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 are secure from unauthorized access.

Duties

Database administrators typically do the following:

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

Database administrators, often called DBAs, make sure that data analysts can easily use the database to find the information they need and that the system performs as it should. DBAs sometimes work with an organization’s management to understand the company’s data needs and to plan the goals of the database. Database administrators are responsible for backing up systems to prevent data loss in case of a power outage or other disaster. They also ensure the integrity of the database, guaranteeing that the data stored in it come from reliable sources.

Some DBAs oversee the development of new databases. They have to determine what the needs of the database are and who will be using it. Database administrators often plan security measures, making sure that data are secure from unauthorized access. Many databases contain personal or financial information, making security important.

Many database administrators are general-purpose DBAs and have all these duties. However, some DBAs specialize in certain tasks that vary with the 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 aspects of the applications that work with the database. They also do all the tasks of a general DBA, but only for their particular application.

Work Environment: 

Database administrators (DBAs) held about 118,700 jobs in 2012. They were employed in many types of industries. The largest number work for computer systems design and related services firms, such as Internet service providers and data-processing firms. Other DBAs are employed by firms with large databases, such as insurance companies and banks, both of which keep track of vast amounts of personal and financial data for their clients. Some DBAs administer databases for retail companies that keep track of their buyers’ credit card and shipping information; others work for healthcare firms and manage patients’ medical records.

The industries that employed the most database administrators in 2012 were as follows:

Computer systems design and related services 16%
Finance and insurance 13
Information 11
Educational services; state, local, and private 10
Management of companies and enterprises 8

Work Schedules

Almost all database administrators work full time. About a quarter worked more than 40 hours per week in 2012.

Education and Training: 

Database administrators (DBAs) usually have a bachelor’s degree in an information- or computer-related subject. Before becoming an administrator, these workers typically get work experience in a related field.

Education

Most database administrators have a bachelor’s degree in management information systems (MIS) or a computer-related field. 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 a way to demonstrate competence and may provide a jobseeker with a competitive advantage. Certification programs are generally offered by product vendors or software firms. Some companies may require their database administrators to be certified in the product they use.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Most database administrators do not begin their careers in that occupation. Many first work as database developers or data analysts. A database developer is a type of software developer who specializes in creating databases. The job of a data analyst is to interpret the information stored in a database in a way the firm can use. Depending on their specialty, data analysts can have different job titles, including financial analyst, market research analyst, and operations research analyst. After mastering one of these fields, they may become a database administrator. For more information, see the profiles on software developers, financial analysts, market research analysts, and operations research analysts.

Advancement

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

Important 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 (DBAs) was $77,080 in May 2012. 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 $42,930, and the top 10 percent earned more than $118,720.

The wages for DBAs vary with the industry in which they work. In May 2012, the median annual wages for database administrators the top five industries in which these administrators worked were as follows:

Finance and insurance  $85,880
Computer systems design and related services 84,550
Management of companies and enterprises 82,290
Information 81,800
Educational services; state, local, and private 63,620

Almost all database administrators work full time. About a quarter worked more than 40 hours per week in 2012.

Job Outlook: 

Employment of database administrators (DBAs) is projected to grow 15 percent from 2012 to 2022, 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. However employment growth may be slowed by new software tools that increase the productivity of DBAs.

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 computer systems design and related services industry. Employment of DBAs is projected to grow 48 percent in this industry from 2012 to 2022.

Employment growth for database administrators is expected in healthcare industries because, as the use of electronic medical records increases, more databases will be needed to keep track of patient information. Employment of DBAs is projected to grow 43 percent in general medical and surgical hospitals from 2012 to 2022.

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

IEEE

Computing Research Association

For information regarding opportunities for women pursuing information technology careers, visit

National Center for Women and Information Technology

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, 2014–2015 Occupational Outlook Handbook, http://www.bls.gov/ooh.