Getting Ahead with Databases

Database Overview

You have been using databases for a few years, and you think you are at the top of your game. Or, perhaps, you have been interested in databases for a while, and you think you did like to pursue a career using them, but you do not know where to start. What is the next step in terms of finding more rewarding education and employment?

There are two routes people normally take in order to make them more marketable and, at the same time, advance their database skills. The first, earning an IT or computer science degree, requires more effort and time than the second, which is completing a certification program.

If you do not have a science, engineering, or IT degree yet and you want to keep working with databases and IT for at least a few years, the degree would probably be worth the time. For that matter, if you already have an undergraduate degree, then perhaps a master’s degree would be the right choice for you? Master’s degrees typically only require three semesters of study, and they can really brighten up a resume. An MBA is a good option, too, if the idea of managing people instead of doing technical work suits your fancy. Your employees would probably let you touch the databases once in a while, too!

Many universities offer evening classes for students who work during the day, and the content of those classes is often focused on professional topics, rather than abstract or theoretical ideas that one would not regularly use while working in the IT field. Online universities like the University of Phoenix also offer IT degrees, and many busy professionals have been earning their degrees that way for years now.

Certifications, while quite popular and useful in the late 1990s and early 2000s, seem to be waning in their ability to make one marketable. That said, getting a certification is much quicker than earning a degree and requires a minimal amount of study if the certificate candidate already works in the relevant field.

The certification will also highlight a job applicant’s desire to “get ahead” and “stay ahead” in the field. It may not bump the applicant up the corporate food chain like an MBA might, but it could easily increase the dollar amount on the paychecks by five to ten percent or more.

If you feel like you could be making more money based on your knowledge of databases, exploring the degree and certification avenues of continuing education may be one of the best things you do for your career.

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Database IT Degrees

There are many ways to go about getting an IT degree for the working professional, including attending evening classes at a local university, attending evening and weekend classes at a community college, and doing online coursework through a web-heavy university.

There are far too many universities around the world to go into detail about each school’s professional programs, but every major city has at least one university that caters to the needs of working students. Community colleges are even more focused on providing classes at times when most people are working, but usually, the highest degree they offer is an associate’s degree. In the technology sector, associate’s degrees are not worth much at all, since they rarely require any in-depth study of specific subjects.

Some universities even offer programs specifically designed for work in the IT field. For example, Carnegie Mellon University’s Pittsburgh campus includes the highly ranked and well respected Information Networking Institute1, which offers two 16-month master’s degree programs in the fields of Information Management and Information Networking. Generally, these types of programs require full-time, on-campus study.

Web universities, like the University of Phoenix, offer a broad range of study programs, and since all the courses take place on the Internet, the student never needs to worry about leaving work early for class. At the time of this writing (2007), the University of Phoenix offers four undergraduate IT degrees in their online program2.

• Bachelor of Science in Information Technology
• Bachelor of Science in Information Technology (Information Systems Security)
• Bachelor of Science in Information Technology (Multimedia and Visual Communication)
• Bachelor of Science in Information Technology (Software Engineering)

In addition to those four degrees, they offer a Master of Information Systems (MIS) degree. No doctoral-level technology degrees are offered by the University of Phoenix.

The University of Phoenix also offers undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degrees in the business and management field.


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Database Certification

Vendor Certification

Technology-based certificate programs are usually offered in one of two manners: by the developer of the software for which the customer is being certified or by an independent certification company. In the case of databases, the best certificates are usually of the first kind.

MySQL AB offers certifications3 for several different levels of skill. In ascending order of difficulty, the certifications are called Associate, Developer, DBA, and MySQL Cluster. The MySQL Cluster certification is available only for those who already hold the MySQL DBA certification.

Oracle offers several certifications4 along many different paths, including database software development, Linux database administration, middleware administration and development, and several types of specialized certifications for each recent version of the Oracle database software.

Microsoft has a comprehensive line of certification programs5 for most of their products. Developers who work regularly with SQL Server may be interested in the Microsoft Certified Database Administrator (MCDBA), Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS), or Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP) certificates. As of this writing, the MCDBA covers Microsoft SQL Server 2000, while the latter two cover Microsoft SQL Server 2005.

IBM has developed a number of certification programs for their products, including the DB2 and Informix databases. Several levels of certification are available for each product, including the DB2 Certified Database Associate, DB2 Certified Database Administrator, DB2 Certified Application Developer, DB2 Certified Advanced Database Administrator, Informix Certified Solutions Expert, and Informix Certified System Administrator solutions6.

Some of their other certifications are based on the integration of data management systems, like DB2 and Informix, with other products such as servers and web solutions.

The open source community tends to not value certifications as highly as the for-profit, industrial community. As a result, open source databases tend to not promote certification programs. For example, only in 2005 was there enough demand for a PostgreSQL certification program to actually create one.

The PostgreSQL Certified Engineer program7 relies heavily on support from Fujitsu and offers “silver” and “gold” levels of certification in the Japanese and English languages.


Database Training

There are lot of Companies, offer training software and other materials for certain certifications, and related literature can always be found at chain booksellers, like Barnes & Noble and Borders. Many community colleges also offer certification-based curriculum, which is designed to prepare students for the completion of one or many certifications over a broad range of topics.

Using the Material

The best training for any sort of certification or degree, of course, is to actually use the material being covered. In database education, the most important part of the learning process is becoming familiar with the intricacies of the database platform. Most modern database companies offer trial or free versions of their software, and they offer the software for use on many operating systems. Why not install a database platform on your personal computer and invent your own homework assignments?

Editorial Team at Geekinterview is a team of HR and Career Advice members led by Chandra Vennapoosa.

Editorial Team – who has written posts on Online Learning.

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