If you’re thinking about a DBA career, then it’s worth knowing what you’re getting yourself into! It takes a certain type of person to make the best DBAs in my opinion.
DBA Career – What Is A DBA?
A DBA, or database administrator, is responsible for keeping databases up and running and stable. Production databases must be available at all times and must meet performance requirements.
A lot of what a DBA does is routine, regular checking of things. Making sure the databases are up and running, for example. And checking logs for errors, making sure overnight backups worked, monitoring space and resource usage, and so on.
As well as this regular maintenance, a DBA will also usually work closely with both database users and application developers. User accounts must be created, privileges granted, and any login problems investigated and fixed. You must liaise with developers to ensure that any new code performs well and isn’t a security risk.
So you’ll find that most good DBAs are very methodical and organised in the way they work. Of course, when things are running smoothly the life of a DBA can be relatively quiet. But as soon as something goes wrong with a production database, then the pressure’s really on your shoulders. The company may be losing money all the time the database is down. And you’re likely to find your life’s suddenly not so quiet in this situation! For this reason, the best DBAs are also calm and work well under stress.
Production DBA vs Development DBA
Not all database administrators will perform all the tasks described above. For example, in a software development company there may not be a production database to maintain. Instead a development DBA will spend all their time working with developers and system architects to build an application solution.
Alternatively, some companies may not have any in-house development. Their DBAs will only be responsible for maintaining production databases (and possibly test or training databases too).
In other situations, larger companies may have a split. A team of development DBAs working with a development team, and a team of production DBAs looking after the live databases.
How To Become A DBA
So then how to become a database administrator if you’ve decided a DBA career is for you?
In truth, it’s actually quite difficult to get a foot on the ladder to becoming a DBA. Due to the nature of the work, people tend to want experienced and skilled DBAs. This is especially true of production DBAs. So starting out on a DBA career can be tough.
Oracle, and many other companies, offer database administrator training courses. And you can do certification tests to prove your knowledge of all the major databases. But this still doesn’t get you the experience that recruiters are looking for.
One of the best, and most common, paths to becoming a DBA is through being a developer first. In many situations, a keen developer will end up becoming a development DBA almost by default. As database work needs doing and there is no-one else there to do it, they’ll f
Similarly, operating system or network administrators often fall into the production DBA path. This is because they may be responsible for backups and restores and server management. And they may have know about things like O/S performance monitoring, RAID levels, and so on.
And I think that’s really the key to becoming a DBA. People tend to fall into the area they have most interest in. If you’re interested in the O/S and hardware side of things, you’ll probably find it easier and more enjoyable to extend your knowledge bit by bit into the production DBA arena, rather than picking up knowledge of the development process and programming languages. And the opposite is probably true of a software developer.
A DBA career is rewarding both personally and financially. It does take a certain type of personality though. And knowing how to become a DBA can be tricky as recruiters often want experienced DBAs. So it can be tough to get your foot in the door. Many people in effect become DBAs by gradually moving over from other areas such as network administration or development.