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IT Careers - Database Administrator

Name: Chris
Job Title: Junior Database Administrator
Where: Chicago, IL - USA
Years of Experience: 1
Other Relevant Experience: Worked at same company for five years, in other department.
Education: I'm finishing up my Bachelor's in Computer Science and I have a Liberal Arts BA.
Annual Salary: Curious about IT salaries? Use PayScale's Research Center to find a database administrator salary by employer and database administrator salary by experience.

IT Careers - Database Administrator

After the bursting of the "IT bubble" in the late nineties, people were asking, "how stable is an IT career?" But current data suggests that an escalating number of IT jobs are available for the picking. In fact, many of the best compensated IT jobs are with companies that have emerged from the dot-com crash as industry leaders. Just take a look at the company salary data for Yahoo and employee compensation data for Google.

In this Salary Story, we'll take a look at one of the hottest IT jobs available: database administrator. Database administrator careers are forecasted to be one of the fastest growing careers in the next decade. In the following interview, Chris, a junior database administrator, shares how he landed an entry-level IT job and offers advice on how to break into the field.

IT Job Description - Define the role of a database administrator:

I write a lot of SQL code, mostly for reporting purposes. I also do some more administrative tasks like backing up and setting up new databases. I attend a lot of meetings, which are mostly requirement gathering sessions. Since I work in a small shop, I wear a lot of hats. I'm part analyst, part programmer, part database administrator, part applications support. I like doing different things so that I don't get bored and am not stuck at my desk coding all day.

PayScale: What led you to pursue a database administrator career?

How to Increase Your Salary as a Database Administrator.
Education is the key to increasing your salary as a Database Administrator. There are degrees and certifications that will increase your salary and make you a more valuable employee. In this economic downturn, education is a key strategy for a successful career in Database Administration. Click here to Research Database Administration Degrees.

I worked for five years in the data processing department at my current company. My first year there, the department was in the process of being automated, and I played a role in installing and testing the new computer systems. A few years into the job, I was working closely with the IT department on a lot of issues and started to feel like I could be an IT guy. I had a few supporters and mentors in the IT department who encouraged me to go to school for computer science. I made sure to keep them apprised of my progress in school. Two years later, after some false alarms, I was hired by our database administrator as his only employee. He had helped me with homework for a database class, and was impressed by my SQL coding.

PayScale: What do you love about being a database administrator?

I just completed a week-long crash course on the new Microsoft database software, paid for entirely by my company. Before I got my current job I used to see classes like this online, but was discouraged because I could not afford them. Now that I have an IT job, my company pays for these classes, and actually requires us to do something like this every year. When you do something not everybody can do, you tend to get a lot of praise. It's such a contrast to my old position, which was entry-level and had little clout. I definitely feel more appreciated now. My input is more valued and people look to me for technical advice.

PayScale: What are the biggest challenges you face as a database administrator?

Ironically, dealing with people. You'd think, since I'm in an IT career, I would say something about the technology. I mentioned before that I get praised a lot more. The flipside is that I get cursed a lot more too. People hold you accountable for their applications not working, for the report you wrote (or didn't) not showing the results they expected to see, and the moon not being aligned with Pluto. Sometimes you're the savior, and sometimes you're the scapegoat. You have to grow some thick skin, and take the good with the bad.

PayScale: What advice would you give to those interested in a database administrator career?

Go to school. You pretty much need a four-year degree to get an IT job, especially if you want to be a Developer or a DBA. As an IT administrator you might get away with a two-year degree and some certifications, but I'd still recommend a four-year degree. It's a lot of work and time, but all of my classmates who've graduated have good jobs in their field that they enjoy. I know people who've been farting around with IT certifications for years, and still haven’t broken into the field.

PayScale: What's the funniest or weirdest thing that's happened to you as a database administrator?

Telling my former boss that I couldn't complete some project work she asked me to do last minute before I left for vacation, and that she'd just have to wait until I got back. And that's exactly what happened. I guess I relish the simple pleasures.

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