of programming languages, they need to possess an in-depth understanding of SQL because it is a standard language for relational databases. They may come across various projects that require immense use of relational databases, and therefore, having SQL skills will help them manage those projects.

    • Business Analyst

    Business analysts are professionals whose roles and responsibilities involve analyzing business operations, products, systems, and services to improve the current processes and assisting them in making more informed decisions through insights. As their role is tied to data, they need to rely heavily on relational databases. So, having SQL expertise is essential for business analysts.


    Wherever there is a relational database, there is SQL. Without SQL, it is not possible for managing and manipulating data in relational database management systems. Simple SQL queries make the management of data quick and easy. So, if you aspire to have any job role that requires dealing with huge amounts of data sets, you need to learn SQL.

    If you want to learn and master SQL from scratch, check out the Best SQL Courses .

    People are also reading:


    The primary use of SQL is to store, retrieve, and manipulate data stored in relational database management systems.

    Business professionals, software developers, data scientists, data analysts, SEO analysts, machine learning engineers, and any other job role that requires working with relational databases leverage SQL.

    SQL is better than Excel because SQL enables you to manage large data sets efficiently with its simple queries.

    Yes, SQL is easy to learn because SQL queries mostly use simple English language that can be easily understood.

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