How to become an Oracle DBA

Every year, young computer professionals leave the hallowed halls and ivory towers of college and survey the landscape for computer jobs.  They look at the salary surveys and drool at the prospect of earning up to $250k per year as a DBA.  Many of them don't know what a DBA does, but they sure like the money. 

Since I've been a DBA for 25 years I'm often asked "How do I become a DBA?", many from neophytes who are enticed with the glamour and power of the DBA role.  While being a DBA is exciting and lucrative, it's a career choice that requires years of preparation.  The most important thing to remember is that the job of a DBA requires a 24x7 commitment.  Being an Oracle DBA can be a very stressful, thankless job, and many DBA jobs require the DBA to be on-call on Thanksgiving and Christmas to perform downtime maintenance.  Plus, the DBA is expected to constantly keep-up with the rapidly-changing technology, working nights and weekends on a regular basis.

It's not uncommon for a DBA to earn as much as a mid-level manager, and in larger shops the DBA is a vice president.  However, the high high pay is a double-edged sword.  The DBA must constantly justify their salary, and a good DBA who automates many of their job functions may find themselves looking for a new job.

What classes should I take to prepare for a job as a DBA?

In grad school, all IT and CS students take courses like Operations Research where they learn to develop complex decision rules and them apply them to real world datasets.  Using Oracle as the back-end storage of data and decision rules is a great way to prepare for real-world applications of expert systems, DSS and AI.  Also, advanced statistics courses (multivariate analysis) are a good way to prepare for a career in Oracle data mining and Business Intelligence (BI). 

What College Degrees are best for the DBA?

Companies are now requiring a combination of technical and managerial skills and the best-fits are those with an undergraduate degree in Computer Science and a MBA in Information Systems.  Employers need a DBA who can understand business systems areas (accounting, finance, marketing) and MBA's are a perfect fir for the DBA job role.

How much can I earn as an Oracle DBA?

Here are my notes on Oracle Salary Compensation, and there is a wide variation according to the responsibilities of the DBA job, the quality of the DBA, the cost of living, and the experience of the DBA. Here is a good Oracle DBA salary survey showing the national average at $65,000 per year.

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