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5 Essential Tips for How to Become a Database Administrator

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According to a recent IBM report, 90 percent of the world's data was created in the last two years. That mind-boggling statistic means those who oversee "big data," database administrators, likely can expect both job growth and stability in the coming years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment of database administrators will grow 15 percent through 2022, faster than the average for all occupations. Database administrators, known as DBAs, are responsible for safekeeping all of an organization's data. If you're wondering how to become a database administrator, applying these five essential tips can help you cut a straighter path to the position.

1. Understand the Role of a Database Administrator in Both Small and Large Organizations

It might be confusing at first to understand both the different terms used in database administration as well as how this role works within an organization. A DBA typically is part of an organization's IT department. Companies and organizations employ DBAs to work alongside computer programmers, engineers and management; they develop, maintain and secure data via complex database systems. They also train employees and create policies and procedures for employee usage, according to TechTarget.

In a large organization, the role can be split into three positions: operations DBA, development DBA and DBA, per Computer Weekly.

An operations administrator is responsible for the day-to-day scheduled tasks and upkeep of a database system. And these tasks can shift based on changing company needs. So, problem solving is a key skill for this role.

A development DBA, also known as an architect, can have a background in operations and works with a team of programmers and engineers to create and test database systems.

A database administrator acts like both the accountant and gatekeeper of an organization's information. They give data access, administrator rights and account for all company data, ensuring it remains secure.

In a small organization, a DBA might be responsible for all three roles. Though no matter the size of an organization, it's commns for DBAs to either work more than 40 hours a week at times or be on call after hours.

2. Earn a Degree in Computer Science or IT

If you're unsure how to become a database administrator, it's best to start with the right training--and that means gaining the best degree to prepare you for the position. Degrees in either computer science or information technology--with a focus in management information systems (MIS) or computer information systems (CIS) will give you a good foundation. A well-rounded IT program will give you a foundation in both. But gaining experience--and fluency--in currently used database management systems (DBMS) is a primary qualification for the role, too.

3. Learn the Top Skills to Have Today for the Role

DBAs must be knowledgeable and experienced in current DBMSs used in the industry today. Most systems today are known as relational database management systems (RDBMS), meaning pieces of data can be used and manipulated in different ways. These are based on Structured Query Language (SQL). Database administrators are often certified for a specific database platform, such as MySQL Database Administrator, Oracle DBA and Microsoft Certified Database Administrator, per U.S. News and World Report. (Any certifications must be pursued in addition to earning a degree.)

While earning SQL Server certification is the best starting point, on the whole, gaining experience in testing and troubleshooting systems and security is more important. For every organization, data is a crucial and sensitive commodity. Handling that data well means having experience in methodology for testing, recovery of data and sound security measures.

4. Gain Experience in Related Roles Working with Data

Many people start as a system administrator, in a general office IT role, or on the development end. You should find a role where you'll be working with company data, and optimally, where you can gain experience and knowledge on SQL based systems. Look for start-ups or non-profits where you can get in the door. Sites like, where you can be in the loop about the newest start-ups nationally, are a great resource.

5. Stay on Top of New Technologies

This is a field where continued learning is a must. Reading books, attending DBA events in your area and signing up with groups like DBA StackExchange, a DBA Q&A site, should be factored into your job role, as maintaining cutting-edge knowledge can make you an important asset to your organization.

DBAs can work hard and long hours, but the potential and job security can be great.

Learn more about getting your career moving in the right direction. Download our guide, "How to Go From the Job You Have to the Career You Want."

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