How to Become a Database Developer – A Complete Career Guide
In this Guide:
Four steps to become a database developer
What is a database developer?
What does a database developer do?
Database developer job description
Database developer skills and experience
Database developer salary
Database developer job outlook
It’s been more than 30 years now since the world’s organizations began discovering the immense value of the terabytes of data being accumulated from customers and everyday business. Since that time, the technology for gathering data, strategies for what data is best to be captured, and the ability of computers and computer programmers to develop and house powerful databases has grown exponentially. At the center of almost every organization’s information storage and data mining operations are the database developer and database administrator. Some organizations, particularly ones with smaller budgets and lesser databases, combine these two functions into one position. For the purposes of this discussion, we have separated them as distinct careers.
Database developers, also known as database designers or database programmers, are responsible for the design, programming, construction, and implementation of new databases, as well as modifying existing databases for platform updates and changes in user needs. Alternatively, database administrators ensure that the database programs are managed and maintained to permit rapid access whenever and however needed by authorized personnel only. Database administrators also work with cybersecurity professionals to safeguard the data from unauthorized access and damage. Check out our career guide for database administrators and discover more about that role, how it contrasts with that of a database developer, and discover which most interests you.
This guide provides an overview of the database developer role and lists the steps required to begin and maximize career success. Included is a detailed list of job responsibilities, background, education, and experience required to be successful professionals, as well as salary information, and the future outlook for the database developer job market.
Four Steps to become a Database Developer
Step 1: Education
Database developer job openings will usually require an undergraduate degree. Degrees in information technology are the norm, and probably the most appropriate course of study. Bachelor’s degrees in computer science, computer programming, engineering and even business administration can also gain a candidate entry into database development. Taking as many courses in database related specialties as possible will impress prospective employers. This coursework should include classes in several specific database packages and programming languages, such as Microsoft, Oracle, IBM, SQL, and ETL. Some employers will hire entry-level database developers who have a two-year associate’s in database administration, or possibly even a certificate in database management or a related IT subject. Some certificates can be acquired even before or during college. And a trade association for IT professionals in training is also available for students – CompTIA Student Membership.
A number of database certifications are offered by IBM, Microsoft and Oracle. Most of the vendor-specific certifications available are dedicated to the platforms offered by these three companies because they are by far the most popular database software producers today. Some of the certification programs for specific software frameworks include:
- Microsoft Certified Database Administrator (MCDBA)
- Microsoft MSCE Certified Data Management and Analytics
- Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert: Data Management and Analytics
- Oracle Database Certifications
- IBM Certified Database Administrator – DB2
Even if a current job doesn’t require knowledge of IBM, Oracle or Microsoft database programs, future opportunities may very well do so. Thus, it’s prudent to expand technical horizons and enhance the resume with more certifications.
Vendor-neutral certifications, those not tied to a particular database software product, are not plentiful, but there are a few available. Some examples are:
- ICCP Certified Data Professional
- ICCP Certified Big Data Professional
- ICCP Public Sector Data Governance
Several colleges and technical schools also offer vendor-neutral database certificate programs, as well as undergraduate and graduate certificate programs.
Step 2: Career Path
Database developer is typically not an entry-level position. Most employers require several years of experience for any candidate to be considered. This experience can be gained in a number of different positions within information technology or computer sciences. Some job types that serve as excellent career openers for potential database developers include the following:
- Computer/software programmer
- Database administrator
- Database application designer
- Data reporting analyst
- Data warehouse analyst
- Information technology analyst
Many employers will also require job candidates hold certain professional certifications such as the ones mentioned above. Database developers with substantial experience will be in prime position to move on to other career options such as the following:
- Data architect
- Data manager
- Big data engineer
- Chief information officer
Step 3: Build a Network of Information Technology Professionals
Networking with other industry professionals can be an invaluable aid in building a successful career. This may be especially true in computer science professions due to the constantly changing technologies. Being a member of various industry trade associations can provide countless opportunities to keep current, including conventions, seminars, and other educational offerings often afforded by such organizations. Some of the trade associations relevant to database administration include the following:
- CompTIA Professional
- International Association of Computer Science and Information Technology (IACSIT)
- DAMA International
Step 4: Keep Up with a Changing World
Database developers must at all times be acquainted with the latest innovations in computer programming and database frameworks. Keeping tabs on the latest announcements and product introductions from the primary database management framework providers, including IBM, Microsoft and Oracle, and the typical programming languages like SQL, is obviously a prudent practice. Professional certifications may also require periodic renewal or updating as products and technologies evolve.
What is a Database Developer?
Database developers are responsible for the design, development, programming and implementation of information databases. The brains of databases are, at least in large part, the creation of database developers. When information is obtained from the outside world, it must be organized to encourage and enable the efficient generation of reports and other uses. Once operational, databases additionally require regular analysis to modernize and eliminate inefficient coding in order to maintain optimally efficient performance. As any operation’s information gathering and analysis needs are never static, so too must a database developer make periodic alterations to the database software to accommodate these changing needs.
What Does a Database Developer do?
The role of a database developer is to summarize and understand an organization’s information needs, then translate those needs into efficient and effective programming code to service those needs. Typically speaking, a database developer will begin with a standardized framework offered by a database software provider such as Oracle, IBM or Microsoft. Then using SQL programming code, design and develop a completely customized database program that delivers all of the information needs communicated by marketing and business management. Implementation and analysis of the program is the final database developer task for completion of a new database.
Once a database is activated and proven effective, database developers must continually analyze its performance and make adjustments as needed to maximize output. Periodic requests from marketing and management to include new data elements and generate new reports or other functionality must be translated in new code and implemented for seamless change.
Database Developer Job Description
Specific job functions will vary depending upon the size of the organization and its IT staff, as well as its information requirements. The typical responsibilities of a database developer include the following:
- Analyze current coding standards to design new strategies for a system
- Support application of business intelligence and marketing automation solutions
- Translate business information requirements into code for new and existing solutions
- Create efficient programming to convert large databases to analysis-friendly configuration
- Design stable, reliable and effective databases
- Ensure all database programs meet company and performance requirements
- Document and report database activity, functionality, performance, and data governance
- Write reports on coding changes and proposing changes for the system
- Interact with client representatives and business analyst to develop database solutions that meet business requirements.
Database Developer Skills and Experience
Nearly all employers require database developers to have at least an undergraduate degree and a thorough and deep grasp of SQL database programming language. Some more advanced positions may require a master’s degree, and occasionally even a doctoral degree. Requirements for experience with specific database frameworks vary depending upon what the employer uses, but IBM, Oracle and Microsoft are by far the most common. Other requirements often include:
- Excellent oral and written communications skills
- Excellent analytical skills
- Thorough knowledge of physical database design and data structures
- In-depth understanding of data management (e.g. permissions, recovery, security and monitoring)
- Ability to recognize relationship between data elements
- Experience in project management
- Knowledge of database objects including tables, indexes, views and statistics
- Knowledge of ETL and BI tools
- Ability to work under pressure of deadlines
- Proficiency in SQL with ability to write complex SQL queries and other features
- Troubleshooting any issues that arise with new database applications, and providing solutions to implement
- Applying technical design and development skills to the creation of database programs
- Analyzing existing databases and data needs of clients to develop effective systems
- Using knowledge of specific programming languages and codes
- Following implementation processes for new database
Database Developer Salary
Though the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn’t track salary data for database developers, it quotes the median wage for software developers of all kinds as $120,730 as of May 2021.
The lowest earners in that group often earn salaries closer to $64,470. The most advanced developers sometimes bring home more than $168,570 per BLS data. The average salary for database developers may likely follow the same pattern.
Database Developer Job Outlook
According to the BLS, database administrator jobs (which is often, but by no means exclusively, combined with database development into one role) are expected to grow 9% per annum between 2021 and 2031 due to the high demand for these professionals across a variety of industries. Information gathering and utilization is more than a growing trend. It’s an essential part of business survival in the 21st century. Marketers and business leaders are now finding ways to garner much more information from service users and customers, especially from online users, and this trend for more and more data is expected to continue for the foreseeable future. Database developers will be one of the main beneficiaries of this voracity for information and its many advantages.
Gain the skills and necessary degree to pursue your career as a database developer. Explore various programming trainings, data science degree options or bootcamps and take the next step in your journey. Your future as a database developer awaits you!
2021 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and employment figures for database and software developers reflect national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed January 2023.