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Everything runs on data. Every bank, every business, every government agency – their information is their greatest asset. Think about credit card companies: all their cardholders’ personal information, transactions, debts, payments – ever think about where that information goes? It goes into a massive computerized database. Or think about a hospital: patient records, staff information, billing – all of that goes into a database. And somebody has to manage all that information.

Now, if thinking of all that didn’t give you an incredible level of anxiety, maybe you should look into becoming a Database Administrator. You won’t be sorry.

Education

Most DBAs get hired with a bachelor’s degree in Management Information systems (MIS) or some other computer related field. You’ll learn as much as you can about current systems, though of course, as rapidly as technology changes, you’ll find you need to keep up your education pretty regularly.

Though you can do the job with a bachelor’s, a master’s degree may be helpful getting work with larger firms, especially if you are going to be supervising many developers and analysts, or an extremely large and complex system. Master’s students usually focus on Database Management, Information Systems, or Information Technology.

Coursework is primarily in programming languages, especially SQL (Structured Query Language), the most commonly used language now.

Licensing and Certification

Certification will be helpful for distinguishing yourself and getting prospective employers to take a second look at your resume; again, some larger firms will require it. Unlike other professions, where licensing and certification may be done by a government agency or professional association, certification in database administration is usually provided by particular product vendors or software firms, specializing in their own products.

Job Expectations

In your career, you’ll probably start off as database developer or analyst before working up to administration and management. These jobs are very similar, but cover specific parts of database upkeep – developers specialize in actually creating databases, while analysts specialize in interpreting information and making sure it is stored and communicated in a way the firm can use.

DBAs work in both the public and private sector, for an extremely diverse set of employers – basically, anyone with data to store. Education, medicine, finance, government, and business are just some of the most common.

DBAs need good problem solving skills, since any technical job encounters problems, as well as good communication skills (especially analysts). It will be your job to make sure the database works smoothly, to keep up with any issues that arise, to merge information from different databases, back up and restore data, and, of course, make sure sensitive data is safe and secure from hackers.

You’ll usually work a conventional 40 hour week, but if you’re important, expect to be on call for emergencies. And yes, an “emergency” may be a middle manager forgetting his password.

Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Database Administration is expected to grow 15% by 2022, a rate much faster than average. Much of this growth is driven by increased data needs in the medical field, as hospitals and other medical institutions move from old-fashioned paper records to electronic; health care, of course, is in its own boom. Right now, median income is around $77,000, though the highest 10% are at $118,000. Those figures reflect the value of the profession – data is almost as good as money in our new digital reality.