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Oracle PL SQL Tutorial

Jaiwant  Kulkarni
Jaiwant Kulkarni
Web Developer

What is PL/SQL?

PL/SQL stands for Procedural Language extension of SQL.

PL/SQL is a combination of SQL along with the procedural features of programming languages. It was developed by Oracle Corporation in the early 90’s to enhance the capabilities of SQL.

The PL/SQL Engine:

Oracle uses a PL/SQL engine to processes the PL/SQL statements. A PL/SQL code can be stored in the client system (client-side) or in the database (server-side).

This Oracle PL SQL tutorial teaches you the basics of programming in PL/SQL with appropriate examples. You can use this tutorial as your guide or reference while programming with PL SQL. I will be making this Oracle PL SQL programming tutorial as often as possible to share my knowledge in PL SQL and help you in learning PL SQL better.

Even though the programming concepts discussed in this tutorial is specific to Oracle PL SQL. The concepts like cursors, functions and stored procedures can be used in other database systems like Sybase , Microsoft SQL server etc, with some change in syntax. This tutorial will be growing regularly; let us know if any topic related to PL SQL needs to be added or you can also share your knowledge on PL SQL with us. Lets share our knowledge about PL SQL with others.
A Simple PL/SQL Block:

Each PL/SQL program consists of SQL and PL/SQL statements which from a PL/SQL block.

A PL/SQL Block consists of three sections:

    The Declaration section (optional).
    The Execution section (mandatory).
    The Exception (or Error) Handling section (optional).

Declaration Section:
The Declaration section of a PL/SQL Block starts with the reserved keyword DECLARE. This section is optional and is used to declare any placeholders like variables, constants, records and cursors, which are used to manipulate data in the execution section. Placeholders may be any of Variables, Constants and Records, which stores data temporarily. Cursors are also declared in this section.

Execution Section:
The Execution section of a PL/SQL Block starts with the reserved keyword BEGIN and ends with END. This is a mandatory section and is the section where the program logic is written to perform any task. The programmatic constructs like loops, conditional statement and SQL statements form the part of execution section.

Exception Section:
The Exception section of a PL/SQL Block starts with the reserved keyword EXCEPTION. This section is optional. Any errors in the program can be handled in this section, so that the PL/SQL Blocks terminates gracefully. If the PL/SQL Block contains exceptions that cannot be handled, the Block terminates abruptly with errors.

Every statement in the above three sections must end with a semicolon ; . PL/SQL blocks can be nested within other PL/SQL blocks. Comments can be used to document code.

This is how a sample PL/SQL Block looks.

     Variable declaration
     Program Execution
     Exception handling

Advantages of PL/SQL

These are the advantages of PL/SQL.

    Block Structures: PL SQL consists of blocks of code, which can be nested within each other. Each block forms a unit of a task or a logical module. PL/SQL Blocks can be stored in the database and reused.

     Procedural Language Capability: PL SQL consists of procedural language constructs such as conditional statements (if else statements) and loops like (FOR loops).

     Better Performance: PL SQL engine processes multiple SQL statements simultaneously as a single block, thereby reducing network traffic.

    Error Handling: PL/SQL handles errors or exceptions effectively during the execution of a PL/SQL program. Once an exception is caught, specific actions can be taken depending upon the type of the exception or it can be displayed to the user with a message.

PL/SQL Variables

These are placeholders that store the values that can change through the PL/SQL Block.

The General Syntax to declare a variable is:

variable_name datatype [NOT NULL := value ];

    variable_name is the name of the variable.
    datatype is a valid PL/SQL datatype.
    NOT NULL is an optional specification on the variable.
    value or DEFAULT valueis also an optional specification, where you can initialize a variable.
    Each variable declaration is a separate statement and must be terminated by a semicolon.

For example, if you want to store the current salary of an employee, you can use a variable.


salary  number (6);

* “salary” is a variable of datatype number and of length 6.

When a variable is specified as NOT NULL, you must initialize the variable when it is declared.

For example: The below example declares two variables, one of which is a not null.


salary number(4);

dept varchar2(10) NOT NULL := “HR Dept”;

The value of a variable can change in the execution or exception section of the PL/SQL Block. We can assign values to variables in the two ways given below.

1) We can directly assign values to variables.
    The General Syntax is:         

  variable_name:=  value;

2) We can assign values to variables directly from the database columns by using a SELECT.. INTO statement. The General Syntax is:

SELECT column_name

INTO variable_name

FROM table_name

[WHERE condition];

Example: The below program will get the salary of an employee with id '1116' and display it on the screen.


 var_salary number(6);

 var_emp_id number(6) = 1116;


 SELECT salary

 INTO var_salary

 FROM employee

 WHERE emp_id = var_emp_id;


 dbms_output.put_line('The employee '

      || var_emp_id || ' has  salary  ' || var_salary);



NOTE: The backward slash '/' in the above program indicates to execute the above PL/SQL Block.

Scope of Variables

PL/SQL allows the nesting of Blocks within Blocks i.e, the Execution section of an outer block can contain inner blocks. Therefore, a variable which is accessible to an outer Block is also accessible to all nested inner Blocks. The variables declared in the inner blocks are not accessible to outer blocks. Based on their declaration we can classify variables into two types.

    Local variables - These are declared in a inner block and cannot be referenced by outside Blocks.
    Global variables - These are declared in a outer block and can be referenced by its itself and by its inner blocks.

For Example: In the below example we are creating two variables in the outer block and assigning thier product to the third variable created in the inner block. The variable 'var_mult' is declared in the inner block, so cannot be accessed in the outer block i.e. it cannot be accessed after line 11. The variables 'var_num1' and 'var_num2' can be accessed anywhere in the block.


2>  var_num1 number;

3>  var_num2 number;


5>  var_num1 := 100;

6>  var_num2 := 200;


8>   var_mult number;

9>   BEGIN

10>    var_mult := var_num1 * var_num2;

11>   END;

12> END;

13> /

PL/SQL Constants

As the name implies a constant is a value used in a PL/SQL Block that remains unchanged throughout the program. A constant is a user-defined literal value. You can declare a constant and use it instead of actual value.

For example: If you want to write a program which will increase the salary of the employees by 25%, you can declare a constant and use it throughout the program. Next time when you want to increase the salary again you can change the value of the constant which will be easier than changing the actual value throughout the program.
The General Syntax to declare a constant is:

constant_name CONSTANT datatype := VALUE;

    constant_name is the name of the constant i.e. similar to a variable name.
    The word CONSTANT is a reserved word and ensures that the value does not change.
    VALUE - It is a value which must be assigned to a constant when it is declared. You cannot assign a value later.

For example, to declare salary_increase, you can write code as follows:


salary_increase CONSTANT number (3) := 10;

You must assign a value to a constant at the time you declare it. If you do not assign a value to a constant while declaring it and try to assign a value in the execution section, you will get a error. If you execute the below Pl/SQL block you will get error.


 salary_increase CONSTANT number(3);


 salary_increase := 100;

 dbms_output.put_line (salary_increase);


PL/SQL Records

What are records?

Records are another type of datatypes which oracle allows to be defined as a placeholder. Records are composite datatypes, which means it is a combination of different scalar datatypes like char, varchar, number etc.  Each scalar data types in the record holds a value. A record can be visualized as a row of data. It can contain all the contents of a row.
Declaring a record:
To declare a record, you must first define a composite datatype; then declare a record for that type.

The General Syntax to define a composite datatype is:

TYPE record_type_name IS RECORD

(first_col_name column_datatype,

second_col_name column_datatype, ...);

    record_type_name – it is the name of the composite type you want to define.
    first_col_name, second_col_name, etc.,- it is the names the fields/columns within the record.
    column_datatype defines the scalar datatype of the fields.

There are different ways you can declare the datatype of the fields.

1) You can declare the field in the same way as you declare the fieds while creating the table.
2) If a field is based on a column from database table, you can define the field_type as follows:

col_name table_name.column_name%type;

By declaring the field datatype in the above method, the datatype of the column is dynamically applied to the field.  This method is useful when you are altering the column specification of the table, because you do not need to change the code again.
NOTE: You can use also %type to declare variables and constants.

The General Syntax to declare a record of a uer-defined datatype is:

record_name record_type_name;

The following code shows how to declare a record called employee_rec based on a user-defined type.


TYPE employee_type IS RECORD

(employee_id number(5),

 employee_first_name varchar2(25),

 employee_last_name employee.last_name%type,

 employee_dept employee.dept%type);

 employee_salary employee.salary%type;

 employee_rec employee_type;

If all the fields of a record are based on the columns of a table, we can declare the record as follows:

record_name table_name%ROWTYPE;

For example, the above declaration of employee_rec can as follows:


 employee_rec employee%ROWTYPE;

The advantages of declaring the record as a ROWTYPE are:
1)  You do not need to explicitly declare variables for all the columns in a table.
2) If you alter the column specification in the database table, you do not need to update the code.

The disadvantage of declaring the record as a ROWTYPE is:
1) When u create a record as a ROWTYPE, fields will be created for all the columns in the table and memory will be used to create the datatype for all the fields. So use ROWTYPE only when you are using all the columns of the table in the program.

Conditional Statements in PL/SQL

As the name implies, PL/SQL supports programming language features like conditional statements, iterative statements.

The programming constructs are similar to how you use in programming languages like Java and C++. In this section I will provide you syntax of how to use conditional statements in PL/SQL programming.



IF condition


 statement 1;


 statement 2;




IF condition 1


 statement 1;

 statement 2;

ELSIF condtion2 THEN

 statement 3;


 statement 4;




IF condition 1


 statement 1;

 statement 2;

ELSIF condtion2 THEN

 statement 3;


 statement 4;




IF condition1 THEN


 IF condition2 THEN



ELSIF condition3 THEN



Iterative Statements in PL/SQL

An iterative control Statements are used when we want to repeat the execution of one or more statements for specified number of times. These are similar to those in

There are three types of loops in PL/SQL:
• Simple Loop
• While Loop
• For Loop
1) Simple Loop

A Simple Loop is used when a set of statements is to be executed at least once before the loop terminates. An EXIT condition must be specified in the loop, otherwise the loop will get into an infinite number of iterations. When the EXIT condition is satisfied the process exits from the loop.
The General Syntax to write a Simple Loop is:




   {or EXIT WHEN condition;}


These are the important steps to be followed while using Simple Loop.

1) Initialise a variable before the loop body.
2) Increment the variable in the loop.
3) Use a EXIT WHEN statement to exit from the Loop. If you use a EXIT statement without WHEN condition, the statements in the loop is executed only once.
2) While Loop

A WHILE LOOP is used when a set of statements has to be executed as long as a condition is true. The condition is evaluated at the beginning of each iteration. The iteration continues until the condition becomes false.
The General Syntax to write a WHILE LOOP is:

WHILE <condition>

 LOOP statements;


Important steps to follow when executing a while loop:

1) Initialise a variable before the loop body.
2) Increment the variable in the loop.
3) EXIT WHEN statement and EXIT statements can be used in while loops but it's not done oftenly.
3) FOR Loop

A FOR LOOP is used to execute a set of statements for a predetermined number of times. Iteration occurs between the start and end integer values given. The counter is always incremented by 1. The loop exits when the counter reachs the value of the end integer.

The General Syntax to write a FOR LOOP is:

FOR counter IN val1..val2

  LOOP statements;


    val1 - Start integer value.
    val2 - End integer value.

Important steps to follow when executing a while loop:

1) The counter variable is implicitly declared in the declaration section, so it's not necessary to declare it explicity.
2) The counter variable is incremented by 1 and does not need to be incremented explicitly.
3) EXIT WHEN statement and EXIT statements can be used in FOR loops but it's not done oftenly.

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