Database Administrator

The Job and What's Involved

HP ServerA database administrator plans, manages and maintains computer files of information, such as lists of business contacts and customers, for organisations in both the private and public sectors. This information helps people to collate data for reference, strategic and communication purposes.

Levels of responsibilities vary widely, ranging from typing and inputting information to complete management of data. Database administrators may also design, test and implement new systems.

Tasks often include:

  • Developing a user-friendly system for storing information, ensuring that data entry is consistent.
  • Setting up and testing new data handling systems.
  • Consolidating and streamlining the storage of data, transferring information from various sources.
  • Ensuring that the database has adequate storage, backup, recovery and archiving procedures.
  • Maintaining the security and integrity of the information contained on the database.
  • Ensuring that systems meet the requirements of the Data Protection Act.
  • Training others on how to input information.
  • Organising user registration, keeping control on which users can access or update information relevant to their agreed functions.

Database administrators usually work closely with other IT professionals, including system developers, programmers and project managers to resolve technical problems and anticipate future organisational needs. This could involve recommending software enhancements.

Due to the sensitive nature of data stored, database administrators have a responsibility for ensuring systems are secure and comply with legal and statutory requirements. In larger offices, they may supervise a team of data assistants. In smaller offices, responsibilities may include wider IT support and software development.

Working hours are usually 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. There are opportunities for part-time work.

Database administrators spend a lot of their time in an office working at a computer workstation, analysing information and dealing with telephone enquiries. The offices are usually modern and air-conditioned.

They may also need to travel to different office sites for meetings, presentations and to conduct training. A driving licence may be useful.

Average starting salaries for database assistants are around £16,380 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Opportunities may be found with a wide range of companies and organisations that have large-scale information requirements. This could include schools and universities, the National Health Service (NHS), central and local government departments, financial institutions, retail businesses, manufacturing firms, and IT and computer companies offering database solutions. At present there are around 69,000 database administrators employed in the UK and the sector is expected to remain stable.

Many database administrators combine database administration with a marketing or systems development role.

Vacancies can be found in sector publications such as Computer Weekly and Computing, as well as with specialist recruitment agencies, and on individual company and online recruitment websites.

Education and Training

There are many routes into database administration. Knowledge and skills are often regarded as more important than academic achievements, but candidates with specific qualifications in IT may often start in a more senior role.

There are a number of higher education qualifications aimed specifically at people wishing to work in IT. They include HNC's/HND's, Foundation degrees and degrees in computer science, software development, electronics, maths and engineering. However, employers do take on and train graduates with degrees in non-related subjects, provided they have good IT skills.

Applicants for HNC/HND courses usually need at least one A level/two H grades or equivalent qualifications. Degree courses usually require at least two A levels/three H grades and five GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3) or equivalent qualifications. Candidates should check with individual colleges and universities for specific entry requirements.

School leavers with good GCSE's/S grades in English, maths and IT can often start in a database assistant post. Relevant computing qualifications include:

  • GCSE's/S grades in information and communication technology (ICT).
  • Advanced GCE in applied ICT.
  • A level/H grades in ICT.
  • Level 4 BTEC Professional Certificate in Networking.
  • Entry Level Certificate in ICT (Edexcel).

Some employers offer IT Apprenticeships, which can provide an indirect route into database administration. Graduate Apprenticeships in IT may also be available to young people in England. These combine study at degree or diploma level with structured work-based learning.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Training is usually on the job and is often a combination of self-learning and colleague mentoring, supplemented by short internal or external courses. Many software producers offer certification in specific database products. Constant changes in products, such as web-based databases, mean administrators need to keep their skills and knowledge up to date.

Some employer's support and fund professional qualifications, such as the British Computing Society (BCS) qualifications for systems developers and business analysts and the diploma courses from the Institute for the Management of Information Systems (IMIS).

A Graduate Professional Development Award (GPDA), aimed mainly at undergraduates and new graduate entrants to the IT industry, is offered by e-skills UK. This is a flexible training scheme that can be tailored to suit people at different stages and levels, and leads to a nationally recognised graduate certificate.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A database administrator should be:

  • Knowledgeable about IT in general.
  • Familiar with the main data manipulation languages and database systems.
  • A confident negotiator, with good teamwork and communication skills.
  • A good project manager, organised and methodical.
  • An analytical thinker and good at problem solving.
  • Flexible, yet focused on meeting tight deadlines.
  • Clear on legislative issues.
  • Business focused and able to understand how data information fits into the wider needs of the organisation.

Your Long Term Prospects

There is no typical progression route. Structured promotional paths are often limited to larger organisations, where many start in a junior support role, progressing and taking on management responsibilities as they gain experience. Others may choose to specialise in database design, network management of systems or information analysis.

The increasing use of interactive, database-driven websites offers new opportunities for database specialists. The close relationship between data and marketing within larger organisations can mean some database administrators move into customer relationship management or market intelligence.

After several years' experience specialist database administrators may do freelance or consultancy work.

Get Further Information

British Computer Society (BCS), 1st Floor, Block D,
North Star House, North Star Avenue, Swindon, Wiltshire SN2 1FA
Tel: 0845 300 4417
Website: www.bcs.org

e-skills UK, 1 Castle Lane, London SW1E 6DR
Tel: 020 7963 8920
Website: www.e-skills.com/careers

Institute for the Management of Information Systems (IMIS),
5 Kingfisher House, New Mill Road, Orpington, Kent BR5 3QG
Tel: 0700 002 3456
Website: www.imis.org.uk

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