Database administrators (otherwise known by the sexy acronym: DBA) do exactly what it says on the tin (or the job title). They monitor, maintain and administer databases, ensuring, amongst other things, that they are secure (e.g. customers’ credit card details are protected), the data can be retrieved, the database is user friendly and the data is consistent.
DBAs increasingly specialise in particular types of databases and data management systems, e.g. Oracle or SQL Server. They are also usually responsible for designing, improving and refining databases.
Database administrators’ duties vary widely, but a database administrator might be responsible for things like: controlling user access, assessing and improving the performance of the database, and installing, modifying and upgrading database applications.
Finally, database administrators are responsible for managing data storage, back-up and recovery procedures to make sure that nothing gets lost and the database system has sufficient capacity.
After all, if the database crashes and you work for an investment bank or another company which relies heavily on its database systems, all hell could break loose. Eek!
Salary & benefits
So if you want to become a database administrator, how much will you earn? DBAs might start out on a salary between £18,000 and £30,000, rising to between £35,000 and £60,000 with experience.
If you’re looking for a regular nine-to-five, this might not be the career for you. Indeed, you might be required to work regular unsociable hours, such as overnight and weekend work. After all, if a major problem happens, DBAs can’t exactly shrug it off and head home.
You don’t necessarily need a degree or HND to become a DBA, but it might help. In particular, a degree in software engineering, computer science, mathematics, information technology, computer engineering or operational research will be useful.
If you don’t have an applicable undergraduate degree, it may be advisable to complete a postgraduate qualification in a relevant subject.
Another way to boost your employability is to get work experience in the I.T. department of a company. This will give you fantastic hands-on experience and will enable you to build up a network of useful contacts.
Training & progression
The majority of your training will be done whilst on the job under the supervision of senior database administrators. You will also have the opportunity to attend in-house training sessions from time to time.
Organisations such as the Chartered Institute for I.T. and the Institute for the Management of Information Systems (IMIS) also offer training courses and professional qualifications for database administrators who are keen to keep their skills fresh.
Working in I.T. is a constant learning process and, in order to be successful, you will need to keep on top of industry developments and teach yourself new skills all the time.
Once you have gained a decent amount of experience, you may step up into a senior database administrator position with team leading responsibilities. Eventually, you may advance your technical knowledge even further and begin working as database architect on major projects.
Many database administrators become independent contractors and work on a freelance basis for a variety of clients.