How Can I Become an Oracle DBA?

Direct or Indirect…

It’s not very common for someone to get a job as an Oracle DBA straight out of university. It’s usually a job for a more experienced candidate and someone who has already been an Oracle DBA. If you’ve never been an Oracle DBA how do you get the experience to get a DBA job?

Well, I would say that you need to work at a company where you start in a different position. For example, you could start as a developer, become friendly with the Oracle DBAs at your company and learn about what they do. If you also put some effort into learning Oracle DBA tasks and show interest in moving to that position to the Oracle DBAs and perhaps your manager, you may be able to move into the Oracle DBA role when a position becomes available.

Starting out as a PLSQL developer will help you learn a lot about the Oracle database, because you will be working with it on a daily basis anyway, so that’s all good experience.

I would recommend installing Oracle on your home machine and get used to it. Try to break it and then fix it; create tables, procedures, triggers, etc and see what you can do with them. Courses can help but to be honest nothing beats real world experience. I’ve interviewed many Oracle DBAs who have lots of qualifications but very little real world experience. And let me tell you, it shows. You can ask a few questions or even just have a chat with someone and work out how good they are within 10 minutes.

IMPORTANT: Read the documentation. There is a huge amount of information in there, but you should certainly be familiar with the concepts guide, the SQL reference and the database administrator’s guides.

“If you can log onto an Oracle Database, you’re an Oracle DBA…”

It seems like everyone’s an Oracle DBA today…It seems that if you’re in charge of an Oracle database you can call yourself an Oracle DBA. I don’t necessarily think this is true, though. It takes years to become a skilled Oracle DBA, and even then you need to have had good exposure to changing systems, seen lots of errors, solved lots of problems and been involved in difficult design and planning decisions.

Some databases run themselves and all the Oracle DBA needs to do is check space, apply a patch every now and then and help users set up new SQL Plus connections. In these types of environments performance is usually of little concern and an upgrade from one Oracle version to the next will require little, if any, performance tuning in order for it to be acceptable. The environments just aren’t critical enough or used enough to require it.

On the other side you have the extremely mission critical systems where one small change can result in poor performance and thousands of users being unhappy. Changes require full and detailed performance impact analysis prior to being rolled into the production environment and performance tuning is essential in order to keep the system running as smoothly as possible.

Now, take those two scenarios highlighted above and think about the type of Oracle DBA you would get if they had each been in the same job for 3 years. In theory, they may have a similar level of knowledge; both have the OCP qualification and, on paper, are of equivalent level. However, I know which Oracle DBA I would put money on in terms of having more practical knowledge.

These are factors that you need to take in to consideration when you are working as an Oracle DBA. If you find yourself in a job where not a lot is happening and you are trying to make work for yourself then you’re probably more likely to be swaying towards the same category that I described first. If you want to grow your Oracle DBA career you need to get yourself into a job where you are pushing yourself all the time. It’s the same principle as with everything in life: If you feel comfortable, you’re not making progress.

It’s tough at the top…

Once you become a fully fledged Oracle DBA and you have access to the production systems, suddenly there is a lot of pressure and responsibility upon you. It’s common for the conscientious Oracle DBA to wake up in the middle of the night wondering if they remembered to do something! At least at first anyway…Once you become organised you will know what needs to be done and when so you can sleep at night. Also, there is usually a reasonable amount of out of hours work. This is something that comes with the territory and is part and parcel of being an Oracle DBA. If you’re lucky, you might even get paid for it.

So, that’s my piece about how to become an Oracle DBA. Please feel free to send any comments you to me. I’ve also written another article on what an Oracle DBA does, so if you like the sound of becoming an Oracle DBA you can have a read through to see what the job entails. Good luck!

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