Your Database Administrator Career Guide

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Database administration is a rewarding career. Learn how to become a database administrator, including needed education, certifications, and experience.

[Featured Image]:  Database Administrator working on setting up a database to suit the organization's needs.

Data is big business, with more companies using it to inform decisions, produce products, and target specific audiences. Advances in technology have improved the collection of data dramatically. The way companies interpret and store data is critical—which is where the role of a database administrator comes in.

Starting a career as a database administrator requires a combination of educational attainment, workplace and technical skills, experience, and continued professional development. It's a popular career choice with a higher-than-average salary in the field, a promising career outlook, and career advancement options [1]. 

What is the job outlook for database administrators?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, database administrators have an expected 9 percent growth between 2021 and 2031, which is about average. This equates to around 11,500 positions per year [1]. Career progression is possible, with many database administrators becoming database architects.


What do database administrators do? 

Database administrators are responsible for setting up databases appropriate for the company's needs, storing data, and managing databases. This ensures the organization and accessibility of data for companies' strategic gain, and security systems are in place to protect sensitive data. Quick access to critical information is vital for customer service, compliance, and use in business development.

Common tasks

The role of a database administrator varies according to the industry you work in and the type of data you're managing, but typically, you'll have the following duties:

  • Identifying the needs of the user and an appropriate database

  • Considering the need for storage space, network requirements, and memory when creating databases

  • Designing and building databases in line with user requirements

  • Updating databases and associated servers and applications

  • Creating user profiles and access and permission

  • Completing regular tests of database functionality

  • Creating a backup and recovery system

  • Ensuring organizational data is secure

  • Monitoring technical support of databases

  • Using the database to produce queries for reports

Key skills you need as a database administrator.

Database administration calls on a combination of workplace and technical skills to build and manage databases and work with staff who need access. These include:


  • Knowledge of computer operating systems

  • Microsoft Access

  • Oracle

  • HTML

  • SQL

  • Linux

  • Java

  • Unix

  • Sybase


  • Attention to detail

  • Ability to prioritize

  • Logical thinking

  • Detail-oriented

  • Problem-solving ability 

  • Highly organized

  • Excellent communication 

  • Analytical approach 

Database administrator specializations

Many database administrators work in-house, looking after internal databases for a specific company. However, specialties also exist within database administration, breaking the role down into areas focused on by different people. These generally fall into three categories:

  • Creators and designers of databases

  • Performance database administrators

  • Application database administrators

Creating and designing databases

The first specialty involves creating and designing databases to suit the user's needs. This includes using SQL, coding and tuning. These people usually work for a technology or software development company as part of a team that can create larger systems of which the database is part.

Performance database administrators

The second specialty is performance database administration, which concerns optimizing the performance of databases and making tweaks to improve performance. The role is proactive because it focuses on improving performance to avoid problems.

Application database administrators

The last specialty is application database administration, which concentrates on integrating applications into databases. This backend work requires the use of a query language such as SQL. Application database administrators also write and debug programs and maintain applications.

What is it like working as a database administrator?

Database administration spans industries, so work in this field comes with many choices. You may work in retail, health care, hospitality, or research, to name a few. According to US News, database administrator ranked as the seventh-best technology job [2] and comes with a good salary, career advancement, and work-life balance. 

Typical work environment

Being a database administrator can be rewarding but also challenging, with a high responsibility for sensitive data and a need to follow data protection laws. US News scores database administration a six out of ten for work-life balance and a four for stress [2]. The role is usually a full-time, office-based position, often as part of an IT team. As the career is ever-changing as technology evolves, the role can be exciting, and being adaptable is essential. 

What is the average salary for a database administrator? 

The average database administrator's annual salary is $96,710 [1], which is above average. According to the BLS, the top 10 percent in the role earn more than $151,400 per year [1]. 


The database administrator career path.

You need a degree, relevant experience, and certifications to become a database administrator. As the vast industries database administrators work in, different roles may have slightly different requirements. 

Education and training

It's possible to enter the profession with an associate degree and some relevant training and certifications, but a bachelor’s degree is mainly necessary. Some companies may prefer a master’s degree. Relevant subjects are computer or IT technology or something similar such as engineering. 

Read more: What Is a Bachelor’s Degree? Requirements, Costs, and More

In addition to a degree, showing that you can use specific software and have technical skills beyond what's taught in a degree is essential. Many companies ask for training or certification in the database software used in their organization.

Gaining IT experience

Database administrators must demonstrate specific technical skills and hold a degree and certifications. These skills can be from a previous position, such as an entry-level job like data entry or another IT role. You'll need experience to start your career before you can work up to managing sensitive data.

Value of database administrator certifications

The value placed on database administrator certifications is high. More than a degree and experience is required as companies want to know that you have relevant database management skills and can use the appropriate database languages. Certification in the right software, management system, or language can set you apart, even if it isn’t a requirement.

Embark on a career of constant learning

Database administration is constantly evolving, so your skills also need to. Employers sometimes provide on-the-job training and expect database administrators to engage in professional development. The following are some certifications you may want to consider:

  • Oracle Certified Professional (OCP)

  • Computer Service Technician (CST)

  • Microsoft Certified Database Administrator

  • IBM Certified Database Associate - DB2 9 Fundamentals

Next steps

If you’re looking to begin your career as a database administrator, starting with some courses and certifications is a great first step. You can develop a foundation in database management with Database Management Essentials offered by the University of Colorado on Coursera to launch your database management career.



Database Management Essentials

Database Management Essentials provides the foundation you need for a career in database development, data warehousing, or business intelligence, as well as ...


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Database (DB) Design, Entity–Relationship (E-R) Model, Database (DBMS), SQL

Article sources


US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Occupational Outlook Handbook: Database Administrators and Architects,” Accessed December 5, 2022.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

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