In this article, we will discuss the COUNT function in SQL, different ways of using it, and how to combine it with other keywords like
GROUP BY and
Many times, the information we want from a database table is not available in a single row but in a group of rows or in the result of a mathematical calculation. That is, the data in the group of rows need to be combined or a value expression calculated to obtain a single value of useful business information. To extract data in such cases,
SQL (Structured Query Language) provides us with operations that are called aggregate functions:
SUM. All these aggregate functions return a single value.
2. Salient Features
COUNT is an aggregate function that counts the number of rows in each group. The most basic aggregation is when you specify a *, which will tell you how many rows are there in the result set, including rows containing duplicate and Null values.
If you specify a column name,
COUNT tells how many non-null values are present in the column.
GROUP BY clause runs after the
WHERE clause has been evaluated. Here, we want the database server to group the result set into groups based on some column(s). These are specified using the
GROUP BY keywords. The system will collect the rows with the same values in these specified columns, into a group. It is important to remember that the G
ROUP BY clause refers to columns generated by the
WHERE clauses and cannot use any expression that appears in the
For any queries, we will need to get extra columns along with columns generated by aggregate functions. These columns are added to the
SELECT clause and should also be added in the
GROUP BY clause.
We need not specify columns in the
GROUP BY clause. Instead, we can use ordinal positions that correspond to each column position in the
SELECT part of the query.
COUNT function determines the number of elements in each group, sometimes we may not want the duplicate values of a column from all members of the group. To achieve this, we use the
DISTINCT keyword along with the column name. However, we cannot use
Sometimes, want to do second-level filtering on the grouped rows. For this, we use the
HAVING operator to apply filter condition(s) on the grouped result set. The
HAVING BY clause can be used without a
GROUP BY clause in which case, the
HAVING BY clause filters all rows returned from the
WHERE clause as if they are a single group. One key point here is that the
WHERE clause cannot have aggregate functions whereas the
HAVING clause can contain.
ORDER BY keywords can be put at the end of a SQL statement. It sorts the data based on the columns specified to it. The default sorting is ascending order, so if we want to get the result set in reverse order, we use the keyword
3. Tables and Data
We will use three tables to demonstrate the usage of queries using
COUNT. The tables are:
employees pertaining to the HR function and a
book_sales table of a
The following diagram shows the structure of these tables.
employees table, each employee (including managers) has his/her own
employee_id and they have their manager’s
employee_id in the
manager_id column. The department managers have their
book_store database has six titles and monthly sales of each book are recorded in the
book_sales table. The month column is an integer, so 1 is used for January and 12 for December. The
quantity column has the sales number and if there are no sales of a particular book in the month, the
quantity is zero. In effect, there are six rows every month, one per book.
4. SQL Count Function – Examples
In this section, we demonstrate the usage of the
COUNT function in
SELECT queries on the data in the
departments tables as well as the
book_sales table. For each example, we first state the business requirement and then show its implementation as a
SELECT query. Along with some notes, screenshots of the result set are given below each query.
4.1 How many employees are there in each department?
SELECT department_id "Department Id", COUNT(*) "No. of employees" FROM employees GROUP BY department_id;
4.2 Which departments have employee count more than three?
For this requirement, we need to use
GROUP BY and
SELECT department_id "Department Id", COUNT(*) "No. of employees" FROM employees GROUP BY department_id HAVING COUNT(*) > 3;
4.3 Department and employee count
Let’s say the business requirement is: We need department names with employee count arranged in decreasing order of employee count. For this requirement, we have to use the DESC keyword.
SELECT name Department, COUNT(employee_id) "No. of employees" FROM employees e INNER JOIN departments d ON e.department_id = d.department_id GROUP BY e.department_id ORDER BY COUNT(employee_id) DESC;
4.4 Department and manager names
Suppose management asks that we want a more refined report than the previous one. Instead of
department_ids, we want department names with department manager names. This requirement needs two
JOINs. We need to take two instances of the
employees table and join each with a separate instance of the
SELECT e1.first_name "Manager first name", e1.last_name "Manager last name", d1.name Department, COUNT(e2.employee_id) "No. of employees" FROM employees e1 JOIN departments d1 ON e1.department_id = d1.department_id, employees e2 JOIN departments d2 on e2.department_id = d2.department_id WHERE d1.department_id = d2.department_id AND e1.manager_id IS NULL AND e2.manager_id IS NOT NULL GROUP BY e1.first_name, e1.last_name, e2.department_id ORDER BY COUNT(e2.employee_id) DESC;
4.5 Zero-sale months
Let’s say we are asked to find out, for each book, how many months were there with no sales? For this case, the required rows can be retrieved by checking if
quantity is zero.
SELECT book_id, COUNT(quantity) "Zero sales months" FROM book_sales WHERE quantity = 0 GROUP BY book_id;
4.6 Monthly sales
Suppose we are asked to report in each month, how many of the six books were sold and what are the total copies sold in that month. We combine
SUM aggregate function.
SELECT month Month, COUNT(quantity) "Num books sold", SUM(quantity) "Monthly sales" FROM book_sales WHERE quantity > 0 GROUP BY month;
4.7 Months in which books were sold and annual sales
If the management tells us they want to know for each book, the number of months in which sales happened and its annual sales reported with book title in decreasing order of sales. For this requirement, we combine
SUM and use
SELECT title Title, COUNT(*) "Sale months", SUM(quantity) "Annual sales" FROM book_sales bs JOIN books b ON b.book_id = bs.book_id WHERE quantity > 0 GROUP BY b.book_id ORDER BY SUM(quantity) DESC;
4.8 Last quarter sales
Let’s say the requirement is to get sales for the last quarter only. To get the groups for the last quarter of the year, we need to use the filter
month greater than 9.
SELECT month Month, title Title, SUM(quantity) "Monthly sales" FROM book_sales bs JOIN books b ON b.book_id = bs.book_id GROUP BY month, title HAVING month > 9 ORDER BY month, SUM(quantity) DESC
5. Download the Source Code
This article was a tutorial on various use cases of the SQL COUNT function. The
SQL source code for creating the tables, inserting the sample data, and all queries discussed in this article are available in a zip file.
You can download the full source code of this example here: SQL Count Function
Last updated on Feb. 24th, 2022