Database Administration

Store, protect and mine the data that drives business performance.

What is Database Administration?

A database is the digital brain trust of almost every contemporary organization, from hospitals and banks to insurance companies, colleges and government. Peak performance depends on data that’s accessible, orderly and accurate at all times.

Database administrators (DBAs) are the people charged with storing, monitoring and troubleshooting these troves of information. They’re also responsible for data security, backup and generating reports, usually with the SQL database language. The role demands strong technical expertise and usually requires industry certification in one or more commercial databases.

Who Should Get a Database Administration Degree

U.S. News & World Report ranks database administration as its No. 9 best technology job for 2015. It’s a growing career, with demand for DBAs predicted to grow at 11 percent through 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

DBAs typically start their tech careers as database developers or analysts, stepping up to the administration role after refining their skills for a few years. Potential employers usually require at least a bachelor’s degree in management information systems, computer science, database administration or another related field. Industry certifications in commercial databases, such as Oracle Certified Professional (OCP) and Microsoft Certified Database Administrator (MCDBA), assure an employer that you’re qualified for this complex job.

Traits & Aptitudes

Look past the hacker-busting character tropes on television; these are the real traits you need.

Logical

Synthesize information and organize it into meaningful patterns that analysts and others can understand.

Analytical

Systematically interpret and evaluate information from multiple sources.

Detail-Oriented

Sweat the small stuff. In database administration, even a tiny error can cause big problems.

Communicative

Work in teams to keep projects on track, and explain complex concepts to an array of people.

Lifelong-Learner

Keep pace with this ever-changing field by honing your skills and earning new certifications.

Logical

Synthesize information and organize it into meaningful patterns that analysts and others can understand.

Analytical

Systematically interpret and evaluate information from multiple sources.

Detail-Oriented

Sweat the small stuff. In database administration, even a tiny error can cause big problems.

Communicative

Work in teams to keep projects on track, and explain complex concepts to an array of people.

Lifelong-Learner

Keep pace with this ever-changing field by honing your skills and earning new certifications.

Degrees in Database Administration

As demand for the profession ramps up, colleges and universities are offering brick and mortar and convenient online degrees and certificates to groom the next generation of database administrators. Look for comprehensive programs that cover the material you’ll need to sit for certification exams from industry giants such as Microsoft, CompTIA and Cisco. In this fast-moving field, it’s essential to keep up with the latest database innovations.

Online Degrees in Database Administration

Today, millions of working adults are enrolling in school to pursue online degrees. Colleges have responded to the influx of older students with innovations such as year-round admissions, mobile apps and compressed class schedules. School is no longer about fitting your life around classes, but vice versa.

But before you enroll in any program, check to see if the school is accredited. This seal of approval is your assurance that a college meets outside standards for quality and rigor. Federal aid is only available to students enrolled in accredited schools.

There are several types of accreditation to look for. Regional sets the gold standard for all U.S. colleges and universities. For online-specific degrees, two agencies are best known: the Accreditation Board for Engineering Systems and the Distance Education Accrediting Commission.

How It Works

An online program puts learning at your fingertips, any time, night or day. Waiting in the car for the kids’ dance lessons to end, you might read about routers on your phone. At home on your laptop, you might delve into visual basic programming.

Most colleges deliver courses through an interactive platform where you’ll access lectures, assignments and feedback. Throughout the class, you’ll log in to attend lectures, post homework and interact with the instructor and other students. Expect to collaborate on group projects with fellow degree-seekers. This format, mirroring the team-based work style so common in the tech field, is great practice for the DBA role.

Benefits

Workable schedules: Log in and learn whenever you like—early in the morning or late at night; alongside your kids while they do homework; Saturday mornings before the house wakes up.

Respected degree: Do hiring managers hesitate at online degrees? In a word, no. Most businesses are primarily concerned with your skills and the school’s accreditation—not the course delivery method. (And besides, your diploma won’t specify that the credential was earned online.) Since the course content in a virtual class is identical to a traditional class, you’ve achieved the same bar and gained the same skills.

Momentum: Some online programs deploy quick-turn courses that last as few as five weeks. This fast-forward format compresses the information and energizes the pace as you gain on your degree in focused bursts.

Mobility: Apps make your classes portable, empowering you to study whenever you have time—in between appointments, at the in-laws’ house, or waiting in the car for soccer practice to end.

Why Get a Degree in Database Administration?

Potential Career Paths

A bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement to become a database administrator. Most people work for a few years in a related field, such as database development or analysis, before taking on the DBA role.

As you investigate schools, target programs that include recognized IT industry certifications and exams as part of the curriculum. It’s crucial that you keep current with the latest technology. When you combine industry certifications with a degree, you’re signaling to potential employers that you’re serious about success.

Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics foresees strong demand for database administrators, with the profession expected to grow at 11 percent annually through 2024.

Salary

Database administrators are rewarded for their top-notch technical skills. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2016-17 Occupational Outlook Handbook estimates the annual median pay for database administrators at $80,280. The pay varies depending on which industry the DBA is working in. Here’s the median wage for each of the following fields:

Insurance: $85,200

Computer systems design and related: $89,200

Information: $84,570

Educational services: $64,940

Mind-Expanding

This complex field demands critical thinking skills and a commitment to staying current with the latest technological advances. Most DBAs continue to take classes and earn certifications throughout their careers.

Versatility

Databases power every corner of the economy, from education to high tech and finance to insurance. Expertise in database administration can take you into almost any industry that calls to you.

Educational Paths

Certificates

Get certified in SQL, the language of database management, and learn all about programming, deploying and querying a server.

Program Length

Most certificate programs require nine to 18 months of study.

What You’ll Study

Some certificates deliver the know-how you’ll need to sit for industry certification exams on commercial databases such as Cisco, Microsoft and CompTIA. Check with the school before you enroll; certifications are often administered and priced separately.

A certificate in database administration can put you on the path to become an IT technician, a systems analyst, or a support specialist. If you’ve already established yourself in the field, an advanced certificate can refresh your career with up-to-the-minute skills and newfound focus.

Remember that most employers want to see a college degree on your resume. You’ll have a leg up if you pair a certificate with a full-on bachelor’s in database administration or a related field. Sometimes, “stackable” certificates can add up to a degree.

Certificate topics in database administration include algorithms and logic, information systems, data warehousing and CompTIA Network+ Technologies.

Associate’s

Gain a firm foothold in database management and IT with a two-year degree.

Program Length

An associate’s degree in usually requires two years to complete, but some programs last as few as 18 months.

What You’ll Study

You’ll hone your critical thinking skills and get hands-on practice with databases, the SQL language and much more.

Combined with industry certification such as the Microsoft® Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) SQL Server, an associate’s degree can put you on the path to become a systems analyst, IT support specialist or network systems administrator.

A few of the core classes you’ll often find in a database administration program include customer service fundamentals, logic and troubleshooting, SQL server administration and data warehouse implementation.

In most cases, associate’s degree classes completed in an accredited school will transfer to a bachelor’s program.

Bachelor’s

Refresh your career options with a bachelor’s degree in database administration.

Program Length

A bachelor’s degree usually demands four years of study. But if you’ve already earned science, math or engineering credits at an accredited school, you might finish in less time.

What You’ll Study

From implementing queries to ensuring data integrity, the coursework installs a practical working knowledge of the field. When you choose a program that incorporates industry certifications such as Microsoft or CompTIA, you’ll boost your appeal to potential employers.

As companies in all sectors rely more and more on data, there’s a growing need for people to run those databases. With a bachelor’s degree in hand, you might pursue a position as a database developer or data analyst specializing in health care, finance, market research or operations.

The core courses for a bachelor’s degree in IT with a database administration focus include Visual Basic programming, computer architecture, networking and network security.

Master’s

Many organizations with large, high-performance databases require their DBAs to have master’s degrees in computer science, information systems or IT.

Program Length

Part-time study in an advanced database administration program generally requires two or more years to complete of the degree.

What You’ll Study

Many organizations with large, high-performance databases require their DBAs to have master’s degrees in computer science, information systems or IT. By specializing in database administration, you’ll learn the intricacies of designing, configuring and managing data warehouses. Many advanced degrees integrate certificates along the way to the master’s degree, equipping you with powerful new skills even before graduation.

In addition to the core computer science topics, a focus on database administration typically includes classes in database design, data warehousing and advanced database administration.

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