Data Science

What Does a Data Migration Specialist Do (And How Do I Become One)?

What Does a Data Migration Specialist Do (And How Do I Become One)?
The job market for data migration experts should continue to grow as more companies change to digital and data-based platforms. A career in data migration offers ample opportunities for anyone looking to get involved in modern IT. Image from Unsplash
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Kayla Matthews January 31, 2019

The job market for data migration experts will continue to grow as more companies change to digital and data-based platforms. A career in data migration offers ample opportunities for anyone looking to get involved in modern IT—but what does it take to break in?

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With so many areas of our lives going digital, data-oriented operations and technologies are claiming ever-growing segments of the employment market. From general IT to data analytics, data-oriented jobs should be available and lucrative in the years ahead, especially for those with advanced training.

These data-based industries rely on digital information that is constantly collected, extracted, processed, and moved. Each time that information undergoes a collection, extraction, processing, or move, it becomes more fragmented—making it more prone to errors and inaccuracies.

Error-ridden data means big problems for businesses. In fact, 89 percent of C-level executives agree that inaccurate data undermines their ability to provide excellent customer experiences. Beyond that, it can disrupt operations and other processes.

Queue the data migration specialist, a particular subset of IT or information technology expert. These professionals manage the movement of data across platforms, channels, and even entire networks.

The job market for data migration experts should continue to grow as more companies change to digital and data-based platforms. A career in data migration offers ample opportunities for anyone looking to get involved in modern IT. What does it take to break in?

What does a data migration specialist do?

The process of migrating data from an old application to a new one—or to an entirely different platform—is handled by a team of data migration specialists. Data migration specialists plan, implement, and manage varying forms of data for organizations —particularly streams moving between disparate systems.

Data migration professionals typically manage the following responsibilities:

  • Meet with clients or management to understand data migration requirements and needs
  • Strategize and plan an entire project, including moving the data and converting content as necessary, while considering risks and potential impacts
  • Audit existing data systems and deployments and identify errors or areas for improvement
  • Cleanse or translate data so that it can be effectively moved between systems, apps, or software
  • Oversee the direct migration of data, which may require minor adjustments
  • Test the new system after the migration process as well as the resulting data to find errors and/or points of corruption
  • Document everything from the strategies used to the exact migration processes put in place—including documenting any fixes or adjustments made
  • Develop and propose data migration best practices for all current and future projects
  • Ensure compliance with regulatory requirements and guidelines for all migrated data

Essentially, data migration specialists move data from one place to another, generally within the same organization.



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When Is a data migration specialist needed?

Data migration is the process of moving data from one location to another. That’s a simplified summary of the job, to say the least, but it covers the very basics.

The work of a data migration specialist goes well beyond this primary function. Data migration experts also help convert the format of data to move it across platforms (e.g., from desktop to mobile). Whatever they do, data migration specialists focus primarily on maintaining data integrity.

Data migration experts are necessary any time an organization or enterprise launches a new system or data storage location, especially when existing data is currently in use. The entire process hinges on moving existing data properly and accurately so that it works with new systems and can be further added to or edited. Due to the nature of the work, data migration specialists are typically well-versed in other aspects of IT, and therefore capable of taking on many different responsibilities.

Adding artificial intelligence or machine learning functionality to a data storage system almost always requires the aid of data migration specialists. That data, which was once stagnant or static, must now be processed by the AI system. That requires oversight to ensure the information is read, extracted, and transferred accurately.

Data migration specialists must also understand varying forms of IT and modern technology. With the above artificial intelligence example, the involved professionals would need to have a working knowledge of big data, cloud computing, and machine learning, among other subjects.

Common data migration skills

The most obvious requirement for becoming a data migration specialist is a background in IT and computer science. But what other unique skills and experience are needed to thrive in this industry?

All data migration experts must possess:

  • Strong attention to detail in order to evaluate data for accuracy and errors
  • The ability to problem-solve under pressure and in complex situations
  • A methodical and logical approach to planning and organization
  • The ability to clearly communicate with team members
  • Excellent time management skills and a goal-oriented personality
  • A strong understanding of data protection and data governance
  • A commitment to growth and an interest in professional development as the IT industry grows
  • A thorough understanding of database systems and software
  • A willingness to work long hours, often beyond what some would consider “standard”
  • The ability to work productively in an office environment

Most of the knowledge and skills required for this career can be gained through education and experience. That is precisely where the journey begins for anyone looking to enter the field.

How do you become a data migration specialist?

The pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in information technology, information systems or computer science is an absolute must. These degrees can be earned at almost any university or college.

It is possible to obtain a data migration certification rather than a degree, but a degree is almost always preferred. For those going straight for a certification—skipping their degree— opportunities will be fewer.

After achieving a degree, entry into a postsecondary course or curriculum is necessary to gain a proper certificate (or the equivalent) in data migration. While data migration and network administration programs differ across institutions, many are rooted in the same foundational elements.

After completing your formal education

Once your training is complete, you’ll want to add experience. Most jobs require it. Data specialists usually begin in low-level jobs and work their way up the ladder. Even if your ultimate goal is to work outside of data migration, the training and experiences gained in-field will be useful.

The responsibilities of a network and computer systems administrator, for example, share many parallels to those of a data migration specialist—as does an IT system and service technician, data analyst, or entry-level programmer.

Internships and mentorship programs may help those who are early on in their careers gain the necessary experience and expertise for bigger roles. All internships or seasonal work opportunities require educational qualifications, but in some cases students can work as they are completing their degrees or certifications.

Alternative careers in information technology

Many jobs in information technology are similar to those of data migration specialists.

These can include:

  • Big data engineer
  • Cybersecurity technician/analyst
  • Data analytics manager
  • Data scientist or data analyst
  • Desktop support technician (it)
  • Director of information
  • Information technology manager
  • IT service technician
  • Network and computer systems administrator
  • Test analyst/site reliability engineer

Top data migration employers/organizations

Major data migration employers include:

  • Accenture
  • C-Solutions Inc
  • Capgemini
  • Cognizant
  • Deloitte
  • DXC Technology
  • EClinicalWorks
  • Ecolob
  • First Tek
  • Globanet Consulting Services
  • Scrollmotion Inc
  • Thomson Reuters

Salary and job market

According to Glassdoor, the average salary for data migration specialists is $76,800. Payscale calculates a significantly lower number, just under $62,000. Salaries, of course, vary on location, experience and expertise.

Job security improves when professionals have additional experience, education, and knowledge. Added experience in cybersecurity and systems administration, for example, can help data migration experts advance much further in their careers.

While many businesses are making the switch to digital technologies, data migration will continue to evolve even after the majority of businesses complete their data migrations. With every advancement in technology, the demand grows for professionals who can manage, migrate, and convert data to varying systems.

Currently, 69 percent of organizations are migrating data from common ERP applications to the cloud, moving to an infrastructure as a service (IaaS) setup.

Additionally, 90 percent of those organizations state that the involved applications are business-critical, i.e., they keep the business and operations afloat. A massive number of enterprises are undergoing data migration in some capacity, and many will need support in the future.

Those considering careers in data migration—whether they’re just starting out or have been working in IT for some time—will find there is ample room for growth and advancement as well as plenty of job security in this field.

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About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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