A Comprehensive Guide to SQL vs. MySQL (With Definitions)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 19 May 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.

SQL and MySQL are computing tools that relate to databases. The two are components that programmers can use to organise data that has various relations. Understanding the differences between SQL and MySQL can help you decide when each tool applies to a specific data problem. In this article, we list terms associated with SQL vs. MySQL, define the two technologies and outline their differences.

Terms associated with SQL vs. MySQL

Database experts may use specific professional terms when explaining SQL vs. MySQL. Familiarising yourself with these terms can enable you to understand how different computing experts apply the two technologies. These terms can include:

  • Database: A database is an organised structure of data and information that you electronically store in a computing system. The database can allow efficient access to the information in the system by saving it in a consistent format.

  • DBMS: A Database Management System (DBMS) is software for storing and retrieving the data in the database. It can interact with users and applications by providing data from the database for analysis.

  • Storage engine: A storage engine is a low-level software that a DBMS uses to update information in the database. Databases can include a programming interface that allows applications to access the engine without using the DBMS user interface.

  • Table: A table is a collection of rows and columns holding related data in a database. The database table can comprise a specific number of columns and a variable number of rows.

  • Relation: This term specifies the relationship between two tables when one of them references the other. A table can use a foreign key to reference another table.

  • Query: A query is a statement requesting specific information from the database management software. The query format may vary depending on the database.

  • Schema: A database schema is a blueprint that describes how the system organises the data and the present constraints. The schema can depend on the application of the database and the rules the application enforces on the data.

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What's MySQL?

MySQL is a relational database management system (RDBMS). An RDBMS software is a database technology that stores the data in tables using row-column formats. The table structures can connect related data elements. For example, all schools in the same region can share a table in a school table. MySQL is compatible with different operating systems and can run on various types of applications. Originally, the creators of MySQL wrote it in C and C++ programming languages. Since then, programmers have created many variants of MySQL. Some of these software variants include MariaDB and Drizzle.

What's SQL?

Structured Query Language (SQL) is a standard language that programmers can use to manage and maintain databases. The SQL syntax is English-like and many statements for manipulating data in a database rely on this standard syntax. You can perform the following database actions using an SQL language:

  • Add information to a database. You can append a record to the database table by creating a new database row. For example, if you have a database recording employee meals, you can add the type of meal and the person's name into the database when someone takes their meal.

  • Access information from the database. SQL technology can allow you to read all the existing records in a database. You can also filter the data on a particular condition, such as the last 100 updates on a table.

  • Manipulate current data. If you make errors or require changing specific values in a database, SQL queries can let you execute these changes. For example, when the price of an item increases, you can change the old price in the database by utilising SQL.

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How does MySQL relate to SQL?

SQL is a query programming language, while MySQL is a relational database management software. MySQL can define how you access and manipulate data in a database. It offers an interface that applications can utilise to perform different actions on the data. You can use SQL queries to inform MySQL of the functions you wish to execute on the data. After you specify instructions in SQL form, the DBMS can run them on the database storage engine.

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Characteristics of DBMS and query languages

MySQL is a DBMS, while SQL is a database query language. Understanding the characteristics of these technologies can enable you to identify their differences more easily. Here are their properties:

Properties of a DBMS

A DBMS can provide you with a way to organise your data, store it securely, access it quickly and easily share it. Different DBMS systems can focus on giving you various features depending on the aim of the BMS developers. You may choose a DBMS that enables you to enforce rules about how data is accessible or ensures your data's accuracy and integrity. Some characteristics of MySQL and other DBMS systems include:

  • Data sharing: DBMS features a mechanism that allows multiple users to access and manipulate the same data.

  • Data security: It provides various security features that only authorised users can access the data.

  • Data integrity: By enforcing several rules and constraints, DBMS ensures accurate and consistent data.

  • Data management: DBMS provides different tools and features, such as query languages, for managing the data.

Properties of a query language

Understanding the distinct features of database query languages can help you structure SQL statements to be fast and data-efficient. This expertise can let you optimise existing SQL queries and improve their performance. Some characteristics of SQL and other query languages include:

  • defines the constraints and the structure of the data in a database

  • creates triggers that execute an action when a condition occurs in the data

  • allows clients to execute queries in a remote database

  • offers security and authentication to restrict operations users perform on the data

  • commits or undoes transactions systems run in a database

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SQL vs. MySQL differences

Some differences between SQL and MySQL include:


SQL can be valuable when retrieving data from data warehouses. Database experts utilise SQL to query information in relational databases. Since MySQL is a DBMS, different applications and programs can use it to change, store and administrate the data in a relational database.


You can define SQL as a type of programming language. You can learn it if you wish to query the information in databases. Performing more complex queries on large databases can involve writing long and complicated SQL statements to retrieve and transform the data. Such queries may require you to have a deep understanding of SQL. MySQL is presentable as a computer application. You can instal it and visually use it to select the data you desire or perform write operations on the data. Computer experts may find it easier to apply MySQL to a problem than SQL.


MySQL Connectors are software that allows MySQL to communicate with other software. There are different MySQL Connectors that you can choose depending on your goal. For example, the Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) Connector allows you to connect to a MySQL database using the ODBC protocol. This connector can be suitable when creating applications whose end devices have ODBC drivers. There are also connectors for Java, .NET and Perl. These connecting tools allow you to access MySQL databases within your programming language of choice.

Since SQL is usable as a query tool, connectors can use it to extract and link the data in one database to different software.

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The SQL query syntax is constant. Any system running SQL commands can support the SQL code programmers created many years ago. It's independent of the platform. MySQL is software that may receive frequent updates. The developers of the DBMS may add new features or resolve bugs to enable increased usability of the tool by database administrators. These constant changes may make some MySQL versions incompatible with specific operating systems. For example, some of the old legacy systems may not support the functionality and system requirements of the later versions of MySQL.

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Examples of SQL commands

The query you use on a database can depend on the data you wish to extract or the transformations you aim to perform. Some actions the SQL syntax supports are:

  • CREATE: This command lets you create an SQL table. A common way to create a table is to use the 'CREATE TABLE' statement and specify the table parameters.

  • DROP: The SQL DROP command removes a table from the database. For example, if you wish to remove a table with the label students, you can use the query 'DROP TABLE students'.

  • INSERT: You can use this action to add a record to a database table. For example, 'INSERT student INTO class' can add a new student to the 'lass table.

  • SORT BY: The 'SORT BY' action can let you order the data using a particular value. For example, you may display all transactions of a specific day and sort them by their time.

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