How to Become a Database Programmer

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Database programming is a growing industry. While the powerhouse database system is still Oracle, many small to medium sized businesses are using MySQL and SQL Server. The predominant language is SQL, which stands for structured query language. Training and experience is critical for finding a path to database programming jobs. While the field is expected to grow much faster than most businesses, personnel in this field will need to be able to learn new database programming languages quickly for this rapidly changing industry.

Education and Certification Requirements

Because of the nature of database programming, there is no set level of education required for entry into the field. However, most positions require a minimum of a two-year technical degree as well as relevant work experience. For database programmers, database administrators, or database developers, employers generally require a bachelor's degree. For more technically oriented positions in database development and design, employers may require a PhD.

For the various database programmer positions, including database administrator and data communications, a bachelor's degree in computer science, or information science are required. Some employers prefer the business oriented management information systems bachelor's degree, as it focuses on business issues and the data needed to solve the problems. Masters in business administration with a concentration on information systems is also becoming a popular choice, as more business is being conducted on the Internet.

Certifications on specific products are available to help demonstrate to employer's competency in using specific software and programming languages. Common certifications are for MySQL or SQL Server. Oracle also offers a three tiered certification as well. They are the Oracle Certified Associate (OCA), Oracle Certified Professional (OCP), and Oracle Certified Master (OCM). While certifications will not guarantee a position, it is very possible that employers will require a certification either as a condition of employment or shortly after starting in a position. Most employers see certification as an industry standard and may expect it.

Job Responsibilities

Database programming positions vary in their responsibilities based on the industry that employs the programmer. However, some areas are consistent across companies. The database programmer designs and develops web based or non-web based database applications to support business processes. The database programmer also needs to be able to analyze, document and define system requirements for data process workflow. If the database needs to work with other systems, the database programmer needs to show how the program will work with other systems.

Clear documentation of auditing, reporting, and production configuration is important to ensure that the database meets the scope requirements of the key stakeholders. The database programmer also needs to be able to create a test plan and a testing environment to ensure that the database and applications work as specified before they are implemented in a live environment. After the implementation and conclusion of the project, the database programmer may need to respond to trouble tickets, error reports or questions from users.


Database programmers should be familiar with a flavor of SQL, especially versions that support MySQL, MS SQL Server or Oracle, as those databases are the most popularly used in small to large corporations. Many positions require experience developing relational database applications using a version of SQL such as MS SQL or Oracle. To develop these skills for candidates starting in the field, some professionals have recommended downloading MySQL or MS SQL to set up a database driven website as a platform to test and hone SQL programming skills. By developing a website, the candidate has an online portfolio of what they are capable of doing with SQL coding and may be able to gain that first job in the field. Educational programs and internships are also helpful in gaining additional experience with database coding to build experience.

Some positions have very specific requirements on the types of database designs and middleware applications to use. In those cases, it is important to research the needs of each industry to see if there are consistent products used (like IBM, Informatica, SAS, Oracle, Business Objects, Sybase, SAP, etc.) to support database programming implementation.

Job Outlook

For the years 2006 to 2016, the job market for database programmers and administrators will be growing at 29%, which is substantially above the rate of other industries, as more companies develop databases to support web-based selling and promotional campaigns. In addition, with just in time manufacturing and sales, database demands are accelerating. This growth will be driven additionally by the growth in computer systems design and supporting services. This industry is also projected to be the fastest growing sector of the US economy.

Potential Employers

Potential employers include almost any company that manufactures, or sells a product or service. Databases hold the sales, marketing and customer data used to measure the execution of strategy, as well as to record sales and track financial performance. Small, medium and large companies have database programmers of some type. In small and midsize companies, the database programmer may also be responsible for other applications involving web design as well as systems deployment. In larger organizations, roles are more specialized.

While there are a wide variety of organizations employing database programmers, the largest employers still remain the computer systems design and support companies. These firms provide contractual services for design, support, and facilities management. External consulting agencies, providing outsourcing services have become popular for companies to use to develop new databases. Consulting firms such as Accenture and Cognizant are another group of potential employers for database programmers.

Salary Range

Second level database analysts earn on average slightly under $66,000 per year. Database administrators with more experience earn on average $83,200 per year. The more experienced database programmers who become database developers earn from $73,000 to $103,000. The wide range is due to the different companies who employ database designers.


How to become a database programmer involves education, certification, and gaining experience in developing, designing, and deploying databases. People who have advanced degrees and who have experience coding in SQL will benefit from the strong growth in the industry through 2016. It is also important to research the industries before applying for positions to determine specific certification or education requirements before interviewing.
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