If you’ve never touched back-end development before, exploring databases or server-side languages can feel like wading into the unknown. But understanding how to work with databases is a practical skill to have, whether your goal is to get hired as a data scientist or develop an app on your own.
When it comes to database management systems, MongoDB is one of the most popular choices for anyone looking to branch out beyond SQL (Structured Query Language) databases. “Like most databases, MongoDB helps us store information that’s important to our applications,” explains David Patlut, Curriculum Manager at Codecademy. “But MongoDB’s flexibility and versatile cloud features can help push any application to the next level.”
Our free course Learn MongoDB will explain the unique advantages of using a “NoSQL” (short for “not only SQL”) database like MongoDB, and walk you through the fundamentals of working with MongoDB so you can feel confident using it professionally.
Want to know more about MongoDB and how the technology can boost your career potential as a developer? Here’s what MongoDB is, why you should learn it, the types of tech roles that use MongoDB the most, plus tips for getting started with the database software today.
What is MongoDB?
MongoDB is known as a general purpose document-based database, David says. Your typical “relational database” groups information in a table that’s organized in rows and columns based on relationships. For example, an Excel spreadsheet that classifies a list of students’ names and their corresponding ages and grades, or a PostgreSQL database that keeps track of a boutique’s product inventory and location in a storeroom.
All NoSQL databases use their own custom querying language, and fortunately the MongoDB documentation for the MongoDB Query API is relatively easy to read, because it was created with developers in mind. (That said, it helps to have some background knowledge of software development before jumping in — our Code Foundations courses can give you a good lay of the land.)
There are lots of other nuanced differences between SQL and NoSQL databases, which you can read more about here.
The jobs that use MongoDB
Any developer building an application is going to need some kind of database to store, query, and manipulate its data, and which one you choose depends on the particular use case and data. In reality, most enterprises are polyglots — they use multiple programming languages and databases. Knowing how to work with both traditional relational databases and newer databases like MongoDB will set you apart as a job candidate. People who are Back-End or Full-Stack Software Engineers tend to work with MongoDB the most, but you’ll also find it used in fields like data science, machine learning, and of course careers like database administration.
Engineering teams typically use NoSQL databases when they need to store enterprise-level amounts of data (the name MongoDB actually is inspired by “humongous”), and want more flexibility in the structure of their data, or they’re working with semi-structured or entirely unstructured data.
Lots of household names rely on MongoDB to handle massive swaths of data, including Gap, Shutterfly, Verizon, Google, Rent the Runway, and eBay. MongoDB is also very common in gaming: SEGA, Electronic Arts, Square Enix, and Epic Games all use MongoDB.
“For bigger companies, there are typically dedicated back-end engineering roles, and likely some kind of dedicated database administrator roles,” David says. “Data science folks might use MongoDB as well.” For instance, content can easily be scraped and converted directly into MongoDB documents that can be used for natural language processing and machine learning, which is less tedious than having to parse content and convert it into a tabular form.
How learning MongoDB can help you get a job in tech
Most developers will get to a point in their career where they need to learn database technology, David says. Even folks who aren’t building products from scratch can benefit from knowing how databases work, because data drives so many business decisions today. Companies of all sizes rely on collecting, storing, and analyzing massive amounts of data as a key part of their business models.
So it makes sense that database fluency is a sought-after skill that will make you stand out as a job candidate. “It’s nice for an entry-level job seeker to be able to say, ‘I do a lot of work with SQL databases, but I've also done NoSQL, specifically MongoDB,’” David says. (BTW, if you want to get better at “tooting your own horn” in job interviews, check out these tips.)
If it’s your first foray into databases, MongoDB is a great place to start, because it’s widely used by organizations from start-ups to established FAANG companies. “You could put yourself on top of the stack if you have MongoDB on your resume,” David says.
For more experienced developers, they might want to diversify their portfolio of database technologies to include NoSQL products like MongoDB. For example, sometimes companies might switch over to a non-relational database technology for a specific project, in which case developers would need to learn the new database technologies quickly on the job, David says.
Our new free course Learn MongoDB covers these essential MongoDB skills and more. You’ll even get hands-on practice modeling data in MongoDB and creating your own database using MongoDB Atlas.
Understanding how databases like MongoDB work is just one way to round out your technical skills and land your dream job in tech. For more job-search tips, check out the top soft skills you need in tech, a guide for applying to jobs when you don’t have “enough” experience, and more reasons why learning to code can help you in today’s job market.