SQL Career Skills (With Definition And Tips To Improve)

Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 30 September 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Programmers use structured query language (SQL) to store, manipulate and retrieve data from databases. Professionals who are skilled in SQL work in a variety of positions, such as database administrators, database developers, data scientists, data analysts and database engineers. If you are interested in working with SQL, you can benefit from knowing the technical skills and soft skills required for the relevant job roles. In this article, we discuss various SQL career skills, review some examples, find out how to develop these skills and look at some ways to highlight them during a job search.

What Are SQL Career Skills?

SQL career skills are a combination of hard skills and soft skills that professionals use on the job or to advance their careers. Professionals working with SQL develop databases for web applications and data storage. They also ensure the accuracy, security and efficiency of databases by testing and troubleshooting them.

Professionals working in this field may specialise in software development, operating systems, data structures, algorithms, big data, server management and database management as part of a four-year degree programme in computer science or information science. Additional certification courses allow graduates to learn and improve the skills they need for this career.

Related: What Is SQL? Definition And Benefits

Examples Of SQL Skills

Below are some examples of hard skills and soft skills needed by SQL professionals:

Hard skills

Here are some hard skills required for a job in this field:

Database management

The ability to manage databases helps you create backups of a company's data in case the original database becomes damaged or corrupted. A solid understanding of database design and database software is also necessary to create efficient, secure and low-storage databases. Having good database management skills allows you to take part in short-term and long-term database projects that involve processes, such as distributed databases, transaction management, data warehousing and system analysis.

SQL join skills

By using SQL Joins clauses, programmers can combine sets of data based on values that are common to each set. SQL Joins allow you to combine data from multiple tables across many databases, making it easier for you to analyse the merged data. With the help of Joins clauses, it is possible to combine data more quickly and execute queries faster compared to other methods, such as sub-queries.

OLAP skills

Online analytical processing (OLAP) database analyses data in a way that is faster and more innovative compared to traditional database systems. It can handle complex data-driven calculations and is optimal for querying and reporting. Having a good understanding of OLAP helps you better interpret the business data. By using OLAP, you can easily perform business reporting for a variety of purposes, such as sales, marketing, budgeting and forecasting.

Data analysis

SQL helps data analysts interpret both structured and unstructured data that is stored in relational databases. The process comprises fetching data from company databases with SQL queries, analysing the data with programming and providing insights with visualisation tools. Analysis of historical data allows analysts to identify patterns and trends that help management make informed business decisions.


A troubleshooting process involves analysing and fixing any type of problem within an application or machine. Professionals in this field are responsible for maintaining company databases, monitoring database performance, troubleshooting back-end issues and outages and managing databases for multiple projects. Configuring hardware and software systems and troubleshooting database compatibility issues are also significant aspects of the role.

Soft skills

Here are some soft skills required for a job in this field:

Problem-solving abilities

While working with SQL, professionals may encounter problems related to database security, resource consumption, query optimisation and database size. Professionals with problem-solving skills can analyse these issues and provide adequate solutions. They may also use problem-solving skills to identify and implement strategies that enhance an organisation's IT infrastructures, such as improving disaster recovery strategies, developing best practices for database design and development, improving memory management and accurately documenting database applications.

Related: Problem-Solving Skills: Definitions And Examples

Communication skills

This field often requires professionals to present findings to non-technical clients and management. Excellent communication skills enable you to deliver this information so that they can make informed decisions. You may also work with people from different disciplines as a part of a larger project to develop and maintain database systems based on client requirements. Communicating effectively helps you establish trust among colleagues, improve teamwork and foster a positive work environment.

Organisational skills

The role requires documenting common errors, database performance issues, software and hardware incompatibilities, upgrades and configuration changes. These comprehensive documents help new users and IT staff gain a solid understanding of the working of a company's systems and databases. SQL practitioners require effective organisational skills to maintain accurate documentation of the systems and databases they manage.

Related: Organisational Skills: Definition And Examples

Time management

Working in this field requires performing multiple tasks, such as supporting back-end systems and database security for long-term projects and troubleshooting everyday problems. An effective time management strategy helps professionals organise their work well and complete tasks on time. By prioritising tasks, creating to-do lists, checking progress and delegating tasks, they can effectively manage their time.

Related: Time Management Skills: Definition And Examples

How To Improve SQL Skills

Follow these steps if you want to improve your skills:

1. Get certified

Most employers expect professionals in this field to be certified in their areas of expertise. Some relevant certification courses are:

  • Oracle Database SQL Certified Associate Certification

  • IBM Certified Database Associate

  • EDB PostgreSQL 12 Associate Certification

  • MySQL 5.7 Database Administrator Certification

Enhance your credibility by including certifications on your resume.

Related: SQL Query Interview Questions For Freshers And Experienced Candidates (With Sample Answers)

2. Stay updated

Update your knowledge of the latest technologies and research areas. Here are some ways you can stay current with the latest developments:

  • Reading research papers and journals

  • Attending workshops, live events and seminars

  • Following other professionals and industry experts

  • Learning programming languages such as Python, R, C#, Java and Power BI alongside SQL

  • Stayed updated on new releases to the existing database systems

  • Completing mini-projects

3. Focus on your soft skills

Apart from technical proficiency, companies seek candidates who can collaborate well with others and foster a positive work environment. Other soft skills include communication, leadership, problem-solving and teamwork. Here are some ways you can improve them:

  • Practising active learning

  • Pursuing additional courses to improve your communication skills

  • Building positive relationships in the workplace

  • Adapting to workplace changes

  • Emphasising teamwork

  • Asking for feedback and making improvements

Related: Soft Skills: Definitions And Examples

SQL Skills At The Workplace

The ability to demonstrate your skills at the workplace helps you gain the credibility and trust of your colleagues and managers. Listed below are some ways to present your skills at the workplace:

  • Make recommendations. You can recommend improving the existing database systems and database security by proposing innovative solutions that reduce costs and improve efficiency and performance. This shows that you are up-to-date with the current technology and industry trends.

  • Conduct training sessions. You can conduct sessions to share recent developments in the field, such as hosting SQL databases in the cloud and updates to existing frameworks. This shows that you are eager to learn new things and share your knowledge with others in the team.

  • Propose unique solutions. By identifying a unique solution to a problem or an alternative method to accomplish something, you can demonstrate your creative problem-solving skills.

  • Accept challenging projects. A challenging project can help you strengthen your technical skills, collaborate with people from different backgrounds, propose creative solutions and contribute to an organisation's growth.

Related: Top 50 SQL Server Interview Questions With Example Answers

Ways To Highlight SQL Skills

Here are some ways you can highlight your technical skills and soft skills during your application process:

On a resume

You can begin by listing your skills in the professional summary section of your resume. This helps the interviewer gain a better understanding of your background and work experience. When describing your work experience, mention how you used your skills to achieve goals in the past. Include a separate section to mention your technical skills, such as knowledge of operating systems, troubleshooting back-end issues, database security, database design and maintenance and database server management.

Review the job description to ensure you add skills and include specific keywords that the employer may look for when screening resumes.

Related: Best Font For Resume: How To Choose Type And Size

In a cover letter

In your cover letter, mention how you used your skills to achieve your objectives in your previous roles. As an example, you can mention how you successfully defragmented multiple large databases and optimised SQL queries to improve the database performance by 60%. Explain how you plan to achieve similar results for the company for which you are applying. Through this, you can clearly demonstrate to potential employers that you understand their mission, challenges and goals and are eager to contribute to the organisation's growth.

During an interview

As part of your job interview, the interviewer may ask you questions related to your past work experience. Mention how you applied your technical skills to solve problems at your previous companies. For example, you could mention how you proposed data modelling techniques and database design strategies that reduced production costs by 20%. This helps the interviewer assess if you are a suitable candidate for the job role.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in the article are associated with Indeed.

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