Which path to go to become a database administrator?

Discussion in 'Training & Development' started by jammed24, Feb 1, 2008.

  1. jammed24

    jammed24 Bit Poster

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    Dear CF members

    I have passed the A+ last year and recently i am studying the N+ (chapter 8 at the moment). I really want to become a database administrator, what training or certifcations would I need? How difficult is it to be a database administrator? The reason is because database admin seem to relate more to computer science. I might be wrong but I want to be clear about which cert I need.


    Thanks for any advice in advance.
     
  2. Adam Banner

    Adam Banner Poster Galore

     
  3. greenbrucelee
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    greenbrucelee Zettabyte Poster

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  4. sunn

    sunn Gigabyte Poster

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    What's your background in the IT & DB world(s)? You've mentioned studying N+ and passing the A+. These are great entry-level certs but I suspect getting an entry level DBA job will take real-world IT experience if not actual DB experience.

    Although most of the certification magazines/vendors suggest getting a cert is the only way, you have to remember these organizations have a vested interest. If possible try volunteering to do some DBA work. Learn the high-level strengths and weaknesses of various databases (i.e. Oracle; SQL) and what doors these might open. Time and time again as shown experience is the key...

    For more information on database certs, here's an article that may help.
     
  5. ffreeloader

    ffreeloader Terabyte Poster

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    You want to be a DBA? Today that means knowing how to program SQL, at a minimum, design database structures, understand how recognize how data should fit into a database, etc... as well as how to administer a database server.

    If you move into the open source world knowing Perl, C, etc... will come in handy as Postgres uses those languages for stored procedures.

    I would say your best chance is to intern somewhere that will train you from the ground up if you don't have the educational background in math and computer science that most places look for. Certifications without experience in this area are a waste of time and money as no one is going to hire you as a DBA with no experience. This area is just too complex, too critical to a business' survival, for any business to trust a newbie at the controls of their database.
     
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  6. BosonMichael
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    BosonMichael Yottabyte Poster

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    Sunn and Freddy are on the mark... you don't just hop into a DBA job from scratch without any IT experience. It's certainly worth shooting for down the line in your IT career. Usually, network admins or programmers decide that they want to become DBAs after having real-world exposure to databases.
     
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  7. hbroomhall

    hbroomhall Petabyte Poster Gold Member

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    I'd add here that at least you need to get a little hands-on experience with some databases. This will tell you whether aiming for DBA is *really* what you want.

    Oracle (personal edition), MySQL and PostgreSQL are all available free for downloading.

    Harry.
     
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  8. jammed24

    jammed24 Bit Poster

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    thanks for the advice, the reason is i want to be become a dba is because i think my strength is on the programming side, having said that I still want to get the N+ because i think it's a good entry cert to have.
    I have knowledge of C, C++, VB, HTML and Microsoft Access. I don't have any knowledge of any SQL.

    i haven't dare to ask or write letters to any companiesto take me on to gain some work experience. The reason is because I havent got enough knowledge of SQL to enable to try it out in real world. I want to be sure that I got all the knowledge and able to apply it to real world. I realise that even volunteering they are asking for experience.

    My educational background is up to a BTEC which isn't a great but its about computing and hope that would make some difference.

    Having looked at most recruitment websites, most emplyeer wants a computer science degree or related for a programming or dba position. I am not confident enough to send my cv out because i dont think my educational background isn't great.

    At the moment my age and finance won't allow me to study 3-4 years at a university full time so all i can do is self study. this fit in to my other commitments.
     
  9. hbroomhall

    hbroomhall Petabyte Poster Gold Member

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    Hm - programming and DBA aren't really that close.

    For small companies they might be combined, but in our organization the DBAs don't do programming and the programmers aren't DBAs.

    Sure the DBAs know SQL, but their main strength is in administrating our big Oracle databases.

    Harry.
     
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  10. dmarsh

    dmarsh Terabyte Poster

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    I agree with what freddy said. The role of the pure DBA is becomming rarer and rarer, nowadays programmers and sysadmins do a lot of DBA duties. Modern RDBMS do a much better job of self configuring and optimising. Only in fairly big companies for production critical systems are DBA positions still kept, even then often its a sysadmin a lot of the time, with maybe contract DBA's for initial set up.

    As far as database creation and design this is normally performed by Analyst/Developers these days, with maybe a little tweaking here and there by a DBA.

    Harry's advice of learning the basics first is good advice. If you know so little about being a DBA and SQL how do you know it would interest you ? Nearly all business computing or web development requires at least some knowlege of RDBMS's these days.

    Its highly unlikely that you would have not encountered databases and SQL if you have done any significant work with these languages/technologies. In fact Access is a database, just a rather poor one.

    Nowadays most people use Access as a form designer to sit on top of SQLServer, there are many editions of SQLServer including the free Express edition meaning the Access Jet DB engine will probably eventually be phased out.

    http://www.microsoft.com/sql/editions/default.mspx
    http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa140011(office.10).aspx
     
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  11. jammed24

    jammed24 Bit Poster

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    Thanks for all the reply and help, i appreaciate the advice given and last night I spent thinking which route I want to go, my conclusion is since DBA become rarer I would like to new programming instead because it seems a its got topics about SQL, Oracle etc...

    Now I have decided programming is the path, is the N+ still a certificate I would need if I wish to become a programmer? the reason is because N+ seem to be more technical and I don't know whether i need it or not.

    Thinking that a computer science degree more employable, is there any entry programming certificate I can obtain in order to obtain a job in near future?
     
  12. harpistic

    harpistic Byte Poster

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    From what I've read, the MCDBA is being phased out as it's specific to SQL Server 2000, so have a look at MCTS and the SQL Server Developer 2005 MCITP courses (the MCTS is the first stage before doing the MCITP; there's also a MCITP DBA course; I'm planning on doing both to cover my options).

    SQL Server is a lot easier to break into than Oracle, so it would probably be a better investment. And don't worry about doing a Computer Science degree - you'd be much better off with technical certs!
     
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  13. dmarsh

    dmarsh Terabyte Poster

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    The MCDBA has not been phased out yet, microsoft informs of expiry a year in advance, I expect they will announce its expiry this june, tis therefore leaves just over a year left to pass all the exams.

    The MCDBA cert is on old technology and probably less well structured than the new cert track, however the cert does last for life and is somewhat catchier than the new MCITP title. The new MCITP certs expire after threee years I believe.

    So you have two paths, take the old track and upgrade to MCITP or take the new track. Check the microsoft site to get it straight from the horses mouth.

    It sounds like you've already started with a programmer slant, only you can determine if this is for you or if you would prefer something different, I'd advise learning as much as you can about what you find interesting and then making a decision. If you do what you love you will find a way to make money out of it later...
     
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  14. harpistic

    harpistic Byte Poster

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    I should clarify what I meant... I was reading around on a lot of forums etc a few weeks ago and the feedback was generally that if you haven't started on the MCDBA yet, then don't, as the expectation is that MS will cease to support SS2k in 2008 (and also, fewer exams. And newer technology).

    There were also suggestions that it could be better to do the MCITP as there are relatively fewer people qualified compared to all the people with MCDBAs.

    (Sign up to sqlservercentral.com if you'd like to read more, there's about six threads alone on MCDBA vs MCITP :rolleyes:)

    My own opinion is that MCDBA is far more widely recognised and accepted than MCITP at present, as it's such a new qualification; also, use of SS2k is extremely widespread so it's still a useful system to train on. (If I'm still vaguely sane after my laundry list of certs to get through, then I'd like to do the MCDBA for those reasons).

    The main reason for suggesting the MCITP is because of the developer stream, if that's what you decide you want to do.

    Hope I didn't confuse :oops:
     
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  15. BosonMichael
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    BosonMichael Yottabyte Poster

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    That's all well and good... but companies aren't just going to stop using SQL 2000 the day Microsoft ceases support for it. There are still companies out there using Windows NT 4!

    Thus, my recommendation is the same as it ever was: certify on the oldest technology, and upgrade forward. Eventually, you won't be able to get those older certifications anymore... then, you'll have it, and "they" won't. Who do you think will look more attractive to an employer: someone who has the SQL 2008 certification, the SQL 2008 and 2005 certifications, or the SQL 2008 and 2005 AND 2000 certifications?

    There are far fewer people with the HTI+ certification than the CCNA or the MCSE. Does that make the HTI+ folks more in demand? Of course not.

    If you want to be a developer, you should go for the MCPD, not the MCITP.
     
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  16. Mark-K

    Mark-K Bit Poster

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    I'm in a similar boat, these posts were a great help.

    Are there any entry level generic SQL certs? As I'm really unsure where I'm going yet, and I'm thinking 6 months or so down the line after I get some experience.
     
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  17. BosonMichael
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    BosonMichael Yottabyte Poster

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    Not really... entry-level jobs don't involve working with SQL Server.

    Certainly you can learn the information... and the knowledge may eventually come in handy... but don't expect a SQL certification to land you a SQL job without experience. For example, I've been in IT for 10 years, and I've got my OCP certification. But I don't have any real-world experience working with Oracle in a live environment. Thus, I'd likely find it extremely difficult to get a job as an Oracle DBA.
     
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  18. ffreeloader

    ffreeloader Terabyte Poster

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    To anyone wanting to become a DBA I'd recommend looking at smaller companies where you can be exposed to many different types of technology.

    The company I'm working with has two developers, a gal that does billing and mailing out our product, the owner who does most of the database development work, an accountant, and me (I do all the systems administration, security, networking, set up all our development labs, and test new technologies to see how they can integrate into our future plans.

    In doing my job I get exposed to just about everything from some scripting to database creation to user creation to auditing security and administering out email server to documenting how our web application is put together. I seem to be getting more into database stuff all the time as we simply couldn't exist without them. They are the core of our business.

    Now, if the company was big, say had several hundred employees I'd never get exposed to what I'm being exposed to now. I'd never get to work with the database stuff or security, which btw are both interests of mine. I'd be stuck doing low level repetitive stuff. I'm constantly learning new things which is an opportunity I have ONLY because I work for a small company. I even get to give input on the future directions we will take as a company and what technologies we will use to get there.

    My advice to you is look to smaller organizations to get a chance to learn database stuff. The big companies have the money to pay for experienced talent, and they need it to do what they are doing. To get your foot in the door though, you need to opportunity to get your hands on the technology, and the small companies give you that opportunity to learn.

    I'm where I am because what this company does is close to my heart. It focuses on helping people who definitely need a hand up because of what life has dealt them. I chose it even though I had opportunities to make a lot more money right away elsewhere. But, I'm doing what I love, helping people while doing it, and getting to learn stuff right now I would have been a couple of years(at a minimum) away from being exposed to in other settings.

    At these small companies you will be exposed to open source technologies because they simply can't afford to use MS. You'll learn a lot more than you would working with MS technologies because you'll be able to get right to the heart of everything. You won't be locked out of anything. You'll learn how modify things that MS would never let you see, let alone modify. Open source is wide open. It's growing by leaps and bounds, and there are more opportunities for the newbie to learn there than in MS world.

    Learn Postgres and MySQL. The technology is there and it's free for you to install and learn. All you need to do is put forth the time and effort. Do some research on these two technologies. Sun just paid $1 billion dollars for MySQL.... It's going to grow and usage of it is going to expand rapidly with Sun's money behind it. Learn Postgres. It's an enterprise ready database product that Sun has already had a working relationship with for quite a while. A lot more companies than you would think use it because it's so stable. I've read lately where corporate Oracle users have been switching to Postgres and their reports say it's more stable, faster, and for them an overall better product than Oracle. It won't cost you huge chunks of cash to learn either. There is tons of free, good documentation too.

    You want to be a DBA? Go open source. The field is much easier to break into.
     
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  19. harpistic

    harpistic Byte Poster

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    Ouch, BosonMichael, that hurt! :dry I was just summarising the debates I'd read on which cert to go for (for my own benefit), and also telling him that there's a SQL Server developer path available if he doesn't want to go the DBA route (having mentioned a stronger interest in programming).

    I agree with ffreeloader, there are entry-level jobs out there, it's just a case of the company. My first exposure to SQL Server was with a local council, where their only interest was that I had prior database experience before telling me to get on with it; my next job (the local council was strictly a stopgap) was as an Oracle Developer, despite the lack of commercial experience, where I worked instead as their SQL Server DBA - my then boss having kindly omitted to mention that he'd blocked all development work.

    The only point I'd disagree with is that it's not necessarily the size of the company, but more a case of what kind of role the IT department plays within it. The more remote the IT department, the more likely you'll be to find other departments setting up independent databases and needing help with them. (Eg, in my previous job, they needed a database setting up for major data crunching, and when I told them it wouldn't work without SQL Server, that's the route they took). And the more skills you have (or potentially have), the more they will be seized on. At least, that's been my experience over the last 7 years or so.

    Incidentally, MySQL offer certifications - mysql.com/certification/index.html - I came across the certification guide at Waterstones a few weeks ago, although the intro mentions that there's only something like a 50% pass rate. Useful reading, maybe, but not worth putting yourself through the stress of exams till you've got more exposure.

    Either way, whether you pursue SQL Server, MySQL, Postgres or other, the basic fundamentals are the same.
     
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  20. BosonMichael
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    BosonMichael Yottabyte Poster

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    Hm? What was painful about it? It wasn't meant to hurt...
     
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  21. harpistic

    harpistic Byte Poster

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    The whole disagreeing-with-everything-I-said bit :cry:

    Okay, so I'm biased (and braindead, on only 3.5 hours' sleep - insomnia sucks) as I like DBA work in small quantities, but not as the extent of my day job. Nevertheless, I want to get some SQL Server certs under my belt, and I intend to do both the developer and DBA routes. Hence lots of websearching and the info I posted as a result - other people's opinions!

    Thinking back... for a newbie I'd say scrap the certs, start with SQL Server 2k, play around with 2005, and then start start seeing what the job situation is. (Idealism sucks too - out of the four jobs where I've used SQL Server, three of them have used SS2k. The other one was an organisation otherwise around 50 years out of date).

    Another avenue is to explore web front-ends, learn ASP with SQL Server back end (or PHP / MySQL) and build up a portfolio of websites which can be added to a CV as valid commercial experience.
     
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