In MySQL, stored procedures and functions are essential database objects that allow you to encapsulate logic and perform operations on your data. However, they have distinct purposes and characteristics. In this blog post, we’ll explore the differences between stored procedures and functions in MySQL, highlighting their use cases and key features.

What Are Stored Procedures and Functions?

Before diving into the differences, let’s clarify what stored procedures and functions are in MySQL:

  • Stored Procedures: A stored procedure is a precompiled SQL statement or set of statements that can be executed with a single call. It can accept input parameters, execute SQL queries, and return values or output parameters.
  • Functions: A function, similar to a stored procedure, is a reusable block of code that performs a specific task. However, a function always returns a single value, and its primary use is to calculate and return a value.

Key Differences

1. Return Values

  • Stored Procedures: Stored procedures can return zero or more output parameters, but they do not return a result set directly. They typically use OUT or INOUT parameters to pass data back to the caller.
  • Functions: Functions are designed to return a single value. They use the RETURN statement to provide a result, which can be of various data types.

2. Usage in SQL Queries

  • Stored Procedures: Stored procedures can be called in SQL queries, but they do not return values directly within a query. They are generally used for performing actions, such as updates or inserts.
  • Functions: Functions are commonly used in SQL queries to calculate and return values. For example, you can include a function call in a SELECT statement to retrieve computed data.

3. Error Handling

  • Stored Procedures: Stored procedures offer advanced error-handling capabilities. They can include exception handling and use the SIGNAL statement to raise custom error conditions.
  • Functions: Functions are not designed for comprehensive error handling. They primarily focus on returning values, and any exceptions that occur may not be as detailed as those in stored procedures.

4. Data Modification

  • Stored Procedures: Stored procedures are often used for data modification operations, such as INSERT, UPDATE, or DELETE statements. They can alter the database state.
  • Functions: Functions are generally not used for data modification since their primary purpose is to return computed values. Attempting data modification within a function may result in errors.

5. Invocation in SQL

  • Stored Procedures: Stored procedures are invoked using the CALL statement, which is specific to stored procedure execution.
  • Functions: Functions can be called directly within SQL queries, using them as expressions, making them easier to integrate into SQL statements.

Use Cases

Here are some common scenarios where you might choose one over the other:

  • Stored Procedures:
    • Complex data updates and operations.
    • Custom error handling and logging.
    • Execution of multiple SQL statements.
  • Functions:
    • Data calculations and transformations.
    • Retrieving computed values in SQL queries.
    • Reusable code for calculations, e.g., mathematical or string manipulation functions.


Stored procedures and functions in MySQL have their distinct purposes and characteristics. Understanding these differences is crucial when deciding which one to use in a specific scenario. Stored procedures are suitable for data modification, custom error handling, and complex logic, while functions are ideal for data calculations and returning values within SQL queries. Choosing the right tool for the task ensures efficient and maintainable database operations in MySQL.

By Abhishek K.

Author is a Architect by profession. This blog is to share his experience and give back to the community what he learned throughout his career.