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Information has accelerated the pace and expanded the scope of the economy, empowering organizations to manage--store, collect, process, and act on--data more effectively than ever before. Database managers deserve the credit for unlocking the power of this vast sea of information. Database managers configure information systems and develop strategies for managing ever-increasing amounts of data.

Holding a PhD in Technology with a specialization in database management, you can lead the IT community's effort to keep pace with the rising tide of information. Doctoral graduates develop innovative solutions to data management through academic and industry research and development.

With a clear vision of the path ahead, you can achieve the highest degree in the field. This guide to campus and online PhD programs in database management helps you plan for success.

A Guide to the PhD in Database Management

Database management is one of several disciplines within information technology, along with management information systems (MIS), information security, and decision sciences. Database experts develop computer applications and networking infrastructure capable of handling vast amounts of digital data. Database management is an applied computer science that brings together business expertise, network administration, and systems engineering.

To learn more about the field, visit WorldWideLearn.com's Guide to Majors, where you can find a specific section devoted to several related information technology fields.

Doctoral Degrees: PhD or Applied Doctorate in Database Management

Doctoral education in database management is a relatively new phenomenon. Since database management is an applied field, you can find as many applied doctorates as PhD degrees. Degree titles vary according to the emphasis of the program. Management information systems, for example, tends to be a more business-focused IT degree than Information Science and Technology.

For an advanced education in database management, choose among the following theoretical or applied doctorates:

  • PhD in Database Management, Management Information Systems (MIS), Information Science and Technology, or Decision Sciences
  • Doctor of Science (SciD) in Database Management, Information Systems, or MIS
  • Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) in Business Database Management
  • Doctor of Management in Information Technology

Learn more about the distinctions among doctorates at WorldWideLearn.com's Online PhD Degrees and Doctoral Programs resource page.

Specializations in Database Management

No matter which doctoral degree you choose, you'll have the opportunity to pursue original research and become an expert in a specialized area of database management. Options for focusing your research include:

Database management system components:

  • Modeling language
  • Data structure
  • Database query language
  • Transaction mechanisms

Database management languages and configuration models:

  • Object-oriented database management system (DBMS)
  • Column-oriented DBMS
  • Distributed DBMS
  • Network model of database management
  • Hierarchical model of database management
  • Relational Database Management
  • Database Schema Management

Issues in database management:

  • Database security
  • Query ability
  • Optimization
  • Automation

Since each academic department adopts a unique orientation toward the discipline, determining your specialization interest now can help you in your quest for the perfect doctoral program.

Career Track

A PhD or applied doctorate in database management sets you on one of two career paths: academic or professional.

Academic database management experts go on to careers as university professors, where they oversee an academic research lab, produce original scholarship, and teach undergraduate courses. Some database management professors offer expert consulting services or sponsor research exchanges with industry partners.

Database management professionals typically head into private or public-sector R&D, where they direct research labs and design new database technologies. Some take on senior management roles, or apply their expertise as information security experts, database administrators, or system architects.

Plan for a PhD or Applied Doctorate in Database Management

Your success in the PhD program depends on your ability to commit to a vision of your future and find the resources to help you achieve your goals. The PhD program typically takes four to six years to complete. Build a strong foundation from the outset, and you won't get sidetracked en route to the degree.

Step One: Find the Right Graduate Database Management Program

Finding a doctoral program closely aligned to your goals is crucial to achieving your potential as a doctoral graduate student. Follow these steps to identify programs with the resources and reputation to take you where you want to go.

1. List Accredited PhD Programs

Start by building a list of accredited PhD or applied doctorates in database management or a related field. Accreditation status indicates that the institution meets basic quality standards set by a U.S. Department of Education-certified accreditation agency. It also figures into your eligibility for financial aid. You can find a list of approved accreditation agencies online at the U.S. Department of Education Web site.


Online directories and accrediting agency member lists offer a good starting point for your PhD program search.

WorldWideLearn.com represents accredited graduate programs in information technology and database management. Find an online or campus program using the Degrees by Subject search function, or browse a list of university partners.

ABET's Computer Science Accreditation Board (CSAB) features a database of over 300 ABET-accredited programs in computer science, including information systems degrees. Search by location and program area.

2. Choose Campus or Online Format

Depending on your life circumstances and career ambition, program delivery format could represent a non-negotiable criterion in your search for the right PhD program.

Online PhD in Database Management. Working professionals often require the flexibility of an online PhD or applied doctorate. Online database management programs rely on advanced educational technology to deliver instruction and foster a sense of community among students and faculty. Some programs require a temporary campus residency to afford access to research facilities and foster community.

Campus PhD degree. Aspiring academics often choose the full-time campus option in order to take advantage of the local scholarly community and research resources. Campus programs also allow academic PhD students to hone their teaching and research skills alongside veteran professors.

Each program has benefits and drawbacks. Finding the one that fits your requirements helps set you up for success.


Explore Online Degree Programs and Campus Education options at WorldWideLearn.com. The resource sites help you weigh the options and find programs with your chosen format. For campus programs near you, search Degrees by Location.

3. Research Academic Programs

Finding a program aligned with your goals and interests ensures that you'll have access to the resources you need to develop expertise in your research area.

The following factors should give you a sense of the program's academic orientation and research resources:

  • Faculty research areas and citations
  • Research facilities
  • Specialization areas and curriculum
  • Department-sponsored foundations, conferences, publications, research centers, etc.
  • Relationships with industry leaders or government agencies (research funding, internship opportunities, etc.)

WorldWideLearn.com can facilitate your program research by automatically matching you with schools that match your profile. Fill out an online form indicating your academic program interests and preferences, and the system puts you in touch with school representatives who can answer questions about the program. WorldWideLearn.com's system saves you time, allowing you to evaluate more programs in less time.

School Web sites feature links to faculty CVs and publications, course descriptions and reading lists, program foundations, lab facilities, and more.

Academic Journals give you an idea of which universities and faculty members are producing scholarship in your field. The Journal of Database Management (JDM) is the primary publication in database management, but you'll also find niche journals such as the VLDB Journal (Very Large Database).

4. Evaluate Program Quality

Finally, narrow down your list to six or seven schools that offer the quality and educational experience you seek. Factors to consider include:

  • Reputation
  • Selectivity
  • Graduation Rate
  • Job Placement Statistics
  • Career Support Resources
  • Graduate Student Demographics
  • Academic Rigor (Degree Requirements)
  • Financial Aid Programs
  • Transfer Credits

Rankings give you a sense of the reputation, academic rigor, and selectivity of PhD programs in database management. The major rankings include:

Admission department data offers a reliable indication of student demographics, job placement, and admissions information such as average GPA and test scores.

Campus visits offer the best means of evaluating the graduate student experience at individual institutions. Schedule tours of lab facilities, meet with faculty in your field, talk to graduate students, and visit a graduate seminar.

Step Two: Apply to PhD Programs in Database Management

With your shortlist of schools in hand, you're ready to set the application process in motion. Though some doctoral application requirements may vary from school to school, you can expect to encounter these standard steps:

1. Complete Prerequisites

To be eligible for a PhD in database management, you must complete the following requirements:

  • Prerequisite Courses and Degrees. A bachelor's or master's degree in database management, management information systems, or information technology qualifies you for a doctoral degree. If your degree is in another field, plan to take prerequisite courses to get up to speed.
  • Standardized Tests. Take the GRE and TOEFL (for international students) well in advance of the application deadline, to ensure that your scores are available in time.
  • Work Experience. Since database management is an applied technology, some schools prefer or require a professional background in database administration or a related IT career.

WorldWideLearn.com's Education Resources Guide offers information on test preparation courses, online prerequisite courses, and study tips to help you complete your eligibility requirements.

2. Prepare Application Materials

Gather and submit application materials. In addition to a basic information sheet, you'll need to supply the following supporting documentation:

  • Academic transcripts
  • Test scores
  • Letters of recommendation from faculty or professional colleagues
  • Personal statement of research interests
  • CV or resume

Since some of these materials rely on other individuals, it's important to start gathering application materials (ordering test scores, contacting letter writers, etc.) well in advance of the deadline.

3. Secure Financial Aid

Start planning your financing strategy now. Many schools automatically include a financial aid application with the program application. Others require you to apply for scholarship, grant, and loan programs on your own.

Sources of financial aid include:

  • University programs. Teaching and research assistantships, small stipends and tuition assistance, and scholarships and research grants are available through university channels.
  • Federal financial aid. The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) puts you in the running for federal grants and low-interest loans, such as the Pell Grant and Subsidized Stafford Loan.
  • Public fellowships and research grants. The National Science Foundation, other federal agencies, and state financial aid programs are not covered by the FAFSA. Submit separate applications directly to these organizations.
  • Private financial aid. Private entities providing financial support include community groups, banks, and corporate employers. These sources take various forms, including scholarships, stipends, loans, tuition grants, and loan forgiveness incentives.


Step Three: Join the Academic Community

With your applications in the hands of the admissions committee, you're just a step away from becoming a doctoral student. Use the time wisely by orienting yourself within the academic world. Familiarize yourself with trends in your research area and start building relationships with peers.

  1. Join professional associations. The Data Management Association (DAMA) is the largest database-specific organization, with regional chapters worldwide. The Society for Information Management casts a broader net, but also features local chapters.
  2. Attend networking events. Conferences, public lectures, and professional networking meetings allow you to meet academics who share your interests. You'll also learn about current research trends. You'll find networking opportunities at your local university or professional association.
  3. Subscribe to journals. Journals also introduce you to the ideas and scholars leading the debate in your research area. Database management journals include:
  • Journal of Database Management
  • Data Mining and Knowledge Discovery
  • Distributed and Parallel Databases
  • Information Retrieval
  • International Journal on Digital Libraries
  • Knowledge and Information Systems
  • Scientometrics
  • The VLDB Journal

By orienting yourself within the academic community, you'll be able to hit the ground running when you start the PhD program.


A database management doctorate is within your reach--if you plan your academic journey right. Finding the right online PhD program can make doctoral education a possibility for a working professional. The right faculty mentor can help you become an expert in your field and secure you an academic job. Taking the time to prepare now ensures that you'll have access to the resources you need throughout your academic journey. It takes more than a brilliant mind to establish yourself as a database management expert. Academic support and an unwavering commitment to your goal offer the surest path to success.



  • Assessment of Research Doctorate Programs, National Research Council.
  • Association for Computing Machinery (ACM).
  • Best Graduate Schools, Top Computer Science Programs: Systems Specialty, U.S. News & World Report (2009).
  • "Database Management & Info Retrieval journals," Springer.
  • Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs, U.S. Department of Education.
  • Data Management Association (DAMA).
  • IEEE Computer Society.
  • Information Systems Doctoral Program of Study, City University of New York (CUNY).
  • PhD in MIS: Information & Decision Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago College of Business Administration.
  • "Search Accredited Programs," ABET.
  • Society for Information Management.
  • "The Top American Research Universities, 2008 Annual Report." The Center for Measuring University Performance.

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