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Database Administrator (DBA)

Career Overview

A database administrator is responsible for the functionality, security and overall performance of a database. The database administrator makes sure that data included is presented in a usable and manageable form that users can readily access without violating the integrity of the data. Other aspects of database administration include but are not limited to troubleshooting, planning to meet future needs and development of resources. The exact work performed by a database administrator varies depending on the type of industry. Database administrators are increasingly becoming known by the type of database they are working with. For instance, the day-to-day work of a database administrator working in a hospital setting managing patient records is very different compared to the type of software and systems a database administrator employed in a auto factory is using.

Database administrators frequently offer and will conduct computer security training within their workplace. This training is aimed at teaching users how to appropriately utilize the specific database and how to avoid any security pitfalls.


Database administrators are responsible for determining the conceptual design of a database to meet the needs of the users inputting the data. Once data is entered, it is the job of the database administrator to monitor the storage of that data and maintaining its standards according to requirements specified by employers and in the federal Data Protection Act. It is the job of the database administrator to establish what level of access various users need and then to configure the system and its accompanying passwords to accommodate those specific needs. The database administrator is also responsible for performing routine system backup and planning for the protection of data should the system fail. Database administrators regularly update databases with a variety of security software programs to combat the latest in computer viruses, worms and Trojans that can render a computer system useless. Each database administration position has its own specific responsibilities and requirements. There can be a great deal of variance between jobs and job seekers are wise to clarify any job description before accepting employment.

Educational Requirements

In general, a bachelor’s degree in computer science or information technology is the basic requirement for employment as a database administrator. Beyond that, most employers require one to three years of technical experience in entry level information technology positions such as a computer technician. Training to become a database administrator can occur at a traditional university or college, a technical school, or via online coursework.

Database administrators are trained in several specific computer-based programs and must pass various industry-specific professional examinations to show certification in these programs. Some of these include but are not limited to Microsoft, Oracle, Cisco, Unix, Informix, and SQL. Microsoft alone offers hundreds of exams that once passed offer a database administrator certification in a specialized computer-based program. The others listed above also offer a track of professional certifications. Most offer a self-study or instructor-led preparation class. Many employers will reimburse employees for the testing fees upon passing the exam. Because different types of industry utilize a variety of computer-based programs, database administrators must be flexible and willing to train in a myriad of programs.

Areas of Specialization

Database administrators can specialize in different industries. Many industries have specific software programs with certification training and testing programs that database administrators can opt into to increase their knowledge and employment possibilities. These areas of specialization are only limited by the different types of industries actively working in the economy. For instance, one of the newest and most promising areas for database administrator to specialize in is that of social networking. Managing Facebook, MySpace and Twitter accounts is a growing opportunity for those with database administration skills.

Below are the specific day-to-day roles that many database administrators fulfill:

  • Software installation: install new versions of software, application software, and other software related to database administration. A database administrator tests new software before installation.
  • Hardware and software configuration: works closely with the system administrator to ensure that all software installations and hardware and software configurations function efficiently together as a whole in the entire database.
  • Security administration: One of the most important tasks performed is that of monitoring the security of the computer network. This includes adding and removing users, auditing system activities, monitoring the online activities of users, maintaining firewall boundaries to control traffic in and out of the database, and routine security troubleshooting.
  • Analysis of data: frequently analyzes the data that is stored and used in the system to make recommendations for improved performance.
  • Modeling and optimization of data: The database administrator uses different data models in an effort to discover which models make best use of the system layout. This also gives the database administrator the ability to customize the database to his or her preference for professional purposes.
  • Design of database: In most cases, serves on a team of designers when new databases are established. This is because the database administrator can easily forecast potential problems during the design phase.

Career Opportunities

There are many career opportunities for qualified database administrators. Wherever there are computers, it is a safe bet to assume a database administrator is needed. The list below is just a partial sampling of the types of industries where database administrators find readily available employment.

  • Hospital records administration
  • Banking
  • Engineering firms
  • Public schools record management
  • Television stations
  • Newspapers or other print media
  • Casinos
  • Oil and natural gas exploration companies
  • Construction and project management firms
  • Military support companies
  • Automation control
  • Utilities

Salary Ranges

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), median annual earnings of database administrators were $72,900 in May 2008, with the middle 50 percent earning between $52,340 and $91,805. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $39,900 and the highest 10 percent earned more than $111,950. There were approximately 115,770 people employed in the United States as database administrators. This represents an increase of 1.2 percent over the previous reporting period. According to the BLS statistics, database administrators in the rail industry earned the highest salary with those working in the educational sector earning the lowest salary.

Professional Organizations

There are many professional organizations related to the field of database management. These organizations can be a powerful resource and provide a wide range of useful information for those just beginning their careers or for professionals with many years of experience and industry knowledge.

  • AITP – Association of Information Technology Professionals
  • SOCITM – Society of Information Technology Management
  • USINEX – Usinex Assocation
  • DAMA – Data Management International
  • OMG – Object Management Group