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University student in a pickle: Continue on DBA path or something more development related?

Ar Tas
Greenhorn

Joined: Sep 10, 2012
Posts: 3

Hello everyone,
I am currently a MIS (Management Information Systems) student at CSU Long Beach, which is in Southern California. This semester, I added a minor in computer science and I feel that I have reached a fork in my career path. My original goal was to be a DBA, and a very successful DBA told me to add a minor is CS because the MIS degree does not cover enough programming. Now that I am taking some intro to programming classes, as well as an Android development class, I feel that programming might be a better direction for me.

Here is what I understand about the two careers.

I will need a significant amount of schooling and experience with databases before I am able to become a DBA. I believe it’s almost expected for me to have an MBA before I can be a successful DBA with a high salary at a good company.

To be a programmer, I don’t think the educational requirements are as important, which is a plus because I won’t be expected to have a graduate degree. However, the salary potential is not as great either. I do think that being a programmer would be more exciting that being a DBA. I also believe there are more jobs for programmers than for DBAs, so getting work out of University is not going to be as hard.

If I am mistaken about any of the above statements, PLEASE TELL ME!

Now, there are two things that are very important to me. Job availability upon graduation, and potential salary in 8-10 years. I am under the impression that things would be better if I look for a Jr. java or c# position, than if I look for a position working with databases.

One question that I have is, will I be at a significant disadvantage looking for a jr. programming position because I did not major in computer science? Remember, I am a MIS major (which is under business administration) and am minoring in CS. I still have two years before I graduate, so I will have time to do internships.

Anyone’s input on my statements and their personal experience would be appreciated.
chris webster
Bartender

Joined: Mar 01, 2009
Posts: 1851
    
  16


I will need a significant amount of schooling and experience with databases before I am able to become a DBA. I believe it’s almost expected for me to have an MBA before I can be a successful DBA with a high salary at a good company.

To be a programmer, I don’t think the educational requirements are as important, which is a plus because I won’t be expected to have a graduate degree. However, the salary potential is not as great either. I do think that being a programmer would be more exciting that being a DBA. I also believe there are more jobs for programmers than for DBAs, so getting work out of University is not going to be as hard.

Not sure where you got that information, but it is hard to find your first job in IT, period, regardless of whether it's as a DBA or junior programmer. The US job market is probably healthier than here in the UK, but generally you need relevant qualifications and ideally some practical experience e.g. from substantial study projects, internships or open source projects. These days, programmers certainly need a relevant degree because there is a lot of competition for junior roles. Graduate qualifications can help if they include practical experience or give you specialist skills e.g. in a particular business area, and they may help to differentiate you from all the other applicants for a junior position, provided you can afford the time/money for another year or two in college. But you can go too far in that direction - a PhD may mean employers think you're "over-qualified" for many development roles, even if that's still what you want to do.

I've never heard of a DBA requiring an MBA - and given the cost of getting an MBA I'd be surprised if an MBA graduate wanted to spend their career as a DBA. DBA work is demanding, may involve shift work, and requires you to develop strong technical skills on the system admin side, often specialising in a particular DB platform e.g. Oracle, and in many organisations DBAs are also expected to play a role in data modelling, although there is a trend towards using specialist data architects for this kind of work instead. Data architects have more interaction with business users in order to help design the appropriate data architecture for a system e.g. data warehousing, and may have DBA experience, although this is not always the case. If you want to be a DBA, you could try getting involved in doing DBA work at college/local companies or on group projects etc, anything that might give you some hands-on experience. You could also look at getting certification e.g. as an Oracle DBA, which will give you a framework for learning the practical skills you would need as a DBA. You can download the Oracle RDBMS for free from Oracle Technet and the certification exams are not too expensive, so it is feasible to do this in your spare time.

Development roles are far more varied than DBA work, and probably offer more flexibility in where you decide to progress your career e.g. into system architecture, business analysis, project management etc, and there are probably far more jobs around, although there is also a lot of competition. Another factor - at least here in the UK - is that development work is highly vulnerable to outsourcing/offshoring, so if you want to stay in a job, you may need to scramble up the career ladder fairly quickly - analyst/architect roles are probably less likely to get outsourced/offshored and usually pay a lot better than pure development work. DBA work may be less vulnerable to offshoring, as companies may hire external providers to develop a system but still want to keep the data in-house, although this may change as people start adopting "cloud" solutions where storage and infrastructure services are provided by an external company and may be based anywhere in the world.

But either way, the best approach is probably for you to think about what you actually want spend your working days doing for the next few years, and then work out how to improve your chances of getting that first job in your chosen field. Given your MIS background, one approach might be to aim for a particular business sector where you might be able to acquire some specialist knowledge e.g. through extra courses or projects/internships. Or think about going down the "business analysis" route - there seem to be lots of jobs for business analysts on management information systems that are based on data warehouses, and this trend is likely to continue as people try to make sense of all that "big data" we keep hearing about.

Anyway, I'm sure you'll get plenty of expert advice from other JavaRanchers, so best of luck with it all.


No more Blub for me, thank you, Vicar.
Ar Tas
Greenhorn

Joined: Sep 10, 2012
Posts: 3
Hey Chris,

First of all, thank you so much for taking time out of your day to write that response. It was very detailed and helpful!

As far as where I got my information about the DBAs, I got it from this person here (This is also the person who advised me to get the minor in computer science):

http://www.dba-oracle.com/t_how_to_become_an_oracle_dba.htm

Here are some quotes from that page:

My MBA was a requirement for interfacing with the business areas


Why a person without any Computer Science and MBA degree background can't shine:
Because they don’t have the necessary depth of knowledge for a such a mission-critical management position. There have been exceptions, but it’s quite rare, and I don’t know of any corporation that would risk a multi-billion dollar database to someone without the proper academic credentials.
Michael Sadler
Greenhorn

Joined: Sep 11, 2012
Posts: 1
Hi,

I feel your pain. I went through the same discovery process over this decision and decided to write about it- hoping to connect with like-minded people.

I have taken a semester off to study web development (technical) and returned to Commerce to major in MIS. Having the perspective and experience with real life software development has provided me with a extremely real appreciation for all those charts you learn doing MIS. This stuff is super powerful.

I think you will find yourself in very high demand in any new venture / tech startup company if not in a larger firm. Look for 'incubators' and 'accelerators' in your community and they will connect you with people that are thirsting for your perspective and skills.

Michael
@NewVentureFunds
arulk pillai
Author
Ranch Hand

Joined: May 31, 2007
Posts: 3263
In my view, MBA is more beneficial when you have some real life work experience.


500+ Java Interview Questions and Answers | Java job hunting know how & Java resumes
chris webster
Bartender

Joined: Mar 01, 2009
Posts: 1851
    
  16


Thanks for the link. The Burleson site is a good resource for Oracle technical tips, and the page you linked to has lots of good tips for getting into DBA work specifically, but I'm a little mystified by his MBA-or-death approach. (Of course, if I'd invested vast amounts of money/effort in gaining an MBA, I'd probably want to believe it was vital to my career, regardless of whether that was actually the case or not).

FWIW, I've worked with Oracle DBAs for over 20 years in companies ranging from small start-ups to multinationals, and AFAIK I've never met a DBA who had - or felt they needed - an MBA. I guess I'm just not moving in the right circles, eh? Certainly the emphasis on business awareness is important for any technical IT role these days, and especially if you're aiming to move from DBA work towards a data architect role (much more interesting than pure DBA work IMHO - I've never been "enticed with the glamour and power of the DBA role"!). But if you really want to get into DBA work, then you should probably concentrate on acquiring DBA skills and experience. Leave the MBA until you've got a few years of real-world experience under your belt and can take an informed view as to how useful it might be (or not).

You can get a sense of what skills/experience are needed for a typical DBA job by searching for "DBA" roles on job sites like Monster. For example, this job ad is for an experienced Oracle DBA/data architect, with the following required qualifications:

Detailed experience of the Oracle EBS R12 architecture, the Oracle Application middle tier, the Database tier components including the underlying objects, schemas/products, database objects (tables, views, packages, procedures), and file system structure.
· 7+ years as Oracle Apps DBA and administrator experience supporting complex Global environments
· Extensive experience in Oracle database performance tuning and tuning of SQL statements
· Strong experience with relational database technology supporting data warehouses/BI reporting and analytics tools - OLAP tools and integration with SQLServer
· Senior level skills in all aspects of relational database design and support including technical analysis and problem solving
· As Data Architect, participates in database design, table design, and data modeling that supports the current business operations and ongoing company growth
· Key areas of expected competence: Architecture, Availability & Maintenance, Backup and Recovery, Business Processes & requirements and Security
· Familiarity with the setup of database clustering, replication and experience with Oracle Real Application Clustering (RAC) and DataGuard.
· Must have solid hands-on database and operating system (Solaris, Linux) experience and knowledge.


But no mention of any requirement for an MBA.
Jimmy Clark
Ranch Hand

Joined: Apr 16, 2008
Posts: 2187
A database administrator is an operational position, not a management position. A Data Architect position is not the same as a database administrator. Depending upon the nature of the position, a database administrator may also handle database programming as well as administration. This is still a low-level position, i.e. not tactical or strategic.

Keep in mind that Information Systems and Computer Science are different educational tracks, intended for different experiences and knowledge areas. There are some similarities, but there are key differences as well. Computer programmers come from both tracks, they typically have different skills and abilities.
 
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