No matter where you work, there’s a decent chance that the industry you’re in deals with vast amounts of data that keep operations running. In today’s economy, fields from retail to healthcare need to store and utilize essential information for product development, client marketing, and operational efficiency.
So who makes sure all of this crucial data is maintained properly? That’s where Database Administrators (DBAs) come in.
If you’re looking for a job that can be applied to a diverse set of industries, you might want to consider database administration. Not only are Database Administrator jobs fairly versatile, they also have the potential for lucrative compensation and a bright outlook for employment and growth — employment in the field is expected to rise 8% in the decade leading up to 2030. Let’s take a look at what you need to know to get a Database Administrator job.
Responsibilities and qualifications
Getting a bachelor’s degree in information technology or related subjects can help you get started in the field, but college graduates who did not study these fields can certainly find a way in with the right experience and skill set. One great path is to gain experience in IT or other technology-based roles, and then transition into database administration.
DBAs have numerous work responsibilities, including:
- Using database software to organize and manage data
- Updating databases
- Designing and developing databases
- Maintenance and troubleshooting
- Archiving data
Depending on the job, a DBA may specialize completely in one of these aspects, such as design, building database systems, or maintenance. Or a DBA may just work on one specific function, like data analysis or cloud operations.
How to build your skills
Even if you have a specialized degree, you will likely still start your first job as a DBA at the entry-level. Landing a higher-level DBA job will happen faster if you add certifications, training, and command of programming languages to complement academic credentials. Managerial-level DBA roles are likely to require a master’s level degree in a relevant field.
Regardless of which academic courses you take, learning SQL is a must for DBAs. SQL is a common and widely used programming language. The purpose of SQL is to query databases for information, which can be a big part of the job. You can get started by taking our beginner-friendly Learn SQL course.
If you’re looking to work specifically with MongoDB, Cassandra, IBM, Microsoft, or Oracle, you can get certified by their database administration programs. (Both IBM and Microsoft use SQL, by the way.)
Where to look for a Database Administrator job
Once you have all your qualifications in hand — and you understand the role of a DBA, have the academic and training background, and know the specific job market you are about to enter to pursue a career as a DBA — it’s time to start your job search.
It might be helpful to start by looking at where there are the most opportunities for DBA jobs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment opportunities can vary by business sector and geographical region.
The computer systems design industry has the highest employment level for DBAs and the highest concentration of DBAs employed within that field. Business management has the second-highest level of employment for DBAs. The financial industry is the highest-paid field for DBAs, followed closely by equipment and supplies wholesalers and information services.
The top places in the U.S. for Database Administrators jobs include:
- New York
- New Jersey
- The greater Washington D.C. area, including Maryland and Virginia
- Dallas and Houston in Texas
These locations show up consistently across different measures, including employment by state, concentration of jobs, salaries, and employment level compared to population.
But the Bureau of Labor Statistics breaks down the data on DBA roles by several other metrics, also yielding unexpected hot markets for DBA work, like Trenton, New Jersey, the Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Connecticut market, and certain non-metro regions of Wisconsin, Oklahoma, and Alabama.
Want to better understand salary prospects? Check out our blog post on average salaries for DBAs.
Networking in the industry
Knowing where to look can be half the battle. After considering the potential for DBA work by sector and location, you can also enhance your prospects by connecting with professional associations in the field. There are three notable ones:
- CompTIA offers student and professional-level memberships and has a certification program. Also, it hosts industry conferences held in-person regionally and also virtually, as well as webinars. Membership starts at about $450 annually, and is mainly a way to get discounts on courses, certifications, and other programs and services.
- IACSIT (International Association of Computer Science and Information Technology) is an academic-oriented organization for scholars and researchers in the field, with a significant presence in Asia. The group hosts conferences in China and Japan. Initiation fees are $20 ($10 if you’re a student).
- DAMA International serves the global data management community and offers certifications. There are separate membership fees for the main organization and its local chapters, but an individual membership begins at $50. Premium membership, which costs $95 a year, includes access to data management reference guides.
As with anything, you only get out of it what you put into it. These industry organizations are an excellent way to network with professionals who are already in the field. They are also a way to stay current on what’s new in the database administration field, so you are well-prepared for job interviews and able to speak knowledgeably when networking.
Job listings and interview preparation
You’ll likely find that searches on the most prominent job boards, such as Indeed, LinkedIn, and Ziprecruiter, will turn up many more listings for DBA jobs than in other fields, for a wider variety of companies, no matter the region or location in the U.S.
As with many other IT and computer science jobs, you can expect a standard hiring process that begins with phone-screening of applicants, followed by in-person interviews. Keep in mind that the interview process is likely to include a specialized technical interview since DBA is a technical role.
Not sure what to expect? We have a guide to help you ace the technical interview that covers how to prepare, practice, and anticipate sample problems that might be part of the interview. For even more guidance on any of the steps to getting a DBA job that we’ve covered, take a look at our course catalog and resources.