How to become a DBA (database administrator)

A challenging but rewarding career path, database administrators are a highly in-demand job position for numerous company types. The companies that most often hire DBAs are technology firms, which includes ISPs, web development companies, and data-processing firms. Other companies that use large databases, such as insurance companies and financial institutions, also employ database administrators.

Database administrators are responsible for handling a significant amount of data, and turning it into actionable information for the company. They’re also responsible for monitoring the database system, such as for performance. This article from Sentryone has more information on SQL server performance counters for monitoring.

For a database administrator’s job role, let’s use financial institutions as an example. Banks contain millions of pieces of data on their customers, which holds information such as account balances, loan payments, credit card applications, and more. All of this data is just numbers, which gives no useful information in data form.

The role of a database administrator, in this example, would be to compile that data into informational reports, based on data analytics. So the report might contain information such as clients at risk for defaulting on loans, or what months customers tend to order new checkbooks. This sort of information allows the financial institution to better assess business strategies, customer outreach, and risk management.

How much do database administrators earn?

A database administrator’s pay is directly influenced by experience and seniority, but also the specific type of database specialization. There are “traditional” database platforms known as relational databases, and these include Oracle DB, Microsoft SQL Server, and IBM DB2. There are also newer database platforms known as non relational databases, or NoSQL, offered by companies like Google and Amazon.

So a DBA’s salary is not only affected by experience, but the type of database platforms you specialize in. As an example, ZipRecruiter shows annual salaries between as high as $140,500 and as low as $52,500, for non-specific SQL DBAs. The majority of SQL Database Administrator salaries currently range between $87,000 (25th percentile) to $116,000 (75th percentile) across the United States.

In comparison, ZipRecruiter shows the average salary for database administrator specialized in Mongodb as $135,049 a year, with salaries as high as $173,500 and as low as $91,000. This is certainly a bit more earnings than a non-specialized SQL DBA.

Another great thing is that DBA’s are not only in high demand, but the DBA industry itself is among the industries with the lowest odds of being replaced by robots. Certain tasks may become automated, but there will always be a need for data specialists.


What are a database administrator’s responsibilities?

So how do you become a DBA?

Obtain a Bachelor’s Degree and certificates

You’ll want to complete a 4-year program in computer and information systems / sciences, with a concentrated focus on database systems. Most of the topics covered will revolve around data communications, database management, web page apps, discrete structures, and other topics related to database systems and data structure.

It would also be highly beneficial to complete an internship, if your bachelor’s degree program allows for it. You’ll gain a lot of valuable experience that will give your job resume an advantage when you first start pursuing a career in the DBA field.

Additionally, to make your skills stand out, earn industry certifications. Microsoft, Cisco, and SQL offer database managers the opportunity to earn voluntary certifications in the use of their products. These certifications often require the completion of training programs and the demonstration of proficiency in operating the company’s product.

Start out in database development or data analytics

The majority of database administrators first worked in either database development, or as data analysts, according to the Bureau of Labour Statistics. Either of these job roles will give you the experience necessary to transition into database management. However, both paths have separate roles, so let’s examine some of the responsibilities associated with both.

Database developer responsibilities:


Data analyst responsibilities:

Apply for a database management role

After around 1 to 5 years of experience in either of the job roles mentioned above, you could then be qualified for a database management position.

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