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SQL vs Python: Difference Between SQL and Python

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13th May, 2020
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SQL vs Python: Difference Between SQL and Python


Before in-depth comparison of SQL vs Python, let us dive into overview of both. I will examine a thorough comparison of SQL and Python in this post, two potent programs that are frequently used in data analysis and manipulation. Relational databases are specifically designed to be managed and queried using SQL, or Structured Query Language. It is quite good at effectively obtaining, adding, updating, and removing data from databases. For database managers and analysts, SQL is the preferred language due to its strong querying capabilities and succinct syntax. Python, a flexible programming language that is well-known for its readability and simplicity, on the other hand, provides a wealth of libraries and frameworks for a variety of activities, including data processing and analysis. Python offers a wider range of functions, enabling users to carry out intricate data transformations, statistical analysis, and machine learning activities, whereas SQL concentrates largely on database operations. The two most popular programming languages that are essential to data scientists’ and engineers’ daily work are Python and SQL. Therefore, choose one of these languages to study and become proficient in is normal for anyone wishing to work with data. Understanding both languages’ features, advantages, and services will help you make an informed decision about which language to use. Let’s now investigate the realms of Python and SQL and understand in python vs SQL which is better. 

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What is SQL?  

Information is stored in tabular form in relational databases, where distinct data properties and the numerous connections between the data values are represented by rows and columns in SQL. Information may be stored, updated, removed, searched for, and retrieved from databases using SQL commands. SQL may also be used to optimise and maintain database performance. 

One common query language that is widely used in various kinds of applications is structured query language (SQL). SQL is a language that developers and data analysts learn and use because it works well with a variety of computer languages. For instance, they may create high-performing data processing applications using popular SQL database systems like Oracle or MS SQL Server by integrating SQL queries into Java code. Because SQL includes common English vocabulary in its statements, it is also a relatively straightforward language to learn.  

What is Python? 

Python’s dynamic typing and dynamic binding, together with its high-level built-in data structures, make it an appealing language for Rapid Application Development and for usage as a scripting or glue language to join existing components. Because of its straightforward, basic syntax, Python emphasises readability, which lowers programme maintenance costs. Python’s support for packages and modules promotes code reuse and programme modularity. The large standard library and the Python interpreter are freely distributable and accessible for free on all major platforms in source or binary form. 

Python’s enhanced efficiency is one of the main reasons programmers fell in love with it. The edit, test, and debug cycle is extremely quick because there is no compilation phase. Python programme debugging is simple since segmentation faults are never caused by bugs or incorrect input. Rather, the interpreter raises an exception when it finds a mistake. The interpreter produces a stack trace if the programme fails to catch the error. Setting breakpoints, evaluating arbitrary expressions, inspecting local and global variables, stepping through the code one line at a time, and other features are all possible with a source level debugger. The fact that the debugger is developed in Python attests to the language’s capacity for introspection. On the other hand, often the quickest way to debug a program is to add a few print statements to the source: the fast edit-test-debug cycle makes this simple approach very effective.    

Python at a Glance  

These are a few of Python’s well-known features: 

  • Free & Open-source: The public can obtain and install the Python source code for free. Furthermore, Python’s open-source nature means that it has a sizable developer community that fosters network and community development and contributes to substantial bug fixes and support for newcomers. 
  • Dynamically-typed: The interpreter determines the type of variables at runtime rather than compile time in languages like Python and Javascript. The Python language now has more flexibility thanks to this innovation. 
  • Readability: Simple and easy to read syntax makes Python easy to read and understand. It employs indentation for code blocks rather than curly brackets, like other programming languages.  

I have provided relevant content to make you understand the topic, SQL VS Python.  

SQL vs Python comparison  

To understand better what is the difference between SQL and python let us dive deep into this comparison table and understand python and SQL difference. Here is the comparison table of SQL vs python.  

Parameter SQL Python 
Language Type Query Language Programming Language 
Syntax Complexity Relatively Simple More Complex, involves learning a programming language 
Purpose Primarily used for database management and querying data Versatile, used for various tasks including data manipulation, analysis, and more 
Performance Highly optimized for database operations May have performance overhead, especially for large datasets 
Ease of Use Straightforward for database-related operations Requires understanding of programming concepts and syntax 
Flexibility Limited to database operations Highly flexible, can be used for a wide range of tasks beyond database manipulation 
Community Support Large community support with many resources available Active community with libraries and frameworks for various tasks including data analysis 


I hope this table makes you understand that what is the difference between Python and SQL. PL/SQL is a procedural language designed specifically to embrace SQL statements within its syntax. PL/SQL program units are compiled by the Oracle Database server and stored inside the database. And at run-time, both PL/SQL and SQL run within the same server process, bringing optimal efficiency. PL/SQL automatically inherits the robustness, security, and portability of the Oracle Database. Similarly, there is difference between python vs pl SQL. Now it should be clear are SQL and python similar or not. 

1. Type of Language:

SQL: Structured Query Language, or SQL, is a language that is mostly used in relational databases for data management and querying.
Python: Python is a general-purpose programming language used for a number of applications, such as artificial intelligence, data analysis, web development, and more.  

2. Complexity of Syntax:
SQL: Because SQL is primarily meant for data querying and manipulation within databases, it often has a simpler syntax than programming languages like Python.   

Python: Because it’s a full-fledged programming language with uses beyond data administration, it involves more sophisticated grammar and ideas.   

3. Goal:   

SQL: SQL is primarily used in relational database management systems (RDBMS) for database administration, including generating, querying, updating, and removing data.   

Python: Extremely adaptable, utilised for a variety of tasks such as web development, automation, machine learning, data processing, and analysis.   

4. Achievement:
SQL: SQL is an effective tool for handling and querying massive datasets because it is well optimised for database operations.  
Python: Due to its general-purpose nature and lack of database operation optimisation, this programming language may have performance overhead, particularly for big datasets.  

5. Usability:
SQL: Generally simple to use for database-related tasks, this programming language focuses on data querying and manipulation inside databases.  

Python: Requires knowledge of programming terminology and ideas; for those who are unfamiliar with programming, this may mean a more difficult learning curve than with SQL.  

6. Adaptability
SQL: SQL is optimised for use within the constraints of a relational database management system and is restricted to database operations.  

Python: Extremely adaptable, this programming language may be used for many different things besides working with databases, such as web development, data analysis, machine learning, scripting, and more.  

7. Community Support:  

SQL: Enjoys large community support with many resources available online, including documentation, tutorials, forums, and communities focused on various database management systems. 

Python: Boasts an active community with a vast ecosystem of libraries and frameworks catering to different domains, including data analysis, web development, machine learning, and more. There are abundant resources available for learning and support in Python as well.  

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SQL or Python: Which one should you use?

SQL commands are simpler and narrower vis-a-vis Python commands. More often than not, they form a combination of JOINS, aggregate functions, and subqueries functions.  

As for Python, the programming commands are like an assortment of a Lego set, where each piece has a specific purpose. The libraries consist of specialized bits that help you build something in that particular niche. For example, Pandas are used for data analysis, Scikit-learn for machine learning, PyPDF2 for PDF manipulation, SciPy for numerical routines, and Numpy for mathematical operations and scientific computing. 

Relational database management systems used in many corporate applications call for having prior knowledge of SQL. It provides a structured route to get the desired information. Conversely, Python offers more readability and portability, assisting the development of just about anything with the right tools and libraries. 

Know more: Top 5 Python Modules You Should Know

Which language should you learn first?

Let us first recap what each of the languages brings to the table. SQL is a standard query language for data retrieval, and Python is a widely recognized scripting language for building desktop and web applications. So, which of these two languages is the best place to start?

Typically, SQL is believed to be the first step in the learning ladder as it is an essential tool for summoning relevant information from relational databases. Also, it is easy to grasp as it reads like English. So, having a reasonable understanding of this language sets you up for Python. Once you can write a query to join two tables, apply the same logic to rewrite code in Python using the Pandas library. 

With a solid foundation of the two languages, you will be all set to undertake various functions like back-end development, data analysis, scientific computing, artificial intelligence, and so on. 

Summing up

Weighing in from the above arguments, we can see that SQL is applicable in relational databases with only a few exceptions. But it can still be a powerful tool for beginners. Over the years, many new features have been incorporated in SQL to improve its object-oriented functionality. 

Python is a versatile and dynamic programming language having multiple applications. The broad scope can be attributed to its extensive collection of python libraries for data science, each of them serving a distinct purpose.

By becoming adept in these two languages, you will be one step closer to landing a lucrative job. Some of the job profiles include Software Engineer, DevOps Engineer, Data Scientist, and many machine learning and AI-related roles. Companies like IBM, NASA, Walt Disney, Google, and Yahoo! Maps regularly hire professionals who possess superior Python skills. 

With this, we have covered the different aspects of SQL vs. Python. As you start your learning journey, you will now have a much more precise approach. The coding community is always abuzz with new and exciting things, and having a conceptual base allows you to adapt seamlessly and shine!

If you are curious to learn about Python, everything about data science, check out IIIT-B & upGrad’s Executive PG Programme in Data Science which is created for working professionals and offers 10+ case studies & projects, practical hands-on workshops, mentorship with industry experts, 1-on-1 with industry mentors, 400+ hours of learning and job assistance with top firms.


Rohit Sharma

Blog Author
Rohit Sharma is the Program Director for the UpGrad-IIIT Bangalore, PG Diploma Data Analytics Program.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1Which one is easier – Python or SQL?

If we look at it as a language, then SQL is much easier as compared to Python because the syntax is smaller, and there are pretty few concepts in SQL. On the other hand, if you look at it as a tool, then SQL is tougher than coding in Python. So, you can say that both languages have their own fair share of difficulties and easiness.

SQL is not a tough programming language because it is only a query language. The main reason behind developing SQL was to make it easy for common people to get specific data from the entire database. Once you are done with learning SQL, you will find it pretty easy to work with any relational database.

2Is Python hard to learn if you are a non-programmer?

Python can be called the easiest language as there is a need for very few lines of code. Even if you are clear with just the basics of English and mathematics, you can begin with your Python learning journey. Students still have a habit of starting with statically typed languages like Java, C, or C++. Even if you don't have any programming background, you can still begin with Python because it has a pretty simple syntax along with a vast library.

It is easy to begin working on real-time applications even while starting out the learning process in Python.

3Is SQL considered to be outdated?

SQL is not outdated because people still use it as a query language in different sectors where data has to be stored in tables. The major usage of SQL is visible in the banking sector. Other than that, certain technical jobs like software developer, hosting technician, software quality assurance, web designer, server management specialist and database administrator utilize SQL. Its usage is also visible in different job roles in the business intelligence and business analysis fields. So, we can say that SQL is definitely not outdated.

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