Database Administrators

Database administrators (aka DBAs) are IT professionals who are responsible for storing and organizing digital data and (as their name suggests) administer databases. It's their job to make sure that organizations data is secure from unauthorized access and available to users when it's need. They develop backup systems to prevent data loss in case of a disaster. They also help companies determine their data needs and set up systems to store and manage mission critical data. Database administrators work for just about every type of company imaginable.

While a large number of database administrators are general-purpose DBAs, a select few specialize in database design and development. DBAs who focus on database design, development and implemenation are specialists who not only understand database technology but must have an indepth understanding of business processes. The two most common types of database administrators are the following:

  • System DBAs focus on the technical aspects of database administration, such as upgrading hardware, making software updates and installing patches to fix bugs. Their main objective is to make sure an organization's databases are working correctly. System DBAs usually have a strong background in system architecture.

  • Application DBAs - are specialists that support databases designed to run specific applications, such as a custom or vendor specific customer support software. They typically are advanced programmers who develop code and write programs to manage all aspects of an application. They also perform many general-purpose DBA tasks, but specifically for the application they manage.

Work Environment
There are approximately 120,000 database administrators currently working in the United States. They are employed by many different types of organizations in many industries. A majority of DBAs (16%) work for computer systems design and technology firms, including data-processing firms, web development companies and Internet service providers. Insurance companies and financial firms, with large databases and extensive data management needs, also employee database administrators. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 13% of DBAs nationwide work for financial institutions and insurance companies. Other DBAs track and manage credit card, shipping, and customer information for retail companies. Some DBAs work with healthcare firms managing medical records for patients. A few DBA work in education.

How to Become a Database Administrator
While some database administrators (DBAs) are self taught or trained on the job, most DBAs at minimum have a bachelor's degree in information technology, management information systems (MIS) or other computer science related discipline. Most firms who employ database administrators prefer hiring DBAs with a master's degree in database management, information technology, information systems or computer science.

While it's advantageous for database administrators to have the ability to program, at minimum they must have an understanding of database languages, specifically Structured Query Language (SQL). Most databases use SQL or a variation of of SQL. However, a database administrator will need to become proficient with whichever programming language their employer uses.

In addition to a technology degree, there are several IT certifications that DBAs can pursue in order to gain additional expertise and set themselves apart from other jobseekers. While degrees are offered by colleges and universities, certifications are typically offered by specific vendors, or technical schools representing those vendors. It's not uncommon for a company to require their database administrators to get certified in the software product they use.

While a few IT professionals start out as database administrators, the vast majority of DBAs start out as programmers, database analysts or database developers (software programmers that specialize in databases).

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Pay and Benefits
The average annual salary for database administrators (DBAs) is roughly $78,500 a year. The lowest 10% of DBAs earn less than $43,000 a year. The top 10% of earners in this field make over $119,000 a year. Pay is determined by work experience, education level, industry type, employer and job responsibilities. The following are the annual wages for administrators across the top five industries where these professionals work.

Industry Annual Wage
Insurance and financial services $86,000
Computer systems design $84,600
Management $82,500
Information $82,000
Educational services $63,700
Job Outlook
As information technology and databases are an intergral component of just about every firm that manages data, the demand for qualified database administrators is only going to grow. It's estimated that employment of DBAs will grow by over 15% per year through 2022 -- which is substantially faster than the employment growth rate for all other occupations. There will always be a need for database administrators who can organize, managed and secure an organization's data.

With the recent advent of cloud computing, more and more firms are outsourcing their data management needs to third party database administration firms. Consequently, it's likely that database-as-a-service and cloud computing firms with will be major employers of database administrators in the future. Employment opportunities for database administrators in these sectors is projected to grow by nearly 50% over the next ten years.

As more and more healthcare providers transition to electronic medical records, employment opportunities for database administrators in the healthcare industry will grow. In general medical and surgical hospitals, employment of DBAs is expected to grow by nearly 45% over the next decade.

As information technology is constantly changing, aspiring database administrators with a relevant college degree and who are familiar with the latest technologies will have the best job prospects.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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