Computer Science

How Much Do Database Administrators Make?

How Much Do Database Administrators Make?
Database administrators and architects manage the systems that store and secure data. They make data available to authorized users and protect it from unauthorized users. Image from Unsplash
Eddie Huffman profile
Eddie Huffman April 3, 2023

The BLS projects robust growth in the database administrator job market between now and 2031. Does the job pay well? This article answers that question and explains how to enter this career.

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What child hasn’t dreamed of becoming a database administrator? Well, almost all of them, to be honest. But many kids enjoy solving mysteries. And fortunately, getting to the bottom of technical puzzles is an important part of being a database administrator (DBA).

“It’s not the data that drew me in,” wrote DBA Art Kagel on Quora. “It was the mystery and the chase inherent in tracking down performance problems.”

Let’s take a closer look at a job that offers more rewards and excitement than you might think. We’ll explore how much database administrators make while also addressing:

  • What is a database administrator?
  • How do I become a database administrator?
  • Earning an appropriate master’s degree online

What is a database administrator?

Database administrators and architects manage the systems that store and secure data. They make data available to authorized users and protect it from unauthorized users.

“Businesses today generate huge volumes of data,” Codecademy reports. “Much of this data can be good to use, with data science allowing companies to discover patterns and trends to better understand and serve their customers. But, before data can be analyzed, it first needs to be organized.”

Responsibilities of database administrators include:

  • Designing and building databases
  • Identifying user needs
  • Securing organizational data
  • Performing backup and recovery operations
  • Resolving access and performance issues
  • Making and testing modifications
  • Training users and updating them on system changes

TechRepublic notes that an average day for a DBA may include:

  • Installation, configuration, upgrade, and migration
  • Backup and recovery
  • Database security
  • Storage and capacity planning
  • Performance monitoring and tuning
  • Troubleshooting

Todd Boss sprinkled a bit of fairy dust on database administrator work in the Quora thread quoted above: “Working as a DBA is kind of like solving daily puzzles that are abstract and difficult to solve, even to experienced IT professionals. Why did this query behave poorly? What switch can I flip in the configuration settings to suddenly make things go faster?… These are tough challenging problems. If you get them right, you look like a magician.”

Where do database administrators work?

DBAs work in finance, insurance, transportation, retail sales, education, government, and many other fields, earning healthy salaries in the process. A scan of DBA job openings on Indeed showed a wide range of openings, including at:

  • Oracle
  • Boeing
  • Vignest Technological Solutions
  • Auburn University
  • Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona
  • General Dynamics
  • MedImpact Healthcare Systems
  • Costco Wholesale
  • Los Angeles County Department of Human Resources
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How do I become a database administrator?

An analytical mind and a knack for problem solving provide a strong foundation for a career in database administration. You’ll need a college education and expertise in database languages like SQL. Different organizations use different programming languages, so you may need to learn a new ones from time to time.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists these key DBA skills:

  • Analytical ability: Essential for evaluating database performance, identifying patterns, and making data-driven decisions. DBAs use analytical skills to optimize queries, index structures, and storage solutions to improve efficiency and performance.
  • Communication: Crucial for collaborating with developers, IT staff, and management. DBAs must clearly explain technical issues, database requirements, and solutions, ensuring all stakeholders are informed and aligned.
  • Attention to dDetail: Vital for managing and maintaining databases, ensuring data integrity, and performing precise configurations and updates. Small errors can lead to significant problems, so meticulousness is key in tasks like backup, recovery, and security.
  • Problem solving: Involves diagnosing and resolving database issues, such as performance bottlenecks, data corruption, and connectivity problems. DBAs must quickly identify the root cause of issues and implement effective solutions to minimize downtime and maintain database health.

Other important skills include technological expertise, critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration.

Education and training

Most DBA jobs require a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information technology, engineering, or a related field. Many database administrators hold a master’s degree in such fields as information management, database information, or information technology.

Universities offering degrees that prepare you for a DBA career include:

  • The University of Washington, which offers an MS in Information Management
  • The University of Denver, which offers a master’s concentration in database design and administration
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech), which offers a Master of Information Technology

Licensure and certifications

Certifications and licenses can also enhance your skill set and make you more appealing to potential employers. Indeed recently offered a “Guide to 14 Unique Database Administrator Certifications” that includes:

  • Microsoft Certified Azure Fundamentals
  • MongoDB Associate Database Administrator
  • PostgreSQL Associate Certification
  • SAP Certified Application Associate, Reporting, Modeling, And Data Acquisition With SAP BW/4HANA 2.x
  • IBM Certified Administrator – Netezza Performance Server V11.x
  • MongoDB Associate Developer Certification
  • ICCP Certified Data Professional

Finding a job

The job outlook for database administrators is solid for the foreseeable future. The BLS projects nine percent growth in database administrator and architect jobs from 2021 to 2031, a rate faster than the national average for all occupations. The agency predicts about 11,500 openings for database administrators and architects each year during that period.

Reddit user mam66666 warns that it might not be possible to get an entry-level DBA position: “My advice to you is to get a job as a software developer at a large company because it will be relatively easy for you to transition into database administration when the opportunity arises.”

How much do database administrators make?

By most accounts, database administrators draw average salaries in the high five-figure range. Indeed puts the average salary for a database administrator at $90,000, with a range from $61,000 to $133,000. Glassdoor puts the average at $85,000, with a “most likely” range from $68,000 to $107,000.

The highest figures come from the BLS, which indicates a median annual income for database administrators of $96,700 in May 2021. The lowest 10 percent of DBAs earned less than $48,880, while the highest-paying jobs yielded more than $151,400 annually. For database architects, the BLS indicated a median annual income of $123,430 in May 2021.

Earning an appropriate master’s degree online

You won’t have to look far to find a university offering an online degree that will provide a solid basis for a database administrator career. For example:

Questions or feedback? Email editor@noodle.com

About the Author

Eddie Huffman is the author of John Prine: In Spite of Himself and a forthcoming biography of Doc Watson. He has written for Rolling Stone, the New York Times, Utne Reader, All Music Guide, Goldmine, the Virgin Islands Source, and many other publications.

About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

To learn more about our editorial standards, you can click here.


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