According to the World Economic Council (WEC), every day throughout the world:
Each of these actions—along with every business transaction, every telephone call, every medical event, and many other similar occurrences—creates new data.
The data stream—flood, really—never ends. In fact, it just keeps growing larger. By 2025, the WEC reports, the world will create 463 quintillion bytes of data (more than 200 million DVDs worth) every day.
those cat videos that information needs a home, somewhere it can be categorized and stored. These organized collections are called databases, and without them—and the database administrators (DBAs) who design and maintain them—it would be impossible to make sense of the vast quantities of cat videos data collected online and within networks.
DBAs not only collect data but also help organizations make the most of the data they have. They select and manage software to store, sort, and disseminate information. They also help develop cohesive data strategies to serve organizational goals. It’s a pretty great job for tech-savvy people who enjoy learning new systems as technology evolves. In fact, US News and World Report ranks it fifth on its list of the ten best technology jobs in the world.
Do you have what it takes to become a database administrator? In this article, we’ll cover:
Database administrators do whatever is necessary to manage and safeguard information caches and to make that information available as needed. They play a critically important role at big companies that collect large volumes of data, and what they do isn’t always obvious.
For instance, it’s easy to look at a company like Amazon and see where database administrators fit in. The company maintains vast databases of:
The ability to track and analyze data is a big part of what has made Amazon an e-commerce juggernaut.
What about less obvious instances? For example, did you know that database administrators work behind the scenes at your local bank? The DBAs make sure that a customer service representative can quickly and easily call up your transaction history when you need assistance.
There are different types of database administrators with many different skill sets. Some manage the entire life cycle of a database. Others specialize in a specific business application or in backup and recovery.
“Typically the additional income from a master’s degree over a lifetime is worth the sticker price you pay for it.” (
A master’s in computer science can open countless doors from coast to coast. It will expand your knowledge and can help you advance your career, opening doors to management and leadership roles and increasing your earning potential. Jobs are plentiful around the country in a wide variety of industries, from healthcare to finance, entertainment to manufacturing.
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To succeed as a database administrator, you’ll need to know your way around a computer and how to use Structured Query Language (SQL, the programming language of databases). Database administrators tend to be excellent troubleshooters with a lot of patience. You’ll be dealing with database errors, and you have to be able to trace a path through the problem, the cause, and the possible solutions. Analytical skills are a must for DBAs because so much database work involves approaching goals and challenges methodically.
Serious puzzle lovers may do well in this role because they’ll have well-developed problem-solving skills. A good memory also helps, as database administrators have to remember things like:
Finally, the most successful database administrators are curious and love to learn, which is essential because IT is always evolving. Not keeping up in this field means getting left behind.
You will likely need a bachelor’s degree to become a DBA. Some DBAs go on to earn master’s degrees (more on that below), but many don’t. Common undergrad majors and concentrations chosen by DBAs include:
Classes in all of these bachelor’s degree majors will touch on such topics as:
Look for programs that give students the option to choose a database administration concentration and help them land a great internship.
Some of the best degree programs for database administrators can be found at:
Arkansas State offers its computer science degrees as part of the Department of Computer and Information Technology department. Courses cover database systems, information technology tools, and advanced data structures.
APSU offers a computer information technology degree with a concentration in database administration.
DePaul has bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in information systems, information technology, and computer science with concentrations in database administration and warehousing.
Pace offers a computer science degree with a concentration in database management and technologies. It also has one of the largest internship programs in New York City.
St. John’s has a bachelor’s degree program in computer science with the option to take coursework in database systems.
In many technical roles, work experience is at least as significant as having the right degree. The best way to get the experience you’ll need to land your first job is to complete an internship during your undergrad years. Some bachelor’s degree programs don’t require students to pursue an internship, but it’s worth doing even if it isn’t a graduation requirement. You’ll gain valuable on-the-job work experience, learn new or more advanced technical skills, and may even begin building a portfolio of projects.
To become a database administrator, you have to be certified in one or more commercial database systems. Preparing for certification exams may teach you more about database administration than you learned while pursuing your bachelor’s degree; which is to say, they can be challenging.
Choosing which certifications to pursue can be a crapshoot, because you never know what technologies hiring companies use. The best approach may be to get certified in as many current database applications as possible.
Many database administrators begin their careers in one of these roles. Database developers are responsible for designing and launching database systems and for collecting information. They sometimes also analyze database efficiency and optimize databases as necessary. Data analysts collect and analyze data in databases.
You may end up staying in one of these two roles for anywhere from one year to five before advancing.
Once you have sufficient work experience and the relevant certifications, you can step into this role and officially launch your career in database administration. Some DBAs are content to stop here, but you may want to consider pursuing a graduate degree if you’re interested in someday advancing to:
You don’t need a master’s degree to become a database administrator, but some employers (especially in big companies) prefer job candidates with an advanced degree. Be aware that there are multiple master’s degree programs appropriate for database administrators. Consider programs focused on:
These programs may include coursework in:
There are a few schools that offer master’s degrees in database administration, with coursework that’s especially heavy on the design and implementation of databases. Most schools, however, offer database administration as a concentration, not as a major. Options include Boston University‘s MS in computer information systems with a database management concentration and Southern New Hampshire University‘s MS in information technology with a concentration in database design. Nearly all computer science programs include classes in database design and administration, regardless of concentration. Many MBA programs do, too, though you should decide whether you want to stay in a technical role or pursue a career in management before choosing an MBA.
As noted above, this is one of the best jobs in tech. You’ll shoulder significant responsibilities in this role because you’ll be the custodian of an entire department or organization’s data, but it’s interesting work. The average salary for database developers is more than $90,000 per year. Be aware that different specializations in the data administration field pay very differently. Know also that you will likely earn more if you have multiple certifications.
Given how much data is currently being collected, it’s not surprising that the demand for database administrators is good and is expected to grow 9 percent by 2028. The key to landing a database administrator job is staying current. Database design is changing—relational databases may be giving way to non-relational databases—and you need to update your skills continually to remain hireable.
Do you love to learn? As a DBA, you’ll never stop. Some find this exhausting, others exhilarating. If you’re more the latter than the former, the DBA role is a good fit for you.
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