Converging Factors Mean Major Opportunities for DBAs

IT Managers and Executives: If you think it’s hard to hire a talented DBA, you ain’t seen nothing yet. If you think that a talented DBAs are expensive, just you wait.

Data Management Professionals: If you thought a career in database administration might be appealing to you, it’s time to act upon that hunch.

It’s a good time to be or become a DBA, but it’s going to be even tougher as an employer of DBAs. There are a number of factors as to why this is true. In this column, we will look first at the factors coming to bear on the wider market. In the next columns to follow, we will look at how those factors affect the DBA as an employee and, finally, we’ll examine these insights from the point of view of the employer of DBAs. Now, let’s take a deeper look at the wider context of our situation.

First, there are the market conditions in the USA and, to a lesser degree, around the world. Consider that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has been listing the DBA profession as one of its "Top 10" professions for the past several years, due to the strength of job prospects, growing nationwide need of employers, and the high earning potential of the profession. (Details at In addition, the job outlooks is very strong at 15% growth year-over-year, far greater than the US economy in general and the IT industry in particular.

Second, the profession is about to start a major demographic transformation that is just slightly ahead of a much wider upheaval. How so? An intriguing new survey published by Unisphere Research, a sister firm to Database Trends & Applications, and sponsored by Ntirety, a remote database administration service provider, published the startling finding that 41% of data professionals intend to leave the field within the next 10 years(Details here.) Let me underscore that – ALMOST HALF! Most, though not all, of 281 surveyed indicated they were engaged in database administration as a regular component of their workday.

Most projections for the profession, such as those published by the Bureau of Labor Stastics, measure the intentions of major employers. And employers have been having such a hard time finding talented DBAs, at least in the SQL Server niche, that we’ve seen the rise of the accidental DBA, a phenomenon I’ve written about in the past. But that’s only portion of the macro-picture.

When you consider the findings of the Unisphere Research publication, which seeks to measure the intent of the employee, you can see that the profession is headed for a major skill shortage far worse than anything we’re experiencing to date. First, DBAs are getting older and increasingly likely to retire. Secondly, DBAs are also moving up the corporate ladder in response to salary stagnation as well as the fact that many DBAs have deeper business insight since they work so closely with the data.

Third, add to the macro-picture a sort of coming-of-age for many enterprises in which data and database technology has become more important to enterprises and their executive leadership than ever before. Not long ago, databases were considered to be important to a percentage of enlightened enterprises. Now, databases are considered to be a true corporate asset on an equal footing with any other primary activity of the enterprise and all but a few lagging enterprises are making efforts to properly leverage their data resources. The rise of data-driven enterprises like Google along with concepts like Big Data hitting the mainstream now mean that even CEOs pay attention to data and databases on a daily basis.

When you consider these three macro-economic conditions, you can see that our professional is going to undergo some serious disruptions. What do you think? What conditions or important factors have I missed? 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

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