Careers

Learn About Being a Database Administrator

What does a database administrator do?

A database administrator (DBA) manages and maintains software databases, such as client records, statistical surveys, census information, user accounts and library catalogs. A database administrator provides secure access to databases and manages backup solutions to prevent loss of data in the event of system failure. These individuals may also help develop stages of a database system.

Additional responsibilities may include:

  • Creating new user accounts and permissions
  • Testing modifications to database structures
  • Monitoring database systems to check for slow responses and possible bottlenecks
  • Optimizing database systems by regularly installing updates and patches
  • Regularly updating anti-virus programs on database servers
  • Troubleshooting and diagnosing database system problems and implementing solutions
  • Merging old databases
  • Performing capacity planning 
  • Monitoring the hardware and operating systems of database servers

Typical salary

Database administrators typically work full-time salaried positions. Many employers employ contract DBAs to assist with special database projects, like upgrades and migrations. Most DBAs can expect to work overtime or on call, meaning there may additional pay opportunities available.

You can expect the following salary ranges when searching for a database administrator position. what-does-a-database-administrator-do

  • Common salary in U.S.: $91,617  per year
  • Typical salaries range from $50,340 to $138,230 per year.

Database administrator requirements

Most companies require database administrators to have bachelor’s degrees as well as one to five years of experience. However, many database administrators also choose to supplement their degrees with certifications to demonstrate they have specialized skills, such as knowledge of database languages.

Education

Most DBAs earn at minimum a bachelor’s degree in information systems, computer engineering or computer science. Many DBAs choose to pursue a master’s degree to learn more in their field and increase their earning potential. However, some database administrators have a high school diploma and gain relevant experience after working in the technology industry. 

Training

Most training for database administrators is on the job. Companies will give instruction related to their databases and procedures. There are a variety of continuing training opportunities for DBAs in the form of conferences and seminars. 

Certifications

There are many different types of databases that businesses use. Depending on the specialization, DBAs could get certifications that demonstrate they have extensive knowledge of a specific database:

IBM Certified Database Administrator certification

This certification shows you can navigate an IBM database server. To earn this certification, applicants must pass two knowledge and skills exams. The first exam tests you on fundamental knowledge of the daily administration tasks, Structured Query Language, IBM database security and creating database objects. The second exam evaluates your ability to perform advanced database tasks in security and migration. 

Microsoft SQL Server Database certification

This is an entry-level Microsoft certification for basic DBA skills. After earning your Microsoft SQL Server Database certification, you can pursue a variety of Associate Level Microsoft Solutions certifications. It can be helpful to learning basic SQL server skills prior to starting the three-exam requirement. 

Oracle Certified Professional certification:

Oracle offers many certifications based on their server releases. To earn any Oracle certification, you’ll need to pass an online exam to show you understand that release version. Many database administrators opt to obtain certifications for different versions as different employers use varying releases. To prepare for an Oracle exam, you can take a variety of online courses. 

Skills

DBAs need a variety of hard skills, including: 

  • Database languages and management systems: Effective database administration requires an in-depth knowledge of relevant database languages and applications, such as SQL, MySQL, SAP or Oracle.
  • Server operating systems: A database exists alongside a server operating system. For this reason, database administrators need to know about relevant operating systems, like Windows Server, Linux or Unix. 
  • Desktop operating systems: Desktop administrators may sometimes have to install the client end of database applications or assist users with database-related issues. They should know about common operating systems such as Windows, MacOS and Linux.
  • Hardware component installation: DBAs should have a basic understanding of the parts included in a server in case they need to replace any malfunctioning components. Hardware includes the motherboard, central processing unit, random access memory and hard drive. 
  • Backup solutions and data restore: The backup and restoration of database servers are important responsibilities of database administrators. They need to decide on the most effective backup solutions and must be able to restore databases when needed.
  • Capacity planning and database design: Database administrators also perform capacity planning to develop processes for situations like extended storage space and more user licenses.

DBAs should also develop soft skills, such as: 

  • Communication: The job of a database administrator requires communication with various coworkers, including managers, other IT support members, database users and developers. The ability to communicate effectively with many different people helps them complete tasks quickly and efficiently. 
  • Problem solving: Database administrators need to monitor and evaluate a whole range of IT-related aspects when managing database systems. This requires the assimilation of complex information. They also need to invent creative solutions when problems arise and implement them quickly and decisively.
  • Critical thinking: DBAs should be able to evaluate situations and implement solutions in fast-paced environments. Excellent critical-thinking skills allow a DBA to make the right decision based on all the available information and data. 

Work environment

Computer-system design companies employ the most DBAs, followed by other businesses and institutions that have large databases, such as universities and government departments. These professionals also often work in telecommunications, banks, and the healthcare sector.

DBAs typically work in an office setting. In some cases, they may need to perform work in a server room. They should be able to sit and work at a computer for extended periods of time. 

Most DBA positions are full time, and depending on the business, they may expect overtime hours. Companies may use contract DBAs for short periods to upgrade or migrate a database. Since a large number of duties are computer-based, many work remotely. Some roles may require on-call availability for data emergencies. 

How to become a database administrator

There are different paths you can pursue to become a DBA. For instance, if you have been working in the IT industry in another capacity, such as a computer or network administrator, you may have the opportunity to learn database administration skills. In such a case, a company may employ you in a junior capacity based on your practical knowledge, after which you could pursue professional certification. However, you can follow these steps if you don’t have prior experience:

  1. Earn your bachelor’s degree: Most database administrators opt for either a bachelor’s degree in information systems or computer science. If possible, try to complete an internship during your studies, as this practical experience will benefit you when looking for employment.
  2. Gain knowledge of database languages and management systems: Although a degree will give you knowledge of a broad range of concepts, you must gain specialized knowledge in your field. Important skills include learning a database language, such as SQL, as well as database management systems like MySQL or Oracle.
  3. Obtain a certification: When you have familiarized yourself with database languages and management systems, you should obtain a specialized certification, as this will demonstrate your proficiency in these systems.

Database administrator job description example

We are looking for a junior database administrator to assist our database management team. Duties will include installing and configuring new database servers, monitoring system health and security, managing user accounts and monitoring and troubleshooting database performance.

The individual will receive on-the-job training and will receive more responsibilities with time, which will include tasks like database design and implementation. Our ideal candidate must have a bachelor’s degree in either computer science or information systems and exhibit commitment and dedication. We prefer candidates with an Oracle 12c certification but will consider other applicants.

Related careers

  • Systems engineer: These professionals are responsible for a company’s technology infrastructure as a whole. As a result, they have a large scope of responsibilities that include the design, installation and maintenance of hardware and software systems.

  • Network administrator: Network administrators ensure that the networks of companies and institutions are always functional. They install, configure and manage all network-related software and hardware systems and implement failover solutions to prevent network downtime in the event of system failure.