Why It's a Great Time to Be a Database Developer

Illustration of workers standing on puzzle pieces surrounded by clouds and computers.

The demand for database management skills is high as industries beyond technology – from retail to government – focus on the benefits of gathering and analyzing data. Experienced database developers, much like database administrators, are in a great position in the job market.

“Anyone with strong database management skills is in demand,” said Robert Half Technology’s Boston vice president and branch manager, Greg Bigelow. “We hear terms like ‘the cloud’ and ‘Big Data’ constantly, and it’s the job of the database developer to help create, develop, house and support those technology efforts.”

Database developer salary is projected to increase

With increased focus on Big Data and cloud-based initiatives, it’s no surprise that a starting database developer salary is projected to increase 5.1 percent in 2017, with compensation ranging from $108,000-$161,500.

Use our Salary Calculator to adjust an entry-level database developer salary for your city.

Database developer job description

What’s it take to become a database developer? Here are the essential qualifications:

  • A thorough understanding of relational database theory and practice
  • Analytical thinking and adept at problem solving
  • Strong communication skills
  • A bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field is often required, although database experience can be substituted in some cases
  • Knowledge of major enterprise database programs, including Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle or IBM DB2, is required; professional certifications such as Microsoft Certified Database Administrator (MCDA) or Oracle Database Administrator Certified Professional (ODACP) are a plus
  • Experience in Internet technologies also is valuable since many web applications now interface with databases

A typical database developer job description includes:

  • Develop database objects and structure for data storage, retrieval and reporting according to project specifications
  • Implementing and testing database design and functionality, and tuning for performance
  • Providing support to database administrators and interfacing with business users to ensure the database is satisfying business requirements
  • Designing and developing back-end database interfaces to web and e-commerce applications

In addition to these skills, Bigelow said database developers who know SQL Server 2008R2, 2012 and 2014, as well as Microsoft’s Business Intelligence Suite of reporting services, are in high demand. “The ability to understand and track metrics and customer analytics through these tools are the way of the future in the world of data, and candidates who have these skills will be in strong demand,” said Bigelow.

He added that in the emerging open source technology market, MongoDB, NoSQL and MySQL are leading the charge, so knowledge of these technologies can be advantageous for database developers.

Advice to aspiring database developers: know the latest technology

Bigelow advises entry-level IT graduates to develop their Access, EXCEL, SQL and related skills in the classroom or through internships. “It’s also essential for recent college grads to keep an eye on the emerging technology market,” said Bigelow.

Developing your soft skills is a good idea, too: Firms are looking for candidates who can effectively work in marketing, logistics or customer service to help those teams achieve their data goals. That means database developers not only need excellent technical skills, but great communication skills as well.

In addition to information on a starting database developer salary and job description, you’ll find starting compensation for 70 IT jobs in 150 North American cities in our Salary Guide:

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Note: This post has been updated. It originally appeared on 02/09/14.