Database Administrator Job Description - Skills, Tasks and Career Path
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Database Administrator Job Description
A database administrator (often abbreviated to DBA) is an IT industry professional responsible for database management and maintenance. Typical tasks of a database administrator include installing, configuring and monitoring databases and ensuring data integrity and security.
A database is a collection of information stored in a computer that is organized so that it can be easily accessed by authorized users. Database administrators are responsible for a range of tasks related to the development, management and maintenance of databases, including enforcing data access rules and ensuring that stored data is secure and can be recovered in the event of a system failure.
Let’s take a detailed look at what the job of a DB administrator involves.
A database administrator’s first task is often database creation. This involves talking with the people who requested the database (e.g. company management for a database administrator employed at a company or clients in the case of a self-employed database administrator) to establish the data storage and access requirements and setting out a plan for a database that satisfies those requirements. Database administrators then work with developers and programmers on the design of both the back-end and the front-end of the database.
When designing a front-end interface (i.e. the part of the database that its users interact with), a database administrator’s main goals are to implement a database query system that meets their client’s requirements and to ensure that users can quickly and easily access the information stored in the database.
Designing a database back-end, meanwhile, involves defining the underlying architecture of the database, the format and structure of the data elements composing it and, finally, how those elements relate to one another (data dictionary or metadata repository).
Another key task of database administrators is installing the software used to manage the data stored in a database (known as Database Management Systems or DBMS). In addition to implementing the chosen DMBS application, database administrators also perform updates and modifications when required. They are also responsible for ensuring that a database is functioning as intended and for verifying and maintaining the integrity of the stored data by implementing regular checks to ensure that data comes from reliable sources. Database administrators may also be required to ensure that databases are compliant with rules on privacy and the protection of personal data.
Other important areas of responsibility for database administrators include controlling database access - e.g. implementing security and access control systems to ensure that only authorized users can consult the database - and
monitoring database performance - for example, carrying out regular tests and checks to ensure that the systems and servers are functioning correctly.
Where necessary, database administrators may also migrate data from old databases to new databases. Where application errors or hardware or software issues arise, database administrators are responsible for implementing actions to restore full system operability. They also establish data backup and recovery procedures and disaster recovery plans to ensure that data will remain safe even in the event of a disaster or emergency situation, such as a blackout.
Databases may be used to store all kinds of data, from personal details, contact data and delivery addresses right through to financial information and data relating to business processes.
As a result, database administrators are employed by a wide variety of companies - especially those that process and store large quantities of data, such as banks, insurance companies, public sector organizations, hospitals, schools, universities, multinationals, IT service providers and data centers.
Database administrators also frequently work in in-house IT departments, as well as in a self-employed capacity.
Database administrators typically work standard office hours. However, some flexibility may be necessary in order to carry out database update and maintenance operations (typically done during low-traffic periods, such as evenings and weekends) and to provide on-call emergency support.
Database Administrator Responsibilities and Tasks
The main duties of a DB administrator are as follows:
- Designing database architecture that satisfies client requirements
- Establishing back-end data structure (data modelling and data dictionary)
- Designing front-end user access interface
- Monitoring database access and configuring access control systems
- Ensuring data integrity and security
- Installing and updating database management systems (DBMS)
- Analyzing database performance and carrying out performance tuning and maintenance
- Identifying and resolving any system issues
- Developing, managing and testing backup and data recovery plans
- Checking that databases are compliant with rules on privacy and the protection of personal data
How to Become a Database Administrator - Education and Requirements
To become a database administrator typically requires some form of education or training in an IT or computer-related field, with the most sought-after candidates including those with a high school diploma in IT or a degree in information technology, computer engineering, telecommunications or electronic engineering. Other degrees, such as economics, mathematics, physics and business management, may also be accepted by employers if accompanied by prior work experience in the IT industry.
Aspiring database administrators can enhance their employment prospects by obtaining certification demonstrating their ability to manage databases on a variety of operating systems (such as Linux/Unix, Windows) and their knowledge of programming languages, frameworks and development environments (such as SQL, C, C++). Some of the systems database administrators should be familiar with include Oracle Database and relational databases such as MySQL and SQL Server.
Finally, also essential for database administrators is a knowledge of the regulations on privacy and the protection of personal data.
Database Administrator Skills and Qualifications
Database administrators require the following skills:
- Database architecture design skills
- Ability to install, configure and manage multiple databases
- Knowledge of principles of database management
- System administration skills
- Knowledge of programming languages
- Systems diagnostics and troubleshooting skills
- Analytical skills and attention to detail
- Flexibility and ability to work without supervision
- Problem-solving skills
Aspiring database administrators typically build up IT industry experience in positions such as systems analyst or programmer, or else in a junior database administrator role.
Subsequent career development opportunities vary depending on the type of company, with larger, more structured organizations in particular likely to offer better prospects for advancement into positions with management responsibilities, such as senior database administrator.
Database administration, control, tuning, and maintenance skills are also needed in a wide variety of other areas, including information systems development, network management and big data analysis.
Finally, another option is to work on a freelance basis, either collaborating with other IT professionals on large projects or taking charge of smaller assignments on an individual basis.
Top Reasons to Work as a Database Administrator
Database administrator is a highly skilled role, offering excellent prospects for career advancement in the IT industry.
With the ability to store, manage and use data effectively becoming a critical issue for a growing number of businesses and organizations, vacancies for database administrators are constantly on the rise.
Conversely, competition for jobs is low, as there are a limited number of people with the skills required for the role. Salaries are attractive and in many cases the work can be carried out remotely, meaning the job also offers a significant amount of flexibility.