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What is this job like?

The Internet and electronic commerce (e-commerce) generate lots of data. Computer databases that store information on customers, inventory, and projects are found in nearly every industry. Data must be stored, organized, and managed. Database administrators work with database software to find ways to do this. They identify user needs, set up computer databases, and test systems. They ensure that systems perform as they should. Database administrators often plan security measures. Data integrity, backup, and security are critical parts of the job.

Database administrators work in offices or labs. They usually work about 40 hours a week. But evening or weekend work may need to be done to meet deadlines. Telecommuting—working from home—is common for computer professionals.

Database administrators may advance into managerial positions. For example, a promotion to chief technology officer might be made on the basis of experience managing data and enforcing security.

Like other workers who spend long periods in front of a computer, database administrators can suffer eyestrain, back discomfort, and hand and wrist problems.

How do you get ready?

Database administrators must be able to think logically. Being able to concentrate and pay close attention to detail is important. These computer specialists sometimes work on their own, but they often work in teams. They must be able to communicate with computer personnel, such as programmers and managers. They must also communicate with other staff who may have no computer training.

Rapidly changing technology requires highly skilled and educated employees. There is no single way to prepare for a job as a database administrator.

Some jobs may require only a 2-year degree. Most community colleges, and many other technical schools, offer an associate degree in computer science or a related information technology field. Many of these programs are geared toward meeting the needs of local businesses. They are more occupation-specific than 4-year degree programs.

Many employers seek workers who have a bachelor's degree in computer science, information science, or management information systems (MIS). MIS programs usually are part of the business school. They differ quite a bit from computer science programs. MIS programs focus on business and management-oriented course work and business computing courses. Now more than ever, employers seek workers with a master's degree in business administration (MBA) and a minor in information systems.

Despite employers' preference for those with technical degrees, persons with degrees in a variety of majors find computer jobs. One factor affecting the needs of employers is changes in technology. Employers often scramble to find workers who know the latest new technologies.

Jobseekers can improve their chances by working in internship or co-op programs at their schools.

Certification is a way to show a level of competence. Many employers regard these certifications as the industry standard. One way to acquire enough knowledge to get a database administrator job is to become certified in a specific type of database management. Voluntary certification also is available through various organizations associated with computer specialists.

How much does this job pay?

In 2002, the middle 50 percent of database administrators earned between $40,550 and $75,100. The lowest-paid 10 percent earned less than $30,750. The highest-paid 10 percent earned more than $92,910.

How many jobs are there?

There were about 110,000 database administrators in 2002. They are part of the total of 979,000 computer systems analysts, database administrators, and computer scientists. About 89,000 of all computer systems analysts, database administrators, and computer scientists were self-employed.

Computer systems analysts, database administrators, and computer scientists work in every sector of the economy. The largest number is in the computer systems design and related services industry. Many work for Internet service providers, web search portals, and data-processing, hosting, and related services firms.

More and more, these workers work on a temporary or contract basis. Such jobs may last months or years.

What about the future?

Computer systems analysts, database administrators, and computer scientists are expected to be one of the fastest growing jobs through 2012. Their number will grow much faster than the average for all occupations. This is because many work in computer system design and related services, one of the fastest-growing industries in the U.S. economy. Job growth will not be as rapid as during the previous decade. The information technology sector will begin to mature and routine work will increasingly be outsourced overseas.

The Internet and e-commerce will continue to expand. There will be a continuing need to build and maintain databases. Also, the increasing importance being placed on "cybersecurity"—the protection of electronic information—will result in a need for workers skilled in information security. For these reasons and others, there will be a continued need for database administrators.

Are there other jobs like this?

  • Actuaries
  • Computer and information systems managers
  • Computer hardware engineers
  • Computer programmers
  • Computer software engineers
  • Electrical engineers
  • Financial analysts
  • Management analysts
  • Mathematicians
  • Operations research analysts
  • Personal financial advisors
  • Statisticians
  • Urban planners
Where can you find more information?

More information about computer systems analysts, database administrators, and computer scientists can be found in the Careers Database.

Source: Occupational Outlook Handbook -- U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics

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