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How to Become a Database Administrator

A Database Administrator is an IT professional who designs, implements, and manages databases. Your primary function, however, will be to maintain and ensure that the database is reliable and operating effectively. You will need to back up the database periodically, run diagnostic tests, and be capable of fixing any possible errors.

As for your daily routine, most database administrators work in an office setting at a computer workstation. However, it might be possible to work remotely, assuming that your database is accessible via the internet. In fact, there are many independent Database Administrators who work from home and manage databases for large and small businesses all around the nation.

Your road to becoming a Database Administrator can start from a number of points. You could land a position in an IT department and learn on the job. Another route is to study for a certification, such as Microsoft's Certified Database Administrator (MCDBA,) Oracle's Database Administrator Certified Associate (OCA), or MySQL Database Administration Certification, also offered through Oracle. However, you could also take classes that lead to a degree, either an Associate's or a Bachelor's.

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Steps to Becoming a Database Administrator

  • Step 1: Is This Field for You?

  • Step 2: Associate’s Degree

  • Step 3: Associate’s Degree

  • Step 4: Certifications and Graduate School


Step 1: Is the field for you?

The first step towards becoming a database administrator is determining that you have a real love for and aptitude for high technology. If you have some experience writing computer code, including setting up websites, or designing small games, you are likely a good candidate. Database administrators should also have strong analytical and mathematical abilities.

One way to help determine if this field is for you is to take a few inexpensive computing classes pertaining to coding, databases, or Linux. These courses may or may not lead to a certification, but they will help you determine how well you do with the underpinnings of a computer. Keep in mind that the work of a database administrator is unlikely to involve simple point-and-click operations. You will need to apply analytical theories and processes to solve large problems. Also keep in mind that database work is likely to be in a text-based computing environment. One way to familiarize yourself with this relatively unfamiliar environment is to install Linux on a computer and familiarize yourself with the Terminal interface, which is the core of the Linux Operating System.

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Step 2: Associate's Degree

After you have determined that database administrator is the right field for you, you will need to proceed into either a work environment or formal education. While you can learn database administration on the job, and likely do quite well, if you take courses that lead to a degree or certification, you will always have those credentials to fall back on.

Your first degree can be an associate's degree in database administration, which you can complete in two years. This can be a great way to get started on a career as a database administrator. Not only will you take the necessary computing courses, but you will take other courses in math, literature, and other fields. While those courses might seem superfluous, they will add to your skill-set and provide a stronger basis for yourself as a professional. Other courses you should consider taking include, but aren't limited to:

  • Introduction to Accounting
  • Technical Writing / Business Communications
  • Management
  • Statistics
  • Calculus

You may also be able to find an internship or job with just an Associate’s degree. Even if you plan to continue on to a higher degree, it might be useful at this point to get some experience in the field. Take some time to look around and see if there is anything you can do with an associate’s degree in order to start gaining experience or employment.

Step 3: Bachelor's Degree

After your associate's degree, you should press on to complete a bachelors in database administration. While you might work for a bit between degrees, don't let too much time pass. That's because you want to make sure to graduate from a four-year college. Once you do that, your earnings are sure to rise dramatically.

While you will likely be majoring in Information Technology, consider attaining a minor or double major in a complementary field. It's almost assured that you will find interest in another field that compels you to take the courses necessary to complete at least a minor.

Some complimentary fields to consider include, but are not limited to:

  • Accounting
  • Business Administration
  • Mathematics
  • Management

While still in college, you might seek out part-time work or freelance work to start gaining experience in your field. Another way to gain experience is through a work-study program that is part of your financial aid, or even internships at local businesses. Internships may not pay, but you can get college credit for them and they sometimes lead to full-time employment upon graduation.

Step 4: Certifications and Graduate School

Your fourth step will be to attain industry certifications. Your academic background might explicitly prepare you for certain certifications, but you should certainly work to earn a professional credential. When you are able to show a potential employer that you have a certification from Microsoft, Linux Academy, IBM, or Oracle, they will know that you are determined and that your skills have been proven in a professional environment.

After you have worked with your Bachelor's degree and a professional certification, you may eventually wish to return to school for a master’s degree. You will have several choices. You can work towards an MBA that focuses on information technology, a computer science degree, or a pure Information Technology degree. At that stage in your career, you will be able to determine which route will best benefit your long-term goals.

What Does a Database Administrator Do?

On a day-to-day basis, database administrators will oversee the operation of a database, which is a storehouse of an organization's files and essential data. Database administrators might be involved with entering new data to the database's tables, checking security, or running diagnostic tests. Database administrator must be able to analyze the results of the diagnostics and be able to address any pressing issues. A database administrator will need to have expertise in at least one operating system. It is increasingly likely that you will need to know the Linux OS, but you might also need to know Microsoft.

Database administrators will likely spend a good deal of time working with end-users who have questions about various issues they have with the database. Database administrators may need to conduct training so that new employees understand how to work with the database in their daily work. On that note, a database administrator might need to set up permissions for outside users such as customers who may search for products, or contractors who need to access certain data types.

Database Administrator Skills to Acquire

One of the chief skills that seems to be lacking in the Information Technology field is communication. As you work through a degree program, take electives in Communications, Technical Writing, Business Communication, and even Public Speaking, if available. That's because once you have those skills you will be able to present yourself and your work in a professional, effective manner.

You will also want to attain skill in computer programming languages. These days, you might focus on Python to start. It's also important to learn SQL databases, the Linux Operating System, and Microsoft Server technology.

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Another fundamental skill to work on is mathematics. The stronger your math skills, the better able you will be able to adapt new technologies and solve complex problems. Along these lines, a strong background in accounting will enable you to audit your database for any anomalies. For instance, you could uncover evidence of hacking, or maybe there were problems with a user's permissions that caused an inadvertent security breach.

Alternative Paths

The Information Technology field was pioneered by people who were largely self-taught, and that tradition still continues. Thus, if you have the motivation, determination, and the discipline you can go purchase a few books and start studying. You can also find courses online that can lead to a certification. These courses are all self-study and they are more than happy to take your credit card even if you don't complete the lessons.

If you want to learn SQL, for instance, a simple web search will yield multiple opportunities for self-study. There are even free resources available which will allow you to gain access to valuable information. It's up to you to dedicate the time necessary to master database skills.

Once you have become self-taught, you can apply to job openings. In your interview, you are likely to be asked questions that pertain to the specific job. If you have studied in the skill set areas that managers need, you should be competitive with candidates from four-year colleges.

To maximize your chances of mastering Databases and advancing into your dream job, you should consider diving into a certificate program. Since these programs are not exactly cheap, please make sure that you have a strong background in database management from other free or cheap courses.

Career and Salary

Where Might You Work?


Nearly every sort of business and organization these days relies on a database to conduct business. Even smaller retailers need to maintain a database of their products so that they can check sales data and inventories. As a database administrator, you can help your clients or employers conduct queries that will yield results they can work with.

One industry that is relying more and more on database storage is healthcare. The field of healthcare informatics relies on database analysis to maximize patient outcomes. This may be an option for a database administrator career, if you have the desire to learn more about medicine and healthcare delivery. In fact, this could lead to a successful career in hospital administration.

The government is yet another option. If you graduate from a four-year degree program and are shouldering a significant debt load, you can have that debt discharged by working it off in a government agency or a non-profit. There are a wide range of governmental agencies to choose from and you can apply to one at the local, state, or federal level. If the government isn't for you, consider that many healthcare and insurance companies operate as non-profits. Thus, you might garner a competitive salary while avoiding paying interest on student loans.

Potential Career Paths

The Information Technology field has spawned a bevy of diverse job opportunities. Though from the outside they may seem rather similar, once you start diving into one specific area you are sure to find how unique and deep each one is. For instance, you might be a computer programmer who creates back-end web applications. Your job is likely to involve a vastly different workflow, content, and skill set from you colleague who writes code for video games.

Computer Programmer
This field is vastly different from programmer to programmer, depending on the languages you specialize in. Python programmers, for instance, might work on managing Big Data, while PHP coders are more likely to work on websites such as Facebook. Your days will involve long hours writing highly detailed, analytical code.

Information Security Analyst
Cyber security is a growing concern these days and you will spend your time creating and bolstering defenses to a network or database. You might specialize in penetration testing or you could even work with law enforcement to investigate cybercrimes.

Software Developer
For this career path you will need to have deep computer coding skills. The software teams you join will be determined by your expertise in whatever coding language is required. As a developer, you might also work with designers and others who seek to facilitate end-user experiences.

Computer Support Specialist
This might be a great entry-level position for you as you work through a degree or database administration certificate program. You'll work with end-users to troubleshoot their problems. You could also work on large networks and even databases.

Computer Network Architect
Much as the name would imply, if you choose this field you will design and create both local and wide-area networks. You may also create intranets. These days you will probably need to implement cloud computing and high-level security, too.

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Web Developers
Web developers can work as independent contractors or for agencies who are devoted to creating and optimizing websites for a diverse group of clients. However, you might find yourself developing into a specific niche. To excel in this job, you will need a good aesthetic sensibility on top of your technical acumen.

Management Information Systems
This is a rather new and growing field that bridges the gap between the pure Information Technology expert and the business administrator. There aren't too many degree programs that cater to this career path, but if you study a blend of IT, business, and statistics, for instance, you will be well on your way.

Video Game Developer
Many computer scientists have a deep love of video games. You might master design and coding to a level that enables you to create games as an independent developer or you could apply your skills to a job with a big-name game company such as Electronic Arts or Rockstar Games.

Business Administrators Career Salaries

Occupation Entry-Level Mid-Career Late-Career
Software Developer $63,000 $83,000 $98,000
Computer and Information Systems Managers $59,000 $79,000 $99,000
Computer and Information Research Scientists $105,000 $120,000 $154,000
Computer Hardware Engineers $73,000 $92,000 $109,000
Computer Network Architects $83,000 $111,000 $131,000
Computer Programmers $56,000 $70,000 $86,000
Computer Support Specialists $45,000 $54,000 $70,000
Computer Systems Analysts $56,000 $72,000 $85,000
Database Administrators $56,000 $79,000 $99,000
Information Security Analysts $60,000 $82,000 $102,000
Web Developers $51,000 $67,000 $80,000

Career Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, database administrator jobs are growing faster than average. The agency shows that it will add over 13,000 jobs, growing by approximately 11% through 2026. The pay is also quite healthy, as Database professionals are paid a median salary of $87,000. The growth in this sector is due to the increasing reliance on databases and their increasing complexity.

Another area of increasing growth is Information Security Analysts. In fact, you might be well-served by attaining certifications in cyber security to help protect the databases you administer. If you move into Information Security, that field is slated to grow by 28% through 2026, adding over 28,000 jobs.

Given the anticipated growth in the field, it is likely to attract a lot of competition. If you have strong skills, an accredited degree, and professional certifications, you are sure to get ahead rapidly. Yet keep in mind that there will be many people behind you, nipping at your heels. If you stay sharp and continue to take professional development and continuing education courses, you will continue to put distance between yourself and the competition.

Advancing From Here

After you have been a database administrator for a number of years, you might find that you are able to move up into a management position in a large corporation. However, if you wish to branch out, you could become an independent contractor instead and consult for your specific niche industry. Database Administrators also go on to attain MBA degrees and develop their business acumen. With an MBA you can advance even further into project management, a position as a department head, or all the way to the corporate level.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What can you do with an associate in database management?

A database administrator with an associate's degree will be able to find entry level jobs and internships. You could get a job as a database coordinator, programmer analyst, database analyst, DBA SQL server, and an administrator.

What can you do with a bachelor's in database management?

With a bachelor's degree as a database administration, you will be elidable for most jobs in the field. You could be an information security analyst, database administrator, software developer, marketing analyst, and support specialist.

Do database administrators use structured query language?

Database administrators are in charge of all aspects of managing the structured query language server. Database administrators are responsible for installation, patching, and creating databases that manage permissions.

How do you advance your career in as a database administrator?

After you earn your degree in database management, you may want to consider earning certificates in the field. Certificates will help you become more knowledgeable and specialized in database management and will show employers that you are committed to your field.

What is the workplace of a database administrator like?

Most database administrator work for computer system companies, insurance companies, or banks. Database administrators generally work around 40 hours a week in a team based environment.

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