With technology serving as a relevant part of many aspects of life, most businesses rely on computer networks to assist with work tasks, store critical information, and allow communication between organization members. However, using technology to handle these tasks comes with its array of challenges and risks.
A database administrator (sometimes referred to as a DBA) is someone responsible for both keeping the information in an organization’s database secure but accessible to those who need to use it. Within this responsibility lies multiple tasks that make a DBA an essential aspect of any IT department.
In this article, we’ll answer the question of “What is a database administrator?”—as well as many other queries about this critical position in the modern world.
What Is A Database Administrator?
To answer the question of “What is a database administrator?” accurately, it’s essential to understand the complete process of database administration itself. A database serves as the connection and network of all relevant aspects of a company’s data and handling that critical information usually involves maintaining security.
Aside from keeping critical data out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have access to it, data administration also involves making it possible to get to information smoothly for those who should be able to so.
Consider the database at an organization like your insurance company: you wouldn’t want anyone outside to know your vital information, but you do want those who work there to be able to easily access your account details if you need help understanding your policy. The database administrator is the IT expert who handles database administration in all its forms.
What Type Of Work Does A Database Administrator Do?
While the overall goals of DBAs are the same no matter where they are, the exact work the job requires can vary depending on the needs of the company, and it usually consists of multiple tasks that aim to protect and allow access to data as necessary. Some everyday tasks that DBAs may be in charge of include:
- Upgrading and installing application tools and the database server
- Modifying the database structure when necessary
- Handling licensing renewals and maintaining compliance with database vendor license agreements
- Overseeing tech support for database systems
- Optimizing database performance
- Allocating any physical requirements for the database
- Securing user profiles and permissions within the database
- Planning, executing, and checking backup strategies for effectiveness
- Migrating the database when necessary
While it’s essential for a database administrator to be able to handle these types of crucial skills, not every DBA will have the same set of experience and abilities. Many administrators will specialize in different areas to best fit their roles. DBAs who focus on maintaining an organizations database tend to work in-house or on contract, but there are other areas in this field as well.
The day-to-day work environment of a DBA can also vary depending on the exact needs of an organization. A database administrator may spend part of their time running regular maintenance checks, or potentially working on a larger project to overhaul and improve the effectiveness of the organization’s database.
In a senior-level position, a DBA can be responsible for delegating different administration tasks to others in their team, as well as coordinating with other members in the IT department to ensure other aspects are running smoothly.
Are There Different Types Of Database Administrators?
A database administrator may also be someone who specializes in designing databases in the first place. Instead of working for an organization, these DBAs tend to be part of a specialized software company and work in a team to develop larger applications. While sharing many of the same skill sets as a DBA, a more accurate descriptor for this position can be “database designer.”
Other DBA positions can also involve optimizing the performance of various databases, sometimes those that work in tandem with each other (known as performance or tuning database administrators) or integrating applications with the databases they use, which tends to involve in-depth knowledge of query languages, such as SQL (known as application database administrators).
No matter which specialization of DBA, the position involves a strong understanding of databases and their structures, the challenge of being responsible for large pools of data and making it easily accessible, and the ability to work with the specific needs of an organization. As such, two DBAs may have different responsibilities but still share many core skills.
What’s The Pay Look Like For A Database Administrator?
DBAs are in the top tier of technology-related jobs, and the available pay is no small factor in that consideration. Depending on the level of experience one has, being a database administrator can become a high paying job, with people in this position on average earning salaries of sixty-thousand dollars (for entry-level DBA positions) to potentially $160,000 (with many years of experience).
Different specializations of DBA can also see variations in average salaries, such as:
- $120k median for data architects and developers
- $130k median for data scientists
- $140k median for Big Data engineers and senior-level database managers
Additional specialist skills can impact a DBA’s earning potential and positions available, as can the location of the job (with positions in technology hubs and cities generally paying higher salaries). With the high level of annual income, database administrator positions are a highly-sought after role in the job market.
Is There A Demand For Database Administrators?
Thanks to the increasing use of technology in many different fields and organizations, the need for secure and easy access to internal databases has become more critical than before—especially as the capacity and amount of data we use has increased. These circumstances have created a job market where there is still a substantial demand for database administrators.
The technology sector has one of the most substantial needs for DBAs, given that these companies and organizations generate and manage massive amounts of data regularly. Companies like Google, Amazon, and Facebook fall into this category. The healthcare and financial sectors also handle many clients, often with substantial amounts of personal data involved.
Skilled DBAs are currently in demand and will likely continue to be as more organizations increase their use of databases to organize their information.
What Type Of Qualifications Do Database Administrators Need?
At a minimum, someone aiming to become a database administrator should have a bachelor’s degree. Preferred programs for this position include computer science, information security, information technology, and management information systems. Depending on the institution you attend, you may also be able to complete a specialized database administration program.
While it’s possible to become a DBA with only a four-year degree, completing a graduate program will help you increase your chances. This qualification is particularly essential when aiming to be in a database administration management position. Additional programs provide DBA certification programs, which can increase your credentials when applying for a job or aiming for a promotion.
Anyone hoping to become a DBA will need to have a comprehensive understanding of the significant database languages: OQL, SQL, SQL/XML, and XQuery, as these are essential components of successfully optimizing databases. Specializations also add to your value as a potential DBA candidate.
What Is The Best Path To Become A Database Administrator?
Even in a job market that has many opportunities, there is no guaranteed pathway to becoming a database administrator. However, those that are willing to put in the time and effort can obtain a career in DBA, which will take a combination of study and experience. Earning an entry-level position in DBA can take anywhere between two and seven years on average.
The first step is to obtain the proper qualifications and certifications. As mentioned above, having a bachelor’s or a graduate degree can give you the necessary foundations and skills, so long as you specialize your studies towards database administration. Earning additional DBA certifications will help you build your skillsets further.
Job experience is the next essential step on the path to becoming a database administrator. Often, you will need to work in other IT positions before you can become a DBA, as the hands-on experience will let you understand the working environment. You’ll need at least a year of experience to have a decent chance at becoming a DBA, if not more.
Even once you obtain an entry-level position as a database administrator, it can take several more years to gain a promotion and become truly proficient at the role. Between technological advancements, changes in software and platforms, and new best practices, the necessary skills to do your job effectively will always be changing.
It’s also likely that as time goes on, the database administrator role may gain more specializations and necessary skill sets in response to changes in how we handle and organize data. The answer to the question of “What is a database administrator?” may potentially look different in the future, but the importance of this role will only increase in the future.