The "primary key" to effective information management in today's data-driven business world lies in the hands of a well-trained database administrator. If you hold credentials such as a Microsoft Certified Database Administrator (MCDBA) or an online database administration degree, then you're already poised for a career working with databases. But if you're just starting to explore careers in IT, then you might be wondering what exactly you'll learn in a campus—or online—database administrator degree program.
What Can I Do with an Online DBA Degree?
The core responsibility in database administration is overseeing the organization and storage of data using database management software such as MySQL or Microsoft Access. Database administrators are usually responsible for modifying the system if needed, managing its security and troubleshooting any problems that may arise.
What is a Database and How Does it Work?
Not unlike a spreadsheet, a database is used to manage data that has been entered in the form of tables. However, where spreadsheets are useful for formatting, analyzing and applying calculations to a set of data, a database can be used to store multiple sets of data in a number of different tables, as well as cross-referencing different data sets and retrieving customized information in the form of reports or invoices.
In a database, data is stored in the form of individual records. Similar to a spreadsheet, each record can consist of a number of fields or attributes, like the columns in a table. If your table consists of a phone list, for instance, your columns or fields will be items such as last names, first names, area codes and telephone numbers. Each row—each individual in the list—will correspond to an individual record in the database.
Every individual record is assigned a unique attribute known as a "primary key," which may be an employee number or other distinct characteristic. However, the power of a database lies in the ability to retrieve and sort many individual records according to the criteria you want—in database lingo, this is known as a query. Returning to the example of the phone list database, if you wanted to retrieve all the records with a particular area code and a particular zip code, you would create a query that collects all the records that fit your criteria and enter the relevant items into a report.
Mastering DBA Skills
Queries can be formulated indirectly, using graphical user interfaces, or directly, using Structured Query Language (SQL). One of the most important basic skills you can learn in an online database administration degree program or other database skills program is how to use SQL to efficiently retrieve and modify data according to your specific needs. Once you've mastered commonly-used database software, gained a basic knowledge of SQL and learned some strategies for organizing large amounts of information, you'll be well along the road to a career in database administration.
Sources: databases.about.com/od/specificproducts/a/whatisadatabase.htm; fcis.oise.utoronto.ca/~gmacrae/Resources/SSvsDB.htm.