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What is Database Administration?

Every business in every industry needs a way to track things. Customer information, supplies, even how many employees are taking vacation in any given month must be tracked so that businesses can operate smoothly. In the old days, this information was tracked with a pen a paper and the pages were filed away in a file cabinet. But this is the modern age, and the ways of our ancestors are antiquated. Now, things are tracked via a computer and specialized software. This software is called a database, and the people who are in charge of the information, software, and equipment used to maintain it are called database administrators.

Technology has its pros and cons. With software, hundreds of file cabinet are no longer needed and we save millions of trees each year because the demand for paper is less. Another positive is that the amount of information that can be stored and accessed with the click of a mouse makes keeping track of large amounts of information easy. And if you want to look for patterns and trends; with the software available, that is relatively simple. However, there can be issues. First, the information has to be protected from bad actors who would hack into a system to try and steal the information. Another issue is that, if you don’t have an excellent backup system in place, a power outage or a failed hard drive could mean all of that information is lost. These are just some reasons why database administrators are vital to how we do business in the 21st century.

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Database Administration Education in Iowa

There are over 800 people employed in database administration in the state of Iowa. They have an average salary of $97,000 per year. And, with the expansion of new technologies and as the demand for better options in storing data increase, the demand for those in the industry is expected to increase through 2032.

Database administrators oversee maintaining a company's data. The job consists of entering data into the system and using a program or a series of commands to turn the raw data into usable information for a company. For example, when a company collects information such as customers name, email addresses, and phone numbers, this information can be manipulated and used for a variety of purposes. Those who have expressed interest in receiving information from the company will receive it in the manner they choose. If they wanted information by email, then it will be emailed to them. If they requested text messages it will be texted to them. The database administrator oversees the process of separating these tasks and ensuring that they are executed properly. They are also responsible for ensuring that the information is accurate and as up to date as possible.

Database administration is sometimes considered the low rung on the information technology ladder. However, without accurate and experienced database administrators, there would be no need for other information technology positions. If the data doesn't exist, then there is nothing to protect. However, it is true that those who move up the ranks in information technology often started out as database administrators. The job is the bedrock of the information technology field and, therefore, those who choose to work as database administrators are just as important has anyone else working in information technology.

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As with most industries, the more education you have, the further you can progress in your field. Although it’s possible to start your degree as a database administrator without a formal education, if you want to progress to senior levels of database administration or beyond, a formal education is required. Below are the different degree levels you can pursue and database administration.

Associate Database Administration Degree (AS)

an associate degree in database administration lays the foundation for a career as a database professional. The degree will allow a person to land an entry-level position in database administration.

A few of the courses that students will study while attaining an associate degree include:

  • Informatics
  • Data Analytics
  • Advanced Data Analytics
  • Calculus

An associate degree usually takes two to three years to complete and this degree is enough to start a career as database professional but, to advance, additional education is required. A person with a degree and experience could advance but it would take longer and require more work experience than it will for a person who has attained a degree.

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Bachelor’s Database Administration Degree (BS)

A bachelor’s degree in database administration is the most common degree for most administrators to have and is the one most commonly required by companies looking to hire administrators. The degree not only qualifies a worker for entry-level positions, it’s also the foundation to start earning certifications needed to progress in their career later.

Courses included in the four-year database administration program include:

  • Gathering Requirements for Data
  • Collecting Data
  • Data Analysis Techniques
  • Leveraging Data Analysis for Organizational Results
  • Programming Languages for Databases

A bachelor’s degree consists of eight semesters and usually takes four to six years to complete. Some people complete their programs earlier than four years while others need more than six, especially those who have family and work obligations. Also, some programs require students to complete an internship if they are not currently working in the database administration field.

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Master’s Database Administration Degree / MBA (MS or MC)

For those who want to move into management positions in database administration, a master’s degree in database administration is a worthy pursuit. Although a standalone database administration master’s degree is an option, many people combine database administration with general business and earn a master’s in business administration, also known as an MBA. An MBA offers more opportunities across the board than just a specialized database administration degree. In this graduate program, students will cover executive and business concepts such as accounting and business analytics while continuing with database courses such as informatics, data analysis, and computer programming.

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PhD/Doctorate Degree (PhD)

For those who want to be seen as subject matter experts or enter the realm of academia, a doctorate degree is a great option. With a PhD, a person can enter into academia and teach at most colleges and universities. They can also be tapped to assist with a variety of database administration issues. There are few database administration-specific PhD degrees available, but students looking to continue in this field might instead earn their degrees in cyber security, leadership, or another field.

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Become a Database Administrator in Iowa

Because database administration is used in every industry that exists, one of the first things a person should do is decide in what industry they want to work. Iowa’s biggest industries are manufacturing, real estate, and business finance, so working in any of those industries is an option. However, that does not mean that other industries are not available to you as well. Choosing the industry that is of the most interest to you will help when it comes time to have to work with the raw data from that industry. It will also make it easier for you to understand the needs and the purpose for the programs and processes you will be putting in place if you understand the industry in which you are working.

Once you have chosen your area of interest, you should learn everything possible about the industry. This is also the ideal time to start your formal education in database administration. You can start with an associate degree and then advance to a bachelor’s degree if you decide that's the course you want to stay on. An important note: you want to make sure that the school you choose to attend has proper accreditation. If the school is not accredited by a recognized accreditation board, you will not be eligible to take any certification exams. This means that all your time and energy and money spent to earn that degree could possibly have been wasted. Many employers will only hire those who have degrees from accredited schools, so it is extremely important that your education comes from an accredited source.

Now that you know your desired industry and you're on track to get the education you need, you can begin to apply for entry-level database administration positions. You should start with the industries that are of the most interest to you and work from there. As was previously mentioned, every industry needs databases and people to enter and maintain the information. Different companies will have different requirements for their database administrators, so check job listings carefully for the required qualifications. And even if you have never formally worked as database administrator, if you completed an internship or created databases as part of your program, you can include this as experience on your resume.

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Careers for Database Administration

Database administration is a career that spans all industries and many other business positions. Database administrators do not always carry the title of database administrator, but they still perform many of the same tasks. Below is an example of other options for a person who wants to work as a database administrator. This is far from an exhaustive list, but it will give you an idea of where you can end up, and relieve you of the fear that you will pigeonhole yourself with this degree.

  • Administrative / Office Manager
    Part of the duties of an administrative assistant or office manager is often entering information into a database. This information is generally internal, but it is important that it is maintained properly and kept up to date. Having at least a basic background in data administration can help an administrative assistant or office manager perform their job more efficiently. Other duties that are part of an administrative assistant’s job include greeting clients, maintaining a senior executive’s schedule, and other general office duties as assigned.

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  • Payroll Administrator
    Payroll administrators are tasked with completing the payroll for a company. This person must ensure that all the information entered about every employee is accurate. they also keep track of each employees’ hours worked. This information is used to pay employees, grant time off requests, and track each employee's benefit package.
  • Database Administrator (DBA)
    A database administrator enters raw data into a skeleton database and then uses that data to produce information for a company. The information must be maintained, be accurate, and up to date so that, when a company needs the information, it is available to them.
  • Data Processor
    Data processors enter information into a database so that it can be used later. Processors have excellent typing and data entry skills. Some processors are numeric processors, so they only work with numbers, while others are alphanumeric processors and work with both words and numbers.
  • Quality Manager
    Quality managers evaluate the systems and processes of a business or a particular department of a business and identifies areas where the quality of the work can be improved.
  • Database Security Manager
    Database security managers are in charge of putting systems into place to keep the information in a database safe. Many database security managers started out as data administrator and progressed up through the ranks. They also need to have attained several different certifications.
  • Marketing Manager
    A marketing manager handles a lot of information, so experience in database administration is a plus. Marketing managers are in charge of the marketing and advertising for a business. They create marketing campaigns and often speak with the community to assess its needs and determine where an organization can best assist. The manager generally has a team underneath them, therefore they also must have strong management skills.

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