Database administrators use specialized software to store and organize data, such as financial information and customer shipping records. They make sure that data are available to users and secure from unauthorized access.

Duties

Database administrators typically do the following:

  • Ensure that organizational data are secure
  • Back up and restore data to prevent data loss
  • Identify user needs to create and administer databases
  • Ensure that databases operate efficiently and without error
  • Make and test modifications to database structure when needed
  • Maintain databases and update permissions
  • Merge old databases into new ones

Database administrators, often called DBAs, make sure that data analysts and other users can easily use databases to find the information they need and that systems perform as they should. Some DBAs oversee the development of new databases. They have to determine the needs of the database and who will be using it. They often monitor database performance and conduct performance-tuning support.

Many databases contain personal or financial information, making security important. Database administrators often plan security measures, making sure that data are secure from unauthorized access.

Many database administrators are general-purpose DBAs and have all of these duties. However, some DBAs specialize in certain tasks that vary with an organization and its needs. Two common specialties are as follows:

System DBAs are responsible for the physical and technical aspects of a database, such as installing upgrades and patches to fix program bugs. They typically have a background in system architecture and ensure that the firm’s database management systems work properly.

Application DBAs support a database that has been designed for a specific application or a set of applications, such as customer-service software. Using complex programming languages, they may write or debug programs and must be able to manage the applications that work with the database. They also do all the tasks of a general DBA, but only for their particular application.

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Work Environment

Database administrators held about 116,900 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of database administrators were as follows:

Computer systems design and related services                       15%
Educational services; state, local, and private 10
Management of companies and enterprises 8
Insurance carriers and related activities 6
Data processing, hosting, and related services 3

Some DBAs administer databases for retail companies that keep track of their buyers’ credit card and shipping information; others work in healthcare settings and manage patients’ medical records.

Work Schedules

Almost all database administrators work full time.

Education and Training

Database administrators (DBAs) usually have a bachelor’s degree in an information- or computer-related subject, such as computer science.

Education

Most database administrators have a bachelor’s degree in an information- or computer-related subject such as computer science. Firms with large databases may prefer applicants who have a master’s degree focusing on data or database management, typically either in computer science, information systems, or information technology.

Database administrators need an understanding of database languages, the most common of which is Structured Query Language, commonly called SQL. Most database systems use some variation of SQL, and a DBA will need to become familiar with whichever programming language the firm uses.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Certification is generally offered directly from software vendors or vendor-neutral certification providers. Certification validates the knowledge and best practices required from DBAs. Companies may require their database administrators to be certified in the products they use.

Advancement

Database administrators can advance to become computer and information systems managers.

Personality and Interests

Database administrators (DBAs) typically have an interest in the Thinking and Organizing interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Thinking interest area indicates a focus on researching, investigating, and increasing the understanding of natural laws. The Organizing interest area indicates a focus on working with information and processes to keep things arranged in orderly systems.

If you are not sure whether you have a Thinking or Organizing interest which might fit with a career as a database administrator (DBA), you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Database administrators (DBAs) should also possess the following specific qualities:

Analytical skills. DBAs must be able to monitor a database system’s performance to determine when action is needed. They must be able to evaluate complex information that comes from a variety of sources.

Communication skills. Most database administrators work on teams and must be able to communicate effectively with developers, managers, and other workers.

Detail oriented. Working with databases requires an understanding of complex systems, in which a minor error can cause major problems. For example, mixing up customers’ credit card information can cause someone to be charged for a purchase he or she didn’t make.

Logical thinking. Database administrators use software to make sense of information and to arrange and organize it into meaningful patterns. The information is then stored in the databases that these workers manage, test, and maintain.

Problem-solving skills. When problems with a database arise, administrators must be able to diagnose and correct the problems.

Pay

The median annual wage for database administrators was $93,750 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $51,800, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $148,060.

In May 2019, the median annual wages for database administrators in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Data processing, hosting, and related services $103,930
Insurance carriers and related activities 101,650
Computer systems design and related services                      99,310
Management of companies and enterprises 97,610
Educational services; state, local, and private 75,520

Almost all database administrators work full time.

Job Outlook

Employment of database administrators (DBAs) is projected to grow 9 percent from 2018 to 2028, faster than the average for all occupations. Growth in this occupation will be driven by the increased data needs of companies in all sectors of the economy. Database administrators will be needed to organize and present data in a way that makes it easy for analysts and other stakeholders to understand.

The increasing popularity of database-as-a-service, which allows database administration to be done by a third party over the Internet, could increase the employment of DBAs at cloud computing firms in the data processing, hosting, and related services industry. Employment of DBAs in this industry is projected to grow 21 percent from 2018 to 2028.

Employment of DBAs in the computer systems design and related services industry is projected to grow 24 percent from 2018 to 2028. The increasing adoption of cloud services by small and medium-sized businesses that do not have their own dedicated information technology (IT) departments could increase the employment of DBAs in establishments in this industry.

Job Prospects

Job prospects should be favorable. Database administrators are in high demand, and firms sometimes have difficulty finding qualified workers. Applicants who have experience with the latest technology should have the best prospects.

For More Information

For more information about database administrators, visit

Association for Computing Machinery

Computing Research Association

IEEE Computer Society

For more information about opportunities for women pursuing information technology careers, visit

National Center for Women & Information Technology

 

FAQ

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The career information above is taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. This excellent resource for occupational data is published by the U.S. Department of Labor every two years. Truity periodically updates our site with information from the BLS database.

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