SQL vs. MySQL: Differences, Similarities, Uses, and Benefits

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SQL and MySQL are used to program and manage relational databases. Learn more about the key differences between SQL and MySQL, and the skills you need for jobs using these database management tools.

[Featured Image]:  Data Analyst learning the basics of SQL and MySQL.

SQL and MySQL are database-related languages. While SQL is a programming language used to work with data in relational databases, MySQL is an open-source database product that implements the SQL standard. MySQL is generally faster and more efficient than other relational database management systems (RDBMS), so it is often the preferred choice for applications that require high performance.

In this article, you'll learn more about the SQL programming language, how MySQL is used, and some alternatives you might consider exploring. You'll also find a list of jobs that commonly use SQL and MySQL alongside suggested courses that can help you gain the job-relevant skills you need to excel in a data-oriented profession.

What exactly is SQL?  

SQL stands for Structured Query Language, designed specifically for interacting with relational databases. SQL is a language for storing, manipulating, and retrieving data in relational database management systems. You can use the SQL language to modify and create tables in the database, insert new data, modify existing data, delete data from the tables, and query those tables for specific information. 

SQL is the preferred language for most relational database management systems, including Oracle, MySQL, PostgreSQL, Microsoft SQL Server, and IBM DB2.

IBM developed SQL in the late 1970s. It has been standardized since 1986 by ANSI (American National Standards Institute). Many other vendors have implemented their versions of SQL that are compatible with each other and are like dialects of SQL.

What exactly is MySQL?  

MySQL is a relational database management system. You use it to store data in tables, and the rows of those tables can be related to each other by common information in the columns. The basic idea is that you have one or more "tables" (or "databases") and a set of rows (records) and columns (fields). Other elements, like keys and indexes, help you define them further.

MySQL is a database management system used in web applications, which is available for Linux, Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, and Solaris. MySQL comes with many web hosting packages. You can download MySQL Server software, pronounced “my sequel,” from the official website.

Read more: SQL JOIN Types Explained

How do you use SQL with MySQL?

SQL works with many different database systems, so it's not specific to MySQL, but it's a language to know if you want to use MySQL. SQL is also the default query language used by MySQL, so it's easy to learn how to use MySQL without having to learn another language too.

Relational databases store data in tables composed of rows and columns, in which each row represents an item or record, and each column represents a property of that item. 

For example, if you have a database of people, the table might contain columns named "first_name," "last_name," and "address," where each row represents a person, and the values stored in each column are related to each item.

As a result, SQL allows MySQL users to effectively query and operate their databases.

SQL helps you write queries to:

• Select specific rows from a table (in other words, just get some data)

• Insert new rows into tables (add new records)

• Update existing records

• Delete existing records from tables (delete existing records)


Can you use SQL with other databases?

Yes, you can use SQL with databases other than MySQL.

The SQL language is an ANSI/ISO standard that any database can implement. Many programmers use SQL to manipulate data stored in PostgreSQL, Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, and others.

Do all databases use SQL?

No, the alternative to SQL is NoSQL, which stands for "Not Only SQL." While SQL excels for relational databases housing structured data, NoSQL is suitable for unstructured data and big data.  NoSQL databases use different data models and query languages than relational databases. Recently, NoSQL databases have gained popularity because they are easier and often more cost-effective to scale than SQL databases.

Some people think that NoSQL databases are always better than relational databases. However, there are still many uses for relational databases, such as if you want to store complex relationships between items.

Read more: SQL vs. NoSQL: The Differences Explained + When to Use Each

Other database technologies that use SQL

Other database management systems are also worth considering for your next project. Many of these database systems offer features that MySQL doesn't have or are easier to use in certain situations than MySQL. Here are some alternatives to MySQL:

  • PostgreSQL: This open-source database is a robust, high-performance object-relational system. With more than 30 years of relentless improvement and architecture that has proven reliability, data integrity, and accessibility, PostgreSQL has earned a strong reputation.

A worldwide group of volunteers develops PostgreSQL, released under the terms of the PostgreSQL License, similar to BSD and MIT licenses.

  • SQLite: SQLite is a standalone, client-side library implementing a transactional, serverless, zero-configuration SQL database engine. The source code you’ll discover here has both core library and example applications you can test.

  • MariaDB: MariaDB is an alternative to MySQL. MariaDB works with your existing applications and doesn't require any database changes.

  • Oracle Server (Procedural Language/SQL): Oracle Server is part of Oracle's family of enterprise software products. It provides database services for applications running on Linux or Solaris platforms and Windows Server 2008 R2 or later versions on x64 processors.

    What exactly is Microsoft SQL Server?

    Microsoft SQL Server uses the SQL Server database engine Windows Server. It is used by many business applications and other software programs.

    SQL Server is one of a family of database management systems (DBMS) from Microsoft. The other DBMS products in this family are Azure SQL Database, which provides hosted relational database services, and Azure Analysis Services, which provides in-memory analytics capabilities for business intelligence applications.


Learning SQL and MySQL: What you need to know

To get started with SQL and MySQL, you’ll need to learn basic knowledge about databases and the relational model. While most people can learn the basics in less than a day, it takes more time to use SQL and MySQL proficiently. At a glance, here's what you can expect to learn on your SQL and MySql journey:

1. Learn the basics of relational databases.

Three main areas make up SQL functionality: data definition (creating tables), data manipulation (adding new rows or changing existing ones), and data retrieval (getting information out of a table). These are known as:


  • Data Definition Language (DDL)

  • Data Manipulation Language (DML)

  • Data Control Language (DCL)

By learning to do these three types of activity, you can start generating data reports, building applications, and analyzing data. You can also learn other languages to interact with relational databases, such as Php, Java, C++, and Perl.

2. Familiarize yourself with key terminology.

You’ll discover a lot of terminologies used in the world of SQL and MySQL. Here are some fundamental terms to learn to grasp the technology quickly.

Database (fields, tables)

A database is a collection of information. Databases can be structured or unstructured.

The most common examples of databases are MS Access, SQL Server, Oracle, MySQL, and PostgreSQL.

Relational database RDBMS

Relational database management systems (RDBMS) are integrated software packages that provide you with the ability to store and manipulate data in a relational format. This means that you can make links between records to relate them together. For example, Microsoft Access and MySQL are both Relational DBMSs.

Storage engine

The storage engine is technology in a database that manages how data gets stored on a disk. MySQL's four most commonly used storage engines are MyISAM, InnoDB, MERGE, and MEMORY. 

Open source

An open-source license is a copyright license for computer software that allows users to use the source code freely, modify, and redistribute it. A core idea in open-source software development is the production by an online community of developers. Open-source software often evolves in a collaborative, public manner.

Database queries

Database queries get data from the database. With MySQL, you can write them using Structured Query Language (SQL). SQL is a language that directly interacts with the database without using any third-party tools or programming languages.

3. Gain the right skills.

The combination of SQL and MySQL provides a powerful way to store and interact with data. Here are some of the skills you’ll learn as you start your journey with relational databases: 

SQL skills: 

  • Understand how to write queries to extract data from a database.

  • Understand how to join tables together for analysis purposes.

  • Understand statement syntax to manipulate databases.

  • Know a coding language for UX design.

MySQL skills: 

  • Understand how to install and configure MySQL.

  • Know how to create databases, users, tables, and views within those databases.

  • Know how to populate tables with data.

  • Understand the basics of SQL syntax so you can write queries against your database.

  • Understand what privileges exist within MySQL so you can assign them appropriately.

  • Know how to manage permissions so users can only access what they need.

What jobs use SQL and MySQL?

The SQL language performs various functions and helps people in many different job roles. Here are just some of the jobs that use SQL and MySQL along with their base annual pay, according to Glassdoor:

  • Database administrator: $78,837 [1]

  • Database and systems administrator: $89,037 [2]

  • Database developer: $81,083 [3]

  • Data analyst: $67,147 [4]

  • Business intelligence developer: $91,529 [5]

  • Data warehouse architect: $114,248 [6]

  • Data warehouse analyst: $81,010 [7]

  • Data warehouse manager: $111,306 [8]

  • Business systems analyst: $81,510 [9]

  • Business intelligence developer/analysts: $93,036 [10]

Read more: SQL Developer Salary Guide: What to Expect in 2023

Want to start learning SQL and MySQL?

SQL and MySQL lie at the heart of many businesses' data storage and analysis efforts. If you're interested in a career working with relational databases, then you might consider taking a cost-effective, online course or specialization through Coursera. In Google's Data Analytics Professional Certificate learn how to process and analyze data, use key analysis tools, apply SQL and R programming, and create visualizations that can inform key business decisions.

Article sources


Glassdoor. “How much does a data administrator make?, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/us-database-administrator-salary-SRCH_IL.0,2_IN1_KO3,25.htm.” Accessed January 4, 2023.

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