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How to Become a Database Administrator

As the internet and technology become increasingly important parts of our lives, the amount of data we are generating has been growing. This means that there has been a growth in demand for qualified database administrators who can manage this data.

After all, someone has to store the data we generate online and ensure that data is protected in all cases. Database administrators will manage a database and ensure that it is available whenever it is needed. They play a key role in ensuring the data users and companies generate is kept safe and is always accessible.

How do you become a database administrator? That’s the question we hope to answer in this guide. Below you will find information about the promising career prospects of a career in database administration, as well as information about expected salaries and training programs.

What is a Database Administrator?

Database administration is about managing databases and ensuring they are available when they are needed. The database administrator (DBA) will manage, back up, and protect information stored in a database. The DBA plays a critical role in many companies, especially those which generate large amounts of data.

For example, let’s say you are working for an education course provider. Your responsibility would be to ensure all data for the provider’s courses was stored safely and ensure students could readily access the information they need when they need it. The DBA would also ensure professors could amend courses when changes were required.

Database Administrator Job Description - What Does a Database Administrator Do?

Database administrators create, update, and manage databases and associated programs. They are responsible for ensuring a database is accessible, and functions as intended.

A database administrator will also need to ensure a database is secure by protecting confidential information correctly and setting up the right user permissions. DBAs may work with other DBAs, as well as the broader development team to ensure an application can consume and amend information from a database correctly. In addition, in many cases, a DBA will store internal information, rather than information used for a specific app.

Database administrators can take on a wide variety of roles in a company. For example, a DBA may be assigned to an application team to assist with integration between a database and a broader application. The DBA may also be responsible for working with business analysts to derive insights from a dataset.

Database administrators’ responsibilities often include:

  • Creating user profiles, and ensuring those profiles have the correct permissions.
  • Creating a backup and recovery plan, in case of a database failure.
  • Monitoring technical support for database systems.
  • Creating reports by querying the database, if a specific set of data is required.
  • Installing and updating database servers.

Database Administrator Job Outlook

Database administrators have a strong job outlook. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in database administration are expected to grow by 9 percent by 2029, which is “faster than average.”

This growth, driven by the growing needs of companies across the economy to collect, store, and analyze new and existing data, makes this role one of the best jobs in tech for those looking for job security.

Database Administrator Salaries - How Much Do Database Administrators Earn?

Database administrators earn impressive salaries. Most expected salaries for DBAs, according to ZipRecruiter, range between $65,000 and $104,000, depending on your experience level. However, the national average salary is over $86,100 per year.

There’s no way to know the exact salary you can expect to earn as a DBA, as it can vary between companies and locations. Big companies like Google and Oracle with large data needs will offer higher salaries than most startups, for example. DBAs in San Francisco can expect to earn an average of almost $101,000 per year, whereas DBAs in Austin , Texas can expect to earn over $83,500 per year, according to ZipRecruiter.

Further, salaries for database administrators vary widely depending on your experience. Junior DBAs can expect to earn an average of over $67,500 per year, whereas senior DBAs earn an average of almost $113,000 per year. Keep in mind that those salaries do not include stock options or other employee benefits, which you should consider when evaluating a particular job.

How Can You Become a Database Administrator?

There are several different paths you can take to become a DBA. The most common paths people pursue when starting their career in database administration are as follows:

  1. Attend a coding bootcamp specializing in data science
  2. Learn database administration through self-study
  3. Earn a degree in computer science at a traditional college or university

Each path has its own benefits and drawbacks. While data roles in the past were mostly offered to college graduates, this has been changing rapidly over the last few decades. Now, many data scientists are self-taught or pursue a non-traditional path. Perhaps the most viable alternative to college for budding database administrators is going to a coding bootcamp.

Coding bootcamps allow you to acquire the practical skills you need to thrive in a particular role, without spending four years on a university course and taking out loans to finance your education. In a coding bootcamp, you can learn everything you need to know in under a year, and be taught by industry veterans who have walked the same path you are going down.

How to Learn Database Administration

There’s more than one way to learn about database administration. Many DBAs attend a college and university, where they will spend a lot of time learning about data storage and algorithms. Other people have taught themselves data science and lack any formal coding education. However, this is rare in database administration. That said, there is another way to learn the skills you need to become a DBA: coding bootcamps.

Coding bootcamps are short-term, intensive programs where you will learn all of the practical skills you need to enter a particular field. There are dozens of high-quality coding bootcamps which teach courses in data science. After graduating from a data science program, you’ll be armed with a portfolio of projects to showcase your skills, the knowledge you need, and a network which you can use to find a job as a DBA.

Top Skills Needed for Database Administration Careers

In order to be a successful database administrator, there are several technical skills you’ll need to learn and master. Let’s start with the technical skills you need to thrive as a DBA.

Essential Technical Skills for Database Administrators

The following technical skills are crucial to have as a database administrator. These database administration skills include development tools, programming technologies, and other data-related concepts.

  1. SQL, R, Python.

    No matter what position you are applying for, you’re going to need to know how to use basic data tools. This means a programming language like R or Python, commonly used in statistics, and a database language such as SQL. You should also know about how to interact with different database clients such as PostgreSQL, MySQL, and NoSQL.

  2. Basic Statistics.

    You’ll need to have a basic understanding of statistics. You should be familiar with distributions, statistical tests, and similar mathematical concepts. Statistics is important at any company, but this skill is even more important in data-driven roles where you’ll need to be able to interpret data at scale.

  3. Database Backups and Recover.

    Sometimes there can be a problem which causes a database to fail. As a DBA, you’ll be responsible for ensuring that if something does fail, the business can easily restore its data and bring its services back online.

  4. Database Reporting and Querying.

    You should be able to write advanced queries for a database using SQL, and also produce various reports if required. You may also have to hand over this information to other members of your company, such as the business analysis team. Thus, you should ensure your queries are formatted correctly and meet all the requirements.

  5. Data Security.

    As a DBA, you’ll have to ensure all data inside a database is kept secure. This will involve assigning the correct user permissions to anyone using a database, and taking precautions to ensure the integrity of the data held in a database is maintained. You should also have a basic understanding of server security on a platform such as Linux or Windows in case additional precautions need to be taken to secure data.

Essential Soft Skills for Database Administrators

To be successful as a database administrator, you’ll need to have a set of “soft” skills — personal attributes and abilities — as well as technical knowledge. Here are the main soft skills you should have as a database administrator:

  • Teamwork.

    As a DBA, you’ll have to be able to work in a team. You should be able to work with other DBAs to solve problems and manage a database, and work with developers, analysts, and other members of an organization who need to interact with a database.

  • Problem Solving.

    You’ll have to solve problems every day as a DBA. For example, you may have to figure out a way to update a database that does not render a company’s services unusable for hours; you may have to figure out what to do in the case of a disaster, where you’ll need to recover data from backups.

  • Business Mindset.

    DBAs are often presented with a variety of business problems they need to solve. For example, a DBA may need to figure out how to create a new database to meet the needs of the team who is developing a new internal tool. This will involve thinking through a problem as if you were management, and being able to effectively solve business problems with that mindset.

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

There’s a few steps you’ll need to go through in order to become a database administrator, which include:

  1. Learn through a data science bootcamp, a college degree, or self-study
  2. Develop and refine your technical skills
  3. Build your data science portfolio
  4. Write your technical resume
  5. Start the job search
  6. Prepare for your interview

Career Karma is here to help you through every step of your journey to becoming a database administrator. We’ll provide free mentorship, coaching, and access to a community of your peers who can support you along the way. We’ll also help you prepare for and get accepted to one of the top data science bootcamps, so you can get the training you need to succeed in your new career.

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