How To Become a Database Administrator

In the digital age, data is a highly valuable resource for organizations in a wide range of industries — but it isn’t always easily understood, managed or stored. This is where database administrators come in.

In broad terms, database administrators (DBAs) are responsible for setting up databases tailored to a company’s specific needs, while also ensuring that they operate as intended and remain functional.

A career as a database administrator can be highly rewarding, but it may not be the ideal fit for everyone. To determine if this is the job for you, you must understand what the position entails and what qualifications are expected of candidates.


Database Administrator Job Description

Database administrators are incredibly valuable employees. Without the benefits that they bring — namely the organization and effective maintenance of data — many firms across multiple industries would struggle to compete.

Using specialized software to store and arrange financial information, customer shipping records and other secure details, DBAs ensure that this data is available to users and secure from unauthorized access.

DBAs are also often responsible for monitoring database design and development. They are required to know the needs of the database, as well as understand who will be using it. On an average day, DBAs can expect to do the following:

  • Ensure that organizational data is secure.
  • Back up and restore data to prevent data loss.
  • Identify user needs for creating and administering databases.
  • Make sure databases operate efficiently and without error.
  • Apply and test modifications to database structure when necessary.
  • Supervise database upkeep and update permissions when needed.
  • Merge old databases into new ones.

While most database administrators are general-purpose and complete all or a majority of the tasks detailed above, some organizations employ multiple database administrators who each handle a different aspect of their data management needs.

Examples of specialized database administrator roles may include System DBAs — who are responsible for the physical and technical aspects of a database (such as fixing program bugs and installing upgrades) — and Application DBAs, who typically support a database that has been designed for a particular application, such as customer service software.

Database Administrator Salary

While a career as a database administrator can be demanding, it can also be highly lucrative, depending on your experience, education and your employer. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), database administrators and architects earned a median annual salary of $101,000 in 2021.

Database administrators in the finance and insurance industries were paid the most in 2021, earning a median annual wage of $102,930.

What Is The Career Outlook for Database Administrators?

As big data has evolved, the data management needs of companies have changed and grown, increasing the demand for database administrators across sectors. This trend is expected to persist as companies continue to make use of data in more ways.

According to the BLS, the overall employment of database administrators and architects is projected to grow by 9% from 2021 to 2031 — a faster rate than the average for all occupations. This is expected to create about 11,500 new job openings for database administrators and architects each year.

Where Can You Work As a Database Administrator?

DBAs can find work in a nice variety of fields given the widespread usage of data today. Leading employers, however, include organizations that operate in:

  • Computer systems design and related services;
  • Educational services;
  • Management of companies and enterprises;
  • Insurance carriers and related activities;
  • Data management, processing, hosting and related services.

You can also expect to find database administrators working for retail companies to track credit card and shipping information or in healthcare organizations managing patients’ medical records.

How To Become a Database Administrator

If you’re interested in becoming a database administrator, your skills and credentials should align with those required for the position. Even if you’re starting from scratch, attaining a career as a database administrator is still possible, though it may take a little longer.

Important Qualities for Database Administrators

Working as a database administrator requires a combination of hard and soft skills. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), database administrators with the following attributes are likely to perform well in their roles:

  • Data analytics: Evaluating complex information from a variety of sources requires a keen analytical eye. Database administrators must monitor a database system’s performance closely to determine when action is needed.
  • Communication skills: As a database administrator, you can expect to work on a team. Therefore, you’ll need to communicate effectively with everyone from developers to managers.
  • Attention to detail: Within these complex systems, a minor error can cause a ripple effect of ongoing issues and major problems. With data being so sensitive, you’re responsible for private information that needs to remain secure.
  • Problem-solving skills: When company database problems occur, you’ll troubleshoot solutions promptly.

Displaying these skills on your resume can indicate to employers that you’re well-equipped to handle the responsibilities of a database administrator. Most database administrators develop their skills through a combination of education, on-the-job training and previous work experience.

Educational Requirements for Database Administrators

Database professionals are typically expected to obtain a bachelor’s degree in an IT or computer-related subject, like information systems or computer science. Given the current — and dominant — state of digital transformation, a Bachelor of Science in Information Systems can prove to be a valuable degree for today’s graduates.

In a traditional information systems bachelor’s degree program, individuals can expect to cover a variety of important concepts and processes that are relevant to database administration, including:

  • Database management;
  • Information systems;
  • Operations management;
  • Project management;
  • Systems analysis;
  • Business programming;
  • Management processes and behavior;
  • Fundamentals of financial management;
  • Database design and theory;
  • Storage technologies;
  • The client-server model;
  • Network operations;
  • Database software;
  • How to maintain an existing database;
  • Recovering and rolling over databases.;
  • Structured Query Language (SQL);
  • How to interact with a database server;
  • The Microsoft SQL server.

In completing a BS in information systems, you will become familiar with the most important types of modern databases and the differences between them. You will also develop the IT and business skills needed to create and manage databases in accordance with your employer’s specifications.

Certifications for Database Administrators

Database administrators will often seek certifications in addition to their college degrees because they can help candidates stand out on the job market and leverage better pay. Furthermore, employers may ask that their database administrators hold certifications in the products they work with daily.

The most valuable certifications for you will depend on the exact nature of your role and the systems used by your employer. Some of the most popular certifications for database administrators include:

In addition to showing employers your specialized skills and valuable knowledge, earning a relevant certification can demonstrate your willingness to learn and your commitment to keeping up with the changes in your industry, both of which are essential traits for database administrators.



ScienceDirect, “Database Administrator – an overview”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Database Administrators and Architects”

IBM, “IBM Associate Certified DBA – Db2 12 for z/OS Fundamentals”

Microsoft, “Microsoft Certified: Azure Data Fundamentals”

Oracle, “Software Certification Paths”