Database management is broken into three general sections: design, engineering (or development) and database administration (DBA). Sometimes the designers and engineers work together, or one person may fill both roles. Once the database is designed and developed, then the administrators make minor tweaks as needed and manage the data to ensure consistency and continuity. Database admins also work to clean, archive and compress the database to ensure optimal operation. In smaller businesses, these jobs are almost non-existent, so look to larger corporations that manage large quantities of data for positions. No matter which direction you go, take some SQL (not server) classes first to get to know the language. It varies a little between programs, but it pretty consistent for the most part. Here are my top five database career recommendations and why:
1. Microsoft SQL Server
This is the most popular choice of database amongst businesses, mostly because it gets bundled with the server software more often than not. In fact, the Microsoft Small Business Server comes pre-packaged with Windows Server, SQL Server, and Exchange Server. There are also a smaller, free version called SQL Express that managers can use to store smaller databases and programmers can use to learn with. For features all around, I also find this to be the most versatile of all databases and it tends to be much less expensive than the next two competitors.
This tends to be the database of choice for the largest of corporations and many large software developers. For a long time, Oracle was a much more robust and powerful database than any other competitor, although the gap is much more narrow now. The biggest reason to learn Oracle is that you are likely to find more job specifically for database management using Oracle. The SQL Server jobs tend to become merged with Server Admin job.
3. IBM DB2
In a similar fashion as Oracle, this database used to be considered very prominent, likely due to IBM’s good reputation. The database is waning in popularity which means than as older DBA’s retire, it will be hard to find new ones to replace them. These positions, though few, can be quite lucrative since there is actually more demand than supply any more.
This open-source database is the database of choice for Linux-based systems, especially web servers. It is rising in popularity because it is open-source and therefore free. Although the stability of such a system can sometimes be in question, I feel it holds its own with the “big boys” pretty well and is an extremely useful system. Remember that SQL Server was not taken seriously for a long time, but an underdog can always get better.
5. Microsoft Access
Although not the most powerful database system out there (it has a few limits), this remains the database of choice for small to mid-sized businesses because it comes bundled with Microsoft Office typically. I’ve seen many agencies use this heavily and oddly enough, few people fully understand it. People who master Microsoft Office will focus on Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook and professional DBA’s will focus on bigger packages such as SQL Server and Oracle. This leaves a nice gap for people looking to move into a DBA career to slide into this role using Access.