How to Become a Database AdministratorHow to Become a Database AdministratorHow to Become a Database Administrator

Numerous companies, agencies, educational institutions, and medical institutions require increasingly complex data to be managed, analyzed, and securely stored. Database administrators are in high demand for providing accurate, safe storage of personal, financial, and other proprietary data. The database administrator can enjoy a lucrative career.

Because of the complexity of the position, most database administrators have at least a bachelor’s degree in management information systems (MIS) or computer science. Strong analytical and math skills are valuable, too.

Individuals who are interested in becoming a database administrator can start by developing the skills they’ll need to be successful in this field. Completing an educational program such as an online bachelor’s in management information systems can be an important first step toward pursuing jobs on this career path.

What Does a Database Administrator Do?

So, what does a database administrator do? As consumer and company information becomes more detailed and computerized, there is an increased need for accurate storage, backup, security, and retrieval of data. This is where the database administrator comes in.

Database Administrator Work Settings

Examples of organizations that require large databases are educational institutions, banks and financial institutions, telecommunications companies, insurance companies, governmental agencies, and large-scale retail businesses.

Database Administrator Roles

Although variously defined, depending on experience and position, a database administrator’s role usually has several core functions:

  • Design and build the database so that data can be accurately and efficiently retrieved
  • Maintain or update the database by fine-tuning its functionality
  • Ensure data security by preventing unauthorized access, backing up the data, and otherwise protecting it from accidental loss
  • Merge databases so no data is lost or duplicated, or transfer data to an updated database

Database Administrator Types

The most common types of database administrators are system database administrators and application database administrators, although there are other specialties.

  • System Database Administrator. The system database administrator may be involved with installing the database, managing storage, and tuning the database management system parameters for optimal performance.
  • Application Database Administrator. By comparison, the application database administrator focuses on executing specific database applications rather than setting up and maintaining the database.

The U.S. News & World Report rankings of the Best Technology Jobs of 2020 include database administrator at No. 4.

How to Become a Database Administrator, Step by Step

When considering how to become a database administrator, know that education is critical. Most positions require at least a bachelor’s degree, with some positions also requiring a certification in specific database systems.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), database administrator education requirements include having at least “a bachelor’s degree in an information- or computer-based subject.” So, the first step in becoming a database administrator is to earn a bachelor’s degree. An online bachelor’s degree in management information systems (MIS) can help provide the background in database management and data manipulation that professionals need for a career as a database administrator.

Databases can be highly specific to the types of data and industries that use them. An MIS bachelor’s degree provides the basics of computer science, including understanding computer hardware and software. Additional courses in database structures and programming languages required to interface with databases will prepare you for a database administrator role.

Step 2: Complete Specialization Requirements

Most companies hire database administrators to work with a specific database such as Oracle or Sybase. While an MIS bachelor’s degree can help prepare you for a position, certifications can better position you for opportunities of greater responsibility. According to Business News Daily, the most-in demand certifications for 2020 include the following:

  • Microsoft Structured Query Language (SQL) Server Database
  • IBM Certified Database Administrator (DB2)
  • Oracle Database 12c Administrator
  • Oracle Certified Professional
  • MySQL Database Administrator

However, it should be noted that these highly sought-after certifications only provide a brief snapshot of current hiring trends when the survey was taken. As such, certain certifications can fluctuate in popularity, and there’s no guarantee that demand for them will remain strong. In addition to vendor-specific certifications, there are also vendor-neutral options to consider, such as certification from the Institute for Certification of Computing Professionals (ICCP).

Obtaining a specialty certification involves taking courses and passing associated exams, with some specialties requiring two or more exams to prove ability. For example, the IBM Certified Database Administrator DB2 certification requires two exams and the Microsoft SQL Server Database certification can require two to three exams, depending on the specialty.

You may be able to obtain a certification on the job, which could help provide the skill set necessary to earn a higher salary and greater job security. Many companies may offer to pay for the certification costs, as new certifications increase the skill level of their employees and may positively impact the quality of work going forward.

Step 3: Gain Experience with Entry-Level Positions

Many professionals start out as database developers or data analysts — positions that usually require less experience and are supervised by a senior employee — to gain the necessary skills and experience before trying to advance their careers to a position such as database administrator. These starting positions of database developer and data analyst can be an excellent way to learn new skills while gaining industry experience, without the pressure of overseeing others at the administrative level.

For example, sample tasks for a database developer include designing databases, writing code, and collaborating with other information technology professionals on database projects. Data analysts recover data from the database and perform analysis. Internships, which may be available or even compulsory, through your college or university are a viable means of obtaining real-world experience.

Aspiring database administrators need to have strong leadership skills, as well as advanced technical skills and expert knowledge of database structures. These individuals will be well-served by focusing on developing the following hard and soft skills:

  • Organization
  • Interpersonal relations
  • Written and verbal communication
  • Analytical thinking
  • Problem solving
  • Data modeling and design
  • Data security
  • Database management
  • Data reporting

Step 4: Complete a Master’s Degree to Advance Skills

Additional training and academic education in database-related topics, as found in Maryville University’s online master’s degree in data science program or online master’s degree in software development program, may help facilitate career progression due to elevated knowledge, a broader skill set, and extensive experience. This step can be an important education requirement for database administrators looking to advance to high-paying careers. Database administrators are responsible for not only managing database systems operations but also overseeing the employees who work on those systems. This means that extensive experience with both the technical and human side of the work is of great importance for individuals interested in becoming a database administrator.

Database Administrator Salary

A database administrator salary varies according to skills, experience, and location. The BLS reports that as of May 2019, the median annual wage for professionals in this field was $93,750. Those with salaries in the bottom 10% of the range earned less than $51,800. Those in the top 10% of the range earned more than $148,060. However, those who fall in this category are likely to have advanced experience and/or have completed an advanced education.

According to PayScale, as of July 2020, the technical skills that have the most positive effect on database administrators’ salaries include knowledge of the following:

  • Oracle
  • SQL Server Integration Services
  • Transact-SQL
  • Microsoft SQL Server

Future Growth

The BLS further reports that jobs for database administrators are expected to grow by 9% between 2018 and 2028, which is faster than the average projected growth for all occupations. The increased reliance on data analysis and need for personal and financial data protection ensure that database administrators are likely to see future job growth.

The area where employment is expected to increase the most is computer systems design. Another projected growth area is database hosting at cloud computing companies, as many fast-growing companies do not want to dedicate a full-time employee to data administration.

Demand for qualified database administrators will remain strong in the upcoming years, as firms sometimes have difficulty finding experienced, qualified workers. As such, applicants who remain up to date with the latest technologies are expected to have the best job prospects.

Your Path Toward a Career as a Database Administrator Starts at Maryville

Individuals who have an interest in building and maintaining databases, analyzing data systems, and protecting an organization’s data are likely to be drawn toward a career in database administration. Students enrolled in Maryville University’s online bachelor’s in management information systems program are taught a broad spectrum of skills that can help them succeed in a variety of IT careers. In addition to gaining hands-on experience in emerging technologies, students are also taught how to design, develop, and manage business applications across mobile, desktop, cloud, and internet-based platforms.

Discover how Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Science in Management Information Systems (MIS) can help prepare you with the tools you’ll need to become a database administrator and find success in the IT industry.

Recommended Reading

Projected Tech: A Look at the Future of Software Engineering

A Look at the Future of IT Jobs

Computer Science Careers


The Balance Careers, “What Does a Database Administrator Do?”

Business News Daily, “Best Database Certifications for 2020”

Indeed, Database Administrator Job Description

Indeed, Database Administrator Salaries in the United States, Database Administrator Job Description Sample

Maryville University, Browse Online Degree Programs

Maryville University, Master of Science in Data Science

Maryville University, Master’s in Software Development Online

Maryville University, Online Bachelor’s in Management Information Systems

PayScale, Average Database Administrator (DBA) Salary

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Database Administrators

U.S. News & World Report, Best Technology Jobs

U.S. News & World Report, Database Administrator Overview

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