How To Become a Database Administrator

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated July 23, 2021 | Published February 4, 2020

Updated July 23, 2021

Published February 4, 2020

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you have an interest in working with data, you might consider pursuing a career in database administration. As a database administrator, you can manage the storage, maintenance, access and security of data. In this article, we discuss how to become a database administrator and review commonly asked questions about this career.

What does a database administrator do?

Database administrators store, organize and manage data, including customer records and financial information. They also oversee access to and the security of data. Database administrators are responsible for the following tasks:

  • Creating and customizing databases capable of storing and organizing information for companies

  • Modifying existing databases or merging multiple databases to meet company needs

  • Installing security programs and performing routine backups to keep data secure and avoid data loss

  • Providing qualified database users with appropriate levels of access

Read more: Learn About Being a Database Administrator

Average salary for database administrators

Database administrators almost always have full-time jobs. The biggest factors that affect their salaries include experience level, specialty area and geographical location.

  • Common salary in U.S.: $92,446 per year

  • Some salaries range from $32,000 to $183,000 per year.

Related: 15 Computer Science Jobs That Pay Well

Database administrator requirements

Employers usually require database administrators to have a bachelor's degree, relevant certifications and essential skills.

  • Education

  • Training

  • Certifications

  • Skills

Education

Most employers expect database administrators to have a bachelor's degree in a computer- or technology-related field. The most common majors for database administrators include:

  • Computer science: This major includes classes on data management, computer architecture, logic design, network fundamentals and programming languages.

  • Information technology: This degree program includes courses on system and network administration, website technology, computer security and system architecture.

Training

Although no standardized training exists for database administrators, most complete brief on-the-job training sessions. These programs usually last for about a week and allow new employees to learn about the organization's policies, procedures and workflows.

Also, most database administrators have prior experience working in information technology. They often work in IT support or systems administration, which allows them to improve their knowledge of databases and computer languages.

Certifications

Database administrators usually need a certification from the software vendor that makes the applications they use. These professional certifications demonstrate that database administrators have a strong understanding of the software platform. The most common certifications for database administrators include:

IBM Certified Database Administrator

This IBM certification involves passing two exams that cover the DB2 platform and Structured Query Language (SQL). Candidates can also consider earning the higher level IBM Advanced Database Administrator credential.

Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate: SQL Database Administration

This Microsoft certification involves two exams that focus on SQL and database administration. After earning this credential, candidates can consider pursuing the more advanced Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert credential.

Oracle Database Administrator Certified Associate

This Oracle credential requires taking at least one course and taking an exam. Experienced candidates can also consider getting the advanced Oracle Database Administrator Certified Professional or Oracle Database Administrator Certified Master credentials.

Skills

To excel in this role, database administrators need the following capabilities:

Analytical skills

Database administrators are responsible for monitoring system performance and taking action to respond to issues that arise. They need excellent analytical skills to examine and act upon information from multiple sources.

Attention to detail

Small mistakes can cause serious errors within databases. To avoid causing major security, access or storage issues, database administrators must excel at paying attention to details.

Communication skills

Database administrators' work can affect millions of people, from team members to customers across the nation. They need excellent speaking, writing and listening skills to communicate issues and resolutions to colleagues.

Computer languages and platforms

In addition to certification from relevant software vendors, database administrators need to know the basics of computer languages like Apache, HTML, Java and SQL. Database administrators also need familiarity with the Linux and UNIX platforms as well as programs like Microsoft Access and Oracle.

Problem-solving skills

Database administrators constantly address problems with data storage, access and security. They need strong problem-solving skills to identify the source of the problem, research and consider options and implement an appropriate solution.

How to be a database administrator

To become a database administrator, follow these six steps:

  1. Earn a bachelor's degree.

  2. Get work experience.

  3. Learn key computer languages.

  4. Master computer programs and platforms.

  5. Pursue software vendor certification.

  6. Create a resume.

1. Earn a bachelor's degree

First, earn a bachelor's degree to develop a foundation in computer science and technology. Choose a major like computer science or information technology to prepare yourself to work in database administration.

2. Get work experience

After graduating from college, seek entry-level work experience in the IT field. Consider getting a job as an IT support associate or a systems administration assistant to gain practical experience.

3. Learn key computer languages

If you did not master computer languages like SQL in college, learn them before applying for database administration jobs. You can take online courses to learn the basics.

4. Master computer programs and platforms

As you gain work experience, take every opportunity you have to use and learn computer programs and platforms like Microsoft Access, Oracle, Linux and UNIX. You can take online courses from each vendor to learn specific skills.

5. Pursue software vendor certification

To prove your knowledge of the platforms you work with, get a certification from the software vendor. Many database administrators have the IBM Certified Database Administrator, Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate or Oracle Database Administrator Certified Associate credential.

6. Create a resume

After completing all of the essential requirements for this career, create a resume and start applying for jobs. Include your education, certifications, technical skills and relevant work experience.

Related: Resume Samples and Templates

Database administrator frequently asked questions

To learn more about this career path, read through these frequently asked questions about database administrators:

What advancement opportunities are available for database administrators?

After gaining five or more years of experience, database administrators can consider applying for a higher-level position, such as an IT manager role. These IT professionals oversee all technology purchases and installations for an organization.

Related: Learn About Being an IT Manager

What hours do database administrators usually work?

Database administrators usually work standard business hours, or between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Some database administrators also have to be on call or available to respond to urgent issues late at night or on weekends.

What is the typical work environment for a database administrator?

Most database administrators work in offices, where they use computers to manage databases. Some also work in server rooms, where they maintain the servers that store the data they oversee.

Jobs similar to database administrators

If you'd like to work as a database administrator, there are many similar jobs available that you might also find interesting. Here are 10 jobs for database administrators to explore:

1. SQL database administrator

2. Database manager

3. Oracle database administrator

4. Data engineer

5. SQL developer

6. Database tester

7. Data analyst

8. Data scientist

9. Database architect

10. Network architect

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