SQL for Data Scientists
By Saeed Mirshekari

June 15, 2024

Getting Started with SQL for Data Scientists

Welcome to the world of data manipulation and analysis with SQL! As a data scientist, mastering SQL is essential for querying, analyzing, and extracting insights from vast datasets stored in relational databases. In this comprehensive guide, we'll take you through the fundamentals of SQL, from basic queries to advanced techniques, empowering you to leverage the power of SQL in your data science projects. Whether you're new to SQL or looking to enhance your skills, this guide will provide you with the knowledge and resources needed to become proficient in SQL for data science.

Introduction to SQL

SQL, or Structured Query Language, is a powerful programming language used for managing and manipulating relational databases. It provides a standardized way to interact with databases, allowing users to perform tasks such as querying data, modifying database structures, and managing database permissions. SQL is widely used in data science for tasks such as data exploration, data cleaning, and data analysis.


Getting started with SQL is easy, as it typically comes pre-installed with most relational database management systems (RDBMS) such as MySQL, PostgreSQL, and SQLite. Alternatively, you can install a standalone SQL interpreter like SQLite or use online platforms like SQLFiddle or db<>fiddle for practice.

Basic Concepts

Data Definition Language (DDL)

DDL is used to define the structure of the database, including creating and modifying database objects such as tables, indexes, and constraints. Common DDL commands include CREATE, ALTER, and DROP.

Data Manipulation Language (DML)

DML is used to manipulate data stored in the database, including inserting, updating, deleting, and querying data. Common DML commands include SELECT, INSERT, UPDATE, and DELETE.

Data Control Language (DCL)

DCL is used to control access to the database, including granting and revoking privileges to users. Common DCL commands include GRANT and REVOKE.

Querying Data

The SELECT statement is used to retrieve data from one or more tables in the database. It allows users to specify which columns to retrieve, filter rows based on conditions, and sort the results.

Building Your First Query

Let's dive into a practical example to demonstrate how to query data using SQL. We'll use a sample database containing information about employees and their salaries.

Step 1: Connect to the Database

-- Connect to the database
sqlite3 employees.db

Step 2: Retrieve Data

-- Retrieve all columns from the employees table
SELECT * FROM employees;

Step 3: Filter Data

-- Retrieve employees earning more than $50,000
SELECT * FROM employees WHERE salary > 50000;

Step 4: Aggregate Data

-- Calculate the average salary
SELECT AVG(salary) FROM employees;

Advanced Topics

As you become more proficient with SQL, consider exploring advanced topics to enhance your data manipulation and analysis skills:


Joins allow users to combine data from multiple tables based on a related column between them. Common types of joins include inner joins, outer joins, and self-joins.


Subqueries allow users to nest one query inside another query to perform more complex data manipulations. Subqueries can be used in the SELECT, FROM, WHERE, and HAVING clauses of a SQL statement.

Window Functions

Window functions allow users to perform calculations across a set of rows that are related to the current row. Common window functions include ROW_NUMBER, RANK, and LEAD.


Congratulations! You've embarked on a journey through the fundamentals of SQL for data scientists. By mastering SQL's basic concepts, building your first queries, and exploring advanced topics, you'll be well-equipped to manipulate and analyze data with confidence and proficiency. Happy querying!

Throughout this guide, I've provided an in-depth overview of SQL for data scientists, covering basic concepts, practical examples, and advanced topics. By following along with the examples and practicing SQL queries on your own, you'll gain the skills and knowledge needed to excel in data manipulation and analysis with SQL. Whether you're querying data from a local database or a cloud-based data warehouse, SQL is a valuable tool for data scientists across various industries and domains.

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About O'Fallon Labs

In O'Fallon Labs we help recent graduates and professionals to get started and thrive in their Data Science careers via 1:1 mentoring and more.


Saeed Mirshekari

Saeed is currently a Director of Data Science in Mastercard and the Founder & Director of OFallon Labs LLC. He is a former research scholar at LIGO team (Physics Nobel Prize of 2017).

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