Is Decimal a Valid SQL Data Type?


Angela Bailey

Is Decimal a Valid SQL Data Type?

When working with databases, choosing the right data types for your columns is crucial. One commonly used data type is decimal. In SQL, the decimal data type allows you to store numbers with decimal places, making it ideal for handling monetary values or other precise measurements.

What is the Decimal Data Type?

The decimal data type represents fixed-precision numeric values. It can store numbers with a specific number of digits to the left and right of the decimal point. The syntax for declaring a decimal column in SQL is as follows:

column_name DECIMAL(precision, scale)
  • Precision: Specifies the total number of digits that can be stored in the column.
  • Scale: Specifies the number of digits to the right of the decimal point.

For example, if you declare a column as price DECIMAL(8, 2), it means that you can store up to 8 digits in total, with 2 digits being reserved for decimals.

Why Use Decimal?

The decimal data type is particularly useful when dealing with financial calculations or any situation where precision is essential. Storing monetary values as decimals ensures that calculations are accurate and reliable. Floating-point data types like FLOAT or REAL, on the other hand, are susceptible to rounding errors due to their inherent imprecision.

In addition to financial applications, decimals are also handy for storing physical measurements or any other value requiring a high level of accuracy. For example, if you’re building an application that needs to track the weight of objects, the decimal data type allows you to store precise weight values.


Let’s consider a practical example. Suppose you have a table called Products with a column named price of data type decimal:

  id INT,
  name VARCHAR(50),
  price DECIMAL(8, 2)

You can now insert values into the price column, such as:

INSERT INTO Products (id, name, price)
VALUES (1, 'Product A', 19.99),
       (2, 'Product B', 29.95),
       (3, 'Product C', 9.50);

The decimal data type ensures that the stored prices retain their precision without any rounding errors.

Note on Performance

While decimals offer precision and accuracy, it’s essential to consider their impact on performance. Decimal calculations are generally slower compared to integer or floating-point operations due to their fixed-precision nature.

If performance is a critical concern in your application and you don’t require high precision for every calculation, you might consider using other data types like integers or floats instead.

In Conclusion

The decimal data type in SQL is a valid choice for storing precise numeric values with decimal places. It provides accuracy and reliability for financial calculations or any situation requiring high precision. However, keep in mind that its fixed-precision nature may affect performance in some scenarios.

To sum up, when working with SQL databases and needing precise numeric values with decimal places, the decimal data type is your go-to option!

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