In today's digital society, companies must provide well-organized, secure information storage and retrieval processes for their users. Database managers and administrators lead this effort and work in a variety of fields, including healthcare, government, education, and corporate finance.
Entry-level opportunities in database management can be attained with a bachelor's degree, but many employers prefer applicants with a graduate degree. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the number of database administrator jobs will grow 11% between 2016 and 2026, making it the perfect time to get an online master's in database management. Below is our list of the best programs and their potential benefits.
Database administrators and managers play a key role in the organization and security of a company's information and computer systems. Their work may require designing, implementing, and managing these systems. An online master's in database management covers subjects like database design, information security and structures, and systems management. A typical master's program in database management takes one to two years to complete and may require students to compose and defend a thesis or complete a capstone project. Programs can require anywhere from 30 to 48 credit hours.
The sample curriculum listed below provides a look at some common courses offered as part of an online master's in database management. The exact courses may differ from school to school.
In database administration courses, students develop a comprehensive understanding of foundational concepts, techniques, and practices in database architecture, capacity planning, installation and maintenance, network configuration, security management, utilities and tools, and industry standards and guidelines.
Joint design and programming courses cover topics in both areas, including procedural and query languages, runtime error handling, and procedures and functions of subprograms. Design skills highlighted may include requirement analysis, conceptual and logical design, and E-R modeling and mapping.
Data warehousing courses cover foundational understanding and issues involved in building a successful data warehouse. Topics covered may include development methodology and planning; data quality and metadata; analysis, transformation, and loading of data; and implementation and administration of the warehouse.
Machine learning courses provide a survey-style examination of various machine learning techniques including neural networks, decision trees, and cluster analysis. Students learn how these methods work and how they can be applied to real-world situations.
Database application development courses involve working with commercial, multi-user database applications in preparation for real-world employment at large companies. Students utilize hands-on learning to examine and analyze database application designs and functions, identify errors, and enhance application performance.
Students can add electives to customize their master's program according to their personal or professional aspirations. Elective courses vary from one school to another, but here are a few you may see:
Cryptography courses present students with an exploration of information security through topics on the Advanced Encryption Standard, the Secure Hash Algorithm, public-key infrastructure, secure sockets layers, and IPSec. Students get hands-on experimentation with cryptographic software tools.
Courses in project management provide a foundational understanding of processes, tools, and techniques through hands-on exercises. Topics reviewed may include project integration, scope, and time, as well as processes used to initiate, execute, monitor, and control a project.
Students in application security electives explore best practices of the software development lifecycle. Topics may include characteristics of secure applications, designing for resilience, implementing development security methodologies, and testing both custom and commercial applications.
When earning your online master's in database management, the final hurdle may be a traditional master's thesis or capstone project. Both require students to demonstrate their mastery in the field by synthesizing information and skills from prior courses. Common capstone requirements involve building database software from initial design to final testing or creating solutions for real-world database management issues.
Unlike traditional, on-campus learning, students interested in online learning aren't limited to schools nearby. As distance learning increases in popularity, more schools are offering online programs. How do you choose the best one?
Make sure to check each school's accreditation status, and confirm the legitimacy of any regional or national accrediting agency with the U.S. Department of Education and/or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Other hallmarks of a quality program include high graduation rates, easily accessible information about the program's qualified, experienced faculty, and learning objectives and course content that provides the necessary skills you need. Look out for schools with absurdly low tuition rates and/or unfamiliar accreditation organizations.
While becoming a database administrator or manager seems the most obvious career opportunity for graduates of a database management master's program, the knowledge and skills gained can also apply to other IT and computer systems occupations. Elements of a database manager's responsibilities can transfer to other jobs in programming, computer architecture, or systems management. A few sample careers are listed below, but remember, a master's degree in database management doesn't guarantee a job in these industries.
Database administrators organize and store important data such as financial information and customer records. Using specialized software, database administrators ensure appropriate individuals can access information while unauthorized entities cannot. Administrators may manage and monitor existing databases, implementing updates or improvements when necessary, or design, test, and install new databases of their own making. Additional responsibilities include preventing data loss, programming database applications, and analyzing user needs.
Computer and/or information systems managers lead an organization's information technology department. They plan, coordinate, and direct all computer-related activities and determine department- and organization-wide IT goals. Duties require analyzing the needs of the organization, ensuring network and internal document security, and assessing costs and benefits to justify funding and projects. An advanced degree provides the experience and skills required to uphold a managerial position.
Computer programmers write and test code that allows computer programs, software, and applications to function and respond properly. Programmers work closely with software developers to make a design or concept into a fully-functional application through coding languages like Java and C++. In addition to writing and testing new code, programmers update, expand, and improve the performance of existing programs.
Source: BLS, 2018
Certain occupations, such as computer programming, face declines due to international outsourcing, but in general, American job growth in computer science and information technology fields boasts a positive trend. Projections from the BLS show an average growth of 11% for all computer and information technology jobs, faster than the average of all occupations. Database management jobs align with this prediction, as an increased number of companies need skilled professionals to handle the data in our digital world.
In the fields of information technology and computer science, professional organizations provide a wealth of benefits to emerging and longtime professionals alike. They offer networking opportunities, annual conferences, career services, job boards, and access to the latest industry updates, publications, and research.
A nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing practices for data resource management, DAMA memberships cost $50 annually and come with benefits like discounts for DAMA-approved/endorsed training programs, books, and conferences.
DGPO's global mission involves developing and enriching the expertise of data governance professionals through membership benefits like webinars, social networking communities, and conferences. Annual membership costs $75.
DAA works to advance the use of data and improve the digital world through professional development and community. Membership includes professional development opportunities, career resources, and online/in-person networking. Full-time university students can join for $49.
AITP exists for those aspiring toward or looking to advance, a career in information technology. Exclusive benefits for members include networking, on-demand training videos, and career resources including access to a talent recruitment portal. Students can join for free.
The premier professional organization for women working in the technology industry provides membership to students for $50 a year. Membership benefits include networking opportunities, special interest groups, and career development programs.
For some, covering the cost of a college education can be intimidating. Funding options for an online master's in database management include federal aid, scholarships, and industry fellowships or assistantships, each covered in detail below.
Though federal financial aid is more often pushed toward undergraduate students, individuals earning their master's degree remain eligible for these same opportunities. Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to explore all of your options for receiving federal government monies to use toward your graduate education.
Some of the most prolific providers of college funding are professional organizations and companies. Scholarship eligibility often extends only to members of an organization. The Society of Women Engineers, for example, offers several annual scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students in ABET-accredited engineering, technology, or computing programs.
Graduate students can take advantage of a variety of program scholarships. Many universities now offer program-specific scholarships directly to their students through arrangements made with alumni, departments, and other donors. Additional scholarships are available through third-party companies and donors, such as this $3,000 scholarship from the BHW Group.
Fellowships commonly provide funding to students looking to complete graduate research, requiring detailed expense projections and plans in order to apply, such as the National Science Foundation's STEM fellowships. Other fellowships work similarly to internships where students work for an organization in exchange for financial assistance. Fellowship placements are limited and highly competitive.