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Getting a job as an Oracle DBA

Oracle Tips by Burleson Consulting

January 7, 2010

How to get your dream job as an Oracle professional

If you look at the help wanted ads, Oracle DBA jobs look very appealing with salaries that rival engineers and other professionals, with starting salaries as high as $85,000 with senior Oracle DBA’s commonly earning over $130,000 per year with Oracle superstars earning over a quarter million dollars a year. 

Oracle Corporation recently published their 2009 Oracle salary survey which shows an average 2009 DBA salary of $97,000 with the highest salaries in large cities.

Why such high salaries for Oracle professionals?  It’s due to several factors:

·         Oracle DBA’s manage databases that are worth billions of dollars.  Along with high responsibility comes high pay.

 

·    Oracle is the world’s most robust and flexible database.  It can take years to learn all of the nuances of Oracle.

The salary survey also shows that experience counts, and experience and job responsibility makes the most difference in salary:

 North America Salaries

0 to 2 years

3-4 years

5-10 years

10+ years

Administrator

$85,094.33

$81,443.10

$94,778.43

$108,183.30

Analyst

$69,684.21

$71,066.84

$73,762.22

$93,254.00

Architect

$89,181.82

$103,189.47

$117,285.71

$130,933.33

Consultant

$97,233.76

$87,142.86

$114,559.08

$119,042.55

Developer

$71,343.72

$81,875.00

$91,117.50

$94,540.92

Functional implementer

$71,666.67

$72,500.00

$87,600.00

$120,166.67

Other

$75,933.33

$102,698.90

$105,562.50

$85,142.86

Source: Oracle Corporation

As a general guideline, a well-qualified Oracle professional (master degree) will earn age times three, so a 30 year old Oracle professional can expect, on average, at least $90,000 per year.

Before we continue, a reality check is in-order.  No company is going to pay you top-dollar as a junior Oracle professional unless you have demonstrated a commitment to professional database management. This is usually via extensive college coursework. 

If you do not possess a at least a bachelors degree in Software Engineering, Information Systems, or Computer Science, you will find it very hard to get a job using Oracle in this recession.  It’s even tougher to land a job working for Oracle Corporation because Oracle hires from top-tier universities, choosing the best and the brightest from Harvard, Yale, Stanford and MIT.

As the global recession continues into 2010, it’s interesting that the market for experienced Oracle professionals is stronger than ever, but it’s important to understand that Oracle has a two-tiered job market:

·         Oracle professionals – These are college-trained professionals with advanced college degrees in engineering, computer science, business administration, or information systems.  This is the tier of Oracle professionals with the most responsibility for data integrity and security, the DBA’s of the Fortune 500 companies.

 

·    Oracle laymen – When the market expands beyond the ability for well-qualified professionals, tradesmen enter the Oracle job market to fill lower level Oracle jobs.  These are the graduates of two-year community colleges who fill lower-level Oracle jobs that are characterized by repetitive, well-structured Oracle tasks.

The market for Oracle jobs ebbs and flows, and during downtimes, it’s the non-professional class of Oracle workers get hit the hardest.  As Oracle shops face tighter budgets, more and more companies abandon their in-house Oracle staff and use remote DBA services where they pay only for the actual time that is used.

We are also seeing the trend towards server consolidation playing a role in the Oracle job market.  As companies move dozens of instances onto single monolithic servers, less DBA staff is required and the surviving DBAs need to manage schema design, security, and other mission-critical data management tasks. 

Let’s take a look at how Oracle people are working hard to keep their jobs in this super-competitive market.

Getting your Oracle Dream job

While the recession is hurting American industry, academia is flourishing as more and more people return to college to sharpen their skills.   Graduating IT and computer science majors are becoming pragmatic, taking practical courses that can help them get a job in this super-competitive market.

Many graduating computer scientists mistakenly believe that the Oracle DBA skills are purely technical and they are surprised to find that their technical savvy is not enough to land an Oracle job.

Compared to the costs of training at Oracle University which can cost more than $500 per day, college tuition is a great bargain, but you have to know what courses are best to prepare you for a career as a DBA.

BEWARE! There are many fourth-tier unaccredited colleges that claim to offer Oracle related training.  These are rarely s bargain, and a good State University is always a better choice.  There are also many Oracle training scams, preying upon Oracle wannabees.

In reality, the Oracle DBA must be an "ace" of all IT functions, because a DBA is the custodian of the mission critical data, the life blood of a large corporation.  They have the ultimate responsibility for the safety of the data as well as the database design, implementation, backup and recovery.   

An Oracle developer is also not purely technical since a coder must have the ability to understand the application architecture and enough communications skills to be able to properly implement a program from written specifications.  Remember, technical knowledge of Oracle is only a small part of the job of an Oracle DBA.  Of course, a DBA must have skills in operating systems, Information Systems and computer science theory, but they must also have sound business and communications skills.  That is why employers like to hire Oracle DBAs who also have skills in computer science, information systems, or business administration.

But how does somebody sharpen their skills in become an Oracle professional?  Traditionally, Oracle technology is the stuff of vocational schools, and any vendor product is not considered to be worthy college-level learning.

Let’s take a look at specific college courses that will make you more marketable:

Business & Information System courses

For business courses, I recommend only taking courses from an AACSB accredited business school.  While moist major universities business programs are AACSB accredited, beware of the less-than stellar business schools which are expensive should be avoided.  Information Systems courses are taught within the business colleges and they have a complete program to train aspiring Oracle professionals:

·         Database Management – This is an upper division courses on relational database management, and many AACSB schools will use Oracle for the course homework.

 

·    Business communications - Excellent communications are equally important, and college-level English skills are an absolute requirement. 

 

·    Systems Analysis – This is a great course on the systems development life cycle and the job of the system analyst in a database environment.

·    Functional management – Knowledge of accounting, finance and HR can be a real benefit for an Oracle Applications DBA.

Computer Science courses

For technical coursework, resist the temptation to spend your time with a fly by night program and seek out the major universities.  They offer evening courses in computer science, programming and engineering, real skills that can make you more marketable in a tough recession.  For IT and engineering majors, sharpening your skills in basic computer science can give you the edge in the Oracle market:

·         Algorithms – This is a must take course for any Oracle DBA because it covers the software engineering foundations upon which the Oracle engine is built.

 

·     Data Structures – Training in data structures makes you familiar with the techniques used for Oracle sorting, indexing and other Oracle internal constructs.

 

·     Programming – I like to hire entry-level Oracle professionals who have taken at least two programming courses.

In sum, even though the recession has cut-deep into the IT budgets, companies are choosing not to skimp on the people who manage their mission-critical databases.  The old saying “There is always room at the top” remains true for aspiring Oracle professionals.  Those who distinguish themselves by graduating from competitive universities and those who supplement their bachelor’s degrees with additional coursework are finding it much easier to get their Oracle dream job in this tough economy.

For more information, see my book The Oracle Job Interview Handbook by Rampant TechPress, and see my online notes on getting an Oracle job:

 
If you like Oracle tuning, see the book "Oracle Tuning: The Definitive Reference", with 950 pages of tuning tips and scripts. 

You can buy it direct from the publisher for 30%-off and get instant access to the code depot of Oracle tuning scripts.


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