What Is a Database Administrator? (With Skills, Salary and FAQs)

Updated 21 July 2022

If you enjoy working with technology and have strong analytical and problem-solving skills, a position as a database administrator may be ideal for you. This challenging career with high demand and great earning potential can be a rewarding career for candidates who want to work in the information technology field. Knowing about the qualification required and roles and responsibilities this position holds can help you decide if it is the right career path for you.

In this article, we answer "What is a database administrator?", explain what a professional in this role does and the skills they may have, share the average salary for the position and provide answers to a few frequently asked questions about a career as a database administrator.

What is a database administrator?

A database administrator (DBA) is a specialised computer systems administrator who is responsible for all activities related to maintaining an organisation's database and keeping data secure. A DBA's top responsibility is maintaining data integrity, keeping it available to users and preventing unauthorised access. They are also responsible for understanding and managing the overall database environment. They also fine-tune, upgrade and test modifications to the database as needed. This job involves resolving complex issues, so it is important that aspiring DBAs have a passion for problem-solving.

While many DBAs are general-purpose database administrators, some specialise in certain tasks that may vary according to the organisation they work for and its needs. The two most common types of specialist DBAs are:

  • System DBAs: These DBAs are responsible for the technical and physical aspects of a database and usually have a background in system architecture. They perform tasks such as installing upgrades or patches to fix bugs in the program.

  • Application DBAs: These DBAs support databases that are designed for specific applications, such as computer-service software. This type of DBA may write or debug programs and mostly needs to use complex programming languages to solve problems with the application.

What does a database administrator do?

DBAs must be able to work as part of a team and liaise with key stakeholders. The primary responsibilities of those in this role include:

  • Evaluating database software purchases

  • Ensuring that the organisational data is secure

  • Identifying user's needs to create and administer databases

  • Configuring and designing the database models according to the organisation's requirements

  • Resolving issues related to database accessibility and performance

  • Informing end users about any changes in the databases and training them to utilise the systems

  • Ensuring the database is available and running at all times and without error

  • Performing pre-implementation tasks, such as capacity planning, installation and implementation activities

  • Making and testing alterations to the database structure as required

  • Migrating existing data from legacy platforms, including spreadsheets and text files

  • Taking data backup and recovery to avoid data loss

  • Monitoring the performance of the database

How to become a database administrator

To become a database administrator, consider following these steps:

1. Understand the requirement

You may need to meet different requirements in terms of education, qualifications, certification and skills to be a database administrator. Get knowledge about what you need to gain to work in this role by reviewing job listings posted on various job portals. Working professionals can help you by answering your queries and job listings may provide you with an idea of current market expectations for the position.

2. Attain basic qualification

Database administrators (DBAs) need to have a minimum of a bachelor's degree in information technology, computer science or another closely related field. Classes in these programs cover topics like web page applications, database systems, database and distributed systems, data communications, data structure and mining, and database management systems. Many large organisations usually prefer candidates who have a master's degree in computer science, information systems or information technology.

By the time the candidates complete their education, they likely have in-depth knowledge of database languages, particularly Structured Query Language, commonly known as SQL.

Related: Learning Styles for Career Development

3. Build experience

An experience that builds your skills may help you in getting a job you are interested in. You can gain experience by doing an internship or by shadowing professionals while pursuing your bachelor's or master's degree. It can help you strengthen your database administrator skills and may give you hands-on experience in a real-time work scenario. This experience will also provide you with a competitive advantage over other candidates after graduation and help to build your resume.

Related: How To Succeed in Your New Job: The First Week, Month and 90 Days

4. Get a certification

You can enhance your career by acquiring a certification in this field. Also, attaining certification may help you stand out from competitors, as many companies validate the knowledge and best practices required to complete the tasks with the certifications you hold. Some companies may require database administrators to be certified in the products they use. Some certifications you may consider earning are:

  • Oracle Certified Professional

  • IBM Certified Database Administrator

  • Microsoft SQL Server Database Certifications

  • Oracle Database 12c Administrator

  • SAP Certified Technology Associate

5. Enhance your resume

It is advisable to enhance your resume with the latest experience and skills. You may look for skills that are in demand in the market and work upon those skills. Also, to increase the probability of your resume getting shortlisted by the employer, customise your resume using the keywords used in the job description.

Related:10 Best Skills To Include on a Resume (with Examples)

Skills of a database administrator

A DBA needs to have a variety of soft and hard skills, including:

  • Database languages: A DBA should be technically sound in different database applications and languages like Oracle, SQL, My SQL and SAP.

  • Server OS (Operating system): It is important for a DBA to have basic knowledge about the server operating system as a databases alongside a server OS. Some common OS are Linux, Unix or Microsoft server.

  • Desktop OS: A DBA may need to install a database application at the customer's end or may assist users to solve the issues related to the database. Some common desktop OS are MacOS, Windows or Linux.

  • Hardware installation: DBAs should also have basic knowledge of the components that are part of the server, as they may need to replace some components when they malfunction. Some hardware components are the motherboard, hard drive, RAM (random access memory) and CPU (central processing unit).

  • Backup solutions: Backing up and restoring data are two of the major responsibilities of a DBA. They should be able to decide about the effective backup solution and also know how to restore data when required.

  • Communication skills: A DBA may need to communicate with different stakeholders such as developers, database users and IT teams on daily basis. They should be able to communicate effectively to effectively complete the work.

  • Problem-solving skills: DBAs are responsible for evaluating and monitoring a wide range of database systems and they may also need to comprehend complex information. They should have good problem-solving skills to develop creative solutions when a problem occurs.

  • Critical thinking: DBAs may need to evaluate problems and apply solutions in a fast-paced work environment. Great critical thinking skills help DBA make the right decision for the issue they need to fix.

Related: Importance of Soft Skills in the Workplace

Average salary of a database administrator

The DBAs mostly work as full-time employees at salaried positions. The average base salary of a database administrator is ₹6,57,908 per year depending on experience, geographic location and industry. These professionals may receive some other benefits over the base salary depending upon the organisation they are working with.

Frequently asked questions about being a database administrator

Below are a few frequently asked questions about a career as a database administrator:

What is the work environment of a DBA?

DBAs generally work in an office environment with other IT professionals. They also usually work a standard full-time schedule, but there may be times when they need to work outside of business hours to solve any access errors. Most DBAs remain on call in the event of a problem.

Which companies hire DBAs?

Any company that has the need to maintain a large database usually has a need for a database administrator in the workplace. This may include employers in the health care, information technology, consultancy, insurance and financial industries. Aspiring DBAs may look for employment in a particular industry or search for opportunities at larger organisations, as it is more likely they have a requirement for database administrators.

Is a career as a database administrator a good job?

A career as a DBA typically offers significant opportunities for advancement and high earning potential when compared to other careers. The job is highly complex and can be challenging. Because the majority of DBAs work a 40-hour workweek, it offers a work-life balance that is on average with most careers.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

Salary figures and job listings reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries and Indeed Job sites at the time of writing.

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