What Does a Data Migration Specialist Do (And How Do I Become One)?
March 11, 2021
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?
With so many areas of our lives going digital, data-oriented operations and technologies are increasingly important. As such, career opportunities in any of these fields is strong. From general IT to data analytics, data-oriented jobs will be available and lucrative in the years ahead—and trained professionals will have an easier time than most identifying new opportunities and experiencing career growth.
Of course, these data-based industries all rely on digital information that is constantly collected, extracted, processed, and moved. And 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 are directly responsible for the movement of data across platforms, channels, and even entire networks.
While already in high demand, 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?
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.
When Is a Data Migration Specialist Needed?
Data migration is commonly described as the process of moving data from one location to another. That, of course, is a wildly simplified summary of the job, and 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—like from desktop to mobile. The data is the key focus in almost all instances, as it holds mission and business-critical information that must be preserved.
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 can work with new systems and can be further added to or edited. Due to the nature of the work, data migration specialists are often well-versed in other aspects of IT, and will therefore bridge many different responsibilities.
Taking a data storage system and adding artificial intelligence or machine learning functionality will almost always require the aid of data migration specialists. That data, which was once stagnant or static, must now be processed by the AI system; this will require oversight to ensure the information is read, extracted, and transferred accurately.
One can begin to grasp why 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. Ad 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—and such degrees can be earned at almost any modern 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 shorter.
Data Migration Certifications
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 networks administration programs differ across institutions, many are rooted in the same foundational elements.
The Difference Between A Certified Data Center Migration Specialist and Certified Data Migration Specialist Programs
Apart from the environment in which the skills and expertise will eventually be used, a certified data center migration specialist and a certified data migration specialist are essentially identical programs. A data center specialization prepares students to work with large scale and often fast-paced remote and cloud computing applications.
A general data migration specialization may still provide students with data center training, but the focus will be specifically on data migration. Both programs cover all the necessary training and preparation for in-field tasks, as well as the applications, solutions, and systems one needs to know to perform the work.
After the Education Is Complete
Once your training is complete, most jobs (and job titles) will depend on experience. Like most other the industries, data specialists usually begin in low-level data-oriented 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, has many parallels to that 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 still require the necessary educational qualifications, but in some cases students can work as they are completing their degrees or certifications.
Alternative Careers in Information Technology
Many of the jobs in information technology are similar to those of data migration specialists.
These can include:
- Network and Computer Systems Administrator
- Data Scientist or Data Analyst
- Desktop Support Technician (IT)
- Big Data Engineer
- Data Analytics Manager
- Test Analyst/ Site Reliability Engineer
- IT Service Technician
- Cybersecurity Technician / Analyst
- Director of Information
- Information Technology Manager
Top Data Migration Employers/Organizations
To understand where one would be working and with what organizations one might be involved, it makes sense to explore some of the most popular employers in the industry:
- Thomson Reuters
- First Tek
- Globanet Consulting Services
- C-Solutions Inc
- Scrollmotion Inc
- DXC Technology
Salary and Job Market
According to Glassdoor, the average base pay of data migration specialists is $46,664. Payscale quotes the average a little higher, at $51,273. Salaries, of course, vary on location, experience and expertise.
A network and computer systems administration or systems programmer, for instance, has an average salary of $62,340.
Job security is compounded when professionals have additional experience, education, and knowledge. Added experience in cybersecurity and systems administration, for example, can help data migration experts grow much further in their careers.
It’s important to understand that while many businesses are making the switch to digital technologies, data migration will continue to evolve even after the majority if businesses have completed 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.
An additional 90 percent of those organizations state that the involved applications are business-critical, meaning 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.