If you're looking for a career that's growing with more and more opportunities presented every day, becoming a database administrator is a great place to start. Bonus points are awarded if you already have a bachelor's degree in an information- or computer-related subject.
Database Administrators focus their time on using specialized software to store and organize data. Every industry that has a large database is going to hire for this position. But typically these employees can be found working for educational institutions and insurance companies.
Database administrators use specialized software to store and organize data, such as financial information and customer shipping records. They make sure that data are available to users and are secure from unauthorized access.
Database administrators typically do the following:
- Ensure that organizational data is secure
- Back up and restore data to prevent data loss
- Identify user needs to create and administer databases
- Ensure that the database operates efficiently and without error
- Make and test modifications to the database structure when needed
- Maintain the database and update permissions
- Merge old databases into new ones
Database administrators, often called DBAs, make sure that data analysts can easily use the database to find the information they need and that the system performs as it should. DBAs sometimes work with an organization’s management to understand the company’s data needs and to plan the goals of the database. They also may work with computer and information systems managers to provide database solutions. Database administrators are responsible for backing up systems to prevent data loss in case of a power outage or other disaster. They also ensure the integrity of the database, guaranteeing that the data stored in it come from reliable sources.
Some DBAs oversee the development of new databases. They have to determine what the needs of the database are and who will be using it. They often monitor database performance and conduct performance-tuning support. Database administrators often plan security measures, making sure that data are secure from unauthorized access. Many databases contain personal or financial information, making security important.
Many database administrators are general-purpose DBAs and have all these duties. However, some DBAs specialize in certain tasks that vary with an organization and its needs. Two common specialties are as follows:
System DBAs are responsible for the physical and technical aspects of a database, such as installing upgrades and patches to fix program bugs. They typically have a background in system architecture and ensure that the firm’s database management systems work properly.
Application DBAs support a database that has been designed for a specific application or a set of applications, such as customer-service software. Using complex programming languages, they may write or debug programs and must be able to manage the applications that work with the database. They also do all the tasks of a general DBA, but only for their particular application.
Database administrators (DBAs) usually have a bachelor’s degree in an information- or computer-related subject such as computer science. Before becoming an administrator, these workers typically get work experience in a related field.
Most database administrators have a bachelor’s degree in management information systems (MIS) or a computer-related field. Firms with large databases may prefer applicants who have a master’s degree focusing on data or database management, typically either in computer science, information systems, or information technology.
Database administrators need an understanding of database languages, the most common of which is Structured Query Language, commonly called SQL. Most database systems use some variation of SQL, and a DBA will need to become familiar with whichever programming language the firm uses.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Certification is generally offered directly from software vendors or from vendor-neutral certification providers. Certification validates the knowledge and best practices required from DBAs. Companies may require their database administrators to be certified in the products they use.
Work Experience in a Related Occupation
Most do not begin their careers as database administrators. Many first work as database developers or data analysts. A database developer is a type of software developer who specializes in creating databases. The job of a data analyst is to interpret the information stored in a database in a way the firm can use. Depending on their specialty, data analysts can have different job titles, including financial analyst, market research analyst, and operations research analyst. After mastering one of these fields, they may become a database administrator. For more information, see the profiles on software developers, financial analysts, market research analysts, and operations research analysts.
Database administrators can advance to become computer and information systems managers.
Analytical skills. DBAs must be able to monitor a database system’s performance to determine when action is needed. They must be able to evaluate complex information that comes from a variety of sources.
Communication skills. Most database administrators work on teams and must be able to communicate effectively with developers, managers, and other workers.
Detail oriented. Working with databases requires an understanding of complex systems, in which a minor error can cause major problems. For example, mixing up customers’ credit card information can cause someone to be charged for a purchase he or she didn’t make.
Logical thinking. Database administrators must make sense of data and organize it in a meaningful pattern so that it is easily retrievable.
Problem-solving skills. When problems with a database arise, administrators must be able to troubleshoot and correct the problems.