IT Employment

Need job security? Be a database administrator

Experts predict that the DBA will be one of the fastest growing occupations in America. How do you get on the DBA path?

Experts predict that the DBA will be one of the fastest growing occupations in America. How do you get on the DBA path?

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The Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) predicts DBA will be one of the fastest growing occupations in America through 2012. Companies are amassing an incredible amount of stored electronic information and need someone to keep it organized and safe. Also, e-business solutions are dependent on databases.

How do you get on the DBA path? If you're just starting out, you can pursue a degree in computer science. There are two-year and four-year degrees available, but many experts say that if you choose the four-year degree, you should also add classes in business administration, math, or commerce to make you more valuable to an employer.

In a piece this week in Career Pro News, associate professor of computer science Anthony Bonner explains:

"If you just want to be a DBA, I wouldn't go for a four-year degree. If you're more concerned about your long-term future, I'd go for a four-year degree. Or if you want access to the higher paying jobs."

Bonner explains that although you may learn a good deal about database systems in a four-year degree, you may not learn the specific skills of a DBA. That can be learned in a shorter course or on the job. But a degree, he says, gives you a greater knowledge base and better options for the future.

"It's a bit like the difference between going to nursing school and going to medical school.

If you're already in the IT field, you might want to go the certification route. Since Oracle has the most widely used database system in the world, becoming an Oracle certified professional would be a good place to start. Microsoft also offers a certified database administrator training program.

What kind of salary can you expect as a DBA? According to the Occupational Employment Statistics, the mean annual salary for DBAs in 2004 was $64,380. And of course, as is the case with most occupations, the more experience you have, the better the salary will be.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

23 comments
tinyang73
tinyang73

Right now I do PC support and have a distant history being a report writer (working with databases). I'm now interested in changing my focus a bit now and learning java. What would be the best DBA certificate or brand to follow that is related to or goes hand in hand with Java?

gautam.dwivedi
gautam.dwivedi

Hi All, i just want to know that what is the scope of SQLSERVER DBA in coming years ?

LyleTaylor
LyleTaylor

Actually, DBA work is fairly easily outsourceable. It may not be the first target (like help desk or field services), but it's not much further up the ladder. Now, before anyone slams me stating that their company's in-house DBA skills are much better than what you get from outsourcers, I know, I know. But outsourcing is about money, not skills...

tungstendiadem
tungstendiadem

Seriously, My degree says database administration on it, what do I do now?

clare.smith
clare.smith

I read the article in Career Pro News. The only sources are from universities or training centers. No actual employers are quoted as saying they can't find DBA's. Oh, there is a "technical recruiter" quoted, but I couldn't find any reference to the company or person when I searched so how technical is the company if you can't find them on the web?

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

for the good jobs, mind you it costs a small fortune as well. As for job security, I assume you mean employment security. Back in the 90s, someone predicted that programming would be the in thing and it was. Then loads of talentless uninterested but 'qualified' people came along, and worked cheap. This Bonner guy is not predicting that DBA will be the skill in the 4-6 years required to qualify from scratch, be wary.... Hit one of the job boards and search for junior DBA, not much out there at all is there? Career advice like this is pre-emptive cost cutting for business and free advertiseing for academia and the certification industries. If being a DBA doesn't float your boat, don't bother, you'll be disappointed in more ways than two.

TheProfessorDan
TheProfessorDan

I have a real interest in the area of database administration and I have even done some low level DBA work. Please tell me that more certification is not the answer. I already have an MCSE 2000 that is absolutely worthless. I am appealing to anyone that can tell me a different path. I also went out and got my Masters degree in CIS, which at this point has not helped though I feel that it will when I finally break into management.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

You'll be as close to the answer as anyone else, especially if you choose 16. :p Serioulsy if you want a prediction, you might as well get your bumps felt, or go to an astrologer. I mean, you've got outsourcing, SAAS, MS operating systems, MS specific database (not to mention version), a broad spec role and tech improvments in that question. Only someone from marketing/sales would give you a definitive answer, and they would be hoping not predicting.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

If it's a tape swapping and housekeeping role then yes it can be outsourced reasonably easily. If there's a development aspect though, you could end up being in a serious mess. Most DBAs do a lot more than swap tapes and keep log sizes down, and to do that you need to be considerably better than someone suited to the help desk from a technical and experince point of view.

bwatki
bwatki

Last time I checked, Houston had plenty of DBA postings on monster.com.

glgruver
glgruver

You have several hurdles ahead of you. I commend you for acquiring a degree. Right now is probably not the best time to be looking for work, but there is work out there. You have undoubtedly encountered the "experience conundrum" by now. My best suggestion is to find a bread and butter job to pay your living expenses and do some volunteer work for a local non-profit community agency. Believe me, they really need people who have computer and/or database knowledge. Perhaps you could mentor or tutor people in computer literacy. All of this will give you experience and may even provide you with contacts that will lead to your dream job. Please do not become discouraged. You may not get your dream job right away, but keep focusing on your goal and work toward accomplishing it. Good luck.

glgruver
glgruver

A few phrases come to mind like "would you like an order of fries with that" or "Hi, welcome to Wally World". My son just got a BA degree in Accounting and Business Admin. Best thing he has been able to find so far is a job at a local bakery. The money isn't great, but it puts gas in his car.

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

We always get the short end of the stick. Why? The certifications mills don't help get qualified people in the door. There is little in the way of promotions. Let's not forget management hasn't a clue what we do, but forces us to do stupid things because they think we do.

LarryD4
LarryD4

With the market the way it is nothing is secure right now..

LyleTaylor
LyleTaylor

Development work can be outsourced as well. I've seen it happen. Nearly our entire DBA group was outsourced recently. I'm not convinced it's the best thing to do, especially when you've got complicated systems to maintain and support, but it's not necessarily going to stop you from getting replaced by an outsourcing company if management is more concerned about "cutting costs" no matter how illogical you think their reasoning is. The point is, while skilled DBAs will likely still be in demand as will software engineers (or so say the analysts) you don't really have job security. If you're good, it may be easier for you to find another job, but you should always be prepared for the eventuality that your current one may go away. Don't let yourself get lulled into a false sense of security.

Shellbot
Shellbot

All depends on what's being done.. I'm a DBA..I've never swapped a tape in my life..the Operations guys take care of that.. I maintain, support, troubleshoot, tweak, and develop. "Operational DBA's" (as I call them) can easily be replaced.. anyone can click a button or check if a job has run successfully. When I work for someone I know thier data structure inside out..i can tell you what column/table a specific piece of data comes from off the top of my head, I can run those ad-hoc reports, I can knock up a quick data entry screen or some web based reporting in a couple hours or a couple days.. because of the variety of my skills, I'm confident I will always have a job as a DBA in that capacity. Its like any other IT job..if you know 1 thing and 1 thing only, you'll have less of a chance of surviving unless you can find a niche market as a consultant. Having a few other skills to back you up gives you an edge over other applicants, and in lean times, you can be value for money to a potential employer.

tungstendiadem
tungstendiadem

Thanks, But I am fairly certain they'll be filled by the time I get there.

crawk
crawk

I'm beginning to wonder if I should learn shoe repair.

whistl3r
whistl3r

IT personnel have been fairly expendable for the past decade, maybe longer. The only 'secure' job market is management (bureaucracy) and forcing their idealistic morals upon employee's. It's sad when a person who stands up for others Civil Rights (and those protected under the ADA) loses a job, when others can't (afraid to) defend themselves. The market has nothing to do with IT alone.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

I was talking job as in role, not job as in employment. Anyone who thinks the latter exists, is too stupid to be a DBA, in fact too stupid to qualify for village idiot.

Shellbot
Shellbot

At the end of the day I go with the flow..I'm not going to sit here and worry about my job..if it happens it happens.. I'm speaking from my perspective, I do contract work. So I'm always on the edge of having no job :) I complete for jobs on the basis that I'm a DBA, but I've also got experience in: data analysis, business analysis, VB, VB.net, javascript, html, asp classic, asp.net & application support. Don't get me wrong, I'm in no way a master at any of those things..but when a potential employer is looking for value for money, a varied skillset fits the bill.. I have a simple outlook on life..if i lose my job, i get another..if i can't get one as a DBA..depending on how desperate I am, i'll take app support, i'll take data analysis..heck..if the rent is due, I'll take McDonalds... My point is, if you diversify your in a much better place to get a job if you lose the one you have. While outsourceing is a major concern, not every company goes that way..there will always be some sort of job, we just may need to adapt to what those jobs are.

crawk
crawk

when you run out of gas and wear out your shoes from walking everywhere, you'll have to come visit me :-)

dh9777usa1
dh9777usa1

Then you only have to worry about the wide open roads instead of the wide open networks in your company!