What is this job like?
The Internet and electronic commerce (e-commerce) generate lots of data. Computer databases that store information on customers, inventory, and projects are found in nearly every industry. Data must be stored, organized, and managed. Database administrators work with database software to find ways to do this. They identify user needs, set up computer databases, and test systems. They ensure that systems perform as they should and add people to the system as needed. Database administrators often plan security measures. Data integrity, backup, and security are critical parts of the job.
Database administrators work in offices or labs. They usually work about 40 hours a week. But evening or weekend work may need to be done to meet deadlines. Telecommuting—working from home—is common for computer professionals.
Like other workers who spend long periods in front of a computer, database administrators can suffer eyestrain, back discomfort, and hand and wrist problems.
How do you get ready?
Database administrators must be able to think logically. Being able to concentrate and pay close attention to detail is important. These computer specialists sometimes work on their own, but they often work in teams. They must be able to communicate with computer personnel, such as programmers and managers. They must also communicate with other staff who may have no computer training.
Rapidly changing technology requires highly skilled and educated employees. There is no single way to prepare for a job as a database administrator.
Some jobs may require only a 2-year degree. Most community colleges, and many other technical schools, offer an associate degree in computer science or a related information technology field. Many of these programs are geared toward meeting the needs of local businesses. They are more occupation-specific than 4-year degree programs.
Many employers seek workers who have a bachelor's degree in computer science, information science, or management information systems (MIS). MIS programs usually are part of the business school. They differ quite a bit from computer science programs. MIS programs focus on business and management-oriented course work and business computing courses. Now more than ever, employers seek workers with a master's degree in business administration (MBA) and a concentration in information systems.
Despite employers' preference for those with technical degrees, persons with degrees in a variety of majors find computer jobs. One factor affecting the needs of employers is changes in technology. Employers often scramble to find workers who know the latest new technologies. Many people take courses regularly to keep up with the changes in technology.
Jobseekers can 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.
Certification is a way to show a level of competence. Many employers regard these certifications as the industry standard. One way to acquire enough knowledge to get a database administrator job is to become certified in a specific type of database management. Voluntary certification also is available through various organizations associated with computer specialists.
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.