A career in database management lets you drive enormous herds of digital details
Posted on
June 24, 2015

This feature first appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of Certification Magazine. Click here to get your own print or digital copy.

Database management calls for a variety of skills.

Since the inception of the internet, usage has grown exponentially and the information highway is no longer a two-lane red dirt road. It's a super-sized, super-charged 20-lane spaghetti bowl of information and data - lots and lots of data! If you think there's really not that much data out there, consider the following:

‍First Data, a technology company providing services to financial institutions, reports that they process over $1.8 trillion in transactions every year. That's 2,000 financial transactions every second!

‍SWIFT, a provider of secure financial messaging services, reports 10,279 live users at any given time and over 4.5 trillion messages sent year to date.

‍The Radicati Group, a technology market research firm, reports that the total number of e-mail will swell from 4.1 billion in 2014 to 5.2 billion in 2018. This figure is the total number of e-mail accounts worldwide and does not take mobile messaging, instant messaging (IM), unified communications, or social networking into consideration, all of which are also expected to experience substantial future growth as well.

Whether social media, instant messaging, point-of-sale transactions, personal identifiable information (PII), credit card accounts, billing addresses, customer records, or other financial transactions, the fact remains that massive amounts of information and data are processed every second of every day. Database managers (often referred to as database administrators) are key in ensuring that the information is organized, stored and protected in secure database systems.

In many ways, a database manager must be a master of all things related to information storage and database administration. Database managers are generally responsible for tasks such as creating, maintaining and updating databases, hardware configuration, installation of new software or updates, backing up records and systems, merging old databases into newer more secure systems, and records management. You'll also find database managers involved in the creation and design of database systems and making recommendations regarding the adoption of new and emerging technologies.

When it comes to security, it's the database manager who just may be directly responsible for ensuring your financial and personal data remains safe from those who seek to exploit database system vulnerabilities. Database managers ensure database systems are protected and safe from security breaches and cyberthieves.

Database managers are able to work with general database technologies or specialize in a particular vendor technology (Oracle or Microsoft, for example). In addition, depending on individual interests, numerous job roles are available to database managers. Common job roles include: data mining or business intelligence (BI) specialist, database architect, database designer, database analyst, database developer, database administrator (DBA), or data warehouse specialist.

Database managers may also choose to specialize in either systems database management (managing technical or physical aspects of a database such as installation, patches and upgrades) or application database management (uses programming languages to create, support and maintain specific applications).Database management is complex and requires a highly skilled IT professional to fulfill the job role. Those interested in database management generally need to possess at least a bachelor's degree. Common fields of study include Information Science, Computer Science, or Management Information Systems. In addition, those interested in database management should possess a strong background in Structured Query Language (SQL). IT professionals working with vendor-specific databases (such as Oracle, Microsoft SQL, and IBM DB2, for example) need to develop strong skills in these technologies as well.

Soft skills are a must for the successful database manager. At a minimum, database managers need to possess excellent communication skills and have an eye to detail when working with complex systems. Superior analytical and problem-solving skills are also a definite plus.

Post-graduation, there are a number of well-respected certifications which database managers should consider if they're serious about career building and attaining status as best of the best. Some credentials worthy of consideration include:

‍Oracle - The various OCP credentials are well known and respected. These are vendor-specific credentials for those interested in working with Oracle databases. Credentials to consider include the following: Oracle Database 12c Administrator Certified Associate (OCA), Oracle Database 12c: Administrator Certified Professional (OCP), Oracle Database 12c Certified Implementation Specialist, and Oracle Database Performance and Tuning 2015 Certified Implementation Specialist.

‍Certified Data Management Professional (CDMP) - A vendor-neutral database certification offered by The Institute for the Certification of Computing Professionals (ICCP); available in both a Practitioner and Mastery level.

‍Microsoft - A full range of vendor-specific credentials ranging from entry- to expert-level credentials. Popular credentials include: Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA), Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA: SQL Server 2012), Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (available in both MCSE: Data Platform and MCSE: Business Intelligence).

‍IBM - Leading technology provider IBM offers numerous information management certs for those interested in IBM database technology.

‍MongoDB NoSQL - A document-oriented open-source database. Two credentials are offered: MongoDB Certified DBA, Associate Level and MongoDB Certified Developer, Associate Level.

Database management calls for a variety of skills.

The above list is by no means exhaustive but should provide some idea of the type of credentials which are available. Those wishing to specialize in areas such as data mining, big data, or business intelligence would do well to look at credentials such as HP Vertica, Cloudera, and EMC Data Science Associate, which target these specialized areas.

For those willing to do the work, the rewards are well worth it. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), entry level database administrators (those with fewer than five years on the job) earned a median income of almost $78,000 annually in 2012. Payscale.com reports some database manager roles with incomes in excess of $102,000 annually. The highest incomes were earned by those working with UNIX, Oracle, and PL/SQ. Other factors such as certifications held and industry sector (finance, insurance, computer system design and so forth) may impact salary.

Those interested in database management and administration can expect to have some measure of job security. Because database administration and management is a relatively new field, most database managers possess less than 20 years of real world experience leaving room for career growth. In addition, the BLS reports that database management is expected to experience growth of 15 percent between now and 2022, which is a higher projected rate of growth compared to other industries.

Database management is an exciting and growing career field for those who possess the right skill set. If you're looking for a dynamic, challenging career with the potential for continued future growth, then database management is definitely worth a second look.

About the Author

Mary Kyle is a full-time freelance writer, editor and project manager based in Austin, Texas. Formerly employed in various positions at IBM, Mary has more than 10 years of project management experience in IT, software development and IT-related legal issues.

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