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A database administrator is someone who uses software to store and organize data, such as financial information and customer shipping records. They make sure that data is available to users and is secure from unauthorized access. Database administrators work in many different types of industries, including computer systems design and related services firms, insurance companies, banks, and hospitals.
Database administrators, often called DBAs, make sure that data analysts can easily use the database to find the information they need and that the system performs as it should. DBAs sometimes work with an organization’s management team to understand the company’s data needs and to plan the goals of the database.
Database administrators often plan security measures, making sure that data is secure from unauthorized access. Many databases contain personal or financial information, making security important. Database administrators are responsible for backing up systems in case of a power outage or other disaster. They also ensure the integrity of the database, guaranteeing that the data stored in it comes from reliable sources.
DBAs must be able to monitor a database system’s performance to determine when action is needed. They must be able to evaluate complex information that comes from a variety of sources. Most database administrators work on teams and must be able to communicate effectively with developers, managers, and other workers. Working with databases requires an understanding of complex systems, in which a minor error can cause major problems. For example, mixing up a customer's credit card information can cause someone to be charged for a purchase he or she didn’t make. Database administrators use software to make sense of information and to arrange and organize it into meaningful patterns. The information is then stored in the databases that these workers administer, test, and maintain. When problems with a database arise, administrators must be able to diagnose and correct them.
Some responsibilities of a database administrator include:
Many database administrators are general-purpose DBAs and have all these duties. However, some DBAs specialize in certain tasks that vary with the organization and its needs.
Two common specialties are as follows:
System DBAs are responsible for the physical and technical aspects of a database, such as installing upgrades and patches to fix program bugs. They typically have a background in system architecture and ensure that the database in a firm’s computer system works properly.
Application DBAs support a database that has been designed for a specific application or a set of applications, such as customer service software. Using complex programming languages, they may write or debug programs and must be able to manage the aspects of the applications that work with the database. They also do all the tasks of a general DBA, but only for their particular application.
Most database administrators work for computer systems design and related services firms, such as Internet service providers and data-processing firms. Other DBAs are employed by firms with large databases, such as insurance companies and banks, both of which keep track of vast amounts of personal and financial data for their clients. Some DBAs administer databases for retail companies that keep track of their buyers’ credit card and shipping information, and yet others work for healthcare firms and manage patients’ medical records.
Database administrators (DBAs) usually have a bachelor’s degree in an information- or computer- related subject. Before becoming an administrator, these workers typically get experience in a related field. Most database administrators have a bachelor’s degree in management information systems (MIS) or a computer-related field. Firms with large databases may prefer applicants who have a Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a concentration in information systems. An MBA typically requires two years of schooling after the undergraduate level.
Database administrators need an understanding of database languages, the most common of which is SQL. Most database systems use some variation of SQL, and a DBA will need to become familiar with whichever language the firm uses. Certification is a way to demonstrate competence and may provide a jobseeker with a competitive advantage. Certification programs are generally offered by product vendors or software firms. Some companies may require their database administrators to be certified in the product they use.
Most database administrators do not begin their careers in that occupation. Many first work as database developers or data analysts. A database developer is a type of software developer who specializes in creating databases. The job of a data analyst is to interpret the information stored in a database in a way the firm can use. Depending on their specialty, data analysts can have different job titles, including financial analyst, market research analyst, and operations research analyst. After mastering these fields, they may become a database administrator and operations research analysts.
Data integrity is a DBA's number one responsibility, but do you know what else they do all day? Bob Watkins outlines some of the basic duties of a DBA.
Whenever someone asks what I do, I never find it particularly easy to explain. Oh, my core job responsibility is supporting the Oracle databases we have at work, but 'supporting' can mean an awful lot of things.
Find out what you need to know to get started on the road to a rewarding career as a SQL Server DBA.
Perhaps the most common question I am asked by readers is “How can I become a DBA?” The question is actually not as simple as it seems and there are many different aspects to the answer.