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SQL Programmer: Job Description & Career Info

SQL programmers oversee computer databases for various companies and organizations. Learn about the work responsibilities of an SQL programmer, find out what education is required, and the salary and employment outlook in order to determine if this is the right career choice for you.

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Career Definition for a SQL Programmer

Structured Query Language (SQL) programmers, also known as SQL developers, are responsible for designing and maintaining computer databases. SQL programmers handle the storage, organization and security of information contained in relational database systems. They're often responsible for testing, debugging and troubleshooting databases, and they can also be tasked with developing new databases in response to user needs or merging database information from older to newer systems.

Education/Experience Bachelor's degree in computer science or related field, two to five years of experience working with SQL, optional credentialing
Job Skills Communication, time management, multi-tasking, teamwork and ability to work independently
Median Annual Salary (2015)* $100,690 (all software developers)
Job Outlook (2014-2024)* 17% (all software developers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Many employers require applicants to have a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related field, such as management information systems or engineering. Applicants will also need between two and five years of experience working with SQL servers and relational database systems. Knowledge of other programming languages and frameworks, like Java and .NET, are helpful but not required by every company. Job applicants looking to stand out might want to also consider earning a Microsoft SQL certification. The entry-level Microsoft Technology Associate credential is available to candidates who pass a database fundamentals exam covering SQL Server 2008.

Skill Requirements

Additionally, prospective SQL programmers will need good communication skills, as well as the ability to work independently or collaborate with team members when necessary. They should also have excellent time management skills and the multi-tasking abilities.

Salary and Economic Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that software developers in general could see employment opportunities increase 17% between 2014 and 2024; this faster-than-average job growth was expected to result from an increasing use of software and computer systems, especially in the healthcare industry. The BLS also reported that software developers earned a median annual salary of $100,690 in 2015.

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Alternative Careers

Below are some similar careers to SQL programming:

Database Administrator

Performing many duties similar to an SQL programmer, database administrators may also utilize other programming languages and structures to build databases. They also combine info from multiple databases, develop backup and security protocols to protect records, create user access accounts and update software when modifications are needed. To gain employment, most employers require a bachelor's degree in a computer or information science field. For more technically advanced positions, graduate studies may be necessary. Employment growth of 11% is projected by the BLS from 2014-2024, and a large number of jobs will be found in the healthcare industry. The BLS also estimated that database administrators received a median yearly salary of $81,710 in 2015.

Computer Programmer

For those interested in other areas of programming besides database creation, becoming a computer programmer may be a good career move. Programmers work with software developers and reference their designs to write the code for new programs and systems. They also run performance assessments to identify errors and add content and modifications to existing software. To enter this profession, knowledge of languages such as Java and C++ is essential and a bachelor's degree in a computer science field is also required by many employers. Optional certification in specific programming languages may provide a competitive advantage when looking for work. According to 2015 BLS figures, computer programmers earned a median annual wage of $79,530 per year. Job opportunities for computer programmers are expected to decline 8% during the 2014-2024 decade, though total employment for all computer occupations will increase 12%. This negative job growth is the result of frequent outsourcing by companies, as computer programming can be done remotely.

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