Database Administrator Career Path

“In today's environment, IS [information systems] components are business critical, and the key part of every process is data."

--Robert Omerza, president of the International DB2 Users Group and a longtime database administrator for a major courier service

database admin schools

If you’re on the lookout for a career that will have almost no risk of layoffs, even with company downsizing, look no further. You probably couldn’t choose a more secure job field than database administration. And the demand for skilled database administrators is expected to continue. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 66% growth in database administration jobs through the year 2010. Only seven other occupations in all job categories will have a greater growth rate.

As company databases continue to grow, there is a huge need for individuals to maintain, manage, and help develop new ways to organize this information. Typically a database administrator is responsible for various aspects of databases such as initial set up/design, setting parameters to maximize performance, and troubleshooting problems. While IT fields like Java Development and Web Development are more familiar to IT graduates than database administration, it is still a field with huge opportunity and continued growth.

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Job Responsibilities

At some companies, the typical responsibilities of a database administrator are divided among several positions. At other companies, typically smaller ones, one individual plays all of these roles. Examples of some of these positions include:

  • Database Administrators--Work with business areas to set up and maintain their databases. They are concerned with database objects like tables, indexes, tablespaces, stored procedures, etc.
  • Database Systems Administrators-- Responsible for supporting the database system itself. These individuals are concerned with the actual code that runs the database and how that integrates with the platforms on which it runs and the applications trying to access data from a database.
  • Database Designers--Help business areas design their databases. They determine which tables are needed and how those tables should relate to one another.

How to Become a Database Administrator

To become a database administrator (DBA), a four year degree in database administration, information technology, or Applied Computer Science is preferred. If interested in this field, take as many database courses that the school you attend offers. There are also database-specific certifications that one can obtain (IBM, Oracle, SQL Server) that help better prepare you for this exciting field. Internships are also valuable in helping you land a job in database administration.

Entry-level positions in database administration are harder to come by than jobs calling for more experienced database administrators. Therefore, don't be afraid to take a different job in IT initially.  Many database administrators start out as programmers, analysts, or other IT professionals before moving into the database administration field.

As for interview preparation for a job in database administration, most interviews for entry level positions aren't too technical. They are oftentimes focused more on “soft skills” such as your conflict resolution experience, times you exhibited leadership skills, and communication skills. But, it's important to be prepared for technical questions to be asked as well. A prospective DBA should be able to talk about relational databases, SQL, and some data modeling concepts.

Internships

Many schools have departments that handle internships. As an IT student, it is a good start to contact the internship department, if your school offers one. An enterprising student could also target companies they are interested in interning for directly. Most companies are open to offering internships in hopes to gain qualified long term employees that they don’t have to commit to hiring them until they see their capabilities. Some companies offer volunteer internships while others pay their interns.

Database Administrator Titles

  • Administrator    
  • Database Administrator (DBA)   
  • Oracle Database Administrator   
  • Oracle DBA   
  • SQL Server Database Administrator   
  • SQL Server DBA

Day in the Life of a Database Administrator

Below are examples of individuals who work in the database administration field and their experiences and viewpoints about the field.

Other Database Administration Categories
To learn more about Database Administration careers, degrees, schools, and salaries, visit the following links/pages.

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