This post reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily those of Mashable as a publication.

Aaron Stibel serves as senior vice president of technology of Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp, the leading provider of credit building and credibility solutions for businesses. He holds a BS in computer science from Johns Hopkins University.

There are a few ubiquitous projects that most computer science students remember: Hello world, the Fibonacci recursion sequence and the reverse Polish notation calculator, for example.

No project is more annoying to me than the dreaded MS Access database project. In my day, the project came in the form of a CD catalog. Now it is more likely to be an MP3 catalog or sometimes a college course catalog. Whatever the form, this project is typically a disappointing response to the job interview question, “Do you have any database experience?”

Technology moves quickly. I tell new college graduates to enjoy that feeling of knowing a technology that eludes your supervisor — because it won’t last. When a new crew of graduates comes along in a couple of years, they’ll be showing off languages that make AJAX and Ruby seem like COBOL and Pascal.

Our dependency on databases and data warehousing has exploded, mainly because storage has become a relatively negligible line item on IT budgets. Instead, software is the storage, retrieval, transformation and visualization of data. C-Level executives who don’t know Java Beans from coffee beans are now talking OLAP Cubes.

So with databases being part of technology and high-value businesses, colleges must start including databases all over the curriculum.

Of the top five highest-rated computer science programs — Carnegie Mellon, MIT, Stanford, UC Berkeley, and Cornell — none include a database course as part of the 2011 undergraduate degree requirement. Worse, the top four schools only offer a single database course as an undergraduate engineering elective. Graduate-level programs offer few additional options.

It never fails to amaze me how little database experience college graduates have. Most have no SQL experience, and I haven’t interviewed a single candidate who can design an ERD, properly tune a query or write complex SQL. This lack of qualifications is a major hindrance in today’s data-dependent world. Yet it doesn’t need to be. A single mandatory class would suffice.

My wish list of database requirements for a college graduate would be selfishly long. At the very least, however, graduates should be experts at SQL and have exposure to PL/SQL or T-SQL. A SQL tuning class that covers indexing and proper design would be great as well. Students should know what an ERD is, and how to design data architectures as well as they tackle data structures. Ask a software engineer what he uses more: a Red-Black Tree or a Table (the answer is obvious).

It has been 40 years since SQL was invented. It’s time to add database courses to the mandatory curriculum. It’s time to banish the dreaded MS Access project. It’s time to add data to the core theory, applications, and systems concentrations.

Image courtesy of Flickr, lu_lu

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