SQLServerCentral Editorial

The Future for Database Administrators

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This editorial was originally published on 24 Aug 2016. It is being republished as Steve is on holiday.

I've been working in technology for over 25 years. As I look forward in time, I suspect I have less time left in a data professional career than I've already experienced. That's fine, and while I don't plan on retiring anytime soon, I know I likely will retire before another 25 years pass.

While it might not be as much of an issue for me, I do think it's important to think about where your career may go. I ran across this post on the future of IT Pros and thought, "this sounds familiar." A friend I knew used to manage a 20,000+ Exchange system for a large company. In 2000, he was sure that the advances in email technology from Microsoft would mean that he wouldn't have a job in five years. Within two he had moved on to another industry altogether, trying to establish a new career before he was made obsolete.

Certainly if he had planned to still manage a 20,000 mailbox Exchange system the same way today, he'd be out of a job. However, if he evolved to either learn new skills along with Exchange, or added O365 administration, he might still be employed, and earning a very good salary in technology. Likely more than he makes now.

I think about this regularly as I see the Microsoft stack world changing and the emergence of new database technologies like NoSQL, data lakes, and Azure SQL Databases/Azure Data Warehouses. Those technologies certainly might mean that less DBAs are needed to actually install, back up, manage, and care for on-premise database instances. However, I still think there are plenty of opportunities for the Database Administrator. High Availability and Disaster Recovery technologies are more in demand than ever, and there is a complexity in Availability Groups that ensures there are still good jobs. Increasing security and auditing requirements require humans, usually with knowledge about querying and understanding the data more than setting up the technology.

The bar may be raising in terms of skills needed from database IT pros, but I still see lots of opportunity. Continue to work on your career, learn more, adapt, work hard, and you'll have a job for a long time. Try to ride out the next few years on the same skills you've used for the last decade, and it's entirely possible you'll find yourself replaced by either a piece of software or another human that's willing to learn a few new tricks.

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