How to become a database administrator

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2 February

If you are good with working on data and know-how to manage it, you should consider a career as a database administrator. Being a database administrator, you must manage data storage, maintenance, security, and how to access data most efficiently. Database Administrator is critically important for a company because every day about 2.5 quintillion bytes of information flows on the web which needs to be properly and securely managed. 

This amount of data flow every year is greater than the information humanity has gathered in its history. This amount of information access and storage couldn’t have been possible with the technology of storing information via the databases. You need to understand what job description database administrator has or needs to perform if you want to pursue a living working as a database administrator. Please continue to read for a detailed discussion.

This article will discuss how you can become a database administrator and what skills, degrees, and certifications are required.

What does a database administrator do?

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You may ask how to become a database administrator if they are in such high demand? The main job of a database administrator is to work with all the data that inflows and outflows of a company or an establishment. They are responsible for storing, organizing, and managing all the customers' data, plus ensuring better access and security of the data. 

For example, a database administrator in a school will manage all the information data of teachers, students, and other supporting employees, their attendance, papers, and assignments, among many other things. He will need to safeguard the data while allowing access to only those who have proper authorization.

Now to know how to get into database administration and in a more technical approach, a database administrator is responsible for the following tasks:

Making and customizing databases that can store and manage all the vital information of a company

  • Depending on the need, either modify existing information databases or merge different ones into one for more concise management and safety of information.
  • Periodic backups and patching up the data security with newer and better programs.
  • Giving appropriate access to designated employees and personnel.
  • Providing technical support for the database system and the applications that run with its help.
  • Migration of data and information to new hardware or newer software versions.

Where do data administrators work

Though most Database Administrators or DBAs work in service provider firms such as IT, internet providers, or computer system and software design companies, other companies hire them for in-house work rather than subletting the services to others. The work DBAs do or where they work is very important to know if you think how do I become a database administrator? As you need to understand the demand to answer that question.

Enterprises – DBAs may work for big enterprises like Microsoft, Yahoo, Apple, etc. IT and software-related companies require DBAs to collect and manage data. 

Banking Sector – DBAs can also be employed by banks, insurance companies, including credit card agencies, for their tasks. Banks need to enter the information of hundreds to thousands of their customers each day, including balances, payments, account openings, etc. This information needs to be stored and available to the teller every time he inputs some query.

Furthermore, back-end analysis on what payment is due when and which customers are near default, etc., should be like receiving regular notifications on your smartphone.

Other Sectors – Other than the banking and software sector, DBAs can also work in hospitals, multinational businesses, and so much more. A DBA is needed for every company with employees, networking, and managing business with customers.

Location – Databases are installed primarily on the companies' offices or head offices of a giant company, so most DBAs are required in bigger cities.

What are different specialist types of database administrators?

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Just like there are different types of engineers like mechanical, electrical, civil, or structural and different types of doctors, surgeons, pediatricians, dermatologists, etc., database administration requires specialists for different fields that cater to their requirements. Let’s discuss the most popular type of database administration specialists.

Database Designers

Their primary function is to work with companies to create, design, and build specific modules for specific companies that can work along with the databases at the back-end. They work with a team of specialists, most typically in a software development company. Database administrator's job description has more demanding in this case.

Let’s study the example of a bank that requires storing and managing their data to be interlinked with different branches, ATMs, payments, etc., using different software modules. The banks use the software to run their operations, usually with the help of an Information Communication and Technology, ICT company specializing in banking software. 

The DBAs work with a team of developers and analysts to design applications and modules to perform the required task. It is their duty ultimately that the modules would reflect these activities in the database structure.

The performance or Tuning DBA

Their main task is to optimize a database to enhance its performance. These DBAs work with physical or virtual hardware to improve the usage of resources by the database. For example, they can tweak the software to use the RAM better while optimizing the networking traffic of remote databases. 

Application DBA

Application-specific DBA are assigned to work on the applications that use databases to work efficiently like a management system in any company, such as banking software in a bank. Most users don't need to have knowledge of the SQL that is working in the back end and only use the front-end application to perform most of their tasks. 

The proper functioning of the application is the DBAs job ensuring it communicates appropriately with the application, such as when a user enters his account detail to access the remaining balance, and the database returns the accurate information, not something else like a loan balance or something.

When inquiring online how long does it take to become a database administrator, read above for requirements but this section is about how to further your career towards our more niche path.

What salary does a database administrator draw?

DBAs are primarily full-time employees, while in some cases, they are hired on an ad-hoc basis for specific projects. Like every other job, the salary of a DBA depends on their experience level, specialty, and certifications. On average, a DBA may draw $92,000 per annum but can range from $32,000 for a relatively fresh DBA up to $183,000 per annum for a more experienced administrator.

The numerations that DBAs get can deviate from the average depending on the following factors:

Location – Bigger cities pay more for DBAs than they can get in smaller cities if your profile is good.

Specialization – Typical DBAs draw typical salaries, but newer sub-fields in data sciences attract great pay packages due to their work. Big Data Engineers, Data Scientists, and Senior level administrators and Architects are some of those who attract more salary.

Specialized skills can also easily add 7-15% to the average salary if you know skills like SQL, Oracle, MySQL and have certifications in them.

Specialized Sectors – You can get premium salaries if your profile attracts companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon, or some equivalent in your local area or region. Such premium salaries are because companies like these handle a massive amount of data every hour of every day and proper functioning is paramount. 

How many working hours do a database administrator work

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For most DBAs, the working hours are standard when working in a company, i.e., 9-5 and the same days a week. Depending on the functioning of a company like a factory, another DBA may be required to work for the night shift specifically. Like everyone else, a company may ask a DBA to work after hours or weekends when needs require it.

When working full time, the job requires a result-oriented approach, so after setting up databases and applications, or an up-gradation, there isn't much work besides day-to-day tasks. In streamlined cases, DBAs can work fewer hours depending on the company.

What are the requirements to become a database administrator

As with most jobs, DBAs are asked for at least a bachelor’s degree along with relevant experience and certifications. In general, 

  • Basic Education
  • Associated Training
  • Relevant Certifications
  • Learned useful Skills

Education Requirement

The most common majors in bachelor’s degree required by employers for the DBAs are:

Computer Sciences – This major includes courses in data management, logic design, network fundamentals, computer architecture, and programming languages.

Informational Technology – The main courses for DBAs in this major are system and network administration, computer security and system architecture, website technology, etc.

You should be earning this basic education to build and develop your foundation in the mentioned areas.

Related Training

These trainings encompass mainly on-the-job training sessions that the company provides for its employees, such as soft and management skills. There isn't much specific training for DBAs. Typically, DBAs have prior knowledge in their fields and hone their skill while on the job.

Certifications

Most DBAs get certifications from the software vendor tailored to their application's knowledge. In-depth knowledge is required for these applications, and the certification tells the companies that the DBA has the necessary expertise to work for them. Some of the most common certifications that DBAs peruse are the following.

Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate

You need to take two exams in this Microsoft certification which focuses on SQL and database administration. An advanced certification follows if the SQL-certified Database Administered wants to pursue it for expert credentials.

Certified Database Administrator From IBM

Similarly, this certification also involves two exams focusing on the DB2 platform and secondly SQL (Structured Query Language). Like the advanced expert credentials in Microsoft certification, candidates can also pursue IBM advanced DBA credentials.

Oracle Database Administrator Certified Associate

The candidate needs to take at least one course to appear in the exam to achieve this certification. The advanced certifications for experienced professionals are called the Oracle Database Administrator Certified Professional, and further, it is called Oracle Database Administrator Certified Master credentials.

Skills Needed

Some of these skills you may not have honed or polished right at the start of your career, but with time and experience, these are some skills you must pursue.

Analytical Skills – To successfully implement multiple modules in a system, you need to monitor them simultaneously and respond timely. A DBA should have excellent analytical skills to act upon and solve if any problem arises.

This analytical skill is especially required when you are faced with a problem you haven’t experienced before and can think and formulate a solution in real-time. 

Communicating Skills – Most of the time, your colleagues in a company aren't well versed in databases and computer jargon. You need to communicate with them in everyday English to get the job done or what you require for efficient working.

Computer Languages – Certification is pursued when experienced, but some basic language skills are critical for every DBA, even a fresh graduate. You should know the basics of computer language at your fingertips like HTML, Java, SQL, and Apache. Furthermore, some familiarity with Linux and Unix platforms will also benefit. 

Other than the requirements mentioned above, there is no substitute for experience. You can always start working part-time while studying. Even when you graduate, work as a support or system administrator in an IT firm to collect many associative skills along the way.

Attention to Detail – No issue is small enough to be ignored. Even the smallest of problems can cause a cascade of issues. DBA needs to continuously address these issues and pay attention to even the smallest.

Logical Thinking and Memory – It is pretty simple to know the elimination-based approach to removing possible causes. Still, it needs excellent active memory to connect dots with how one elimination opens up a solution possibility. 

You need to recall techniques and facts to conjure a solution. At least you should know where to look to extract information for calculating the solution.

On Job Training

You will go under on-the-job training when you join a company which is mostly the same for any job. If you are fresh, you get to understand the working mechanics of a company and how to integrate yourself and your job responsibilities into the workflow. Even if you haven't landed a job yet, working as an internee to get this experience is always beneficial.

What is the potential for promotion for a database administrator?

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Though the job requirement remains the same, you can always pursue certifications to start adding DBA specialties to broaden your job role, which will lead you towards more managerial positions. 

In a senior position, you will not just manage databases and applications. You will also be overseeing tech purchases for the company, installing and upgrading currently installed hardware and software. More often than not, you’ll be leading a team of specialists for proper functioning. 

An increment in a salary package is also part of growing in your field while enhancing your skill sets and gaining more experience.

What are some typical projects a database administrator handles

We have touched on some of the typical job tasks before and given some examples for understanding; furthermore, we can take 2 cases where your skills as a database administrator are required. With the help of these 2 scenarios, you can better understand what more you require when you do become a DBA. 

Answering queries and reporting them properly

We know that DBAs manage databases to access required data when needed quickly correctly. There is a lot more to this simple statement. 

The database of a company is a centralized hub of information, like a repository where all the information is stored. Now accessing that information is a simple process in computer sciences. A DBA needs to understand the dynamics of their company and use skills to answer specific queries.

For example, how many students got B grades in one field, regardless of their level, and how many failed? Taking this information and representing it in a simple graph is answering one query. In sales, a query can be how many or who were the top clients in the last quarter amounting to sales? While how many signed up for next?

In this query formulation and answering, you must know in detail a query language like the most widely known SQL. SQL servers store pre-emptively these queries in the form of technical databases or database tables.

There are some newer types of databases, whether it be relational or non-rational, the gist of the matter is a DBA should be well-versed in these languages.

Conclusion

This article does not answer how to become a database administrator without a degree, but most of what we said here is true if you need to know. In this case, you may need to remove the degree requirement but get on-the-job training to get experience if you have only done a diploma before. With gaining more experience and knowledge this way, you can go for the certification route and make a career in data sciences.

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