A man types on a laptop while sitting in an aisle of a datacenter

A database administrator could...

Design a digital database of medical records that can be instantly transferred between clinics, unlike paper patient records. Hundreds of manila folders filled with patient records sit on shelves Protect bank accounts from hackers by adding security features to a bank's financial database. Photo of a login dialog box on a computer
Make an inventory database for a chain of candy stores to help them keep the most popular candies in stock. A child reaches for jars of candy in a candy shop Create a database of DNA from people with multiple sclerosis to help researchers pinpoint the genes involved in the disease. Close-up photo of a DNA sequence drawn and labeled on a computer screen
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Key Facts & Information

Overview Databases are collections of similar records, like the products a company sells, information on all people with a driver's license for a state, or the medical records in a hospital. Database administrators have the important job of figuring out how to organize, access, store, search, cross-reference, and protect all those records. Their services are needed by law enforcement, government agencies, and every type of business imaginable. Management of large databases is also critical for scientific research, including understanding and developing cures for diseases.
Key Requirements Logical, focused, detail-oriented, and able to communicate well and work in teams
Minimum Degree Associate's degree
Subjects to Study in High School Biology, chemistry, algebra, geometry, algebra II, pre-calculus, English; if available, business, computer science
Median Salary
Database Administrator
U.S. Mean Annual Wage
Min Wage
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) Average (7% to 13%)
  • Read this article to learn about a day in the life of IBM database administrator Dwaine Snow.
  • Read this article to meet Phil Mcmillan, a database administrator for an insurance company.
  • In this interview, you'll meet database administrator Ryan Austin, who is also a database developer.
Related Occupations
  • Computer and information systems managers
  • Computer programmer
  • Computer support specialists
  • Computer systems analysts
  • Computer security specialists
  • Mathematical technicians
  • Computer operators
  • Numerical tool and process control programmers
Source: O*Net

Training, Other Qualifications

Rapidly changing technology requires highly skilled and educated employees. There is no single way to prepare for a job as a database administrator.

Education and Training

Some jobs may require only a 2-year degree. Most community colleges, and many other technical schools, offer an associate's degree in computer science or a related information technology field. Many of these programs are geared toward meeting the needs of local businesses. They are more occupation-specific than 4-year degree programs.

Many employers seek workers who have a bachelor's degree in computer science, information science, or management information systems (MIS). An MIS program usually is part of a university's business school. MIS programs differ quite a bit from computer science programs. MIS programs focus on business and management-oriented coursework and business computing courses. Now, more than ever, employers seek workers with a master's degree in business administration (MBA) and a concentration in information systems.

Despite employers' preference for those with technical degrees, people with degrees in a variety of majors find computer jobs. One factor affecting the needs of employers is changes in technology. Employers often scramble to find workers who know the latest new technologies. Many people take courses regularly to keep up with the changes in technology.

Jobseekers can improve their chances by working in internship or co-op programs at their schools. There are many internships where you can learn computer skills that employers are looking for.

Certification is a way to show a level of competence. Many employers regard these certifications as the industry standard. One way to acquire enough knowledge to get a database administrator job is to become certified in a specific type of database management. Voluntary certification also is available through various organizations associated with computer specialists.

Database administrators may advance into managerial positions. For example, a promotion to chief technology officer might be made on the basis of experience managing data and enforcing security.

Other Qualifications

Database administrators must be able to think logically and have good communication skills. Because they often deal with a number of tasks simultaneously, the ability to concentrate and pay close attention to detail also is important. Although database administrators sometimes work independently, they frequently work in teams on large projects. As a result, they must be able to communicate effectively with computer personnel, such as programmers and managers, as well as with users or other staff who may have no technical computer background.

Nature of the Work

The Internet and electronic commerce (e-commerce) generate lots of data. Computer databases that store information on customers, inventory, and projects are found in nearly every industry. Data must be stored, organized, and managed. Database administrators work with database software to find ways to do this. They identify user needs, set up computer databases, and test systems. They ensure that systems perform as they should and add people to the system as needed. Database administrators often plan security measures. Data integrity, backup, and security are critical parts of the job.

Watch this video to meet Leland Chee, the keeper of a secret database called The Holocron, a digital encyclopedia of all the characters, planets, ships, and events in the Star Wars Universe.

Work Environment

Database administrators work in offices or labs. They usually work about 40 hours a week, but evening or weekend work may need to be done to meet deadlines. Telecommuting (working from home) is common for computer professionals.

Like other workers who spend long periods of time in front of a computer, database administrators can suffer eyestrain, back discomfort, and hand and wrist problems.

On the Job

  • Test programs or databases, correct errors and make necessary modifications.
  • Modify existing databases and database management systems or direct programmers and analysts to make changes.
  • Plan, coordinate and implement security measures to safeguard information in computer files against accidental or unauthorized damage, modification or disclosure.
  • Work as part of a project team to coordinate database development and determine project scope and limitations.
  • Write and code logical and physical database descriptions and specify identifiers of database to management system or direct others in coding descriptions.
  • Train users and answer questions.
  • Specify users and user access levels for each segment of database.
  • Approve, schedule, plan, and supervise the installation and testing of new products and improvements to computer systems such as the installation of new databases.
  • Review project requests describing database user needs to estimate time and cost required to accomplish project.
  • Develop standards and guidelines to guide the use and acquisition of software and to protect vulnerable information.
  • Review procedures in database management system manuals for making changes to database.
  • Develop methods for integrating different products so they work properly together such as customizing commercial databases to fit specific needs.
  • Develop data model describing data elements and how they are used, following procedures and using pen, template or computer software.
  • Select and enter codes to monitor database performance and to create production database.
  • Establish and calculate optimum values for database parameters, using manuals and calculator.
  • Revise company definition of data as defined in data dictionary.
  • Review workflow charts developed by programmer analyst to understand tasks computer will perform, such as updating records.
  • Identify and evaluate industry trends in database systems to serve as a source of information and advice for upper management.

Source: BLS

Companies That Hire Database Administrators

Explore what you might do on the job with one of these projects...

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Additional Information

  • Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Computer Society: www.computer.org
  • Software & Information Industry Association: www.siia.net


Additional Support

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