Tech & Work

Companies are desperate for DBAs

Database administrators are among the most sought-after high-tech workers. TechWatch columnist Bob Weinstein talks to headhunters about the supply and demand for this red-hot IT position.

Database administrators (DBAs) have never had a problem finding jobs. During the past couple of years, they’ve become one of the top five fastest-growing technical occupations, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. (The other four hot jobs are computer support technician, computer engineer, systems analyst, and desktop publishing specialist.)

“Almost every company needs [DBAs], either on a full-time or a part-time basis,” said Joe Gassman, vice president of Philadelphia-based executive search firm Management Recruiters of Cherry Hill. “As the cost of computing drops, more companies are collecting more data using different methods. Simply, the role of the DBA is to get systems organized for informational accuracy and to make them easily accessible.”

The biggest reason for the heightened demand for DBAs?

The answer is “the Internet,” according to Dennis Scheil, chief technologist of Parsippany, NJ-based computer consulting company Delta Corporate Services.

“More and more companies are building e-commerce sites and putting data on the Internet,” Scheil said. “As each application is developed they need a database on the back end.”

That means utilizing people with database experience. But, finding them is almost impossible. Check out technical employment ads in virtually any daily newspaper or tech Web site (such as and you’ll see jobs like this advertised:
“SQL Server 6.5 / 7.0 Database AdministratorExperience with troubleshooting and doing replication, along with some scripting code experience to implement changes if necessary and debug scripts as well. Required Skills: Programming with VB; GUI experience; SQL Server 6.5 and 7.0.”

In terms of dollars and cents
The pay range? Depending on experience level, it can be anywhere from $50,000 to $120,000.

Barbara Engravido, IT supervisor at Cypress, CA-based Manpower Professional, says California companies are practically pulling out their hair trying to find qualified DBAs with four to seven years of Oracle experience.

So it’s no small wonder that DBAs are capturing top salaries. “On the low end, DBAs with three to four years experience are getting $60 an hour, but at the high end (eight years of experience), salaries jump to $125-$150 an hour,” says Engravido.

And Gassman has placed DBAs that get as much as $300 an hour. But, he adds that most DBAs are not getting that kind of money. Hourly rates and salaries are determined according to the complexity of the work.

“The more complex the system and the more transactions that have to be processed per day, for example, the more value that’s placed on the work,” Gassman said. “If you’re required to do physical modeling, move data through 15 hard drives and create customer relationship management systems, for example, the DBA’s job becomes very demanding.”

A day in the life
“Imagine working for a credit card company and dealing with many servers processing multiple transactions per day,” said Gassman. “Not only is the work difficult, but DBAs also must to contend with deadlines and intense pressure.”

The DBA’s job isn’t getting easier either. “If you’re working for a brokerage house, bank, or credit card company, for example, the amount of data only increases,” said Gassman, “making the task of managing it an ongoing challenge.”

Since the money is great and the demand is endless, many DBAs opt for contract work rather than a permanent job. “We place many DBAs on projects with the option of staying on as permanent staffers. But most would rather have the mobility of choosing projects all over the United States,” says Engravido. You can’t blame them, either.

And, unless colleges turn out more computer science and IT grads equipped to take entry-level DBA jobs, the demand will only intensify. Yet, even this historic seller’s marketplace demands some experience, according to Myles Stern, associate professor of Detroit-based Wayne State University’s department of information systems and manufacturing.

“All our grads are getting IT jobs, but the ones getting jobs as DBAs usually have a computer science degree and some real DBA experience either on a project or part-time job,” he says. “They’re getting salaries in the mid-$40K [to] $50K range.”
Is your company having trouble recruiting DBAs? Let us know by dropping us a note or by posting a comment below.

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