How to Become a Database Administrator

Did you know that every 2 days, we create as much information as we did from the beginning of time up to 2003? Exponential growth does not begin to describe the modern-day data usage of all types of firms and organizations. As a result, it has become increasingly popular for companies to expand or bring on a database administrator (DBA) to maintain the storage, security and retrieval of all their data. 

Combining skills from the cybersecurity, data analytics and data science fields, a database administrator will work alongside an IT department to ensure the safety of data and monitor and optimize the database performance for use across an organization. 

Below, we’ve compiled some background information on the different responsibilities of a database administrator, as well as the steps you can take to join this innovative and lucrative career field. 

Job Description for a Database Administrator

A database administrator’s role may seem simple on the surface but it actually contains several multi-faceted responsibilities. The DBA’s core function is to ensure the availability of data produced and utilized by an organization is available as needed. It is often their responsibility to choose a management software, and install, test, troubleshoot and implement it across a firm. Securing the network structures that store information is another critical DBA undertaking: think about the type of financial and personal information companies like banks and ecommerce firms collect, and the legal jeopardy they can get in if that data leaks to bad actors.

The other aspect of a database administrator’s role is more front-facing and consists of serving as the liaison between the data network and the company’s other employees. As the in-house data expert, the DBA will provide training on accessing information and create secure user profiles with permissions that keeps information hidden to all, but those who need access. Managers and workers will turn to the DBA to produce reports and run queries on the database using SQL, often on both a regular cadence or an as-needed basis. Depending on the type of firm, management might ask to see which salesperson drove the most revenue in a given quarter or see a weekly report of the top five performing products. In this way, the DBA turns raw data into actionable intelligence

As a database administrator, your day-to-day responsibilities could include:

  • Configuring and maintaining the database server and complementary application tools
  • Regularly modifying the database structure as needed
  • Monitoring system security and ensuring compliance across an organization by creating user profiles and allocating permissions
  • Planning for the database’s physical requirements and deciding the best storage solution, with knowledge of memory and disk space management
  • Responding to technical errors or system failures as they occur and maintaining and regularly testing backup systems
  • Optimizing database performance manually or using automated tools. This could include updated vendor license agreements and software operating versions or migrating to new hardware or cloud-based systems
  • Fulfill requests to produce custom reports across the organization on an as-needed or regular basis using a query language

Qualifications for a Database Administrator

As we mentioned above, a four-year degree in computer science is still standard across the industry for database administrators, with some upper-level roles even requiring a master’s degree in a related field. However, bootcamps and certification programs remain a great option, both for beginners looking to dip their toes into a subject, or for experts who need to beef up on a specific topic or acquire a certification.

Potential database administrators might be interested in a variety of bootcamps that cover the full spectrum of skills needed across specializations. A cybersecurity course covers the basics of network security and incident response, data analytics programs feature instruction in SQL and visualizations that are necessary for an analyst, while data science bootcamps also work with SQL and additionally dive into machine learning and big data software. Take a moment to browse our bootcamps and take the first steps toward your dream database administrator career!

Steps to Become a Database Administrator

Are you ready to jumpstart your career as a database administrator. Here are five steps to undergo as you begin your journey:

1. Consider the Educational Path that is Right for You

Although you’ll find that many organizations require database administrators to have a bachelor’s degree in the information technology field, there is an increasingly wide degree of latitude given to differing types of educational backgrounds. A traditional four-year degree in computer science is still going to be the most traditional approach, but some firms for entry-level data jobs will look at candidates with an associates degree in a related information systems field.

As the industry evolves and education integrates better and better with online formats, a non-degree bootcamp program might be a more efficient and cost-effective way to attain the skills you desire. If you’re interested in gaining employment in a startup environment, participating in a bootcamp is a great way of demonstrating entrepreneurial drive, and a concentrated program in cybersecurity or data science, or data analytics is a great way to master the critical skills for an entry-level position.

Think of your educational journey as one that continues long beyond that first job acceptance letter. Numerous continuing education and certification classes can be taken virtually or in-person to sharpen your skills, or learn about entirely new aspects of the vast data and information world. Some companies will even provide financial assistance to those interested in leveling up their professional knowledge. 

2. Understand the IT Field

Almost any employer looking to fill a database administrator role will expect some background experience, so it’s best to take a look at the different career paths available in the information technology field, and ponder what entry-level role most aligns with your career goals. Taking on an IT support roles will provide excellent on-the-job experience in skills like troubleshooting, database performance tuning and optimization and reporting and querying. Working support might also give you a sense if you’re a better fit for a front-facing performance analyst role, or if you’re more aligned with a database architect technically-oriented position. We recommend talking to as many industry experts as you can! Current DBAs can give you a sense of their past positions and what it took for them to get to the role they currently hold.

3. Research Trainings and Certifications

In addition to formal education and job experience, hiring managers will look for potential database administrators to hold specific certifications in one or more commercial database systems. A knowledge of SQL is definitely a must, but also research widely used providers and the certifications they offer in your field of choice. To get you started, the most-widely used database platforms (of all which offer certifications) include OracleMicrosoftIBM MongoDB and Cassandra. Several bootcamps also provide a specific curriculum designed to teach the skills you need to pass specific certification, so be sure to check those options out as well if you’re interested. 

4. Develop a Target Industry and Company List

What interests you more: onboarding with a tech titan, or playing a part in developing a scrappy startup? Narrow down your career path, by considering factors like location and size, alongside your target industry. Above, we provided information on the top sectors that employ DBAs, and since data is used so widely across the globe, the possibilities in the field are essentially limitless. Defining the industries that interest you can guide you towards the necessary academic programs and certifications you need to succeed. Focusing your professional efforts around a concentrated target company list could also further increase your chance of employment!

5. Develop a Specialization

The role of a database administrator is constantly evolving, and different types of DBAs will serve a number of different roles within an organization. While we’ve put this step last, the choices you make about your target role, educational experiences and acquired certifications will ultimately determine the specialized positions you’re qualified to apply for. Choosing a career path early and sticking to it is a great way to move up the ladder as quickly as possible, but it’s also never too late to pivot to other specialties or consider additional certifications! From machine learning to health informaticsthere’s always a new niche that needs to be filled.

Explore schools offering Database Administrator Bootcamps.

Job Outlook for a Database Administrator

As the collection and analysis of data becomes a ubiquitous part of daily life, the demand for qualified database administrators has subsequently increased across a variety of industries. Earning the trust of handling an organization’s data is a major responsibility and has become an in-demand task. As data is used in increasingly innovative ways to power algorithms and artificial intelligence solutions, the sub-specialization options for DBA have increased. The types of DBAs at a firm could include:

  • Systems DBA – Focusing exclusively on technical and maintenance issues, the expert in installing and configuring any operating systems and management tools.
  • Application DBA/Performance Analyst – This specialist focuses on day-to-day support and administration of database applications, and will typically serve as the expert in running reports and extracting data, often using a subset of applications. Also sometimes referred to as a database analyst or task-oriented DBA, the person in this role must be an expert in SQL coding and detailed knowledge of reporting metrics.
  • Database Architect – In contrast to the analyst, the database architect is responsible for the design itself of new databases, as well as the fine-tuning of existing network systems. The architect will be an expert in translating logical data models to physical designs.

Overall, the type of roles available will depend on the size of the company and their individual needs. Different roles may encompass a variety of these tasks, or require specializations in specific software or applications.

The good news for job seekers is that the database administrator field has a positive growth outlook: employment could spike by up to 11 percent from 2016-2026 and grow 17 percent for cloud-based DBA roles specifically, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In-Demand Industries for Database Administrators

Of course, some of the biggest organizations collect the most amount of data. Tech giants such as Facebook, Amazon and Google all use a business model that relies on collecting vast amounts of consumer data and leveraging it to craft algorithms or sell it to advertisers. Other industries are required by the nature of their business to collect and safeguard data, like the financial and healthcare sectors, which make them excellent job prospects. Broadly speaking, any business that sells products or services, either directly or through ecommerce, will often require a DBA role, and use the information they collect to drive business decisions.

U.S. News and World Reports estimates that there are approximately 12,800 database administrator roles across the country, and ranks the job as the number 7 best tech role and number 55 best job overall, using their ranking methodology.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the top industries responsible for employing database admins are data processing, hosting, and related services, computer systems design, Insurance carriers, management of companies and enterprises and educational services; state, local, and private.

Salary Expectations for a Database Administrator

In this section, we’ve compiled some information on the type of salary you might expect to receive as a database administrator. Glassdoor reports a rather large range of salaries across the country from $14,000 to $291,000. When researching salaries across companies that interest you, consider the location, cost of living, job specialization, industry sector and other factors in attaining a sense of expected range.

To further give you an understanding of median salaries, we’ve compiled additional data from Indeed and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics of DBA salary ranges in top metro areas and across top industries.

CityAverage Salary
New York City$107,827
San Francisco$82,584
IndustryMedian Annual Salary
Data processing, hosting, and related services$108,520
Computer systems design and related services$106,260
Insurance carriers and related activities$105,570
Management of companies and enterprises$103,550
Educational services; state, local, and private$78,890

Browse bootcamps for Database Administrators.

Explore some of the top schools offering Database Administrator bootcamps and find the right fit for your needs and schedule.