page title icon A Beginner’s Guide to Using SQL in Data Science

Click to learn more about author Ashok Sharma.

With the increasing hype of trends like AI and digital transformation, companies have become data-driven. They have started relying on data and analytics instead of gut feelings, and Data Science has emerged as a lucrative profession.

There are 2.72 million job openings for data scientists at present, and this demand will only go higher. If you also want to make a career in Data Science, this is the right time to upgrade your skills. Learning SQL is the first step in doing so.

SQL is a standard programming language that we use for managing and storing structured data. You can add, delete, or manipulate data faster using it. You can even refer to this article if you want to learn more about SQL and understand why it is widely preferred by businesses.

Why Is SQL Important in Data Science?

2.5 quintillion bytes are the amount of data we humans generate every day. However, none of this data is useful unless you can derive usable insights from it. Doing so will require extracting, processing, and analyzing tons of data, which is impossible unless you have tools that can help you manage and store this amount of data.

This is where SQL comes into play. The
language is fast and comprehensible. It is designed in such a way that it
doesn’t appear much different from the English language to read and write.

Hence, you can use SQL to store, access,
and extract massive amounts of data so that you can smoothly carry out Data Science

Getting Started with SQL

SQL Commands

SQL has a simple set of commands to modify
data tables. Here are some of them:

  • CREATE DATABASE: Used for creating a new database
  • CREATE TABLE: Used for creating a new table
  • INSERT INTO: Used for inserting new data into a database
  • SELECT: Usedforselecting data from a database
  • UPDATE: Used forupdating
    data in a database
  • DELETE: Used fordeleting
    data from a database
  • ALTER DATABASE: Used formodifying
    a database
  • ALTER TABLE: Used formodifying
    a table
  • DROP TABLE: Used for deleting a table
  • CREATE INDEX: Used for creating an index to search an element
  • DROP INDEX: Used for deleting an index

SQL Data Types

We specify the type of data we are
inserting into the SQL database table with the help of a SQL data type.
Following are the data types used in SQL.

1. Numeric Data Types

Signed and unsigned integers fall into the
category of numeric data types. For example, the number 1 is a numeric data
type, and so is the number -20.

We can further divide numeric data types
into two categories:

  1. Exact numeric in which we store the value as the exact
    representation of the value of that number
  2. Approximate numeric in which we store values in the form of
    float (p), Real, and double precision

The following tables explain both data types very well:

2. Character String Data Types

Character string data types allow
characters of fixed and variable lengths in the database table. For example,
the name “Data Science” is a character string data type.

The following table explains the character string data types:

Unicode character string data types also fall under the category of character data types. They allow the consistent representation and handling of text in most writing systems of the world.

3. Binary Data Types

The sequences of octets or bytes fall under
the category of a binary data type. In them, we store raw bytes as opposed to
character string data types that are appropriate for storing text and numeric
data types that store integers.

This table explains the binary data types:

4. Date and Time Data Types

The date and time data type allows you to
store important dates and times in different formats. For example, we can also
save the date 15-August-1947 as August 15, 1947 and 15-08-1947.

To learn more about Date and Time Data types, refer to the following table:

5. Miscellaneous Data Types 

The miscellaneous data types fall under neither of the above categories. The following table explains these data types very well:

Installing MySQL

Installing MySQL is the first step to
getting started with SQL, and the process is easy. Just follow a series of
simple steps mentioned below.

Step 1: Visit the MySQL official website and scroll down until you see the option to choose the operating system. Since I am using Windows 10, I will select Windows.

Step 2: You will see two download options: mysql-installer-web-community and mysql-installer-community. If you have a rich internet connection, you can choose the former. Otherwise, you should select the latter.

Step 3: Clicking the download button will redirect you to this page:

Choose No thanks, just start my download,and the MySQL installer will start downloading.

Step 4: Once the MySQL installer is installed, double click on it. The MySQL installer community will install, and you will see this screen:

Check “I
accept the license terms”
and click Next.

The next screen will prompt you to select the setup type. From here, you can choose
which features to install and which not.

I will choose the option Full as it will allow me to install
all the products like MySQL Server, MySQL Shell, MySQL Router, MySQL Workbench,
and MySQL Connectors along with the documentation, samples, and examples.

Once you have selected a setup type, click Next.

After you have clicked Next on the previous screen, chances are some features may fail to install due to requirement mismatch. You can either resolve these issues or skip them by clicking on Next. I prefer to skip them.

Click Next, and you will see the following confirmation:

Click Yes, and the list of products that are being installed will appear in front of you. If the list has all the products you need, click Execute. The products will begin installing.

Once the installation is complete, click Next.

Server Configuration

The next step is to configure the MySQL
server. Following are the steps for doing so.

Step 1: Click Next in the following dialog box.

Step 2: Choose from Standalone MySQL Replication and InnoDB Cluster based on your requirements on the next screen. I will choose the former. Once selected, click Next.

Step 3: The next screen will prompt you to choose a server configuration type and select how you would like to connect to this server. I would suggest you leave everything as it is and click Next.

Step 4: In the next screen, you have to choose the authentication method. Here, I will select the first option and click Next.

Step 5: Choose a MySQL Root password, and click Next.

Step 6: Select whether you want to configure MySQL as a Windows Service or not. Here, I am going to leave settings as they are and click Next.

A list of configurations will appear on the next screen. If you agree with them, click Execute.

Once the execution is done, click Finish. This will finish the MySQL server configuration.

Step 7: On the next screen, you will see a screen asking you to configure the router. Click Finish.

Step 8: The next screen will prompt you to connect to the server. Enter the root password that you have set up in the previous steps and click Next.

Then, check if the connection is successful
by clicking the Check button. If it
is successful, click Execute. Once
the configuration is complete, click

Step 9: Choose the configuration you want to apply and click Execute.

After the configuration is complete, the following screen will appear in front of you. Click Finish.

Checking Whether MySQL Was Installed or

To check whether MySQL was installed on your PC or not, open the MySQL shell and enter the root password. This screen will appear if MySQL installs successfully.

Basic SQL Functions

1. Creating a SQL Database

A SQL database is where you will store data
in a structured format. The following are the commands to create a SQL database
using MySQL:



Here, the CREATE DATABASE command will create the database College, and the command USE will
activate it.

We always writeSQL commands in capital letters and terminate them by a semi-colon.

2. Creating a Table with Required Data Features

The command for creating a table is as easy
as creating a database. The only difference is that you will also have to
define the variables or data features with their respective data types. Here is
the command:

Course_name TEXT, Course_code INTEGER, Fee INTEGER);

In this SQL command:

  • The CREATE TABLE command will create a
    table called Course.
  • The table
    has four features Course_ID, Course_name, Course_code, and Fee.
  • Each
    variable has its respective data types.
  • Course_ID
    is the primary key.

You can check the details of the table by using the command DESCRIBE Course;

3. Inserting Data into the Table

The next step after creating a table is to
fill it with some values. Following is the command for doing that:

INTO Course VALUES (NULL, “Public Speaking”, 101, 2500);

INTO Course VALUES (NULL, “Leadership Development”, 102, 2000);

INTO Course VALUES (NULL, “Planning and Strategy”, 103, 3000);

Here, we inserted five values into the
table course by using the INSERT INTO
command. We also specified each value.

We set the variable Course_ID to
NULL because it auto-increments from 1.

You can view the final result by using the command Select * from Course;

4. Modifying the Data Entries

What if you want to change the Fee for a
course in the table? You can use the following command in that case:

Course SET Fee = 4000 WHERE Course_ID=1;

Doing so will update the price of the first
course, i.e., Public Speaking, from 2500 to 4000. You can modify other data
entries in the same way.

Once done, you can view the updated table:


6. Retrieving Data

SQL also allows you to extract and retrieve
data according to your business requirements. Following is the command you will
need to use:


In the case of the table we have created,
we can use this command as:

* FROM Course LIMIT 2;

This will retrieve data from the first two rows in the table.

Here is another command:


It will show all the values from the table in ascending order of the price variable.

Joining Rows in SQL

Till now, we have only covered the basic
functions in SQL that are appropriate if you are managing and storing data in
small databases. However, what if the database is too big? Retrieving data will
be difficult in that case.

You can resolve this issue by using the JOIN clause. Using it, you can combine
rows from two or more tables based on a similar column between them.

There are four types of joins in SQL:

  • (INNER)
  • LEFT

These diagrams explain each join in detail:

SQL Commands for Joining Two Table Rows
Using the JOIN Clause

Following are the commands for joining two table rows using the JOIN clause:


columns FROM
table1 INNER JOIN table2 ON table1.column=table2.column;


SELECT columns FROM table1 LEFT [OUTER] JOIN table2 ON table1.column=table2.column;


SELECT columns FROM table1 RIGHT [OUTER] JOIN table2 ON table1.column=table2.column;


SELECT columns FROM table1 FULL [OUTER] JOIN table2 ON table1.column=table2.column;

You can refer to this link if you want to dig deeper into SQL Joins and understand them with the help of suitable examples.

It is also possible to join only the first
row in two SQL tables. Doing so proves helpful in scenarios when we are aiming
for specific searches, but complexities are involved.

For example, let’s assume you are preparing
a report in which you need a list of students and the most recent course in
which each student has enrolled. We have two tables Course and Students, and each
student has taken many courses.

How will you retrieve the desired results from the database in such a case? Joining only the first row of the SQL table is the best solution to this problem. In case you are wondering how, here are four of the best ways to join the first row in SQL.


The demand for Data Science and six sigma jobs is at an all-time high in 2020. Both are one of the most promising careers in terms of job satisfaction, average salary, and growth opportunities. If you want to excel in these fields, learning SQL is the first step.

This guide has given you an overview of
everything you need to know for getting started with using SQL in Data Science.
But it’s just the beginning. MySQL is an entire universe in itself. I would
recommend you either enroll in an online course or get your hands on your old

Also, SQL is all about practice. The more
you do it on your own, the more you will learn. So, keep learning and keep
practicing. Best of luck!

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