29 Honest Database Administrator Salaries
For companies that need access to their data quickly and securely, a database administrator is the person on staff whose core responsibility is providing exactly that. More specifically, database administrators, or DBAs, get specialized training in using software for navigating databases, calibrating what they store, configuring them for different types of data and users, and in keeping them healthy. For companies that depend on huge amounts of data to remain profitable, it’s clear that you won’t get far without database administrators.
What’s less clear is what a database administrator should be paid. That’s not unique to DBAs. It’s a tough time to figure out what other people doing the same job are getting paid in any career field. But in the IT world, the “coastal effect” makes it even more tough — where the expensive, competitive cities on the East and West coasts (for example, NYC, D.C., Seattle, and Silicon Valley) push salary averages completely out of whack.
The coastal effect can be seen clearly amongst DBAs, where the salary range for DBAs in the middle of the country paints one picture, while those who work in the bigger, more expensive cities have drastically different expectations. Read on and see what you should expect to get paid as a DBA, depending on what you know and where you work.
29 Real Salaries for Database Administrators
To bring you a cross-section of database administrator salaries across the country, we’ve gathered as much information as we could about what DBAs are being paid. We searched in large, coastal cities, small Midwestern cities and everywhere in-between. We checked all the corners of the internet. Some of our salary information comes from job postings. Other data we drew from job descriptions of existing positions and salary comparison sites. Once we had the data, we tried to segment the salaries DBAs are actually getting paid according to a low-range, an average, and a high-range.
On top of that, we chose two views, a big-picture, national average and a zoomed-in view of certain cities. What we see at the big-picture level is that except for certain areas of the country, for database administrators the range of salaries is mostly stable:
The national average salary for a Database Administrator is $75,700.
The average high range for a Database Administrator is $78,000.
The average low range for a Database Administrator is $57,000.
But the national story usually changes when you zoom into the state-by-state level, so we dug in deeper. Below, you’ll find a chart listing the salary information in 29 cities throughout the country for database administrators:
Low-paid database administrators are paid roughly the same in most parts of the country. There are exceptions, like in California, northern Virginia, Seattle, Denver and urban Texas, but for the majority of cities on our list, the difference from city to city for low-paid DBAs is about $10,000. This suggests two things. First, entry-level database administrators should have a lot of opportunities and should feel confident about entering the job market. Second, to get paid a lot as a DBA, you’ll need to “level up” your skills and knowledge.
The salary range for high-paid DBAs is larger than the range for low-paid positions. For high-paid database administrators, it definitely seems that where you work matters a lot. A high-paid DBA in Springfield, Missouri makes about $20,000/yr less than in McAllen, Texas. The difference for a low-paid DBA in those same cities is about $1,000. This suggests that if you’re qualified and trained, you should play the field and be ready to look far and wide for the jobs that pay the most.
The highest paying database administrator jobs are also in the most expensive cities. At a glance, it’s easy to see that the places where database administrators can expect the best salaries are also places notorious for high costs of living. Urban cities are seeing a growth spike in, among other industries, IT. And those cities often see prices for rent and other living expenses rise. San Francisco, Chicago, and Augusta are all notoriously expensive and it’s also where DBAs see the highest average pay.
The gap between high-paid DBAs and low-paid DBAs is stable in most places — except where it’s not. In more than half of the cities we surveyed, the difference between the lowest-paid DBAs and highest-paid DBAs hovered around $17,000. In other words, generally, whatever a low-paid DBA earned, their higher paid counterparts were reliably making in the ballpark of $17,000 per year more.
Except in about one-third of the cities we looked at, that number jumped to a $40,000 difference. That discrepancy suggests that there are certain markets where highly trained and experienced DBAs are especially valuable. Unsurprisingly, those areas tend to be big IT hubs, like Chicago, urban Texas, and Augusta but also Clarksville, TN and Mobile, AL.
3 Salary Considerations for Database Administrators
Now that you’ve made your way through all that raw data, maybe you’re wondering the most important question of all, “how do I get up to that high-paid range?” It’s a good question, and from here to the end, we’re going to try to answer it.
It may seem obvious, but a database administrator who wants to earn more needs to know how to make themselves more valuable to their company or to a new employer. There are three pillars to making yourself more valuable as a DBA: knowing the tools of the trade, earning certifications, and choosing your industry wisely.
Experience Requirements for Database Administrator
Every database administrator, fundamentally, needs to know that their data is accessible and stored with integrity. There are languages, tools and systems that make it possible for DBAs to do that with confidence. The problem is that many are proprietary, and when a company invests in one provider it can be an expensive challenge to switch lanes. Balancing which languages and services you as a DBA should learn is partly a judgement call and partly a checklist of the bare minimums.
6 Database Administration Tools You Have to Know
A database administrator’s work is largely done digitally. When a squeaky wheel needs grease or a malfunctioning widget needs attention, a database administrator usually has to diagnose the problem with code and make the fix through software. Most of the time, a database administrator isn’t even working on the data itself, but is several steps removed: often using a graphical interface that interacts with a piece of software which then travels to the database.
Keeping track of all the different layers and levels of software and code is key for database administrators, and what follows are just a few of the most important services a database administrator should know.
There’s a fierce competition for the most popular database engine. Oracle, MySQL and Microsoft SQL Server are constantly swapping the top spot between one another. Oracle is best known for its security and efficiency. It’s also costly, but that doesn’t deter tons of companies from using it. In fact, having database administrators trained in making the most of Oracle makes it an even more appealing investment for many companies.
Salary impact of learning Oracle Database: Huge. Depending on what surveys you look at, Oracle is the world’s most popular choice for providing databases. For database administrators who are looking for the top-paying DBA jobs, you’d be setting yourself up for failure if you didn’t prepare to work with Oracle databases. On top of that, they’re often the more expensive database option — and wouldn’t we all like to work for companies who are willing to pay top dollar for the best option?
Microsoft SQL Server
As we mentioned above, the competition between Oracle, SQL Server and MySQL is always strong. Microsoft SQL Server doesn’t play particularly well with other software or infrastructure — especially when compared to open source competitors. But it makes up for that by being a robust, easy to configure, secure data solution that comes with Microsoft’s name recognition and brand. Learning how to manage and administer SQL Server is important for any database administrator who wants to be ready to be promoted to or switch jobs to higher paying DBA positions.
Salary impact of learning Microsoft SQL Server: Huge. Microsoft SQL Server is the database of choice for many huge enterprise networks, and a database administrator who knows how to manage, debug, and optimize them will be extremely valuable to employers. SQL Server comes with tons of tools and applications that depend on a trained DBA to be unlocked to their fullest potential.
The first two tools we recommended were private, commercial services — the third is open source: MySQL. MySQL database servers are a favorite among database administrators because they’re scalable, flexible and provide excellent performance with high availability. Because MySQL is open-source, some companies feel more comfortable and confident in trusting it, never having to worry that a license will eventually become too expensive or support will suddenly disappear.
Salary impact of learning MySQL: Huge. Even among database administrators who’ve spent their entire career with Microsoft SQL Server or Oracle databases, MySQL literacy is high. Many corporations and huge companies tend to be somewhat hesitant to commit fully to open source software, and so they rely on private services for their most essential data, but MySQL is relevant in almost any database administration job you’ll ever find.
Structured Query Language is the fundamental language that makes databases work. Oracle Database, Microsoft SQL Server, and MySQL all put interfaces in-between the user and the SQL commands being run, but a true expert has to learn the underlying language.
Salary impact of learning SQL: Significant. Many parts of database administration are abstracted. For example, most database administrators do their jobs without ever touching a physical server that stores data. And as the abstraction continues, DBAs can do increasingly powerful things with software and tools that abstract a database’s core functionality without knowing the underlying technologies. SQL is one of those underlying technologies that some DBAs never learn, but the administrators who do learn SQL have the most comfort with manipulating data and optimizing databases.
phpMyAdmin is so common it’s easy to imagine leaving it off a list of tools a DBA has to know — it feels like listing “knowing how to drive” as a prerequisite for being a racecar driver. Even though SQL Server and Oracle don’t support phpMyAdmin natively, every database administrator should understand how phpMyAdmin makes it possible to navigate databases, output their stored data and manipulate what’s stored.
Salary impact of learning phpMyAdmin: Huge. This is the fourth tool we’ve listed as having a “huge” impact on a DBA’s salary, but don’t make the mistake of thinking we’re exaggerating. phpMyAdmin is central to database administration, and even if you don’t need to master it for your current role or position, learning phpMyAdmin gives a DBA a better conceptual understanding of how databases function and how they can be managed.
Python is a programming language — it might be the world’s most popular, general-purpose programming language. Python’s versatility and power make it a great addition to any IT professional’s toolkit, but especially database administration. Out-of-the-box, Python isn’t built for database administration, but there are many frameworks that improve all aspects of navigating, displaying and analyzing data.
Salary impact of learning Python: Considerable. Python as a tool isn’t fundamentally necessary, but it becomes increasingly useful the more you master it. To do your core job as a database administrator, you could probably get by without knowing Python. But if you want to be a true expert — and make the most money — you should learn Python and see how much more capable and efficient it makes you.
3 Best Certifications for Database Administrators
When it comes to database administration certifications, the best ones usually come from the same vendor as the databases your company is using. In other words, you probably shouldn’t get started with the MCSA: SQL Server if your company uses Oracle databases. Here are the industry certifications that can set your career apart.
Microsoft Certified: Azure Database Administrator Associate
If your company relies on Microsoft Azure for data needs, the ADAA is a $165 cert that measures your ability to plan and implement data resources, plan security and monitor and manage operational resources. If you’re brand new to database administration, Microsoft’s Azure Data Fundamentals might be a better place to start.
Salary impact of Azure Database Administrator Associate: Significant. For database administrators looking to make their mark and improve their job prospects at a company already using Microsoft database solutions, the ADAA is a no-brainer. If it’s the technology you’re using, getting Microsoft’s certification in using it will guarantee you’ve got all its features mastered.
Oracle Database Administration 2019 Certified Professional
Don’t let the 2019 throw you off — it’s just Oracle’s most recent version of their professional-level database administration certification. If your company uses Oracle for database solutions, this is a necessary certification for career progression. Earning it proves you know the by-the-book answers to every situation, plus that you’re committed to professional excellence. Earning it requires passing two exams, each priced at $245.
Salary impact of Oracle Database Administration 2019 Certified Professional: Significant. If your company is already using Oracle for databases, the training you need to pass this professional-level certification will provide you with all the skills and knowledge you need to administer them well. You’ll learn to install, patch and upgrade Oracle’s database OS, as well as actually administering Oracle Database.
IBM Certified Database Administrator – DB2 11.1
The heart of the IBM Certified Database Administrator is DB2, IBM’s proprietary data management suite of products. This certification is issued by IBM and tests your ability to configure and manage servers and databases, as well as plan out the physical design of DB2 objects, modify tables directly, and monitor the activity of DB2 overall.
Salary impact of IBM Certified Database Administrator: Considerable. If your company doesn’t rely on IBM DB2 for their databases, or you don’t foresee a job switch to a company that does, mastering DB2 maybe shouldn’t be the first thing you do. But if you do work with DB2, this is the certification designed to make sure there’s nothing about its operation that you can’t handle.
What Type of Companies Need Database Administrators?
Any company that deals with huge amounts of data needs database administrators. In fact, even companies that maintain an online store front or keep a handful of websites running need a database administrator. DBAs are valuable to most companies, but the best prospects for promotion and raises come from the industries that are huge consumers of data: finance, medical, and manufacturing.
The world of finance is driven by accessing huge amounts of data taken in from diverse sources all over the world and making intelligent guesses about what all that data suggests. Teams of database administrators ensure that finance companies always have the data they need, and they’re often very well compensated for it.
Career impact of working in the finance industry: huge. The finance industry is permanently tied up with big data, and the most profitable companies are the ones investing most heavily in responsive, scalable, powerful data solutions. A thoroughly trained and experienced database administrator can expect excellent security and high pay in the finance sector.
Hospitals, healthcare providers, medical supply manufacturers, insurers and more are consolidating all over the world. And as that consolidation occurs, the need for not only sturdy, scalable data structures increases, but the need for compliance and security. The medical industry is rapidly growing. Tons of capital is finding its way to the industry, database administrators will find their skills well-compensated.
Career impact of working in the medical industry: huge. Keeping data secure and available to medical practitioners, users and partners is one of the biggest concerns facing hospitals and healthcare providers. A database administrator who can manage huge data stores and keep traffic secure and available can depend on a stable, growing career.
The manufacturing sector, especially in the United States, depends on high-speed data at all times. Supply chains, delivery logistics, pricing fluctuations and more all affect the profitability of companies creating and sending products all over the world. A database administrator keeps all that data available and useful.
Career impact of working in the medical industry: significant. Many parts of the manufacturing industry are on the cutting edge of implementing data technologies that keep them profitable. That’s not true everywhere, but a diligent database administrator who learns to recognize the most forward-looking manufacturers and provide them with much-needed data support can look forward to being compensated very well.
How to Increase Your Salary as a Database Administrator
For IT professionals who are thinking about getting into the database administration career, there’s only good news: jobs are plentiful, big data is only becoming more and more profitable, and the best-trained, certified database administrators earn six-figure salaries.
Getting to that point in your DBA career can be challenging. You’d be right to feel overwhelmed by your options, but hopefully this short analysis has helped show some of the ways you can improve your odds at moving your salary upward. Without a doubt, being on the cutting edge of technology and tools for data administration is key. And getting certified in those tools, and especially the database technology your company (or dream company) uses is also a great way to improve your salary. But above all, know your worth.