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Degrees and Schools
Database administrators usually pursue two-year or four-year degrees at colleges, technical schools or universities in Information Science, Computer Science or Management Information Systems (MIS). Although some employers hire graduates with associate's degrees, most hire those with bachelor's degrees. Additional knowledge of business, project management and Internet commerce is highly preferred, and many employers look for graduates with MBAs with a computer science or information systems. The MIS degree also combines business with information technology, and usually is part of a business degree program rather than a computer science program.
When it comes to lower-level positions in database administration, many employers consider demonstrated ability through work experience, certifications in specific software packages or programming languages, or a portfolio of collective work to be just as or more important than a degree. However, for successful career advancement, most database administrators will seek a four-year degree or master's degree at some point. Some employers offer tuition reimbursement for courses or programs related to a job.
Students in two-year and four-year degree programs divide their coursework between class time and lab time. Group and independent projects allow students to apply what they've learned by creating actual databases. Coursework usually includes:
- Understanding different kinds of databases and their unique purposes
- Database theory and design
- Information management theory and practice
- Requirements gathering, documentation and diagramming
- Preserving data integrity and testing procedures
- Use of specific database software and programming languages
- Database security
- Internet commerce and web applications that rely on databases
- Data migration and integration
- Backup and recovery
Ongoing education is essential for database administrators to keep up-to-date on emerging technologies. Attending conferences, joining user groups, and taking certification courses for a particular technology, product or programming language are common, and employers often pay for or reimburse these expenses.
Online Classes and Programs
Database administrators often pursue online information science or computer science two-year degrees or four-year degrees, as telecommuting is common in the industry and is often preferred over attending on-campus classes. There are many programs available, so choosing educational programs that are accredited by organizations such as the Computer Science Accreditation Commission (CSAC) can help narrow down which program is the best match and ensures that credits will be accepted at other schools in the future.
There are no specific requirements for database administrators, although bachelor's degrees are considered desirable and may be required by some employers. Demonstrated ability in the form of certifications, a portfolio or work experience may minimum requirements for some jobs.
How to Evaluate Database Administrator Schools
As prospective computer science or information science students compare two- and four-year degree programs, they should consider asking the following questions:
- Tuition and financial assistance - Tuition costs can be defrayed by financial assistance in the form of scholarships, loans or work study. Does the school provide enough guidance for students to take full advantage of these options?
- Additional costs - In addition to textbooks and fees, will students be required to pay for lab time or to purchase expensive software programs and manuals?
- Accreditation - Has the program been accredited by a governing body in computer science / information technology? If an online program, is it accredited by direct learning oversight organizations?
- School and class size - What other amenities such as computer labs may be offered by larger schools? What is the class size of popular courses? What is the student-to-faculty ratio?
- Relevant courses - Does the program offer enough courses in both business and computer science to meet long-term career objectives and enhance hireability? Are there enough courses on specific software packages or technologies to receive a comprehensive and relevant education?
- Practical experience - Is substantial lab time required as part of the program? Are practical experience opportunities such as internships supported?
- Career assistance- Does the school offer a comprehensive job placement program, and if so, how many graduates are successfully placed? Do they have career fairs where a long list of major employers attends each year?
Database Administrator Job Description
Business is conducted through the creation, distribution and processing of information. If this information isn't captured and stored in an accurate, useful way, it is useless. Databases are powerful engines for storing data in ways that promote efficiency, integrity and accessibility, and database administrators make sure they perform these functions well.
Duties can include:
- Identifying and documenting the requirements of clients.
- Designing databases that manage information well using a combination of theory and programming languages.
- Migrating information from one form or version of database to another without data loss.
- Modifying databases to integrate new forms of data or perform new functions.
- Testing database functions and cleaning up data to preserve integrity.
- Backing up databases and developing / enforcing security measures.
Database administrators work in office environments, as full time employees or self-employed consultants, either on site or telecommuting.
Job Title: Database Administrator
Attended: Worcester Polytechnic Institute • Worcester, MA
Studied Computer Science (completion in 2004)
Highest relevant degree: Bachelor's
"I work in financial services as a database administrator working on an SQL Server. I am somewhat dissatisfied because my programming abilities are squandered on financial reports, but the work is easy and the pay is good."
Ratings are on a 1-10 scale
|School Rating||8||WPI provided me with a solid foundation in Mathematics and Computer Science as a primarily engineering school. The program focused on the theory of computing more than how to just bang on the keyboard to get the results that you desired.|
|Opportunity for Promotion||8||Being the provider of globally important info puts my group in the unique position to succeed. I feel that the opportunities are mine to take.|
|Job Security||8||I work in financial services. Although I am writing reports now, my group is responsible for static data that is needed globally.|
|Earnings Potential||8||Our group's importance could take off at any time based on the take up of our technology. The work is out there for us to capitalize on.|
|How Stressful||6||A little higher than average because I am responsible to traders who need information quickly. But at other times, I am free to work at my own pace.|
|Task Variety||4||Databasing in Financial Services. Enough Said.|
|How Cool Is The Career||1||Databasing in Financial Services. Enough said.|
|Career Flexibility||5||I rated this as average because although the job highly flexible with regards to my work location, I serve as my group's first line of response to database problems. I need to be available via phone and computer, so only my connectivity limits where I can work.|
|Social Orientation||5||I share interests with people in my group. Social interaction is average because most of my coworkers are older than me, so we talk about our interests in the office, but I won't be going out with them after.|
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