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SQL Developer Job Description: Role, Skills, Salary & More

Hiring Developers

Learn everything you need to know in this comprehensive overview of the position. Whether you want to become one yourself, or you’re interested in hiring one, we’ll shed light on an SQL Developer’s role, the skills and education needed, salary expectations and more! 

What is an SQL Developer?

Before we get into the crux of the matter, let’s get a brief idea of what an SQL Developer is. SQL, or Structured Query Language is a programming language used to communicate with and manipulate databases. Naturally, an SQL Developer is proficient in this language and works alongside those in the IT department and with experts from other subdivisions. Their main tasks can be summarized by the acronym ‘CRUD’ (Create, Read, Update, and Delete). These are the 4 main operations developers use to manipulate data in database tables. 

As our reliance on data and information grows, so does our need for competent database administrators. Indeed, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand is expected to increase by 9% throughout the 2020s. As you might expect, this means generous salaries and career growth opportunities abound. We’ll dive into all of this and more below!

SQL Developer Responsibilities

First, let’s take a look at some of the core responsibilities of an SQL Developer. 

Database Development and Design

Perhaps the most obvious one, SQL Developers need to know how to build and maintain databases. But what’s a database you may ask? Put simply, a database is a structured collection of data that is electronically stored and accessed. What SQL devs do is design database tables and structures, doing what they can throughout to optimize performance and stability. This makes it easier to access data when needed.

SQL Query Optimization

They will also focus on improving query performance. What’s a query? We’re glad you asked. A query is a question you ask a database. It is the most basic SQL command. As SQL databases store information in tables, this is how you’ll be retrieving the data needed. An SQL Developer, then, can be expected to resolve performance problems related to queries by using a variety of techniques and via research and testing. 

Data Modeling and Database Administration

Data modeling is concerned with creating visual representations of information systems to illustrate the data they contain and the relationships between said data. It is very useful for clarifying business needs and data requirements. Data administration, meanwhile, focuses on maintaining a database by ensuring its security, accessibility and future development. Both tasks are essential for analyzing and managing an organization’s data.

Troubleshooting and Debugging SQL Code

A painful but necessary part of any software process, SQL developers will need to figure out why queries are failing to run. This will involve running the code step by step to find out which part is responsible for the error. Checking spelling and syntax is also useful here, as is reading documentation and doing online research. Luckily, there are many tools at their disposal that make this whole process easier such as SQL Server Management Studio’s (SSMS) automated debugging feature.

Collaborating with Development Teams

Throughout all of this work, SQL Developers will need to work closely with other members of the development team. This may include database administrators, software developers, data analysts or project managers. Working together, they can ensure databases are well maintained, queries optimized and documentation kept every step of the way.

🔖Related read: SQL Functions and Techniques Every Data Person Should Know

SQL Developer Skills

Now that you have an idea of what SQL Developers actually do, let’s find out what skills are necessary to succeed in this role. 

Proficiency in SQL Programming

This one goes without saying. You’ll need a solid grasp of SQL to be able to effectively manage and manipulate data stored in relational databases. Fortunately, it is considered a fairly simple language to learn. Knowledge of other programming languages such as Java or C# will also come in handy if you want to become an SQL developer, as will an understanding of web development languages such as HTML and PHP.

Strong Knowledge of Database Management Systems (DBMS)

Going hand-in-hand with programming languages, database management systems are software systems for storing, retrieving, and running queries on data. The most well-known include Oracle, MySQL and Microsoft SQL Server. Regardless of which one you choose, you’ll want to be proficient in one of them to be able to work with a database intuitively. The good news is that they can simplify your life by automating some of the most time-consuming tasks.

Data Analysis and Reporting

SQL developers will also be expected to know how to use analytics to respond to a wide variety of business problems. In fact, this is considered one of the most popular uses of SQL. Fortunately, you can make use of the DBMS mentioned above to facilitate these tasks. Bear in mind that each will have its advantages and disadvantages depending on the data type.

Problem-Solving and Critical Thinking

Just like other types of IT professionals, you’ll need some serious analytical skills. You need to be able to troubleshoot and work things out and know how to evaluate information to decide on the best course of action. Not to worry though, there’s no saying that you can’t sharpen these skills over time. 

Related read > 18 Behavioral Interview Questions to ask Software Engineers

Attention to Detail and Accuracy

Another soft skill that will prove very important throughout your career. This one can mean the difference between launching a product that runs smoothly, or one that doesn’t run at all. It also plays a big part in making sure your code is legible, an essential component of good code. Again this is a skill that can be learned and developed and you will almost certainly make mistakes throughout your journey as an SQL developer. But by being someone who pays attention to the little things your employer will save time and money, and hopefully, thank you for it.

Communication and Collaboration Skills

One of the most important soft skills, even as remote working takes a foothold. For starters, you’ll need to be able to offer clear instructions to other members of your team. This may involve communicating complex technical information in layman’s terms. You will also want to strengthen cooperation to avoid costly misunderstandings with other programmers. It’s clear that this soft skill is easily just as important as any technical skill.  

🔖Related read: These Soft Skills Matter – Now More Than Ever

SQL Developer Qualifications

So we’ve seen what tasks you’ll likely be performing and the skills needed to do them. But what education do you need to be an SQL developer? We’re going to break it down for you. 

Educational Requirements

First, in terms of formal education, a degree in Computer Science or a related field is a huge asset. In fact, 80% of SQL Developers have at least a bachelor’s degree according to Glassdoor research. This will give you the knowledge and experience needed to succeed in the role. This doesn’t mean it’s essential, however, and there are plenty of developers with just a high school diploma for example. But it does help you to remain competitive.

Certifications and Training

You can further enhance your profile by getting certified in some of the most popular tools. We touched on some of these earlier, including database management systems such as Oracle and MySQL. These are especially useful if the role you’re applying for requires extensive use of these tools. Here are just a few of the options available to you:

You can also sharpen your SQL skills by practicing our curated interview questions:

Relevant Work Experience

While all of this learning is great for your CV, don’t overlook the importance of experience. Of course, this can be difficult if you haven’t got your first entry-level role, so this is why internships can be very useful. Here you’ll be able to put everything you’ve learned to the test in a real-world environment. Other options to get experience include freelancing or even volunteering. No matter which avenue you choose, you will likely need a year or two of experience in some capacity before landing your first role.

🔖Related read: 5 Tips for Recruiting Tech Interns

SQL Developer Career Path

We’ve made it this far and you’re probably itching to know about the all-important salary information and career outlook. Well, the news is positive, as SQL Developers can expect to earn $96,455 per year on average. This varies depending on seniority, with entry-level developers earning around $87,213 per year and senior $94,490 per year. Veteran developers with upwards of 15 years of experience meanwhile have a ceiling of $157k per year.


Some sectors pay better than others, with fintech leading the way at $115k per year. Highly specialized roles can also expect high salaries, with Database Administrator (DBA) or Business Intelligence Architect often earning above $100k. 

It’s clear then that the career outlook is positive and given the 9% projected job growth between 2021 and 2031, things are looking rosy. And for good reason too given the rise of big data.

Be aware that your location, educational background and experience will all be important factors in your eventual salary. This, of course, applies to just about any career.

🔖Related read: 2023 Software Developer Salaries: Essential Data and Trends

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Now that we’ve reached the end of our SQL Developer guide, we thought we’d take the time to answer some of your most important questions. This way you’ll have no unexpected surprises.

What are the typical work hours for an SQL developer?

SQL Developers typically have a 40-hour work week which may vary depending on the need for overtime. They may also occasionally be required to work on weekends.

What programming languages complement SQL development skills?

C#, .NET, HTML, PHP, Python, and Ruby are all valid options to consider to complement your skill set.

Is knowledge of a specific DBMS required to become an SQL developer?

Usually, if you know one DBMS you should have no problems switching to another. Some jobs, however, may require that you are proficient in a specific system, which is why certifications can be very useful.

Can SQL developers work remotely?

Although many SQL Developers prefer to work in-house, you’ll be pleased to know that remote work is still a possibility. You will, of course, need to have solid SQL skills and also be capable of working in a remote environment.

What industries commonly hire SQL developers?

As you’d expect, the greatest demand is in the tech sector. This is followed by finance, sales and healthcare.

What are the essential non-technical skills for an SQL developer?

Similarly to other developers, there are a variety of soft skills that can really bolster an SQL developer’s profile. These include analytical skills, communication skills, adaptability and time management. 

Are there any online courses or tutorials available for SQL Developers?

There are a number of both free and paid certifications available to SQL newbies and advanced users alike. In addition, there are a variety of online courses offered by leading MOOC providers such as Udemy, Coursera and edX.

The future is bright

With the ever-greater need to store and manage data, it’s clear that demand for SQL developers isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Now that you have an in-depth understanding of the profession, from the education and skills needed, to salary expectations and more, you’ll be able to take those first steps in complete confidence. We’re rooting for you!Want a greater understanding of the tech sector as a whole? Check out our State of Tech Hiring 2023 Survey. Jam-packed with valuable insights on the job market for both candidates AND recruiters.