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Does the Looming Shortage in DBAs Spell Opportunity?


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In my last column, available online, I described some of the findings contained in an intriguing new survey sponsored by Ntirety, a remote database administration service provider, and published by Unisphere Research. You can read the full survey with analysis at www.dbta.com/DBTA-Downloads/ResearchReports/The-Vanishing-Database-Administrator-Survey-Of-Data-Professionals-Career-Aspirations-4791.aspx

One of the most startling and significant responses in the survey showed that 41% of data professionals intend to leave the field within the next 10 years. In that article, I also covered some of the broader industry growth and hiring trends along with an analysis of the survey itself. Today, I want dive into the survey findings from the viewpoint of the DBA job seeker.

Employees: Talented DBAs to See Strong Salary Growth

It’s already a great time to be a DBA or to consider becoming one. U.S. News & World Report ranks the DBA profession as the No. 5 best IT job and the #12 overall best professional jobs for 2014 in its review at http://money.usnews.com/careers/best-jobs/database-administrator. Similarly, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the DBA profession as one of its “top 10” professions for the past several years, in an article at www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/database-administrators.htm.

The job outlook is very strong at 15% growth year-over-year, far greater than the U.S. economy in general and the IT industry in particular. For added context, consider that the business world is now enamored with data, analytics, and data visualizations (i.e., demand is increasing), and at the same time, the survey finds that a majority of database and IT professionals over age 55 are contemplating retirement within the next 10 years (i.e., supply is decreasing). The way our economic system handles shortages of important resources is to see a natural rise in the price of those scare resources.

Translation: You should be getting a raise and/or better working conditions. And, if you’re not, change employers. If you’re currently living in a more rural area, a move to the cities with the greatest opportunity could provide you with a major increase in salary and benefits, perhaps 50% or more.

Consultants: More Opportunity for the Most Savvy

Specialty database consultants will also see their opportunities grow over the coming years. The DBA shortage is already severe enough that “accidental DBAs” are putting systems into production every day, often with significant architectural or performance issues. Someone has to fix those messes! If you’re skilled in performance tuning and troubleshooting, your opportunities will grow—as long as you’re willing to network and put some effort into salesmanship.

Anecdotally, I’m encountering an ever-increasing number of consultants whose entire full-year contracts are being bought out by enterprises that want to be sure to retain some degree of skills until the dust begins to settle. In a situation like this, I foresee a bit of consolidation in the consulting sector where the solid database consultants who prefer the technology work will join forces with large consulting houses with a full-time business development staff. Everybody wins.

Have you seen salary pressure for DBA positions? What do job opportunities look like in your area of the world? I’d love to hear your feedback!

Kevin Kline, a longtime Microsoft SQL Server MVP, is a founder and former president of PASS and the author of SQL in a Nutshell. Kline tweets at @kekline and blogs at http://kevinekline.com.

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