What is Database Administration?
In database administration, individuals must be knowledgeable on a variety of operating systems and database engines. While each position will be unique to the organization and industry it is in, a database administrator, also referred to as a DBA, can expect to be responsible for many similar tasks across industries such as database monitoring, support, training, access restrictions, identity management, performance optimization, and more. A career in database administration can range from entry-level to mid-career roles. Some senior DBA roles do exist; however, most database administrators at the senior level advance to a broader managerial or executive tech-based position.
It is possible to start in a database administrator role as a first-time job in the field or secure such a role after a few years of IT experience. Most senior database administrator jobs are reserved for individuals in their mid-career. As a result, people in these roles will range from their early 20s to mid-40s. However, as people are increasingly changing careers, it’s possible to see more people in their 30s and 40s in lower-level roles in the coming years. Database administration careers are typically highly technical while also requiring a solid set of hard and soft skills such as analytics, business, communication, organization, and problem-solving.
The race to prepare students of all ages for careers in technology continues to grow, and Alabama is no exception. Alabama is working with businesses, government, and students to ensure the right education and training is available for the workforce as well as providing initiatives for students from kindergarten through high school to be able to secure admissions into top database administration programs at the best Alabama colleges and universities.
A number of incentives are also underway throughout the state to attract big tech businesses from around the world to invest in the state. As a result, many colleges and universities in the state have rigorous and ranked database administration programs to be able to fulfill the new job openings these employers provide each year.
Database Administration Education in Alabama
Associate Degree in Database Administration (AS)
An associate degree may not be enough to secure a job in database administration. Most employers of database administrators require a bachelor’s degree in various tech-related fields. However, an associate degree is always a solid start to a career in database administration. With this degree, many people start out in less demanding entry-level positions, such as an information security specialist or a computer support specialist. However, it is possible to gain enough work experience with an associate degree to become a database administrator over time. But many people choose to continue their education and complete a bachelor’s degree while they work to meet the requirements of database administration roles more quickly. A higher degree will also allow you to earn more money than an associate degree.
Bachelor's Degree in Database Administration (BS)
A bachelor’s degree in database administration is most commonly required for any DBA role. It is possible to secure entry-level DBA positions for a variety of companies, organizations, and government agencies such as junior or associate database administrator. These are support roles that will properly train those new to the profession to be able to qualify for promotions and more advanced database administration positions such as remote development analyst DBAs, SQL DBAs, and senior principal database administrators.
During your undergraduate degree, it’s important to consider the type of database administration career you might like to pursue. There are several different types of DBAs that focus on different operating systems, database engines, industries, languages, and more. Those who specialize in an area may have a competitive advantage over others upon graduation. By choosing a specialization, you may also have access to easier career advancement and better pay. This can be accomplished through niche certifications, as well.
Master's Degree in Database Administration (MS or MC)
Most employers do not require a master’s degree for any database administration position. However, a master’s degree or an MBA in database administration can provide countless advantages and benefits. Individuals with these types of degrees will often be considered over others with less experience and only a bachelor’s degree. A master’s degree or MBA also allows for these degree holders to earn higher wages than those with a bachelor’s degree. And individuals with a master’s degree in database administration will be eligible for promotions and advanced positions at a faster rate.
An MBA with a concentration in database administration is becoming increasingly popular. Mid-level and senior-level roles require a greater understanding of business these days and employers are seeking out candidates with a strong balance of tech skills and business skills. MBA degrees provide exactly this combination. For those interested in upper-management and executive positions, a master’s degree or an MBA with a tech concentration may be required.
PhD Degree in Database Administration (PhD)
A PhD or doctorate degree in database administration will only be necessary in a very few positions. If you have an interest in becoming a professor at a regionally accredited college or university, this advanced degree will be a requirement. Keep in mind that you can still teach at community colleges and as an adjunct professor with a master’s degree in most instances.
Even if your position does not require a PhD, this degree will immediately make you an expert in the field and provide you with endless career opportunities alongside a significant pay increase in most instances. Another way to utilize a PhD or doctorate is to pursue careers in database administration research. Many of the top employers in technology may require this degree for these roles.
Become a Database Administrator in Alabama
A career pathway toward becoming a database administrator may not look the same for everyone. Some people will start with an associate degree and work IT support roles while they complete their bachelor’s degree online. Other people will complete a bachelor’s degree in database administration, or any number of other computer-related degree programs and secure a junior or associate DBA position to begin. It’s also possible to start in another tech field and shift to database administration after a few or several years. And others yet will change careers with a degree in a non-tech field and complete various certifications to qualify for starting jobs in database administration. As Alabama does not require any specific educational path or licensure to work as a database administrator, it is mostly up to the individual as to how they come to the profession.
The areas of database administration and the types of employers will also vary greatly. Generally, the field is broken down into specific niches such as applications, performance, and systems. Tuning is another term often used for performance. It’s possible to specialize in one area of the field or to become a general DBA to work for smaller organizations. Unlike many other technology professions, DBAs have a more limited employment pool. Most DBAs will work for large companies or government agencies; however, some people will work for smaller organizations or for consulting companies. Another option for further specialization is to select a specific industry on which to focus such as banking, healthcare, a specific industry, etc.
One of the most critical aspects to becoming a successful database administrator is to become proficient in various hard skills including SQL, UNIX, Linux, Oracle, IBM, Windows OS, HTML, and more. Many people will choose to complete certifications in these areas as a way to verify their expertise to potential and current employers. These certifications can also lead to pay raises, job security, and promotions. Remember that, like all technology fields, you will have to keep learning to remain employable as technology changes and advances.
Top College Programs in Alabama for Database Administration
- Columbia Southern University (Orange Beach, AL):
Columbia Southern University offers a bachelor’s degree in IT with a number of essential DBA career courses in vital subjects such as system analysis, maintenance, management, and development. The program also prepares graduates for careers in various employer types including government, public and private businesses, military, and more.
- University of South Alabama (Mobile, AL):
The University of South Alabama offers both information technology and information systems bachelor’s degrees to meet the needs of any database administration career pathway. These degree programs prepare students for careers in database administration by learning the fundamentals as well as by utilizing state-of-the-art technologies. And students will also learn imperative business and interpersonal skills.
- Tuskegee University (Tuskegee, AL):
Tuskegee University features an IT major in their dedicated computer science department. Students will be able to select from an array of concentrations including network administration and security, system administration, information assurance, and others. This degree will prepare graduates for a career in entry-level database administration and well beyond.
- Athens State University (Athens, AL):
Athens State University is home to a top IT degree with various concentrations including applied information technology, computer networking, and health information technology. The core courses prepare students to work in database administration in a number of capacities such as programming, problem-solving, analysis, and decision-making. All students will also have access to experiential learning opportunities in the department-maintained laboratory.
- University of Alabama (Birmingham, AL):
The University of Alabama offers an information systems bachelor’s degree that centers around data and technology solutions. Courses will balance both business acumen and technology expertise. Students can select concentrations in data analytics and cyber security management. Both concentrations are highly beneficial to DBA careers.
Careers for Database Administration Graduates
- Computer and Information Systems Manager:
A computer and information systems manager is responsible for the direction and coordination of organizational computer and technology-related activities. These professionals will address computer needs, negotiate with vendors, recommend upgrades, oversee maintenance, train teams on new technologies, and more.
- Information Security Analyst:
Information security analysts are in charge of the security protocols for an organization’s systems and networks. Individuals will seek out breaches, launch investigations, install updates and upgrades, prepare reports, complete pen testing, research trends, establish security practices, and more. Experience and understanding of disaster recovery plans are also essential.
- Software Developer:
A software developer’s roles and responsibilities will vary based on the employer, size of the organization, and the area of software development in which an individual specializes. It is possible to work on front-end development, back-end development, or both. Many developers will also work on applications, code, test, integrate, create reports, and more.
- Database Administrator (Enterprise, Microsoft, SQL, etc.):
The duties of a database administrator will be unique from one employer to the next. However, most overall goals will be the same, which is to maximize the integrity, performance, and security of all databases. Some individuals will work on access, security, storage, and maintenance. Others might work on the planning, developing, and customizing of databases.
- Database Security Manager:
A database security manager, more commonly referred to as an information security manager, is responsible for the development and management of an information system’s cyber security. This will include database protection, disaster recovery, and software development. As cyber-attacks often lead to breaches, these professionals work to contain a breach before it becomes a successful attack and to quickly resume standard operations with minimal damage.
- Chief Information Security Officer (CISO):
A chief information security officer (CISO) is the C-suite position for data and information security. This is the highest level within an organization a database administrator can reach in their career, apart from CEO or CTO. CISOs focus on the organization’s overall security strategies, approaches, evaluations, adaptations, and more.
- Remote Development Analyst DBA:
A remote development analyst DBA maintains and monitors databases as well as provides backups. Many roles will also require efforts to reduce false alarms through the configuration of server monitoring. Performance improvement will also be an imperative component to this role.
- SQL DBA:
SQL DBAs require specific training and certification to work in this type of role. Individuals will be responsible for the configuration, implementation, maintenance, and performance of essential SQL server systems. These professionals aim to provide consistent performance and availability of company applications.
- Senior Principal Database Administrator:
A senior principal database administrator will require a wide range of qualifications, experience, and skills. These professionals must be able to analyze the needs of a business and recommend solutions. They must also have a solid understanding of products, business practices, technology, customer issues, and more. And, because it is a senior role, individuals must excel in decision-making.