Database management professionals are in high demand across the entire spectrum of business. They design, build, maintain, and help protect a firm's databases. The field is a subset of information technology and computer science, depending on the university's department. Some even find database management programs as part of a business school.
Nevertheless, a degree in database management can help launch a brilliant career that can take a person into the C-suites, an endless stream of tech start-ups, or an independent consultancy. There are so many options that it's hard to list them all. However, we hope you will enjoy reading this page and discovering more about this vital, growing field.
Why Get a Database Management Degree?
Every firm of any size is reliant on its database for all sorts of things. Even small mechanic's shops need to keep a database of their customers for the sake of keeping touch via email or to send periodic offers. Larger enterprises, such as banks or retail chains, need highly detailed database systems to track the hundreds or thousands of items in their inventory, employee information, marketing data, and much more. Since database management is such a vital part of any enterprise, those jobs are highly valued and so are well-paid. Thus, those with database management degrees can find work relatively easily.
Not only can database managers seek out work as a database administrator in any industry they like, but they can also work for government agencies or non-profit organizations. These days, new graduates who have student loan debt can work for the government or a non-profit and thus defer their debts. If they stay in those jobs long enough, they should be able to effectively repay their obligations. In this way, a database management degree can pay for itself while providing valuable experience.
Overview of a Database Management Degrees
On top of this, database technology is constantly evolving. Cloud storage, encryption technologies, and more are creating a dynamic and exciting field. In fact, those who continue to learn more about IT and database management may even develop secondary specialties in cyber security or specific database programs. Database administrators can also work on a freelance basis where they design databases, build databases, and administer databases for one or more clients.
What Does a Database Manager Do?
A database manager is vital to any organization of any size. While the name might not imply it, the field is enormously diverse and provides degree and certificate holders with a variety of career opportunities. In general, database managers design, build, and maintain database programs for their firms. Database managers also work with information security (cyber security) products and experts to develop protocols and systems designed to protect the precious intellectual property. Database professionals can help prevent disasters that stem from ransomware attacks.
On a daily basis, a database manager might review the contents of the database to ensure that everything has been entered properly and to enter queries that their co-workers might rely on. That is, they ensure that everyone is able to get the results the need from certain queries. Database managers also review and debug the SQL or other code that forms the structure of their database. When a problem arises, they can also work with the database software vendor to help solve the difficulty. Additionally, database professionals can work in a variety of environments.
Most database administrators work in an office for their employer. However, others work from home and manage the database via the internet. It's also possible for database professionals to work as independent contractors for small and large clients. Since their time is quite valuable, some stay-at-home parents are able to manage a database and bring in significant income.
Database Management Degree Levels
Associate Degree in Database Management
Apart from self-teaching database management, an associate degree is the most basic level of education for any professional. A two-year degree in database administration is also a terrific way to launch an information technology career. Not only does the degree help to form a solid foundation for a career in information technology but it's good for other reasons as well.
One of the more attractive features of a two-year associate degree in database administration is its relative low cost. Community college tuition rates are typically the lowest in higher education. That does not translate into low quality, either. In fact, community college instructors often have degrees from some of the nation’s best universities. On top of that, community college class sizes tend to be smaller than their more expensive peers at four-year colleges and universities.
It’s also easier to apply and gain acceptance to a community college. These schools typically don't have any GPA requirements, so even those who had difficulty in high school can attend. They also have preparatory courses that help students raise their academic skills in preparation for future success. Even better, some states are implementing free, or very low-cost tuition for their residents.
After graduating with a degree in information technology or database management, students can work to land an entry-level position in an IT department. Thus, armed with an associate degree in database management, they can pursue a professional certification in SQL, database design, or whatever best suits their long-term goals. The degree will also help those who wish to build on that academic success and enroll in a bachelor’s degree program.
- Introduction to Database Administration
- Programming in SQL
- Programming in Python
- Programming in Oracle SQL
- Java Programming
- Database Design
- Technical and Business Writing and Communications
- Microsoft SQL Server
- Cloud Storage and Databases
- Advanced Database Administration
- Information Security
- Technical Support: This job can be at the entry-level or a six-figure career position. These database professionals might work for the likes of Microsoft or Oracle and help their clients solve database issues.
- Database Development and Design: These professionals work to create new databases. They are essentially software developers who use their knowledge of programming languages to create secure, cutting edge databases.
- Database Security: These database professionals install and maintain cyber security tools to keep hackers at bay.
- Business Intelligence: This field verges on data science in that professionals analyze a firm's data in order to help them optimize their operations.
Bachelor’s Degree in Database Management
To earn a bachelor's degree, students must first find the best accredited program for them. First, it's important that students assess their long and short-term goals, evaluate their current skills, and review the available programs. Review many programs, even those that are out of reach for any reason. This will help students arrive at a basis of comparison and a list of final possible schools.
The application process can be tedious but take your time with it. It's important to line up a few teachers or community mentors who are willing to write letters of recommendation. Naturally, every school will want to see transcripts from high school and even other colleges, if that applies. Applications are often not free, so be sure to budget for this eventuality. Each college or university has its own application fee structure, which should be posted on their website. Note that some fees can be quite high, especially for more competitive schools, such as those in the ivy league.
Most schools also require scores from standardized tests. Make sure to check which tests they require because most need either the SAT or ACT, though some may accept either. The testing service will automatically send scores to schools the student selects upon taking the exam.
Once graduated, some students who carry a bachelor's degree in database management can enter the working world in an entry-level position in an information technology department. Others might seek jobs with a consulting firm and travel around the nation and world to help clients with their database needs. It's even possible for some database management students to attract their own contracts and work on a freelance basis. This can be a precarious path, especially starting out, but once they establish a steady stream of business, they can possibly even turn their freelance work into a small consulting business.
- Programming in SQL
- Programming Oracle SQL
- Programming in Python
- Introduction to Database
- Cloud Computing
- Introduction to Information Security
- Database Design and Architecture
- Data Science
- Relational Databases
- Data Analysis
- Database Designer: This position involves creative problem solving on top of a deep technical knowledge of database structures and coding languages. Other necessary skills may be specific to the hardware and underlying server software in use.
- Database Consultant: These professionals work for firms that send them to work on contracts that serve their clients. Database consulting projects can involve maintenance, data retrieval, or creating a database from scratch.
- Database Manager: This career involves maintaining and administering one or more databases for a firm. Database managers might provide workers with permissions to access certain parts of the database and they might oversee other aspects of database security, on top of other duties.
Master’s Degree in Database Management
A graduate degree in database management is becoming more and more common in the workplace. In fact, since many consider a bachelor's degree to be the present-day equivalent to yesterday's high school diploma, a graduate degree is now nearly a requirement, especially for those looking to go into management. Though most entry-level jobs will only require a bachelor's degree, those who wish to advance their careers as far as possible will seek a master’s. With that in mind, many undergraduate students proceed directly into their master’s degree program with hardly a break. Further, in response to the demand for master’s degree programs, many database management students are able to complete accelerated master’s programs.
These accelerated programs allow undergraduate students to work on graduate courses alongside their bachelor's work. This way, they are able to sidestep their undergraduate degree and finish with a master’s degree in database management in only five years. This approach to higher education can save both money and time. Most students will likely complete their undergraduate degrees and then work in database administration for a few years prior to applying to a graduate degree program.
For aspiring graduate students, applications must include items such as transcripts, test scores, letters of recommendation, and perhaps even samples of work. Students should be prepared for this process, as most graduate programs will require official transcripts from every single school attended, even if a transcript only reflects one class. For recommendations, former professors are a great choice, but students who have been working for a few years may also add professional recommendations.
Graduate admissions are somewhat softening on their requirement for standardized tests, but many top database management programs still require them. For this field, it's recommended that aspiring master’s students check their top academic picks to determine if they will need to take the GRE or even GMAT.
- Visual Basic Programming
- Advanced SQL Programming
- Computer Science
- Systems Architecture
- Project Management in Database Management
- Relational Database Systems
- Data Modeling
- Data Mining
- Database Security
- Systems Modeling, Analysis, and Design
- Database Warehousing
- Information Technology Manager: A master’s degree can pave the way to a management position in an information technology department.
- Software Developer: With strong coding skills and in-depth knowledge of database technologies, firms may hire graduates to create new database software solutions.
- Business Intelligence Consultant: Database expertise is needed in this position. Business intelligence consultants help firms parse and interpret their data.
Database Management MBA Coursework (Classes and Courses)
An MBA is a terrific option for a technology worker. Since business runs on the technology they know so well, adding business learning to their academic resume is only icing on the cake. Not only will the degree expand the scope of work a database management professional can perform but it may well help them rise up into upper management, including the C-suites.
During the course of an MBA, students typically spend the first year immersed in a general business curriculum that can be tailored to suit the individual. A technology worker might steer their course selection towards management or operations, though, if they are working in a banking environment, they may lean towards finance.
After the first year is complete, students need to declare a concentration. Not every MBA program offers a concentration in database management or information technology, so students should research this prior to enrollment. Nevertheless, a growing number of MBA programs offer a concentration in technology.
Another master's degree option is the dual MBA. Students who choose this option may need to leave the working world because these programs can be rather intensive. This is because they combine an MBA with some other field such as computer science, database management, or information technology so that students graduate with two master’s degrees. While these programs are extremely demanding, students who work hard will earn two master’s degrees in three years or so, depending on their degree choices.
To gain entry to an MBA program, students may need to provide sufficient scores on the GMAT, though not every program requires those scores. All programs are sure to have requirements for business coursework, so current undergraduate students who are considering an MBA may want to at least take electives in the business or accounting department.
- Banking and Finance
- Corporate Finance
- Advanced Oracle SQL Programming
- Data Analysis
- Database Architecture
- Business Intelligence
- Data Modeling
- Business Intelligence Analyst: Whether they work for a firm or as a contracted consultant, business intelligence analysts help firms sort and make sense of their data.
- Information Technology Supervisor: The business and leadership skills gained in an MBA program will help a database administrator rise into management.
- Chief Information Officer: An MBA, plus a second master's in a technology field, or an MBA that features a tech concentration could help any professional rise into the C-suites.
Doctoral/PhD Degree in Database Management
A doctoral degree represents the highest possible degree for any ambitious professional. While this level of academic achievement isn't often found in the business world, the degree can come in handy for the select few who choose to rise to this level. The degree can not only open up opportunities in the business and commercial sphere, but it also has applications in academia. At the end of the day, PhD students find that the added status works in their favor.
In order to earn a PhD, students first need to complete a master's degree in information technology, database management, or computer science, among other options. Those who pursue an MBA may find that they need to return for another master's degree if they want a PhD in a tech field. Thus, the best option for an MBA student is a dual MBA, where they can build on their tech degree and rise into a PhD program.
Most programs that offer a technology PhD, offer degrees in information technology or computer science. Under those umbrellas, database management professionals might find their specific interest reflected in the coursework. For instance, some database administrators might find themselves focusing more and more on information security, so their PhD might be in cyber security. Others who gravitate toward data analytics and business intelligence might move towards a PhD in data science.
Since a PhD is far more specialized than even a master's degree, students should have a strong idea of what their dissertation will concern and then find a faculty that shares that interest. This is because, at the PhD level, program faculty are more akin to colleagues than instructors. Thus, it's important to select faculty and programs that align in terms of academic interest.
- Big Data Essentials
- Applied Biometric Technologies
- Applied Machine Learning
- Human Computer Interaction
- Cyber Security: Threats and Countermeasures
- Web Analytics
- Knowledge Mining and Big Data
- Database Programming on the World Wide Web
- Enterprise Architecture
- Advanced Database Management
- Mining Massive Datasets
- Information Security Researcher: The field of cyber security is growing by leaps and bounds, and it is in need of researchers who can help develop new products with which to thwart cyber-criminals.
- Big Data Engineer: These professionals help create a firm's databases then are responsible for analyzing the data within.
- Software Engineer: Database professionals might focus their software development and engineering skills on database software.
- Business Intelligence Analyst: This career path involves mining data and then analyzing it to help upper management make their best possible decisions.
As might be expected, the most affordable degree path starts with an associate degree in database management. From there, a full four-year degree can cost $40,000, though there are more and less expensive options, depending on public vs. private schools and in-state vs. out-of-state tuition costs. A traditional, campus graduate program for database management might cost around $20,000, but savvy students can often find programs that offer lower tuition in trade for paid work as a teaching assistant. MBA programs rarely offer a TA option, but it might be possible in some instances. MBA programs also tend to be more expensive and can be as much as $100,000. However, those with an MBA can also command salaries in the six figures. Doctoral degrees can often be funded by way of work teaching classes.
As for the return on investment, database management students find that employers are eager to snap them up. There is a huge demand in this employment sector and salaries can go quite high indeed. Students with a two-year degree might be able to convert that diploma into a starting salary of around $45,000. Given the low-cost (sometimes no-cost) of a community college degree, the investment returns are quite high indeed.
Certificates/Licensures in Database Management
College degrees are just the beginning of a database career. After completing a two- or four-year degree, most students pursue a specialized certificate to add to their resumes. These credentials are often specific to a particular technology. Sometimes that is a database system from a specific company, or it could be a programming language. These certificates commonly require that holders continue to learn in order to keep their credentials current. This dedication to lifelong learning will thus be evident when a resume reflects multiple years in the certification.
Some certificate options include, but are not limited to:
- AWS Certified Database – Specialty:
Amazon Web Services offers certifications for database professionals that can help them to move their careers forward.
- SQL Server Configuration Manager:
This certification is offered by Microsoft for use on its SQL servers.
- Azure Database Administrator Associate:
Microsoft offers this opportunity to become certified and qualified to work on cloud and hybrid database platforms.
- Oracle Cloud Infrastructure:
This Oracle-specific certification can be pursued at the associate level or via two specialist options.
- Oracle Database Administration – Certified Professional:
With these credentials, professionals can install, patch, and upgrade Oracle Database and Oracle Grid Infrastructure.
Online vs. Traditional Options
Students these days have options when it comes to attending and scheduling their classes. The online option has made it possible for sleepy students to attend class from the comfort of their sofas without changing out of their pajamas. Working professionals can likewise learn and develop their skills after work by attending class from their laptop. Some students even opt to blend online and classroom courses to make time for things like jobs or internships.
The online medium has been viewed with suspicion since it first emerged. With much of that derision ebbing, online degrees are increasingly accepted by academics and employers alike. This is likely because, as research shows, online education has the same outcomes as traditional classroom work. Nevertheless, online education still poses certain difficulties.
The chief problem many student have is with finding the discipline and determination to complete an online course. After all, when there is no strict requirement to attend class, it's easy to procrastinate on one's assignments. However, those who manage to stick to a time-management schedule find that they can learn a lot from their courses.
When students are able to complete a 100% online degree in database management, they will have demonstrated an extra level of motivation and enthusiasm for their work. Employers are sure to recognize this quality and reward it accordingly. Online database management degrees thus demonstrate an extra level of engagement and perhaps professional excellence.
Essentially, an online degree can hold the same weight as a traditional degree in database management. Provided that the program is fully accredited by a CHEA-approved agency and/or a national agency, such as ABET, employers will gladly interview a graduate. Online students should still be sure that they can stick to an effective schedule for their online classes and make sure to contact the instructors with any and all questions. Once that connection is established students tend to have far better outcomes in their online courses.
What Should You Consider When Looking for a Database Management Program?
- Majors Available
Not every institution will offer a database management degree, but they may have a program that will set the stage for that career. For instance, information technology degrees often include courses in database management and the SQL programming language that is fundamental in the database world. Students might also pursue a degree in computer science which provides the skills necessary for a career in database management. Others might work toward a degree in management information systems or computer information systems with a minor in database administration. For those interested in a career in healthcare administration, a healthcare informatics degree can pave the way to a career working on database technology.
Accreditation – Regional and Programmatic
Accreditation is a fundamental part of selecting a degree program in any major. This is a credential that a school or program holds, which proves that they have met or exceeded the standards set by an independent agency. The accreditation process is an in-depth audit of a school or program's curriculum, outcomes, faculty accomplishments, and student experiences. The basic level of accreditation is at the regional level.
The CHEA acknowledges these agencies that represent all regions of the United States:
- Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) Western Association of Schools and Colleges
- Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
- New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
- WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
High technology students, as well as others seeking a STEM career, should also be on the lookout for accreditation from ABET. Though founded to accredit engineering degrees, their Computing Accreditation Commission (CAC) audits and accredits programs dedicated to database management, computer science, and information technology, among other computing-specific degrees.
When students have an accredited degree, that speaks volumes to an employer, not to mention other academic institutions. Even professional certifications that require academic degrees may insist that those degrees be from accredited colleges and universities. Employers who offer tuition reimbursement will also be more apt to fund degrees from fully accredited institutions, particularly those with ABET credentials.
Many students bemoan the amount of time required to complete most degree programs. Only the two-year associate degree in database management is a fast-track to a sheepskin. However, there are ways to decrease the amount of time required to complete even a master’s degree in database management.
That is, there are accelerated master’s degree programs available in information technology, computer science, and database administration that take only five years to complete. These programs allow students to earn a bachelor’s and master’s at the same time and, thereby, complete them both more quickly. They are time-intensive and students will need to take classes on a full-time basis and follow the program's schedule to the letter.
Even a bachelor's degree can be expedited through hard work and forgoing summer breaks. Students who take summer courses and add extra credits to their schedule during the normal year are often able to graduate in under four years. Some students may still choose to launch a database management career with an associate degree. A two-year degree will help students land an entry-level position and they can still add to their credentials with a bachelor's degree or pursue professional certifications in technologies such as Oracle Database, Amazon Web Services, or Microsoft products.
Professional Organizations for Database Management
Professional organizations can be a terrific boon to a career in database management. They offer professionals the opportunity to learn and develop in their careers through educational opportunities, periodicals, conferences, and certifications. They also provide a way for database professionals and students alike to find professional fellowship and networking.
For those who are thinking of going back to school, some organizations offer scholarship opportunities. They might even provide grant and fellowship money for research, on top of providing the opportunity to network and find new internships or even jobs post-graduation. Students frequently receive discounted membership fees.
Association for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T)
With chapters all over the United States and the world, ASIS&T provides members the opportunity to learn and grow in the world of information science.
Association for Women in Computing (AWC)
This professional association helps women find a network of other women in the world of information technology and computing. They provide resources for independent members as well as young women who are still working through degree programs.
Data Management International (DAMA)
DAMA members are able to add to their credentials with their Certified Data Management program. DAMA offers multiple exams, beginning with their Data Management Fundamentals examination that will boost any career.
Enterprise Data Management Council (EDM Council)
The EDM Council is dedicated to helping data management professionals learn and grow. They offer six training and certification paths for all levels of database professional. On top of that, EDM Council offers free webinars featuring special topics that database professionals are sure to enjoy.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
How much do database managers or administrators make?
Database managers and database administrators make very good salaries. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), professionals in this field earn a median salary of over $98,000. The typical entry-level education for these professionals is a bachelor's degree and the field is projected to grow much faster than average in the coming years, according to BLS research.
Should I get a database management degree online?
While every student should make this decision for themselves, there are a few things to consider. First, an online degree may be flexible, but students must be able to set a schedule for studying that they can stick to. In the absence of scheduled class times, it's easy to put off assignments. Second, for students who complete an online degree, they find that their outcomes are equivalent to any other student. Third, the most important thing to consider when looking for an online database management degree is the program's accreditation. Students should only enroll in programs that hold credentials certified by CHEA.
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