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Database Administrator

Database administrators plan, manage and maintain the databases that private companies and public sector organisations use to help them organise their work, design business strategies and target their communication.

Levels of responsibility vary widely, ranging from inputting information to complete management of data.

Tasks often include:

  • contributing to database design
  • setting up and testing new databases
  • monitoring database efficiency
  • maintaining the security and integrity of information
  • creating complex query definitions that allow data to be extracted
  • training others in how to input and extract information
  • controlling access to the database.

Stored data may be confidential or of a sensitive nature, and database administrators are responsible for ensuring systems are secure and comply with legal requirements.

They usually work closely with other IT professionals, including database designers, system developers, programmers and project managers.

Working hours are usually standard office hours, Monday to Friday. There are opportunities for part-time work. Some administrators provide out-of-hours support remotely and may be on call.

Database administrators spend a great deal of their time in an office working at a computer workstation, analysing information and dealing with telephone enquiries.

Salaries range from around £18,000 a year to £60,000 or more.

A database administrator should be:

  • knowledgeable about IT and web applications
  • organised, analytical and methodical
  • understand the laws regarding privacy and data storage
  • business focused
  • interested in keeping up to date with changing technology.

There are opportunities with a wide range of organisations, including schools and universities, the National Health Service (NHS), central and local government departments and agencies, financial institutions, retail businesses, manufacturing firms, and IT and computer companies offering database solutions.

Knowledge and skills are often regarded as more important than academic achievements, but applicants with qualifications in IT may have an advantage.

Entry as a database assistant may be possible with GCSEs (A*-C) in English, maths and ICT. The Diploma in information technology may be useful for this area of work.

There are Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships available in IT services and development, and for IT users.

Training is usually on the job, often supplemented by short internal or external courses.

Large organisations may provide a structured path to promotion. Employees may start in a junior support role, taking on management responsibilities as they gain experience. Some individuals may choose to specialise in database design, network management of systems or information analysis.

 

What is the work like?

Databases are searchable lists of related information, such as customer details, sales records or inventories. Database administrators plan, manage and maintain the databases that private companies and public sector organisations use to help them organise their work, design business strategies and target their communication.

Levels of responsibility vary widely, ranging from inputting information to complete management of data. Database administrators may also test and implement new systems.

Tasks often include:

  • contributing to database design and working with the database designer
  • setting up and testing new database and data handling systems
  • transferring information from various sources
  • consolidating and streamlining the storage of data
  • ensuring that the database has adequate storage, backup, recovery and archiving procedures
  • monitoring database efficiency
  • developing custom scripts or programs to assist database functions, such as producing reports
  • · maintaining the security and integrity of information contained on a database
  • · creating query definitions that allow data to be extracted
  • · training others in how to input and extract information
  • · organising user registration and keeping control of users who are authorised to access or update information.

Stored data may be confidential or of a sensitive nature, so database administrators are responsible for ensuring systems are secure and comply with legal requirements. In larger offices, they may supervise a team of data assistants. In smaller offices, they may also be responsible for wider IT support and software development.

Database administrators usually work closely with other IT professionals, including database designers, system developers, programmers and project managers. They work together to resolve technical problems and make sure the database meets the needs of the organisation. Administrators also work with people who use the database information, such as human resources, marketing and business planning staff.

Hours and environment

Working hours are usually standard office hours, Monday to Friday. There are opportunities for part-time work. Some administrators provide out-of-hours support remotely and may be on call.

Database administrators spend a great deal of their time in an office working at a computer workstation, analysing information and dealing with telephone enquiries.

In larger companies, they may travel to different office sites for meetings, presentations and to conduct training. A driving licence may be useful.

Salary and other benefits

These figures are only a guide as actual rates of pay may vary, depending on the employer and where people live.

  • The average starting salary for a junior database administrator is around £18,000 a year.
  • With some experience, a database administrator may earn around £30,000 to £40,000 a year.
  • Highly experienced administrators supervising a large team may earn £60,000 or more.

Skills and personal qualities

A database administrator should be:

  • knowledgeable about IT in general
  • familiar with the main data manipulation languages and database systems
  • able to understand web applications and web database connectivity
  • a good project manager, organised, analytical and methodical
  • flexible, yet focused on meeting tight deadlines
  • equipped with a good understanding of laws regarding privacy and data storage
  • able to work with clients to understand their changing database requirements
  • business focused and able to understand how data information fits into the wider needs of the organisation.

Interests

It is important to enjoy:

  • using IT and the internet
  • working in an environment where the technology is constantly evolving.

Getting in

There are job opportunities with a wide range of companies and organisations with large-scale information requirements. This includes schools and universities, the National Health Service (NHS), central and local government departments and agencies, financial institutions, retail businesses and manufacturing firms, as well as IT companies offering database solutions.

Vacancies are advertised in publications such as Computer Weekly and Computing, as well as with specialist recruitment agencies and on company websites.

Entry routes

Knowledge and skills are often regarded as more important than academic achievements, but applicants with qualifications in IT may have an advantage. With GCSEs (A*-C) in English, maths and information and communication technology (ICT) it may be possible to start as a database assistant.

Other qualifications that may provide a route into this area of work include:

  • the Diploma in information technology
  • A or AS levels in ICT
  • OCR and City & Guilds Level 1-3 Award/Certificate/Diploma for IT Users
  • Higher National Diplomas/Certificate (HND/C) in IT-related subjects, which usually require at least three GCSEs (A*-C) and one A level, or equivalent qualifications for entry
  • foundation degrees and degrees in computer science, software development, information systems, electronics, maths and engineering.

Entry qualifications vary and applicants should check with individual institutions. Entry to a degree is usually with at least two A levels and five GCSEs (A*-C), and four GCSEs (A*-C) and one A level for a foundation degree, or equivalent qualifications.

Employers may recruit and train graduates with degrees in non-related subjects, provided they have good IT skills.

There are Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships available in IT services and development and for IT users.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer and, from August 2009, pay at least £95 per week. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available on the Apprenticeship page on this website, from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk

There is also an ICT Higher Apprenticeship that offers the option of studying part time towards a foundation degree. With further study, it may be possible to upgrade this to an honours degree. Entry requirements are at least four GCSEs (A*-C) and one A level, or equivalent qualifications.

The Institute for the Management of Information Systems (IMIS) offers a Level 3 Foundation Diploma that is suitable for those wanting to work with computers.

Training

Training is usually on the job, often supplemented by short internal or external courses. Many software producers offer training leading to certification in their own database products. Software products are constantly evolving and administrators are expected to keep their skills and knowledge up to date.

The British Computing Society (BCS) and the IMIS offer a range of qualifications and continuing professional development (CPD). There are also NVQs for IT users.

Getting on

Large organisations may provide a structured path to promotion. Employees may start in a junior support role, taking on management responsibilities as they gain experience. Some individuals may choose to specialise in database design, network management of systems or information analysis.

The increasing use of interactive, database-driven websites has created new opportunities for database specialists. The close relationship between data and marketing in large organisations can result in some database administrators moving into customer relationship management or market intelligence.

After several years' experience, specialist database administrators may work as freelance consultants.

Further information

The British Computer Society (BCS), 1st Floor, Block D, North Star House, North Star Avenue, Swindon SN2 1FA. 01793 417417. Website: www.bcs.org

e-skills UK, 1 Castle Lane, London SW1E 6DR. 020 7963 8920. Website: www.e-skills.com

Institute for the Management of Information Systems (IMIS), 5 Kingfisher House, New Mill Road, Orpington BR5 3QG. 0700 002 3456. Website: www.imis.org.uk

National Computing Centre (NCC), Oxford House, Oxford Road, Manchester M1 7ED. 0161 228 6333. Website: www.ncc.co.uk

Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v1.0.

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