Career Testing
Career Testing
Career Testing
CAREER DEVELOPMENT / JAN. 15, 2014
version 4, draft 4

How to Become a Database Administrator

We all know that IT is the biggest growth area for jobs and that computers are the driving force behind that. But did you know that the highest paid and biggest growth area within the tech industry is DBA or Database Administrators. For those in the dark a database is where all of the information for an organisation or a certain task is stored. While it can seem very simple when you first look at the job it is actually a very difficult job and becoming more and more important with the increased amount and importance of data used by businesses.

What Do Database Administrators Do?

A Database Administrator is in charge of planning, maintaining and retrieving all the data within a database. The planning of these databases is quite complex as most databases are relational now so they are split into different tables which must all relate to each other properly so that the database works correctly. In addition to this some databases can be absolutely massive in size and be very difficult to maintain and construct. The increased used of database driven websites means that you could either be working on the web or a massive database in a warehouse. However, one downside of being a DBA is that you may be on call 24/7 to ensure the integrity of the database. These are some of the tasks that a DBA would have to perform.

  • Ensuring the security and integrity of the data within the database.
  • Ensure that the data is backed up automatically in case the database suffers a critical error.
  • Designing and mapping new and improved database systems for companies.
  • Monitoring the database to ensure that it remains fast and efficient and make sure that other employees employ best practices when imputing data to the database.
  • Writing out guidelines on what best practices need to be employed to use the database.
  • Improve the database such as installing or customising new applications if necessary .
  • Testing all areas of the database including but not limited to inputting, deleting, retrieving information and backup procedures.
  • Monitor and control who has the correct permissions and privileges to access the database.
  • Liaise with the rest of the IT department to help ensure that the database remains efficient and secure.

Salary

As it is a real growth area the pay is the highest in the tech industry. However, as with any job it varies depending on the company and geographical location. The following table provides a guide to the average UK salary for Database administrators.

Graduate or Entry Level

£20,000 to £25,000

Couple of Years Experience

£32,000

Experienced

£45,000

Management or Senior

£57,000 or higher

What Qualifications are Needed

The qualifications needed to be an effective DBA are very similar to those needed to be an effective software developer. You need to be a logical and analytical thinker with the ability to learn new technologies quickly.  Of course while many people move from software development to DBA the two skills are quite different. An undergraduate degree in one of the following disciplines is usually advised:

  • Computer Science
  • Software Engineering
  • Electronics
  • Mathematics
  • Physics

You need to be extremely good with the following technologies. Unless you are an SQL ninja then you are not going to get hired as a DBA. Although SQL can seem like a relatively easy language because it is written in quite plain English the queries can become extremely long and complex:

  • Structured Query Language (SQL)
  • UNIX
  • Oracle
  • Linux
  • Database Management Systems

But is also easier than ever to learn these languages without going to university, with free online resources such as http://sqlzoo.net and http://www.sqlcourse.com/. Not to mention free versions of Oracle are available for download now.

Probably the biggest problem with the DBA profession is that it is notoriously hard to get started in. The reason for this is partly because there are not that many courses which deal exclusively with Database Administration. Perhaps the main problem is that because a company’s information is so vital to their existence they are loath to entrust it an entry level DBA. Naturally, they only want an experienced professional to look after their valuable information. Of course, this creates the catch 22, how do I get experience if no one will hire me. Your best way of getting your foot in the door is either finding a graduate program with a large company, working for a small company who has no other option or work in a software development role and try and move into DBA work within the organisation.

Career Prospects

Due to the high demand of experienced DBA’s and relatively low number of them available, an experienced DBA is extremely employable almost anywhere in the world. If you have talent and experience then you would find it hard not to find a job as a DBA and as you can see the pay is quite good. Depending on what skills you have, you may be able to move around the IT sector at will. Of course, you can move from being a DBA to become a Director after years of experience and your pay could go exponentially higher.

The Database Administrator career is certainly a career worth considering if you are really into IT. However, given how hard it is to break into the role it is not suitable to everyone; you really have to be committed and know what you are doing for a company to trust you with their data.   

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