5 Steps to Becoming a Database Administrator

Learn how to become a database administrator. Discover the most important skills for database management professionals.

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by Whitney Sandoval

Published on June 22, 2022

Reviewed by Monali Mirel Chuatico

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5 Steps to Becoming a Database Administrator
Image Credit: Luis Alvarez / DigitalVision / Getty Images


What Is a Database Administrator?

Organizations acquire data from within the company and from consumers, but what happens to that information? Database administrators design and build databases to store data and information securely. Once security data measures are established, database administrators work to maintain and organize the secured information.

Database administrators often specialize in particular aspects of data management. For instance, system database administrators keep a company's database management system working properly by repairing bugs and implementing updates. Application database administrators manage a specific application within the system instead of working with the whole database.

Typically, database administrators should be detail-oriented and organized. Those who possess strong problem-solving abilities and can think outside of the box may also excel in database administration.

Data administration professionals with bachelor's degrees can make a competitive salary. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), database administrators earned a median wage of $98,860 in 2020. The BLS projects positions for these professionals will grow 8% between 2020 and 2030.

How to Become a Database Administrator: A Step-by-Step Guide

Earn a Relevant Degree

The majority of entry-level positions require applicants to have a bachelor's degree in a field related to database administration. Relevant degrees could include a bachelor's in computer science, a bachelor's in information technology, or a bachelor's in computer programming. Typically, a bachelor's degree takes four years to complete, but you may find accelerated programs online.

For more advanced positions, companies may seek applicants with relevant work experience and an advanced degree like a master's. Students who have completed a bachelor's degree can enroll in a master's in database management program and complete their degree in 1-2 years.

Gain Practical Experience

Along with completing a degree program, you may also consider applying for an internship before seeking employment as a database administrator. Internships give you hands-on experience working in the field, while also providing you with a chance to network and make connections in that sector. Internships may also help set your resume apart from other job applicants'.

Most Important Skills for Database Management Professionals

Internships are a great way to gain and apply valuable skills that you may not acquire through classroom instruction. Here are a few skills that you may develop:

Attention to detail Knowledge of computer operating systems Organization Problem-solving Effective communication Ability to prioritize tasks Time management Willingness to learn new technology Ability to adapt Strong interpersonal skills

Finding an internship can be daunting, but your college's career services department may have resources. Many colleges partner with local businesses and facilitate student-business connections. If your college does not have an established program, you can always reach out to companies and ask about internships and mentorship opportunities.

Obtain Appropriate Certification(s)

Beyond earning a college degree, you may also need to obtain specific certifications in the field. Typically, database administrators need certificates for the applications they will use. Various software companies, such as Snowflake, IBM, Oracle, and Microsoft, provide these certifications after you demonstrate proficiency in their applications.

Database administrators can take online courses in specific software programs and demonstrate an ability to utilize these different applications. Having certifications can make you more marketable to employers because it shows a willingness to learn and demonstrates knowledge of different systems.

Apply to Database Administrator Positions

As you begin your job search, you may want to consider any connections you have made throughout your college career, including with professors and during internship experiences. Peruse job search sites to get a feel for available database administrator positions.

Applying for database administrator positions is exciting, but combing through job websites can feel overwhelming. If you are finishing your degree program, you can reach out to your college's career services department. They can assist with your job search and help you land a job after college.

Contact your college about career fairs as well. Sometimes colleges organize career fairs toward the end of each academic semester. You may also check your local community for upcoming job fairs and even find virtual career fairs you can attend from anywhere.

Consider an Advanced Degree

Although entry-level positions may only require applicants to possess a bachelor's degree, those looking to advance in the field may benefit from seeking higher education. Many higher-level positions in database administration require a master's degree in a related field, like a master's in computer science.

Completing a master's in computer science degree program can help you stand out from other applicants when applying for database administrator jobs. Earning an advanced degree can also qualify you for management roles and help you earn a higher salary.

Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Database Administrator

true What is database administration?

Organizations collect and keep relevant data. Database administration is the process of creating a database for securely storing that information. Database administration can also include managing a company's collected data in an organized database so others within the company can retrieve necessary data quickly.

true What does a database administrator do?

Ultimately, a database administrator manages and maintains an organization's data. These duties include creating secure databases for storing information, organizing a company's data so leaders in the organization can quickly find relevant data, and fixing any issues within the database system.

Database administrators must be comfortable using different software and computer application systems as part of their job as well as being able to problem solve when issues arise.

What degree is needed for database administration?

Although each company will have its own specific job requirements, those applying for entry-level database administration jobs typically need a bachelor's degree in a related field like computer science or information technology. More advanced positions in database administration may require applicants to hold a master's degree.

Database administrators may also need to complete certifications in specific computer programs or applications. These certifications, such as ones offered by the data warehouse company Snowflake, require candidates to demonstrate familiarity with their products.

How much does a database administrator make?

Salaries are dependent on several factors, including location and experience. In May 2021, database administrators and architects earned an average annual salary of $96,550, according to the BLS. The average annual wage for all occupations in the United States was $58,260 during the same period.

The type of industry you work in can impact your salary as well. For instance, according to the BLS, those who worked in computer systems design and related services earned an average annual wage of $103,570. Database administrators working in colleges, universities, and professional schools earned an annual average wage of $82,890.

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