Approximately 116,900 database specialists are employed in the United States. Any business or organization that uses databases as a part of its operations hires database professionals. Database specialists work for investment companies, telecommunications firms, banks, insurance companies, publishing houses, hospitals, school systems, universities, and a host of other large and midsize businesses and nonprofit organizations. There are also many opportunities with federal, state, and city governments.
Most graduating college students work closely with their school's career services office to obtain information about job openings and interviews. Local and national employers often recruit college graduates on campus, making it much easier for students to talk with recruiters from many diverse companies. Another good source of information is through summer internships, which are completed typically between junior and senior year. Many major companies in the computer field have established undergraduate intern programs. This experience is valuable for two reasons. First, it gives students hands-on exposure to computer-related jobs. Second, it allows students to network with working computer professionals who may help them find full-time work after graduation. Interested individuals might also scan the classified ads online or work with temporary agencies or headhunters to find entry-level and midlevel positions. Professional organizations (such as the Association for Computer Machinery's Special Interest Group on Management of Data), and professional publications are other sources of information about job openings.
The job of database specialist is in itself a high-level position. Advancement will depend to some extent on the size of the business the specialist works for, with larger companies offering more opportunities for growth at the mid-level and senior levels of management. Further advancement can depend on changing jobs to work at a larger employer or expanding the scope of one's skills.
Another factor influencing advancement is the interests of each individual. Generally, people fall into two categories: those who want to work on the business side and those who prefer to stay in a technical job. For individuals who want to get into the managerial side of the business, formal education in business administration is typically required, usually in the form of a master's degree in business administration. In upper-level management positions, specialists must work on cross-functional teams with professionals in finance, sales, personnel, purchasing, and operations. Superior database specialists at larger companies may also be promoted to executive positions.
Some database specialists prefer to stay on the technical side of the business. For them, the hands-on computer work is the best part of their job. Advancement for these workers will, again, involve further education in terms of learning about new database systems, gaining certification in a variety of database programs, or even moving into another technology area such as software design or networking.
As specialists acquire education and develop solid work experience, advancement will take the form of more responsibilities and higher salaries. One way to achieve this is to move to a better-paying, more challenging database position at a larger company. Some successful database specialists become high-paid consultants or start their own businesses. Teaching, whether as a consultant or at a university or community college, is another option for individuals with high levels of experience.
Tips for Entry
Learn as much as you can about computers and data management in high school. Talk to the individual who handles the database management functions at your school or in your school district.
Attend a college where you can specialize in management information systems (MIS) and other computer-related fields. If organizations recruit employees at your college, make sure that you attend the job fairs where they send representatives.
While you are in school, apply for internships or part-time jobs in the MIS field to acquire experience that can help you get your first full-time position.
Visit http://www.acm.org/education/resources-for-grads for a list of career resources for recent graduates.