What Does It Take to Be a SQL Database Developer?

By Robert Half October 27, 2015 at 3:00pm

A Structured Query Language (SQL) database developer is a specialized programmer who writes database-specific code. SQL expertise has become a must-have skill for many programming positions, as the language is used to access most database systems.

Here’s a quick overview of the types of skills you’ll need to step into the SQL database developer role.

Programming experience

A SQL developer, in addition to being able to write database commands in SQL, should know the particular nuances of at least one SQL database system and be able to use them to maximum advantage. Tasks such as writing stored procedures and database functions should be second nature.

To be effective, a SQL database developer should be familiar with general languages, such as Java or C#. This knowledge will help you to understand the needs of and to coordinate effectively with other developers. These skills also will allow you to participate in work on the backend of systems that communicate with the database.

Database knowledge

The SQL database developer position straddles the middle ground between a programmer and a database administrator. Their specialization is working with databases, but SQL database developers focus on programming for the database, not configuring and maintaining it like a database administrator.

A programmer who knows SQL and a SQL database developer have different database-specific skills. For example, a full-fledged SQL database developer will typically have these skills that most programmers would not:

  • Significant database knowledge and experience
  • The ability to write queries that perform optimally
  • Knowledge of basic database security practices

The SQL database developer also will have experience with:

  • Reporting and business intelligence tools like Cognos, Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services and SAP Crystal Reports
  • NoSQL database systems, such as MongoDB and CouchDB
  • Big data technologies like Hadoop and Spark

The ability to back up your knowledge with a certification can be an advantage in the job market. A few recommended certifications for the SQL database developer role are the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer: Data Platform or the Oracle Database Administrator Certified Professional.

Soft skills

As is the case when hiring for many IT positions today, employers are evaluating the soft skills of candidates for SQL database developer jobs. The SQL database developer must sometimes act as a buffer between database administrators (DBAs) and business users. So, the ability to collaborate, and to communicate effectively with both technical and nontechnical users, is essential.

If your goal is to become a SQL database developer, starting as a programmer and adding the database knowledge is a logical path — which could lead to a career with high earning potential. SQL expertise can add 8 percent to a starting salary for database developers, according to the Robert Half Technology Salary Guide.

Get salary information for more than 70 IT jobs:


This post has been updated to reflect more current information.


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