If you're incredibly organised and what to put your IT skills to good use, we've got the perfect job for you.
As a database administrator you'll be in charge of computerised information systems, which in simple terms means keeping an eye on databases and ensuring they're performing well. You could think of yourself as a kind of high tech librarian...
So, what will I actually be doing?
You are responsible for the performance, integrity and security of a database and your job includes updating existing databases and building new systems for fresh information.
If you find a job building a new database there are various processes you'll have to consider. Establishing what the database is for, who will use it and what systems it will link to. Thinking about a user friendly structure for organising the data and building a test system to iron out any 'bugs'. Finally filling the database with the information and setting up storage, back-up and ensuring the database has adequate storage.
Depending on where you work, you might have extra duties like training staff and producing performance reports for other people in the business. People including analysts, programmers and IT managers need these reports to collate information for planning, reference and communications purposes.
Different businesses have different databases - banks have records of their customer's information and hospitals have stores of patient details for example. All information held on the public is governed by the Data Protection Act, so you'll need to be up to speed with the law and any changes to it in order to make sure your database is fully compliant with all legal requirements.
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The nitty gritty
Your basic hours are 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday, however it's likely that you'll be scheduled on-call in case of any technical problems outside of these hours.
If you work in-house you'll be based out of your office. If you work for a company that specialises in building databases for clients then much of your time will be spent at the client's office.
There are part-time jobs out there if you're looking for job flexibility. You may also be able to work from home if you can get online.
This is one area of IT where there are no structured progression paths. In larger organisations you might grow from a junior support role to become a manager and later branch out into another IT role. Maybe in systems development, network management or project management.
It's more likely that you'll become a database specialist, a trend that is being driven by the increasing use of interactive, web-based databases.
With several years' experience as a specialist database administrator you may find you prefer to do freelance or consultancy work.
Some people might be more interested in exploring a new career direction altogether. Your experience could make a move into marketing, market intelligence or customer relationship relatively easy.
Money, money, money
If you're starting out as a new database administrator then you'll probably be on between £22,000 and £26,000 a year.
With three year experience this will be considerable more - probably £30,000 to £35,000.
It is worth noting that more than 65% of all database administrator positions are in London and the South East, where salaries do tend to be a bit above the average.
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The good points...
With ten or more years' experience you can enjoy a healthy take home salary of up to £50,000.
...and the bad
There may be some times when you are needed to work anti-social hours to carry out maintenance and development work when the database is not in use.
Is there study involved?
There are lots of ways in, and often knowledge is seen as more important than academic achievements (although you'll probably go in at a higher level if you have a degree).
You'll need some quite specific IT skills to get started as a database administrator. Employers will expect you know how to use structured query language (SQL) and database management systems including the catchy-sounding 'relational database management systems' (RDBMS), 'object oriented database management systems' (OODBMS) and XML database management systems.
The best way to gain this kind of experience is through a previous job, maybe in IT support, programming or web development. If you're a new jobseeker you could join a firm's graduate training scheme straight from uni to get these skills.
If you've not got a degree you could think about starting as a database assistant or on an apprenticeship scheme to learn the ropes and get that all important experience.
You'll have gathered that it's important to keep your skills and qualifications up to date, so training is really important in your chosen career.
You should be offered a mix of on the job training, mentoring and professional development courses that will help you progress. Courses worth asking your employer if you can attend include:
- e-skills UK Graduate Professional Development Award
- The British Computer Society Certificate
- Diploma and Professional Graduate Diploma (options in database systems)
- IMIS programmes
Microsoft, Oracle, IBM and other software companies also run specialist database certification courses.
OK, I'm interested... But is it really the job for me?
As keeper of a company's most valuable assets you'll be expected to demonstrate a range of skills:
- Excellent problem-solving and organisational skills
- The ability to work to a high degree of accuracy
Good analytical skills
- A good understanding of database architecture, software and database management systems
- The ability to work quickly, under pressure and to deadlines
- Good communication, presentation and negotiating skills
- A good understanding of the Data Protection Act
- A willingness to keep up to date with developments in technology
- Good team-working skills
You should enjoy working in a fast paced environment, where the technology is constantly changing.
It's also a good idea to develop a bank of soft skills, such as communication, time management and customer service skills so that you understand and can communicate well with database users.