How to Become a Database Administrator

A database manager reviews code on a pair of monitors.

Cyberattacks continue to be one of the biggest concerns for organizations, and they’re on the rise. Nearly 340 million people were impacted by data breaches in the first four months of 2023, according to IT World Canada. Forbes reports there were more than 1 billion active malware programs in mid-2023, and every day about 560,000 new pieces of malware are detected.

Security breaches can cost companies millions, expose their customers to fraud and devastate their brand’s reputation. To combat threats to their customers and business-critical information, organizations hire teams of cybersecurity professionals. Demand for these professionals is increasing rapidly as security threats grow and evolve year after year.

Those interested in pursuing a cybersecurity career path to help companies stay safe and keep their data secure may want to learn how to become a database administrator. This role can offer significant growth potential and competitive salaries to those starting out in information security. Earning a Master of Science in Information Security Management and learning from accomplished industry professionals may offer aspiring database administrators an advantage in this competitive environment.

What Does a Database Administrator Do?

Database administrators manage computer systems’ databases and safeguard companies’ business-critical information. They set up and maintain databases to make sure they are secure, organized and functioning properly, and they oversee daily operations like installing and updating software, troubleshooting issues and backing up data. Most importantly, they protect sensitive data from loss and unauthorized access while ensuring qualified individuals can access information securely.

Here are the main responsibilities of a database administrator:

Create Databases

Database administrators are responsible for installing database management software and systems based on their company’s security requirements and amount of data, among other considerations. They also customize databases to provide the appropriate level of redundancy, capacity and organization.

Customize and Modify Existing Databases

As their organizations change, database administrators need to anticipate and plan for necessary updates. They monitor database systems for opportunities to optimize performance and are responsible for identifying new potential security threats.

Back Up Data and Provide Ongoing Support

Database administrators back up databases regularly. They uphold data management requirements and standards and they support data continuity efforts to ensure that their organizations have access to business-critical information in the event of a disruption.

Ensure Qualified Individuals Can Access Data

Among database administrators’ most important responsibilities is enforcing data security protocols to allow only qualified individuals with proper credentials and permissions to access their organization’s data. They do this by implementing authentication and authorization methods such as username and password combinations and role-based access control.

Work Environment for Database Administrators

Database administrators typically work business hours from Monday through Friday. However, some may be on call to work nights or weekends to help their companies recover from data breaches or information technology (IT) outages that impact business operations. They may work remotely or in an office, and may need to work in a server room if their company stores its data in on-premises servers.

Database administrators work in all industries that require data storage, privacy and security. Organizations’ needs differ depending on their size and their specific industry’s security considerations. For example, hospitals must follow health care regulations that protect their patients’ privacy, including on smart devices used by staff and third-party vendors. Financial institutions may use legacy equipment to house customer data, which requires a certain skill set. All of these criteria present different security challenges for database administrators.

Steps to Become a Database Administrator

Professionals interested in how to become a database administrator should know that they will need to have both technology skills and soft skills, such as analytical thinking skills, attention to detail, communication skills and problem-solving skills, to succeed in the role. They’ll need to take these steps to become a database administrator:

Pursue an Education

A bachelor’s degree in computer science or information technology is required to become a database administrator. Earning an advanced degree in information security management may give professionals increased earning and growth opportunities. Master’s degree programs can help individuals gain necessary knowledge, including in areas such as:

  • Data backup and recovery
  • Data administration and standardization policies
  • Database management platforms and programs such as Oracle, Linux and UNIX
  • SQL and other query languages

Gain Professional Experience

It may be possible to work as a database administrator without prior experience and to learn the following skills on the job:

  • Database maintenance
  • Optimizing database performance
  • Business continuity
  • Industry-specific data recovery procedures

Enhance Skills With Certifications

Database administrators who are interested in specializing or refining their skills may consider obtaining optional certifications. For example, someone seeking an entry-level data analytics role may want to earn the IBM data analyst professional certificate. A database administrator who wants to pursue a career in data science may choose the ICCP certified data scientist credential.

Some certifications are specific to certain databases, and others are more general. Choosing which certification to pursue requires careful consideration of one’s career goals.

Database Administrator Salary and Job Growth

Database administrators earned a median annual salary of $96,710 as of May 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The number of jobs for database administrators is growing. The BLS predicts an 8 percent increase in overall employment of database administrators between 2021 and 2031 — which is faster than the average growth projected for all occupations.

Stand Out in the Fast-Growing Cybersecurity Field

As a vital part of their organizations’ data operations, database administrators have jobs that are both rewarding and in demand. They perform day-to-day tasks and jump to action on the front line to help recover systems and data in emergencies. They protect their company’s valuable data, and they are compensated well for their responsibility and expertise.

Learn how Augusta University Online’s Master of Science in Information Security Management (MSISM) program can help you gain the industry skills and technical knowledge you’ll need to begin a career as a database administrator who helps companies recover from data disasters — and prevents them.

Recommended Readings
Cybersecurity Architect: Salary, Job Description and Education
5 Research Topics in Cybersecurity
How to Make a Career Change to Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, Database Administrator
Forbes, “Cybersecurity Trends and Statistics; More Sophisticated and Persistent Threats So Far in 2023”
HIMSS, “Cybersecurity in Healthcare”
Indeed, “Guide to 14 Unique Database Administrator Certifications”
Indeed, “How to Become a Database Administrator”
Indeed, “Learn About Being an IT Manager”
IT World Canada, “Cyber Security Today, April 28, 2023 — Data on Over 340 Million People Exposed So Far This Year”
Payscale, Average Database Administrator (DBA) Salary
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Computer and Information Systems Managers

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