Database Engineer Vs. Database Administrator

Oct 23, 2019

Database engineers and database administrators work with computer systems necessary for the everyday function of modern business and industry. Learn the difference between these two tech-savvy careers and get salary and job outlook info.

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Comparing Database Engineers to Database Administrators

Companies and institutions such as universities, banks, and hospitals store information on large computer software systems called databases. Database administrators and database engineers work to build, maintain, and improve these systems to ensure information stays secure, organized, and accessible. Both positions require exceptional computer programming skills, working knowledge of software systems, and fluency in multiple programming languages. Database administrators are responsible for the upkeep and daily function of a database, while database engineers, a type of software developer, work to refine existing databases or build new ones. Below is information about the educational requirements, annual salary, and job outlook for these positions as well as a comparison of their responsibilities.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Pay (2018)* Job Growth (2018-2028)*
Database Engineer Bachelor's degree in computer science or relevant field $105,590 for all software developers 21% for all software developers
Database Administrator Bachelor's degree in computer science or relevant field $90,070 9%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Database Engineers vs Administrators

The specific responsibilities for database administrators and engineers can vary depending on the company or industry goals. The general skill sets required for these two positions tend to overlap. Experience with large-scale information systems, multiple programming languages (e.g. SQL, Java, and Python), and database design are all common requirements for these two positions. What differentiates a database administrator from a database engineer is the focus of their responsibility. An administrator is most concerned with the everyday function of the database as a whole. Their goal is to ensure the database runs smoothly and securely. Database engineers focus more on the efficiency of specific processes used to group and move information within the database. While the day-to-day tasks of a database administrator and engineer differ, they share the goal of providing a well-functioning, useful database. Professional certifications are available to better prepare individuals for these positions and can lead to more advanced, senior-level responsibilities.

Database Administrator

A database administrator, commonly abbreviated as DBA, maintains the integrity and function of a database. The position entails running regular diagnostic tests to ensure data is not corrupt and combing for bugs or glitches within the system. Safely storing and backing-up data in case of system failure or memory loss and creating plans for addressing large-scale errors are also important responsibilities of a DBA. The position requires frequent communication with multiple company departments, clients, and users of the database. Strong time management skills, an ability to balance multiple projects, and confidence under pressure are necessary. Almost all DBA positions are full-time and require some level of continuing education or regular professional development. The ability to work in an office environment and at a computer for long periods of time is necessary.

Responsibilities of a database administrator include:

  • Compiling weekly or monthly reports documenting the performance of the database
  • Planning for system expansion and suggesting improvements
  • Supervising the installation of new databases
  • Training users in database use

Database Engineer

Database engineers are software developers who work specifically with databases. This position deals with the nuanced programming algorithms and processes governing data grouping and movement. Programming that allows the movement of data into and around a database for storage, analysis, and safekeeping are called pipelines. Database engineers develop, refine, and build new pipelines for the data flow process, allowing the database to become useful in new ways. This responsibility requires an in-depth understanding of coding and software engineering. The integration of old data into a new database or the merging of two databases is facilitated by database engineers. Strong communication skills, attention to detail, and the ability to problem solve are necessary for this position. Database engineer positions are almost always full-time and may require regular professional development. These individuals must feel comfortable working in a professional office environment and using a computer for extended periods of time.

Responsibilities of a database engineer include:

  • Search for data trends and report findings
  • Optimize data movement to and from the database
  • Communicate with users of the database and respond to their needs
  • Identify and troubleshoot problems with data quality

Related Careers

If you are interested in developing computer programs and software not directly related to databases you may like a career as a software engineer. If you enjoy creating new technologies and solutions related to programming and computer systems you may find a career as a computer scientist rewarding.

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