Becoming a Software Database Engineer: Job Description & Salary

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What are the pros and cons of a software database engineer career? Get real job duties, career outlook and salary info to see if becoming a software database engineer is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Software Database Engineer Career

A software database engineer is a specialized type of software developer who focuses on creating and managing database applications to help a company store information within a computer system. Read on for the pros and cons of this profession.

Pros of Being a Software Database Engineer
Higher-than-average salary (median wage of $102,880 in May 2014)*
Strong estimated job growth (22% increase during the period of 2012 through 2022)*
Employment opportunities are not geographically restrictive*
Possible telecommuting options*

Cons of Being a Software Database Engineer
May have long work hours (25% of professionals work 40-plus hours/week)*
Rapidly changing technology makes continuing education a necessity*
Outsourcing to other countries is a concern*
Industry specific experience versus general database experience is usually required*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Information

Job Duties

Your responsibilities would revolve around database and related system design, installation, administration and maintenance. Your design related duties may include building the architecture for database servers and creating database administration plans. Additionally, you may develop stored procedures, triggers and views.

You may also be responsible for evaluating existing systems and handling upgrades or reconfigurations. This would include installing new systems or components as needed. Administering various protocols and procedures to ensure that the system runs efficiently and is maintained properly would also be a part of your duties.

Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in May 2014, the annual median salary for software systems developers was about $102,000. The salary range for these professionals includes earnings of less than $63,000 for the lower ten percent of the spectrum, and more than $154,000 for the upper ten percent.

What Are the Requirements?

While some employers may hire applicants with an associate's degree coupled with extensive work experience, completing a bachelor's degree program is generally the minimum requirement for your educational training. Degree programs in software engineering, information technology, computer science, technology engineering and related disciplines are consistent with this profession. However, the BLS reports that regardless of your specific degree title, taking a substantive amount of coursework in computer programming and software development is important. Also, in addition to educational training, other skills you will need include:

  • Practical, hands-on experience with servers, such as MS SQL, PL/SQL and/or Transact-SQL
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Customer service skills

Job Postings from Real Employers

You may work for a variety of different employers, including technology firms that provide computer-related services to other companies and non-technology organizations that have in-house computer services staff. To find work as a software database engineer, you will likely need a bachelor's degree as well as an understanding of MS SQL servers and software developing experience. Here are just a few of the job listings for software database engineers that were posted April 2012:

  • A military aircraft manufacturer is looking for a database engineer with a bachelor's degree. The applicant must have eight years of software development experience, including three years of MS SQL Server 2005/2008 development.
  • An investment company needs a software engineer with 2-5 years of work experience in database development, with a primary concentration in Oracle. Experience in PL/SQL programming and UNIX Shell Scripting is also required.
  • A computer services firm wants to hire a database software engineer with a bachelor's degree in information technology or computer science. However, a degree in another discipline would be acceptable from candidates who have solid software testing and development experience. A minimum of one year work experience with MS SQL, Transact-SQL and PL/SQL is required. Hands-on experience with Data warehouse and Oracle/DB2 is also required.

How to Stand Out in the Field?

In the competitive technologies industry, there are several things that you can do that may be advantageous for expanding career opportunities and advancement. First, make sure that you stay current on the latest programming languages and tools. You can acquire substantial experience with multiple applications such as Oracle, Classic ASP and ColdFusion. While training programs may be offered through some employers, industry updates and continuing education options is also available through various trade organizations, such as the International Association for Computer Information Systems and the Software and Information Industry Association.

Obtaining professional certification may also prove to be beneficial. Various types and levels of certification are offered through industry vendors, such as Microsoft and Oracle. Finally, you may want to consider advanced educational training through a graduate degree program. Many master's degree programs in related disciplines such as computer science, software engineering and information technology are offered through distance-learning/online formats if campus-based studies are not convenient.

Alternative Career Paths

Database Administrator

If you're interested in working with database technologies, but would rather focus on managing and maintaining databases than designing them, then becoming a database administrator may be a good option. The BLS doesn't report the same level of job outsourcing to foreign countries as with software database engineers. However, as of May 2011, the annual median salary for database administrators was $22,000 less than software database engineers, at about $75,000.

Computer Software Applications Engineer

A computer software applications engineer is also a type of applications software developer. However, instead of developing software that operates the computer system as software database engineers do, you would work on software that is directly utilized by the general public or specific end-users. While you would also have good earning potential (2011 annual median salary was approximately $89,000, according to the BLS), long work hours may be standard.

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