This is the first of a
two-part series about how you can become an Oracle DBA in today's almost
non-existent DBA job market. This article focuses on gateway jobs, which are easier
to obtain and give you exposure to Oracle. The second article will focus on
ways to learn Oracle and get the most out of your training dollar.
Despite the slow job market
for even experienced DBA's, many people are still
interested in pursuing this career field. The truth of the matter is that
Oracle database administration is hard in at least two ways: hard to learn and
hard to get into. Moreover, in many cases, as plenty of people can attest to,
once you become a DBA, there is no guarantee you will stay employed as one.
There are lots of Oracle DBA's who have gone back to
plumbing and dry walling.
I recently saw a post on an
Oracle-related website where the poster was asking for information about
starting salaries for DBA's with no experience, but
who had some training and, perhaps, a certification. The poster was asking for
this information so he could complete his application for federally funded
education he "earned" for having his job re-located outside of the US. Unfortunately, for the poster, he was not allowed
to move with his former job.
It is amazing that our tax
dollars are paying government workers to advise laid-off workers to become Oracle DBA's. Which hidden job
market have these government workers tapped into that routinely hires inexperienced
(and maybe even certified) database administrator wanna-be's? Certainly, it is not a job market which
exists today in the United States, nor one that has existed in the last several
years, and depressingly, not likely to be present in the foreseeable future
either. But, you say, you really want to become an
The good news is this: you can
become an Oracle DBA, but here is the truth of the matter: there are
practically zero jobs or job postings looking for DBA's
with zero years of experience. "Entry level" in the Oracle DBA job world
typically means 3-5 years of experience. Your IT certificate from the local
community college means practically nothing. Your Oracle Certified Professional
certificate may mean even less to some hiring managers (they don't know what it
is, they've been burned by the paper MCSE, they value experience over a piece
of paper, and so on). In this case, a certificate's true value lies within
helping you get an interview with a company that uses Oracle.
If you find yourself in the
position of having or wanting to learn a new trade or skill, and want to be in
the IT industry, your best bet is to target a job where little-to-no experience
is required and is often expected. Use your federal scholarship or tuition to learn
something that will make you more immediately employable. Three excellent areas
are Windows administration, help desk and software testing. Your number one
goal is to eat, and you need a job to make that happen. Once you are eating,
courtesy of a regular paycheck, you can implement your plan to become a DBA.
There are several reasons
why these three job areas are good gateways into database administration. Let's look at SQA (software quality assurance) first. In
some companies, SQA is a step above testing, and in other companies, it is the
same thing - depending on the size of the company and how many other QA type of
people are employed. With testing, you get to interact with the help desk and
developers, often times acting as an intermediary. You verify problems reported
by the help desk, and you verify solutions created by the developers. You get
to learn applications, operating systems and programs. Ideally, the company you
work for uses the Oracle RDBMS, and even better for you, uses other Oracle
products (forms, reports, application server, and the even harder to get into
field of Oracle Apps). If you have experience with programming languages, SQA
is a better way to go. And if the DBA thing loses its
appeal, SQA is a career field in its own right and generally pays well down the
If you do not know any
programming languages, then right behind SQA is the help desk position. If you
get this job, learn what you need to learn to do well here, but start looking
for something higher up in the food chain (Tier II or III), or a help desk
position which requires more in-depth knowledge of Oracle. The entry-level help
desk job is just to get your foot in the door. Once you are in, start working
on your Oracle training and education.
Learning operating system
administration skills, whether it is Windows or UNIX, helps you immensely as a
DBA. The type of company you are looking for uses Windows, UNIX and Oracle.
Your entry point here is that of a level one/tier one Windows help desk/tech
support worker. You field questions from users ("I can't find the any key").
You quickly learn and master the Windows admin part of your job while soaking
up everything you can about UNIX and Oracle (which often go hand-in-hand).
Offer to help the DBA's with their scut work, even if it means you are creating 1000 users a
day. At least you are administering Oracle. A lot of "entry-level DBA"
positions stay within a company, and already working there is 90% of the
A quick aside about UNIX
system administration: it has very little to offer in the way of entry-level
positions, and as a career field, you generally have to renounce your sense of
humor and social skills to stay employed. Your local community college, as an
example, may offer Sun's Solaris Admin I and II
courses through Sun's academic initiative (and at a price much, much lower than
what you'd pay if you took the courses from Sun). Take these courses (generally
covered in one semester). Remember to stay focused on your Oracle game plan,
but if the UNIX world appeals to you, count on being an "Army of One" and
working in dark, dank and cold server rooms. Sunlight and outdoor activities
will become your enemy. The concept here is to know how to be a UNIX system
administrator, but not actually be one.
In general, once you land
one of these jobs, you can become Oracle Sponge-Bob. Focus on your critical job
requirements, and what is leftover you spend on Oracle. Earning a certificate
related to Oracle at this point, possibly with help from your company's tuition
reimbursement or training benefit plan, has two advantages. One is that
learning Oracle is easier if you have already had some hands-on experience or
exposure, and the other is that you improve your value to your company, which
is always a good thing. Now that this article has helped you formulate a job
search plan aimed at helping you eat on a regular basis, we will look at
inexpensive ways to learn Oracle in the next article.
See All Articles by Columnist Steve Callan