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Web services, BI fuel DBA job market

Get the scoop on a group of highly specialized areas that are breathing some new life into a tired DBA job market.

Database administrators who have experience with business intelligence, SQL Server, and open source platforms are enjoying a recent rise in demand.

Recruiters and industry analysts from Colorado to Connecticut say that several factors are fueling new DBA employment opportunities. Many U.S. companies are looking to rid their shops of tired legacy systems, and are exploring less expensive, newer platforms such as Linux.

We now have these new Web-enabled products that need more specialized skills and understanding.
Shailesh Bokil
director of recruiting Computer Enterprises Inc.

At the same time, companies need to mine their data in more efficient and smarter ways than ever before to remain competitive. This brings Web Services and business intelligence into the spotlight, and puts a new demand on DBAs to understand backup, replication and the processes that drive a business.

"We now have these new Web-enabled products that need more specialized skills and understanding," said Shailesh Bokil, director of recruiting at Pittsburgh-based Computer Enterprises Inc. "Now employers are asking DBAs to understand all the different modules available, so DBAs need to install these suites and make sure they are set up correctly and are tied properly into the other systems."

According the latest U.S. Department of Labor figures, a database administrator is listed in the top 12 fastest growing occupations. Over the next decade, the demand for DBA positions is projected to rise by 44%, according to the department's latest Occupational Outlook Handbook.

"On the surface the projection doesn't jive with all the messaging around self-healing databases and outsourcing," said Charles Garry, senior program director of server infrastructure strategies with Stamford, Conn.-based Meta Group. "But looking back on historic trends, whenever you see lower level jobs being automated invariably, they are replaced by jobs that need more skills and education, and I think this is happening to DBAs."

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DBAs with a thorough knowledge of data analysis and information life-cycle management are poised to reap the rewards, Garry said. To be ready for the increased demand, DBAs should have a working knowledge of various database and application vendors.

Linux and Web Services top the list of skills that increased in value over the last year, according to David Foote, president of Foote Partners LLC, a New Canaan, Conn., research firm that specializes in tracking skills and certifications.

Although the value of database certifications declined last year as the economy continued to decline, database administration remained one of the highest certification premiums, Foote said.

Jay Gopineebi, president of Ez Infosystems Inc., a Bloomfield, Colo.-based DBA placement firm, said the professionals whom he places arrive with years of experience on multiple systems.

"Our guys are senior enough to take on these more demanding projects, because they have enough understanding of the multiple environments out there," Gopineebi said. "Companies today don't want to take on substandard guys and extend more money on projects."

Previously, a DBA was someone who simply managed database systems, but those systems now include application and Web servers, and are integrated with application development language, said Craig Mullins, site expert and director of DB2 technology planning at BMC Software Inc.

"Even though there are things that the DBMS and tools can do to automate processes that once were manual, that doesn't mean that databases can run on autopilot," Mullins said. "You need custodians of the database who understand how that database works and operates, and are able to make the business process changes that drive an enterprise."

While the DBA job market and DBA jobs may be changing, one rule remains the same: experience is paramount.

"If I were a DBA, I would be looking to broaden my skill set to make sure I knew how to administer more than one kind of database," said J. Paul Kirby, a research director at Boston-based AMR Research Inc. "Companies approaching staffing issues today are insisting on experience, because they don't want to invest in a new employee's training."

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