Today, most businesses depend on some form of technology or internet-driven process to ensure the success of their sales process and drive customers to use their services. To support core business functions spanning marketing, advertisements, finance, customer service, and human resources businesses now need to store large amounts of data about their internal operations and clientele. Specifically, businesses, particularly those that are larger or operate in multiple locations, may find themselves increasingly needing to keep track of important documentation for regulatory purposes and customer data for better targeting of their goods and services. The need for databases is increasingly important for businesses that have an E-commerce component to their platform or if certain brands only operate online - customer purchases, addresses, and billing information need to be stored in a safe and accessible space. As such, database administration has become an increasingly important career path in the business field as executives look to onboard talent capable of installing and debugging software and database systems.
Why Get a Database Administration Degree?
Database administration is a career path that blends the best of both worlds between business and quantitative studies. In particular, the work that database administrators do daily will benefit the firms and organizations that are seeking to store large amounts of sensitive data in safe spaces. Long gone are the days of floppy disks, and database administrators are the technology experts that know to install and maintain new, complex data systems. A large draw of pursuing database administration or database management is the wide base of employers who seek to onboard personnel with these types of talents. Given the increasing permeation of technology into our daily lives, people are expecting most firms, organizations, and agencies to have an accessible online presence. Not only do for-profit businesses use databases to store business and customer information, but non-profit organizations and governments do too; these organizations often aggregate and publish important regional or even international-level data to help inform readers and researchers of developments in every industry.
Overview of a Database Administration Degree
The database administrator’s task is thus to help debug these information systems and to ensure that available information can be quickly filtered through to yield only the most important facts. As such, database management is a field that is seeing increasing need across all industries, leading to improved job security over time and more opportunities for promotions.
What Does a Database Administrator Do?
Database administrators, as a whole, work to ensure that databases run efficiently and that new data is uploaded and processed successfully such that business leaders can leverage the information to improve the running of their organizations. However, the actual job description of a database administrator can vary depending on their actual job title. Below are some possible jobs that a student with a degree in database administration might consider taking and the average salary for each position according to Payscale.
- Database Administrator: $73,458
- Information Security Analyst: $73,037
- Software Developer: $72,283
- Marketing Analyst: $57,076
- Support Specialist: $52,250
- Database Administration Professor: $87,914
- Computer and Information Systems Manager: $84,034
- Computer Network Architect: $122,125
- Computer Programmer: $64,476
- Data Analyst: $61,469
Database Administrator Degree Levels
Associate Degree in Database Administration
To gain the skills necessary to build and maintain databases to help organizations meet their data collection needs, administrators of these databases must undergo related educational training, which includes a substantial amount of quantitative coursework. For individuals looking to finish their education quickly so that they can begin applying their database administration skills to the real world right away, completing an associate degree is a good way to go because a full-time student can typically finish an associate degree in two years, meaning that they can move into the workforce and begin earning a salary faster than other post-secondary degrees. Students are usually expected to complete a minimum of 60 credit hours before they can graduate with their associate degree. For those who may be working full-time while attending school or those who only attend school part-time, it may take longer than the typical four semesters to complete their associate degree. Associate’s are typically offered by local community colleges or universities and applicants will need a high school degree or equivalent, such as their GED. Other application requirements will vary by school, but students will often need to take placement tests like the ACT or SAT, fill out an application and pay an application fee, and provide proof of residency before they can register and attend courses. However, it is important to note that most employers will prefer applicants with a bachelor’s degree in database administration, though those with an associate degree may be eligible for entry-level positions like junior or assistant database administrator.
- Configuring server platforms
- Networking concepts
- Theory of databases and query languages
- Learning to use Linux
- Java and C++ programming
- Basic computer repair
- Algorithms in computer science
- Oracle programming with SQL
- Computer Network Architect: Computer network architects help set up network communication pathways to ensure that data can be transferred successfully.
- Computer Programmer: Computer programmers will test code to ensure that computer applications are operable.
- Software Developer: Software developers will write code and design computer systems.
Bachelor’s Degree in Database Administration
The most popular degree level for students looking to pursue careers in an IT-related field is a bachelor’s degree. For database administrators, this would be either a bachelor’s in database administration or database management, which is typically offered at a four-year university or college. Given the highly quantitative nature of this field, employers will expect prospective hires to have had extensive training in and mastered multiple integral computer languages, something that is difficult to achieve with only an associate degree. Bachelor’s programs will help students learn hard skills like SQL, UNIX, Linux, Oracle, and HTML. Gaining admission to a bachelor’s program will typically be more difficult than applying to an associate’s program. Students will often need to submit their high school GPA, have a high school degree or equivalent upon enrolling in a bachelor’s program, complete college applications, as well as complete standardized tests like the SAT, ACT, and AP exams. College applications will also typically require students to submit a written personal statement answering a set of predetermined questions, as well as require anywhere between 1-3 letters of recommendation from a student’s teachers or mentors. However, once they’re done with school, graduates with a bachelor’s degree in database administration will typically have the widest options for employment in the field, enjoying careers like database administrator, data services engineer, lead data scientist, and data analyst.
- Introduction to Systems Fundamentals
- Introduction to Database Concepts/Roles
- Querying a SQL Server
- Database Concepts
- Managing the Database Environment
- Database as a Service
- Cyber Domain
- Computer Network Defense
- Object-Oriented Scripting Language
- Database administrator: In charge of managing and updating organizational databases with the most up-to-date information
- Lead Software Engineer: Provides technical assistance and direction to a team of software engineers
- Hardware Implementation Specialist: Assists in implementation and management of technical, software, and hardware systems
Master’s Degree in Database Administration
Obtaining a master’s degree in database management can be advantageous for students who are looking to improve their long-term prospects for career advancement. Although an employee can work their way up in database management and achieve a higher job title, this field is highly quantitative, and obtaining a master’s degree will allow students to take more pointed coursework in difficult technical subject areas like computer programming. Given that master’s programs will typically require students to have completed their bachelor’s degree first, students interested in pursuing this route should be relatively sure that they wish to pursue a long-term career in the IT field before committing to the program. Applying to a master’s program at a university that offers graduate programs can be quite a selective process. First, students will be expected to apply, usually with a written personal statement about how their interests and prior experiences match with the program’s offerings. Additionally, students will generally be expected to take a graduate school standardized test like the GRE. Students will also need to submit 1-2 letters of recommendation from their college professors, which also means that, on top of being academically successful, students thinking of attending graduate school must also communicate often with their professors throughout their college years. It pays to earn a master’s degree in database administration, though, as students can expect to be hired into more lucrative positions like computer and information systems manager, network and computer systems administrators, and computer and information research scientist.
- Enterprise Architecture
- Database Architecture
- Backup and recovery
- PL/SQL Programming
- XML database development
- Business intelligence with SQL server
- Data mining using SQL
- Managing databases using SQL
- Computer and Information Systems Manager: Also known as IT managers, these individuals set goals for teams of computer experts and determine a company’s technology needs.
- Database Administrator: These professionals use software to help organizations safely store and update their data.
- Computer Systems Analyst: Also called systems architects, these professionals analyze an organization’s information management systems and help improve them.
Database Administrator MBA Coursework (Classes and Courses)
The Master of Business Administration is typically a degree that early-career professionals with around 2-5 years of work experience will seek to undertake to advance their career prospects. In particular, the MBA curriculum is mainly focused on allowing individuals to gain a well-rounded exposure to core business and management principles ranging from operations management, human resources management, finance, accounting, and marketing skills to database management. However, it is important to note that the MBA program is targeted towards training management professionals and future business executives, rather than IT specialists. As such, most employees with a database management background who then choose to return to school for their MBA are most likely seeking a career change from an IT specialist role into a management one. While database management and IT network management courses may be offered as electives by some schools, it’s most often a graduation requirement, so students seeking more of these types of courses should do some research into the MBA programs that may be specifically tailored towards training IT management professionals. To gain admission to an MBA program, prospective students must first fill out an application and write their personal statement. They also need to take a graduate-level standardized test, either the GRE or GMAT, to gain admission to an MBA program. Many programs will also require letters of recommendation from either professors, mentors, work colleagues, or previous managers. Graduates with an MBA degree can expect to attain job titles like product manager, database administrator manager, or director of IT.
- Financial reporting and analysis
- Managerial finance
- Leadership development
- Building effective teams
- Marketing strategy
- Micro-economics of competition and strategy
- Competitive and corporate strategy
- Statistics for business decisions
- Leading teams and organizations
- Decision support models
- Operations and supply chain management
- Marketing database manager: Helps develop, evaluate, and optimize interactive marketing campaigns
- Director of data and business intelligence: Determines high-level strategic decisions for business intelligence and data strategies for the organization
- Senior database administrator: Upkeeps an organization’s databases by monitoring database security and utilization
- Principal product manager: Oversees the organization’s product roadmap, as well as manages production and marketing communications
Doctoral/PhD Degree in Database Administration
Pursuing a doctoral degree in database management is rarely a requirement for applying to industry jobs in database administration. Students who decide to pursue a PhD in database administration are more likely to seek out careers in academia as teachers and scholars in the field, rather than work for companies to manage their IT systems, though students can decide to work for a company after graduation as well. Gaining acceptance into a doctoral program is an extremely competitive process because students are expected to pursue a long-term independent research project under the guidance of a faculty member whose interests align with theirs. In particular, students must have a relatively clear idea of what area of research they wish to pursue before even applying for their PhD program and potentially have done work or research during college toward that end goal. Students without a clear pathway forward or research proposal may not end up being chosen by the faculty member they wish to work with, as each faculty has limited spots and time for guiding PhD students. In addition to stamping out a research field, students will also need to take the GRE and fill out an application to the school of their choice, which must also include letters of recommendation from professors who can attest to the student’s scholarly abilities. Graduates from PhD programs in database administration will typically continue to pursue careers in either research, teaching, or a mix of both. Many move on to become professors and spend time as postdoctoral researchers.
- Computer-aided reasoning for software
- Machine Learning
- Computer Systems
- Computer ethics
- Interactive learning
- Artificial intelligence
- Data visualization
- Computer vision
- Professor of Database Administration: Graduates with a PhD will have the opportunity to secure professor positions with universities around the globe, researching and teaching students about the cutting edge of database administration.
Before a student can decide which level of data administration degree they wish to pursue, it’s important to understand the costs of each type of program. It’s also important to remember, however, that costs will vary depending on whether the student is attending an in-state or out-of-state institution, as well as whether it is a public or private school. The overall cost of attendance can also be greatly affected by the availability of financial aid resources and whether a student lives on campus or not. On average, public institutions will tend to cost less than private institutions, particularly for in-state residents. Bachelor’s and master’s programs will often cost more than an associate degree, while doctorate programs are tuition-free and come with a student stipend. Students can also expect to earn higher beginning salaries, on average, the higher the degree level they complete. Even so, there can still be large variations in annual salaries regardless of which level of education one completes and actual costs and earnings are dependent on the student’s location and their institution of employment or education.
According to Student Debt Relief, on average, an associate degree will cost around $3,570 per year at a public college and $14,587 at a private college. At the bachelor’s level, public schools charge in-state students an average of $9,970 per year and out-of-state students $25,620, while the average four-year private college charges $34,740. The average master’s degree is more expensive, costing $8,670 at a public institution and $29,960 at a private school. To put things into perspective, according to Payscale, the average student with an associate degree in database administration will earn $66,462 a year. A student with a bachelor’s degree in database administration can expect to earn an average salary of $74,461, while a master’s student can expect to earn an average salary of $76,680. Those with a PhD will earn the most at $128,658 per year but will also spend the longest time in school.
Certificates/Licensures in Database Administration
Given that database administrators work in the highly quantitative, ever-revolving IT field, employees need to continue to update their coding and management skills throughout their careers. Simply completing their degree is not enough, as new database management languages are created and old ones are repurposed. Additionally, depending on the particular employer, hires may be expected to learn or brush up on certain programming languages and skills through further education and maintain different certificates.
Popular certificates in the field include:
- Oracle DB SQL Certified Associate/Professional:
This certification shows employers that a candidate has mastery over important fundamental SQL concepts necessary to run a database project. Passing the exam requires candidates to understand how SQL can be used in conjunction with the Oracle Database server.
The MCSE: Core Infrastructure certification offered by Microsoft is an indication that an employee has the ability to efficiently run a modern data center, completing tasks like systems management, virtualization, storage, and networking.
- IBM Data Analyst Professional Certificate:
To attain this certificate, candidates must be able to deftly utilize programs like Excel and Python to describe data ecosystems and compose queries to access data in cloud databases using SQL.
- Certified Cassandra Administrator:
This certification helps identify professionals who are trained to use Apache Cassandra clusters to manage data.
Online vs. Traditional Options
Given that database administrators work with data and digital systems daily, this should be a degree that can be undertaken successfully in a virtual or hybrid learning setting. Unlike certain courses of study that require physically reproducible experiments, like the hard sciences (chemistry, biology, physics), database administration is a field that can be learned completely from the comfort of one’s own home, using just a laptop. Coding is the main central skill that all database administrators need to master and attending online lectures through an online college program can be equally as fulfilling and educational as attending an associate, bachelor’s, or master’s degree in person in a traditional setting. When learning remotely, students will be able to work on problem sets and coding exercises together via video conference or phone calls or exchange lines of code with one another to help analyze and debug each other’s work. Students who have specific family obligations that may not allow them to move to another city for a traditional college experience may fare well in pursuing an online degree in data administration.
What Should You Consider When Looking for a Database Administration Program?
- Majors Available
While students of database administration and database management can expect to work in the IT field upon graduation, there are many different concentrations and niches that students can pursue post-graduation. As such, they need to choose schools that offer programs in database administration with offerings in their specific areas of interest through secondary majors, minors, or elective coursework. In particular, students of database administration can choose to concentrate on areas like database management, business data analytics, statistics, web development, and information systems security.
Accreditation – Regional and Programmatic
Given the highly technical nature of database administration positions, employers will be looking to screen candidates who have completed the requisite technical and coding coursework that will allow them to excel on the job. As such, it is important to attend an institution that is accredited by a group recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, which indicates whether the institution that the student is attending is in good standing and offers a rigorous enough academic program. This accreditation provides a layer of insurance, letting students know that the curriculum that they are being taught is rigorous enough to pass industry scrutiny and that they will be competitive in the database administration market post-graduation. Accrediting organizations that pass CHEA’s approval include the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, Higher Learning Commission, Middle States Commission on Higher Learning, New England Commission of Higher Education, Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, and more.
As previously discussed in this article, students can generally expect to obtain higher average annual salaries as they pursue higher levels of postgraduate studies in the database administration field. However, the tradeoff is that they must stay in school longer and forgo wages they would have been earning if they started working earlier. Given that many master’s programs in the database administration field center on providing students with the opportunity to continue taking rigorous electives in the subject, many universities will offer the option of completing both a bachelor’s and master’s degree together in five years if a student fulfills the requirements and takes enough credits to graduate with both degrees. This can shorten the total number of years someone spends in school, given that the master’s program is typically two years long.
Database administration is a field that is ever-evolving and rapidly changing. Joining a professional organization in the field, both as a student and, later, as someone who is carving out a career in the field, can be exceptionally helpful for networking and keeping up with industry developments. In particular, certain employers may be looking to hire students with a specific skillset and training. Joining a professional organization can help candidates identify which employers need their particular skill set and apply for those positions. In a similar vein, established professionals may learn of open job opportunities in other companies from others who are in their professional organization, offering opportunities for career expansion and growth. Below are a few professional organizations in the database administration field.
Association for Information Science and Technology
ASIS&T is the only professional association that bridges the gap between information science practice and research, bringing together industry professionals and scholars in the information science field to learn how to apply the best theories and technologies in the real world.
Association for Women in Computing
AWC brings together women in the IT field to support the advancement of women in technology fields, given the historical gender disparity in the technology realm.
Association of Information Technology Professionals
AITP is an organization dedicated to advancing the IT Profession by providing professional development and guiding national policies on IT to improve society as a whole.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
How much do database managers or administrators make?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median pay for database administrators in 2020 was $98,860 per year, with the typical entry-level education being a bachelor’s degree. The actual pay one can expect to earn will vary for specialists and increase with experience and by location.
Should I get a database administration degree online?
Pursuing a database administration degree online is mostly a personal choice and depends on many factors, including financial circumstances and whether one needs to work full-time or care for another family member.
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