Becoming a Database Developer: What You Need to Know

Aug 21, 2019 by

Becoming a Database Developer: What You Need to Know

Digital transformation means many things to businesses – greater operational agility, efficiency, cost savings, improving the consumer experience in an increasingly tech-savvy world. It also provides organisations with a new asset which is delivering considerable value across the full spectrum of commerce and industry – data.

Businesses can use data from digital systems in all sorts of ways. Refined into business intelligence (BI), data is the basis for operations to be made smarter, better, more productive and profitable. But to become useful, to become valuable, data must be gathered, organised, stored and processed in appropriate ways. It’s a meticulous, highly specialised, technical task – and that’s where database development comes in.

Databases and the management systems that run them are where all of this happens. Virtually every type of business application you can think of, from websites to CRMs to ERPs, rely on databases to process the information that end users need to make them useful. That is why demand for database developers is rising, and salaries are going up. In the UK, the current average salary for a database developer is £47,500.

If that sounds like an attractive proposition, here are some of the key things you need to know about getting into database development.

What are the key roles and responsibilities?

The first thing to know is that database development is different to database management and administration. If you see jobs advertised for either of the latter two positions, they are looking for people to oversee the running of existing data systems. Database developers, on the other hand, are responsible for designing and building new databases and management systems to meet evolving needs, for modifying existing systems and perhaps for resolving technical issues.

What are the key skills required?

The key skill set which distinguishes a database developer from an administrator is programming knowledge. Database development is a sub-discipline of software development and requires knowledge of a special database-specific programming language – by far and away the most common being SQL, or Structured Query Language. The reason you need to know how to code using SQL is that much of a database developer’s work involves writing scripts which will allow databases to communicate with other databases and applications, to perform new tasks or, indeed, to create entirely new databases from scratch which perform a wide range of different functions.

How can I gain the skills I need?

The traditional route into database development is the same as you would follow into any software programming role – academic training in computer science or perhaps applied mathematics, before pursuing certified technical training in the language of your choice. However, it is becoming easier and easier to learn to code without following a formal route, and regardless of your background. The internet is nowadays full of enthusiastic amateur coding communities and self-help tutorials and informal courses to get you started with the basics of SQL are easy to find.

However, as well as the rudiments of code, you also need experience of working in specific database management environments where you will apply your programming knowledge. Main platforms for database development include Oracle Database, Microsoft SQL Server and MySQL. Again, there are self-help resources available online to get you started, but to really build up your knowledge and experience of these environments, it pays to enroll on a course for at least one.

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