From Developer to Administrator

Posted: September 7, 2011 in Career, SQLServerPedia Syndication


Recently I was posed this question here on my blog:

 “To become a DBA administrator do I need to start first as SQL Developer?” (original question)

 I find this question to be really interesting.  It’s a very common question that I receive, not just written but in person as well.  I have been asked this question often enough that I wrote a book on the subject of how to get your next DBA job (pending edit to be published, but the first chapter can be found here).   I am not sure if I have ever answered the question directly, but I have also done a number of articles on the subject published on SWWUG.ORG

 Do you need to start your DBA career as a developer?  I don’t believe so.  I don’t think it hurts at all, but I don’t think it’s a requirement.  I believe as a DBA that you should understand how to develop sql and to take it one step further I think you need to know how to design a database.  But, I think understanding it and being able to claim that you were a developer or an architect on your resume is by no means a requirement.  When I reflect back on my experience and I refer to this in very general terms, as developers and administrators often have very different mind sets.  At the same time please keep in mind that I have never developed an application, and my development experience with code that exists in a production role is limited.

If we dive a little bit deeper into the question and explore it a bit more we can expand it into: Do I think that those skills will make you a better administrator?  The answer to that is a definite “yes”.  There are many skills that I think will improve an individual’s success as a Database Administrator.  A good example is if you look at a recent session that I have given on utility databases, all the information that I collect was done using t-sql development skills.  In addition to those skills the basic understanding of Windows server operations is a big benefit.  These traits can be seen in many areas such as how active directory works, or how security works. 

I believe administrators need to have many skills; each of these can be drawn from to improve the many tasks that you may be asked to do as a DBA.  I think a successful person needs to draw from all their experiences. Not just the skills related to computers, either. I think skills such as the ability to prioritize your work, or the skills that one gets from industry specific knowledge, need to be utilized.  The person that posted the question went on to mention the past development skills that they have.  Each of those skills is going to help him or her on their career path.  There are a number of positive things that I see in the asking of this question that leads me to believe this individual will have success on the career path of their choice.



  1. […] From Developer to Administrator – Pondering the roots of the DBA, Chris Shaw(Blog|Twitter) shares his thoughts with us. […]

  2. “To become a DBA administrator do I need to start first as SQL Developer?”

    The question seems to imply that DB Administration is the next logical step after DB Development in a career path and that doesn’t jive with my point of view.

    It happens of course. It’s just that it can go the opposite way as well. I’ve met a few people who could write articles titled “From Administrator to Developer” 🙂

    And not just DBA vs. DB Developer. In practice I often see a lot of different people changing careers between any two of the following:
    * Application Development
    * QA
    * BI expert
    * DB Administration
    * System Administration
    * DB Development
    * etc…

    And I tend to see these changes as a step sideways rather than a progression.

    In every case, (like you said) the skills in one field help a ton with any other field, but not required.

    What are your thoughts?


    • Chris Shaw says:

      Hi Michael,

      Great points and I hope that the post does not imply that I think there is a progression from any one to the other. I think the skills sets are close as far as what the basics are that one needs to understand however, the mindsets are different. Even what an individual enjoys is a big factor. I agree with you that it should be a horizontal move. Thanks for the comment.


  3. […] From Developer to Administrator […]

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