Earning a Master's in Database Management Online

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects the demand for database administrators to increase by 11% through 2026, well above the average rate of growth for all other occupations. Similarly, the BLS anticipates a 12% increase in employment for computer and information systems managers, or those individuals who oversee an organization's computer-related activities.

In addition to solid job prospects, this field offers exceptional salaries. In 2017, the median database administrator earned $87,020, while the median computer and information systems manager brought in close to $140,000 per year. To qualify for these lucrative positions, however, you often need an advanced degree.

This page provides an overview of online database management master's degrees, including information on applying to a program, choosing a career path, and paying for your education.

Student Profile: Who Earns an Online Master's Degree in Database Management?

Many undergraduate students seek out their online database management master's directly after earning their bachelor's degree, helping to qualify them for more advanced or specialized positions sooner. However, a large number of working professionals return to school for their master's in order to qualify for a supervisory role at their company or to seek out a higher-paying job elsewhere.

While most larger organizations pursue candidates with a master's degree, you can earn many of the same skills by completing a certificate program in database management. These programs can also help you earn graduate-level credit, making it easier to finish a master's program later if you choose.

Why Get a Master's Degree in Database Management?

Pursuing Specialization

Some students pursue a master's degree to qualify for specialized roles within their field. For example, some students may take courses in system architecture to prepare for jobs overseeing the technical aspects of their organization's database. Others may study computer programming languages in order to write programs that manage applications within their company's database. Still others may seek out an online digital forensics master's with the goal of using their skills in database management and research to investigate criminal activities.

Career Advancement Opportunities

The BLS predicts strong growth in database management, largely owing to the increasing need for qualified professionals who can organize and present data used across several industries. Still, applicants possessing an understanding of the latest developments in database practices and technology should enjoy the best job prospects. A master's degree can help you develop this experience and clearly signal your cutting-edge skill set to potential employers.

Online Learning Technology

Online programs rely heavily on communications technology, such as digital conferencing and web-based collaboration platforms, to educate their students. If you plan to work at a large company with branches around the world, you can benefit greatly from learning how to work effectively with colleagues at a distance. In addition, advances in online learning technologies allow most database management students to earn their degree entirely on their own schedule and without ever stepping foot on a campus.

Prerequisites for Online Database Management Programs

Prerequisites vary from program to program, though you typically must hold a bachelor's degree to apply. Below are other common application requirements for online database management master's programs.

  • Work Experience: Generally speaking, graduate schools offering programs in database management do not require prospective students to possess a minimum number of years of work experience. Students, then, may enter a program directly after finishing a bachelor's degree. Keep in mind: schools often request that you submit a professional resume as part of your application, giving you the opportunity to highlight relevant work experience.
  • Exams and Test Scores: Many programs, especially those primarily serving online students, do not require applicants to submit entrance exam scores. However, some schools may ask to see your results from the Graduate Record Examination, or GRE. Your scores on the GRE remain valid for five years, so make sure you do not need to retake the test before you begin the application process.
  • Coursework: To qualify for a database management master's program, first plan to complete undergraduate coursework in areas like computer programming and the fundamentals of information technology. Some schools may allow you to skip these classes by passing a skills test or submitting a portfolio of professional work.
  • Recommendations: Expect to submit up to three letters of recommendation. Reach out to former professors, supervisors, and others who can speak to your experience in the field and your ability to learn at the graduate level. Give your recommenders at least two months to write and submit your letter.
  • Essays: For largely technical degrees, schools usually do not require applicants to submit an essay. Some, however, may request that you write a brief explanation of why you hope to earn a master's degree, and what you plan to do after graduation. Use this as an opportunity to highlight your computer-related skills and reiterate your desire to continue your education.
  • Interviews: Like exam scores, an increasing number of online schools do not require students to complete an interview during the application process. In the few cases when an interview is required, you can often participate at a distance. Consider practicing with a friend or colleague to prepare for some of the most common questions asked in admissions interviews.
  • International Students: International students must meet all of the same application requirements as those living in the United States. They may also need to submit scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language, or TOEFL, to demonstrate language proficiency. Check with your school's admissions office to confirm that they will recognize your undergraduate degree.

How Much Can I Make with a Master's Degree in Database Management?

As mentioned above, the median database administrator earned $87,020 in 2017, roughly $50,000 more than the median salary for all other occupations. The BLS estimates that the lowest 10% of database administrators earned less than $48,480 that year, while the highest 10% of earners brought in more than $132,420.

Generally speaking, those with more experience and education command higher salaries than recent graduates or professionals who hold only a bachelor's degree. Location and industry may impact your earnings potential as well.

Traditional Careers for Database Management

Career Stats Description

Database Administrator

Median Pay: $87,020

Job Growth: 11%

Database administrators use specialized software to organize data, including student records and customer financial information. Administrators typically either fulfill requests for data from others in their organization or instruct their colleagues on how to access the data themselves.

Ideal for: Those with strong analytical, problem-solving, and communication skills.

Network and Computer Systems Administrator

Median Pay: $81,100

Job Growth: 6%

Network and computer systems administrators install and provide ongoing support for an organization's computer systems, whether a local area network of several computers or a cloud-based network that connects users and devices around the world.

Ideal for: Those with a deep understanding of systems engineering and design, as well as the ability to multitask on several problems at once.

Computer and Information Systems Manager

Median Pay: $139,220

Job Growth: 12%

Computer and information systems managers oversee an organization's computer-related activities. While they may provide technical assistance themselves, managers at larger firms often supervise teams of information technology professionals and help set their company's digital strategy.

Ideal for: Individuals with superior leadership and decision-making skills. Managers must combine business acumen with technical knowledge in their field.

Software Developer

Median Pay: $103,560

Job Growth: 24%

Software developers write the code that allows applications and computer systems to function. Depending on their role, they may analyze their users' needs to design a particular piece of software or work to test and troubleshoot an existing program.

Ideal for: Detail-oriented and creative professionals who possess above-average computer programming skills.

Non-Traditional Careers for Database Management Master's Graduates

Career Stats Description

Data Analyst

Entry-Level Salary: $54,720

Late-Career Salary: $66,690

Data analysts use data to help their organizations make better decisions. They may design and administer surveys to gain a more thorough understanding of their customers' needs. In the public sector, analysts may collect data on housing, education, or health to help officials design more effective policies and programs.

Ideal for: Those with the ability to translate data into recommendations for action.

Systems Analyst

Entry-Level Salary: $57,600

Late-Career Salary: $78,080

Systems analysts use their understanding of computer networks to identify and solve problems. In addition to diagnosing software and hardware issues, analysts must also know how to communicate solutions to managers who may not share their technical understanding.

Ideal for: Problem-solvers with a background in both information technology and business administration.

Data Scientist

Entry-Level Salary: $88,350

Late-Career Salary: $148,800

Data scientists mine complex datasets, either for the purposes of basic research or to address a particular issue. Scientists working in academia often hope to publish their findings, while those in the private sector typically use the results of their analyses to inform decision-making or broader business strategy.

Ideal for: Those with exceptional analytical and research skills. Data scientists typically need at least a master's degree in their field.

Information Technology Specialist

Entry-Level Salary: $42,500

Late-Career Salary: $75,000

Information technology specialists perform a variety of functions within an organization, including installing software updates, troubleshooting hardware issues, coordinating the set-up of technology for new employees, and managing databases. Information technology professionals usually begin to specialize as they advance further in their career.

Ideal for: Recent graduates with strong computer and interpersonal skills. Many information technology professionals begin in this kind of role.

Source: PayScale, 2017-2018

Paying for an Online Master's in Database Management

Like application requirements, the cost of an online master's degree in database management varies from program to program. Save money by following an accelerated course of study or by applying previously earned graduate-level credit, either through a certificate program or from another accredited institution.

To finance your education, research state and federal grants and work-study opportunities. Also apply for scholarships from private organizations, some of which cater to students planning to work in information technology. Finally, certain students, like veterans or current members of the armed forces, may also qualify for tuition discounts.

Tuition Timelines

Many online programs allow students to earn their degree on a part-time, full-time, or accelerated basis. On self-paced tracks, you can graduate as soon as you master the program's requirements.

Part-Time Path

A part-time course of study gives students the flexibility to pursue a degree while continuing to work or care for members of their family. Part-time students usually take one or two classes each semester and graduate in roughly two to three years.

Real-Life Example:

School Name: Southern New Hampshire University
Total Credits Required: 36
Summary: At Southern New Hampshire University, most part-time students can earn their online master's in database management in as few as three years. Tuition rates at the university do change annually, however, meaning you may end up paying more on this slower track.

Full-Time Path

Full-time students typically take three or four classes each semester. While this option allows students to earn their degree faster, balancing studies with a full-time job may prove difficult.

Real-Life Example:

School Name: Boston University
Total Credits Required: 40
Summary: Full-time students at Boston University generally graduate in two years, though they can earn a degree sooner if they hold undergraduate credits in areas like computer programming and data essentials. Full-time students can also qualify for tuition discounts.

Accelerated Path

On an accelerated or self-paced track, students can complete their studies as soon as they demonstrate mastery of the core concepts in their classes. When coupled with credit transfers, an accelerated path can help you earn your degree in just one year or less.

Real-Life Example:

School Name: Liberty University
Total Credits Required: 36
Summary: Liberty University allows students to receive graduate-level credit for prior coursework and professional experience. Students can also take skill-based exams to test out of certain classes.

Subject-Specific Financial Aid, Grants & Scholarships

Scholarships represent one of the best ways to pay for your online master's in database management. Below are five examples of financial aid opportunities specifically for those seeking a degree in this field.

What to Expect from a Master's Level Online Database Management Program

Most students earn their online database management master's degree in 18-24 months. After completing introductory coursework, you can opt to customize your education either by selecting a formal concentration or by choosing from a diverse slate of elective classes. Most programs require that students complete a capstone project to apply their learning to a real-world issue in information technology. Generally speaking, students must maintain at least a 2.0 GPA to graduate.

Major Milestones

  1. Enrollment - Roughly two years prior to graduation

    After you gain admission into a program, work with your enrollment adviser to transfer credits, test out of certain subjects, and discuss a plan for your course of study. Also plan to talk with your school's financial aid office to determine your eligibility for grants and scholarships.

  2. Completing Undergraduate-Level Coursework (If Needed) - Roughly two years prior to graduation

    Some programs allow students to pursue a master's in database management without completing any undergraduate coursework in computer science. However, these students typically need to enroll in such classes immediately upon entering a program.

  3. Completing Foundational Coursework - Roughly one year prior to graduation

    In the first year of your graduate studies, expect to take classes in subjects like advanced information technology, innovations in information technology, and technical communication. These courses lay the groundwork for more advanced topics in the field.

  4. Completing Electives - Roughly six months prior to graduation

    In the second year of your studies, take higher-level courses in areas like data warehouse concepts and design, client/server systems, and information technology project and team management. Some programs even offer formal concentrations to prepare you for specific roles.

  5. Completing Capstone - Directly prior to graduation

    A capstone project gives you the opportunity to apply your learning within an actual professional setting. For example, you may partner with a local nonprofit organization to build a database that helps them provide services to their community more efficiently.

  6. Graduation - When all program requirements are met

    After completing your capstone project and passing all of your required courses, you can graduate with your online database management master's.


Though you can customize your coursework based on your personal interests and professional goals, most database management programs offer some variation of the example courses listed below.

Database Application Development

In this class, students analyze database designs and application functions, seeking out runtime errors as an opportunity to fine-tune performance. Students also practice using normalization techniques and development performance enhancement recommendations for multiuser database applications.

Data Warehouse Concepts and Design

This course offers an introduction to a data warehouse database management system. Students examine issues related to the design, implementation, and maintenance of those systems. They also explore the concept of data mining as a tool to guide organizational decision-making.

Operating Systems

Database professionals must understand computer architecture and the inner workings of computer systems. Through practice-based learning on operating systems like Windows and UNIX, this course helps students learn about hardware, software, and interactions between networked computers.

Telecommunications and Networking

Businesses increasingly rely on telecommunications and computer networks to meet their customers' needs. In this course, students develop skills related to the design of telecommunication systems, the Open Systems Interconnection network model, emerging networking technologies, and standards and protocols within this discipline.

Information Technology Project and Team Management

This class prepares database management students who hope to take on supervisory and managerial roles. Students learn to predict the cost of various projects, foster teamwork and collaboration, and lead difficult discussions with employees.

Requirements to Practice

As a database management professional, you do not need any kind of license in order to practice. However, many individuals seek out optional certifications in order to demonstrate their expertise with a particular kind of software. Some employers may require candidates to possess a certain type of certification, while others may ask that new hires begin working towards a credential after they join the organization. A certification can help you negotiate a higher salary or qualify you for a promotion at your current job as well. Here are five common certifications for database management professionals.

  • MySQL Database Administration: Offered by Oracle University, this certification program can help you hone your Structured Query Language, or SQL, skills. To become certified, you must pass a two-hour, multiple-choice exam with a score of at least 58%. Oracle's foundational MySQL exams cost $245 and covers topics such as initial configuration, tablespaces, system variables, and operating system security.
  • MySQL Database Developer: A more advanced credential offered by Oracle, certified database developers learn how to create and utilize trees and hierarchical data structures. Lasting 2.5 hours and requiring a passing score of at least 61%, this exam covers subjects like creating normalized databases, identifying and using comment syntax, and implementing error handling within stored procedures.
  • Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert - Cloud Platform and Infrastructure: This credential helps individuals signal expertise in cloud technologies, systems management, identity management, storage, virtualization, and networking. To qualify, you must first earn an introductory Microsoft certification in an area like server management and then pass one of 10 exams relevant to this discipline. The exams typically cost around $150 each, though students often qualify for discounts.
  • Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert - Data Management and Analytics: Also offered by Microsoft, this certification helps professionals demonstrate skills related to SQL administration, the design and implementation of enterprise-scale data solutions, and the leveraging of business intelligence data to guide organizational decision-making. Individuals seeking this certification must first earn an introductory Microsoft certification before sitting for an exam.

Professional Organizations & Resources

After earning your online database management master's degree, consider joining a professional organization. These groups often host job boards, helping recent graduates to find entry-level positions and established professionals to find advancement opportunities. They may also organize regional and national conferences and events, giving you the chance to learn about the latest research in the field and to network with colleagues. Many professional associations also administer online continuing education and certification programs, allowing you the flexibility to hone new skills on your own schedule and from the comfort of your own home.

  • Association of Information Technology Professionals: CompTIA AITP is one of the leading associations for technology professionals of all stripes. Its creates awards to recognize exemplary service to the field, provides scholarships and mentorship support to students, and organizes both local events and an international conference.
  • Association for Women in Computing: Founded in 1978, AWC promotes the advancement of women in computing professions. The organization hosts networking opportunities through chapter events, offers online and in-person continuing education programs, and administers the prestigious Ada Lovelace Award for outstanding technical achievement.
  • IEEE Computer Society: A branch of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the Computer Society represents more than 60,000 members working specifically in computer-related fields. It sponsors more than 200 technical conferences each year, publishes 17 scholarly journals, and offers a wealth of free resources and professional development opportunities.
  • DAMA International: Originally known as the Data Management Association, DAMA International continues to offer professional and technical support to individuals working in data management and administration. Members can access the association's extensive online resources or pursue a certified data management professional credential.
  • EDM Council: The EDM Council aims to elevate the practice of data management. In pursuit of this goal, the council hosts more than 200 hours of online learning materials, develops models to help organizations more effectively manage and use data, and maintains a web-based portal to help data management professionals collaborate and share best practices.
  • U.S. Department of Education - Student Aid: Your first step in financing your education is completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA. The FAFSA helps determine whether you qualify for state and federal grants, work-study opportunities, and low-interest student loans.
  • GitHub: GitHub allows users to host and review code, manage projects, and collaborate with more than 30 million software developers. It can serve as an invaluable resource for data management students looking to analyze open-source code and practice their own coding skills.
  • Codecademy: For students who need a more formal introduction to coding, Codecademy offers tutorials on coding and programming for both novices and more established professionals. Students can take free courses in Javascript, Python, and SQL.
  • Dictionary of Algorithms and Data Structures: Pursuing a master's degree in database management almost guarantees you will encounter unfamiliar and highly technical terms. Administered by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, this dictionary hosts definitions of thousands of computer science terms.
  • Purdue Online Writing Lab: To succeed academically and advance in your career, you must know how to write clearly and succinctly. The Purdue OWL serves as a comprehensive resource for writing, offering tips on how to structure a college paper and how to craft a cover letter.