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Don Burleson Blog 







How to Become an Oracle Professional

10 October 2006
Oracle Database Tips by Donald Burleson

For more details, see these important notes on:

   - Oracle in a laissez faire economy

   - Becoming an Oracle expert

   - Oracle DBA job

Also, many folks ask how much is a college degree worth? and how to become an Oracle Professional.

Most beginners start work with Oracle after graduating from college, and in this tight market, a masters degree (MBA or MCS) is advised.  Remember, database administration is not a trade. Database administration is a mission-critical job role, a professional career requiring at least a 4-year degree.  Being a DBA carries as much responsibility as being a scientist, architect or professional engineer.

As I turn 50 years old, I notice that people half my age are working hard to become an Oracle Professional, and I'm really glad to see that it's still a level playing field and that anyone, regardless of background, can make it to the top of the heap.  Also see my notes on how to become an Oracle DBA and how to become an Oracle Applications DBA.


Win your Oracle Dream Job!

Colleges don't teach the expert tips and secrets for getting an Oracle job and acing your Oracle job interview with The Oracle Job Interview Handbook.  Order directly from Rampant and save 30%.

I'm frequently asked what it takes to become an Oracle DBA, but these are mostly queries from vacillating people who are only interested in the high pay and don't understand all of the years of hard work and perseverance that it takes just to enter the marketplace.

Also see how Oracle DBA jobs will be different in the year 2020 and Oracle DBA job duties.

Trust me, no large corporation is going to pay you $130,000 per year to manage their mission-critical Oracle database unless you have a history that demonstrates dedication to a professional career in database management.  Becoming an Oracle Professional doesn't take remarkable intelligence or a pricey Harvard degree, but it does take persistence, drive, and a dedication to excellence.

Becoming a Respected Oracle Professional

My company is one of the highest paying Oracle consultancies, and we have very rigorous hiring policies because our clients demand Oracle consultants with impeccable credentials.  Hence, I'm always on the lookout for the next up-and-coming Oracle Professional.

The next Oracle Professionals are not hard to find.  They have the stellar educations, publish insightful blogs, snag opportunities to publish, and share their research.  They strive for prestigious degrees, awards, publishing opportunities, certifications and challenging job opportunities.  The next generation of Oracle Professionals are easy to spot because they are characterized by a "can do" attitude, and they all have polished communication skills.

You can't stop an aspiring Oracle Professional

Ten years ago I was giving a keynote presentation at a conference when I noticed a High School kid in the front row taking feverish notes and hanging on my every word.

After my presentation, he leapt up and commanded my attention with question-after-question on how to become an Oracle DBA and how to distinguish himself as an Oracle Professional.  He told me that he was only 16 years-old and that he was going to be the next Don Burleson!  He said that he had driven for two-days to hear me speak and wanted my advice on how to distinguish himself as an Oracle professional.  I was impressed, and I told him that there was no secret to success in Oracle, and that hard work, above all else would distinguish his Oracle career.

This was not the last time I would see this young fellow.  Since that fateful day, he got a job as a senior instructor at Oracle University, became the world's youngest Oracle ACE and Oracle Certified Master, and wrote a book on Oracle technology.

Now I ask you, how could I not hire this guy?

Today, Steve Karam has earned his place among the highest paid Oracle professionals in the world.  This week I sent him to Jamaica to teach a class, and he and his wife and kids are having the time of their lives.  This guy strives to be outstanding in everything he does, just look at his instructor comments!

Any Questions?

I don't believe that any aspiring Oracle Professional would "settle" for second-best, and every day I see the next generation of Oracle Professionals working long hours to distinguish themselves among their peers.

If you have taken extraordinary efforts to distinguish yourself as an Oracle Professional, I probably already know about you, but just in-case I missed you, please send me an e-mail if you are looking for a job or a publishing opportunity.  There is always room at the top, and if you are going to be one of the next Oracle Professionals, I'd like to hear from you.

Comments and Questions

Update: 11/19/10

Question:  I want to start learning how to be an Oracle DBA, and hopefully with time sit for OCA and OCP certifications

Answer:  Most people start learning Oracle right after completing a 4 year degree in computer science or information systems. Oracle is the world's most sophisticated database, it is not for people who do not possess a professional degree.

Are you qualified to be an Oracle guru?

 The average 2015 salary for a DBA is about $100,000, and it is a competitive market where years of work experience counts most!

 If you have had these 300 level or above courses you are ready to start learning Oracle!

  •  2 courses in procedural programming (preferably C or assembler)

  • Data structures

  • Algorithms

  • Database management

  • Introduction to information systems

  • Operating Systems

 Check Oracle academy for their suggested College courses

Title: Entry Level Database Engineer Jr. Consultant

 Description of duties:

  •  Maintaining the integrity of data.

  • Running queries against the database.

  • Go out to client sites.

  • Install and trouble shoot systems

 Requirements and Salary:

  • 0 - 2 yrs. + Bachelors degree, $25,000 - $50,000

  •  0 - 3 yrs. + Bachelors degree, $35,000 - $45,000

 Title: Database Administrator Sales Consultant

 Description of duties:

  • Extensive analysis and problem solving.

  • Maintain database configuration and ensure data feed accuracy and quality

  • Assist Sales Representatives.

  • Present Applications and Systems to potential clients.

  • Project Management and needs analysis

 Requirements and Salary: 

  •  2 - 3 yrs. + Bachelors degree, $50,000 - $90,000

  • 2 - 5 yrs. + Bachelors degree, $65,000 - $90,000

 Title: Sr. Database Administrator Project Manger

 Description of duties:

  •  Development, implementation, enhancement and maintenance of database.

  • Support and Maintenance of the Databases Management of product design, engineering, implementation and integration.

  • Initiating and maintaining partner relationships.

Requirements and Salary:

  •  4+ yrs. + Bachelors degree, $90,000+

  • 5+ yrs. + Bachelors degree  $100,000+


> >> I wanted to thank you people again for the warnings and for letting me know that it's not an easy path

Our expert responds to this reader's note: No problem! If your boss will pay for it, far and away the best way to prepare is to take the Oracle university classes.

 If not, get several OCP preparation books, and start by passing your OCA exam and then your OCP exam.

Then, you can apply for a junior DBA position. The best places to start are shops that don't pay much, hospitals, colleges and charities. I started my apprenticeship at a university, right after completing my masters degree.

Update: 11/3/06

Oracle Professional status:

We need to remember that the terms "expert" and "Professional" are nothing more than accolades, similar to the vendor-awarded titles:

  • Microsoft MVP

  • Oracle ACE

And the self-earned titles such as:

  • McDBA (Microsoft Certified DBA)

  • OCM (Oracle Certified Master)

Robert Vollman (one of my favorite bloggers) just published some insightful comments about what it takes to become an "Oracle Professional".  Mr. Vollman has some observations about the relative value of a university education and excellent communications skills toward Professional status:

Top College Degrees:

"After all, who is to decide which degree is prestigious enough, which certifications are necessary, and which awards qualify?"

To answer this question we need to look no further than Oracle Corporation, who published their choices of schools for "top candidates", a virtual laundry-list of the world's most challenging and demanding universities:

"According to the e-mail, Oracle recruits "top candidates" for product development from MIT, Stanford, CMU (likely Carnegie Mellon University), Princeton, Wisconsin, Yale, Dartmouth, Brown, Caltech, Berkeley, Harvard and Cornell.

In addition, the e-mail continues, Oracle will consider "top candidates" from the University of Texas Austin, Duke, Penn, Georgia Institute of Technology (grad students) and "any top international schools,"

Many large corporations rely on challenging universities to do the screening for them, and nobody can deny that it takes a great deal of hard work and dedication to graduate from a highly-selective university.  I know engineer graduates from MIT and DeVry, and while they both graduate engineers, there are huge differences in the quality of the education (and the number of recruiters who hire from these schools)!

"I would say that Don contradict himself with regard to the degree, "doesn't take a pricey Harvard degree" and later saying that "a stellar education with prestigious degrees" is a must."

Ah, this is a common teaching technique that I've used for years, presenting two sides of an argument.  It's designed to make people think, and if you noticed the contradictions, when I've done my job properly. . . . BTW, some of my best consultants are high-school graduates who work hand-in-hand with Ivy League grads.

Professional Teaching Skills & Quality

Mr. Vollman makes an interesting point about the subjectivity of the "quality/quantity" spectrum of communications for an Oracle Professional:

"How do we measure how effectively a potential Professional has communicated their knowledge? Number of students? Questions answered? The students' understanding of Oracle? Some combination thereof?"

By my definition, an "Oracle Professional" is a teacher, and being able to communicate is an essential ingredient.  I've taught over 80 classes in graduate school, and I noticed that many aspiring Professionals never learn to "dumb-down" their communications to a level where they can be understood by beginners.  I've successfully presented Oracle technology to 9th-graders, and it you don't know how to communicate at the same level as your audience, you are a failure as a Professional.

For example, many top-level IT managers don't know (or care) much about the relative features of database products (SQL Server, Oracle, DB2), and it's necessary for a real Oracle Professional to deliberately over-generalize and explain complex technology with simple analogies and illustrations. 

The ability to over-generalize and simplify complex concepts with analogies is a critical skill for any Professional.  Check-out the Google job interview questions where job candidates must explain computer concepts to a hypothetical 8 year-old:

Q: "Explain a database in three sentences to your eight-year-old nephew."

Also see my notes on Learning by Analogy - Oracle

I use a similar question in my book "Conducting the Oracle Job Interview", to tease-out a potential Oracle Professional:

Q: "Explain the most popular commercial databases, as-if they were cars.  Draw a clear analogy and explain what kind of cars "Oracle" and "SQL Server" would be, and justify your answer with specific features."


If you like Oracle tuning, you may enjoy the new book "Oracle Tuning: The Definitive Reference", over 900 pages of BC's favorite tuning tips & scripts. 

You can buy it direct from the publisher for 30%-off and get instant access to the code depot of Oracle tuning scripts.



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