Database Administrators

Career, Salary and Education Information

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What Database Administrators Do[About this section] [To Top]

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 of Database Administrators

Database administrators typically do the following:

  • Ensure that organizational data is secure
  • Back up and restore data to prevent data loss
  • 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

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. They also may work with computer and information systems managers to provide database solutions. 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. They often monitor database performance and conduct performance-tuning support. 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 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.

Work Environment for Database Administrators[About this section] [To Top]

Database administrators hold about 120,000 jobs. The industries that employ the most database administrators are as follows:

Computer systems design and related services 15%
Information 12
Educational services; state, local, and private 11
Management of companies and enterprises 7
Insurance carriers and related activities 7

The largest number work for firms in the computer systems design and related services industry, such as data hosting 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.

Database Administrator Work Schedules

Almost all database administrators work full time. About 1 in 5 work more than 40 hours per week.

How to Become a Database Administrator[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Database Administrators near you!

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

Database Administrator 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 generally offered directly from software vendors or from 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.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Most do not begin their careers as database administrators. 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 for Database Administrators

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

Important Qualities for Database Administrators

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 must make sense of data and organize it in a meaningful pattern so that it is easily retrievable.

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

Database Administrator Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for database administrators is $80,280. 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 $44,470, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $123,780.

The median annual wages for database administrators in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Computer systems design and related services $89,200
Management of companies and enterprises 87,910
Insurance carriers and related activities 85,200
Information 84,570
Educational services; state, local, and private 64,940

Almost all database administrators work full time. About 1 in 5 work more than 40 hours per week.

Job Outlook for Database Administrators[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of database administrators (DBAs) is projected to grow 11 percent through 2024, 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 is projected to grow 26 percent in this industry through 2024.

Employment of DBAs is projected to grow 26 percent in computer systems design and related services through 2024. 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.

Employment of DBAs is projected to grow 7 percent in general medical and surgical hospitals through 2024. As the use of electronic medical records increases, more databases will be needed to keep track of patient information.

Database Administrators 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.

Employment projections data for Database Administrators, 2014-24
Occupational Title Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24
Percent Numeric
Database administrators 120,000 133,400 11 13,400


*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

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