Computer databases are found in nearly every industry. Databases organize, track, and store information for businesses and other organizations. Database Administrators (DBAs) identify user needs, set up databases, monitor and manage the databases. The DBA’s primary responsibility is to ensure that the database is available, is performing properly, and is kept safe. Data integrity, backup, and security are critical parts of the job.
DBAs work in offices or computer labs, typically as part of the information technology (IT) department. They usually work about 40 hours a week, but evening or weekend work may be needed for meeting deadlines. They may also have to be on call in case of middle-of-the-night tech meltdowns. DBAs must be able to think logically, pay close attention to detail, and be willing to spend long hours in front of a computer. DBAs sometimes work on their own but they often work in teams, coordinating their efforts with other computer specialists and managers. They must be good communicators, including communicating with other staff who may have no computer training.
There is no single way to prepare for a job as a database administrator. Many community colleges and technical schools offer specialized training programs to help meet the needs of local businesses. Although you can qualify for some work with an associate’s degree, you will have more options with a bachelor’s degree. Employers often seek workers who have a degree in computer science, information science, or a related IT field. Despite employers’ preference for those with technical degrees, persons with degrees in a variety of majors can find computer jobs.
One way to acquire enough knowledge is to become certified in a specific type of database management. Database certification isn’t mandatory – classes alone may be enough – but certifying in SQL Server, Oracle, or DB2 database management systems can help you land a job as a DBA. Many employers regard these certifications as the industry standard. This is especially important if you do not have a background in the computer or IT field. Certification is a good way to demonstrate a certain level of competence.
Jobseekers can also improve their chances by working in internship or co-op programs at their schools. There are many internships where you can learn computer skills that employers are looking for. Rapidly changing technology requires highly skilled and educated employees. Many IT workers take courses regularly to keep up with the changes in technology. DBAs typically need to master new programs every six to nine months. Also, the increasing importance being placed on “cyber security” – the protection of electronic information – will require workers skilled in information security.
Database administrators work in every sector of the economy. The largest number work in the computer systems design and related services industry. Many work for Internet service providers, Web search portals, and data-processing, hosting, and related firms. Database administrators may advance into managerial positions. For example, a promotion to chief technology officer might be made on the basis of experience managing data and enforcing security, combined with a business background.
Many DBAs start out elsewhere in IT, usually as developers or programmers. Those having a college or graduate degree in computer science or a related field will have a good chance of getting a job. Those having a lot of related work experience will also have a good chance. For the best opportunities, combine a college degree with certification. Employers look for people who can learn new systems quickly and start putting them to use right away.
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