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Do you need a degree to be DBA?

This question gets asked a lot and reoccurs over the years. Do you need a degree to be DBA? I have seen many blogs and posts addressing this question. From recollection, most of the posts I read came down on the side of not needing a university or college education to work as a DBA.. From my own experience, I tend to agree. With that said,   having obtained a degree and masters, I definitely think my education has helped me get on in my career and maybe opened a door or two that may otherwise have been closed. Since my first jobs in the data field where my education came in useful since then  it’s been more the experience that has been key for me in setting me apart from other candidates when going for jobs and in my professional and career development.

The salary survey that i have talked about in previous post that was published over on back in Januray  and some of the blogs I have written since got me thinking about how you become a DBA. I guess i might have been watching football on TV when thinking about this but it made me think about a comment made by Jamie Carragher on Sky Sports when discussing football and the various positions, he was talking about the  the full back position in football with Gary Neville (who used to be a full back). Carragher said "Nobody grows up wanting to be Gary Neville." was his quip to his onetime foe. This was very funny at the time and Neville was lost for words. No body wants to be a full back but its a vital position that is a key foundation to the football team...Much like a DBA. Its an vitally important role but perhaps not one people at the start of their career have on their list of things to be when they grow up.


I think back to my university days and I can’t remember ever being sat there in the library studying for my exams, contemplating the future and thinking I want to be a database administrator! Perhaps I did. However, more likely I was thinking I want to work in the IT/Computer Science field and writing/developing applications sounds like a fun way to spend the day.

So nobody grows up wanting to be a DBA at least nobody did when I was in University. Much like nobody wants to be a full back like Gary Neville. I think that used to be true. These days, with the evolving role of the DBA or perhaps data professional that might change. Analysing data, making decisions, identifying patterns, using cool technology to do analytics and predicative analytics on the data that can have a huge impact on business decisions. This might be more appealing to graduates and people might want to be a data professional when they grow up.

Back to the question of the post, do you need a degree to be DBA? No probably not, but it might help to open doors for you. Going back to the salary survey that came out at the turn of year, do graduates make more than non-graduates? We know that DBAs make more than Developers. Does your education level impact on your salary?

Data Professional Salary Data grouped by Education

Let analyses the salary data some more

SELECT COUNT(*) NumberOfReplies
,AVG(SalaryUSD) Sal
FROM SalarySurvey
GROUP BY Education
order by Sal desc

From our survey results we can see that the majority of respondents have at least a bachelor’s degree. 469 have none Which represents just over 16% of respondents.  As the education level goes up so does the average salary and if you have a bachelor’s degree you will earn approx. $1100 more per year than someone with no university education.

Interesting stuff. 


You can look at these figures from a number of perspectives. You could say, "well I’ll get a degree as I’ll earn a little more money. Great! However education and college university education is not free. You can pay up to £9000 ($11291) a year to attend university in the UK – for a 3 year course that’s £27000 or $33873 and that is just the university fee. Plus you have 3 years where you are in full time education so you can't  work a full time job – so let’s say that University/College graduate starts at 22 years old – allowing them time to complete their education, and from then on earns the average for a bachelors graduated listed above the whole of their career -  43 years taking them to 65. The current retirement age in UK (I think, it changes all the time). A bit misconstrued I know, I’m sure graduates don’t come out of university or college earning those figures but let’s play the average game for a second.

Working for 43 years takes them to the retirement age of 65 here in the UK. Based on the above figures they would make 43*$91735 = $3944605 for their career total earnings. We need to subtract the cost of the education too so that leaves us with a net earnings after the cost of education as $3944605 - $33873 = $3910732.

Let’s take someone without a college university/degree. Let’s assume that they start their career at the same age as the graduate. In theory they could start sooner because they don’t need to spend the first 3 or 4 years in university but, we’ll keep the number of years working the same for this.

Non-degree professionals net income would be = 90621 * 43 = $3896703. No cost for the degree education

So with these figures, the person with the graduate degree will earn $14029 more than a non-graduate counterpart over course of their career.

Interesting figures. Do you think the degree is worth it?

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  1. You've injected a number of cognitive biases into your analysis. The major one is grouping salaries by EduLevel and saying higher edu level equates to some salary level. A lot of people do this. But you assume that the same person with a Masters wouldn't earn the same without the Masters. The fact is, that person will probably earn more vs the avg simply because he's a Smart Guy/overachiever. Said differently, Bill Gates was a college dropout, yet he succeeded, quite well. Another bias is that salary is the sole motivation for an advanced degree. Some like learning in a formal env.

    Point is...when you ask if a degree is "worth it" solely based on future salary, you'd really need an NPV calc. But what I think you are really asking is whether college is "worth it" subjectively. Anecdotally, no one has ever asked me about my degree, and I've never asked anyone about theirs. I more concerned with experiences. Alotta kids nowadays get advanced degrees because they can't get a job in their given major. More letters after your name <> more money. And our government-sponsored edu system encourages a kid to get an advanced degree vs getting a job to avoid starting the student loan repayment process.

    But your article is definitely worth a read by any US high schooler thinking about college. I help local high schoolers with internships and I'm amazed at the misinformation kids are given about "you need a degree to make it in the working world". Totally untrue.


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