SQL Developer Careers: Job Description & Salary Information

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Learn about an SQL developer's job description, salary information and education requirements. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of an SQL developer career.
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Pros and Cons of an SQL Developer Career

SQL developers are responsible for a variety of database design, development and administrative tasks. Consider both the pros and cons to see if a job as an SQL developer computes with you before pursuing this career.

Pros of an SQL Developer Career
Related fields are in-demand (expected increase in employment from 2012-2022 of 22% for software developers and 15% for database administrators)*
Annual pay can be good (Average wage of $69,364 as of March 2015)**
Can telecommute or work in any company that uses databases*
Variety of job tasks involve both software development and database administration***

Cons of an SQL Developer Career
Even entry-level positions often require prior work experience in database design***
Long hours may be necessary (over 40 hours weekly for 25 percent of both database administrators and software developers)*
Juggling the variety of job tasks can be stressful*
Ongoing training to learn new database technologies*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com, ***Monster.com

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Getting input from relevant departments in an organization, as an SQL developer you would perform an analysis to determine the structural requirements for new databases, as well as the necessary hardware, networking technologies and software involved. You would assist in the design and development and may do the coding for the interface used to access various data sources. After the database is completed, you might be in charge of its testing, deployment and maintenance. Some maintenance tasks include adding, merging or removing data, adding new features to existing databases and fixing technical problems that arise. You may also design reports and make documentation.

Since it involves responsibility for both development and administrative tasks, SQL development can be a stressful career for those who aren't comfortable working in a fast-paced environment and prioritizing tasks. You should also be comfortable working more than 40 hours a week since database problems can occur outside normal business hours. As new versions of database applications become available, you may need to get more training, so you should be comfortable with needing continuing education.

Job Outlook and Salary Information

The BLS breaks down statistics for both database administrators and software developers, but does not break out specific information for SQL developers. The employment growth rate for both careers was projected to be faster than average. Employment growth for software developers was expected to be 22% through 2022. This rate is much faster than the overall job growth, thanks in part to mobile technology spurring application development, as well as the healthcare system turning towards electronic health records and databases.

As third-party database services gain popularity due to the possibilities of cloud computing, the BLS expects 15% employment growth for database administrators from 2012-2022. The highest percentages of both software developers and database administrators work in the computer systems design and related services industry.

According to March 2015 national salary data on PayScale.com, the average income for SQL developers was $69,364. However, the spectrum of compensation is diverse; the 10th-90th percentile range of SQL developers earn a total pay of $43,000-$98,000, including salary, bonus and profit sharing. While SQL developers work in many industries, those in finance and insurance see the highest potential wages, according to the industry-specific data on PayScale.com.

Education Requirements

While the BLS notes that a technical bachelor's degree is a common requirement for software developers and database administrators, not all employers require one. Some accept an associate degree or even a high school diploma if the candidate has some related computer training and prior work experience. Two related majors employers look for include information technology and computer science. It is important to take some courses in database design and management, and outside training may be needed to learn how to use common tools in the field. Some related products and technologies that SQL developers work with include Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft Windows Server, Microsoft Office, Microsoft Visual Studio, Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services and Microsoft SQL Server Integration Services. You will also need to be familiar with the database languages PL/SQL and T-SQL.

SQL developers need to pay good attention to detail when designing the database architecture. They also need strong problem-solving skills to determine the requirements for new databases and for resolving errors. They should be comfortable with both teamwork and independent work, as well as be able to communicate effectively to team members, management and any outside customers. Priority management is needed to complete time-sensitive tasks efficiently.

What Do Employers Look for?

Employers look for varying levels of education and focus mainly on prior work experience in SQL database development. They also look for candidates who have expertise in the Microsoft products used for database creation, application development and server administration. The following job postings from April 2012 highlight what some employers look for in SQL developers:

  • An IT staffing company in Ohio advertised for an SQL Developer with a bachelor's degree and at least five years of experience in database design and development, as well as expertise in the Microsoft products Visual Studio and SQL Server. The candidate should also be familiar with relational database reporting.
  • A Boston technology company seeks an SQL developer/technical consultant with an information technology or computer science bachelor's degree, as well as two years of application development experience. The candidate should be familiar with the database query languages PL/SQL and T-SQL, Microsoft SQL Server and ETL tools. The company prefers candidates who can use business analytics software, database cleansing tools, Oracle database software and database marketing applications.
  • An IT staffing firm in Colorado is looking for an SQL developer with at least an associate degree. The candidate needs three years of work experience using SQL Server Integration Services and at least four years using Microsoft SQL Server.
  • An advertising agency in California seeks an SQL developer with at least a high school diploma and three years of experience designing databases. The candidate should be familiar with SQL stored procedures, data warehousing reports, Microsoft Server, Microsoft Office and Microsoft SQL Server. The company prefers candidates experienced with programming languages and frameworks, including Java, C++ and .NET.

How to Get Yourself Noticed

Get Certifications in SQL

Both Microsoft and Oracle offer certifications to demonstrate your expertise in SQL and related products. The Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP) credential offers three paths that include database administration, database development and business intelligence development. Each path requires you to pass two exams. The Oracle Database SQL Certified Expert credential demonstrates expertise using SQL at an advanced level and requires only one exam. The Oracle Database 11g Administrator Certified Associate requires you to pass two exams, including one you select and one in administration. If you have already earned the Oracle Database SQL Expert certification, this can count as the first exam for the Oracle Database 11g Administrator Certified Associate.

Develop Related Skills

You can stand out to employers by having skills outside of SQL development. Since companies may use databases for business intelligence purposes, learning about business analytics can be helpful. Some companies also look for those who are familiar with programming languages because programs sometimes require integration with databases. Some common languages include Java and C++, and being familiar with the Microsoft .NET framework can also be helpful. There are also some useful skills within database development, such as being familiar with Oracle database products and data cleaning tools.

Alternative Careers to Consider

Web Developer

If you'd like to work on applications for websites, a web developer career can let you put your SQL skills to use while offering a wider variety of job tasks. You may be responsible for the website's design, adding multimedia content, writing code that connects to a database and performing web application testing. Educational requirements are similar to an SQL developer's in that less education may be needed for those who are skilled and experienced. The BLS projected favorable job prospects and a 22 percent employment increase for web developers from 2010-2020. The mean annual salary was $82,000 as of May 2011.

Network and Computer Systems Administrator

If working with databases is not your ideal career, consider becoming a network and computer systems administrator. This career involves a wide variety of job duties for installing, setting up, maintaining and troubleshooting systems. You may also train and offer technical support to users. Vendor certification and a technical bachelor's degree are usually needed, as well as ongoing training to keep your skills fresh. The job outlook was projected to be good, with a 28 percent employment increase from 2010-2020, which is faster than the 22 percent projected for all computer occupations. According to the BLS, systems administrators made a mean annual wage of $74,000 in the national estimates from May 2011.

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Kaplan University

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Northcentral University

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Virginia College

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  • Diploma Program - Network Technician

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Regent University

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University of Delaware

  • Master of Science in Cybersecurity

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Saint Leo University

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