Main image of article Database Administrator Degrees: Do You Need One to Succeed?

What kind of education do you need to become a database administrator? While many job postings ask that candidates have a four-year degree from an accredited institution, often in a discipline such as computer science, the demand for this popular role means that many recruiters and hiring managers are willing to overlook formal education if you have the right mix of skills and experience.

Let’s break down the educational requirements for database administrators, with input from experts who can give you advice about which pathways to pursue as you figure out the arc of your database administrator career.

What degree (or degrees) does a database administrator need?

On a basic level, database administrators must understand database theory; in addition, they must master the tools, apps, and techniques necessary to build, iterate on, and secure databases against internal and external threat. As with so many other tech positions, that means a lifetime of continuous learning, especially since tools and techniques constantly evolve.

Degree requirements for database administrators often vary depending on the employer. As we mentioned earlier, most employers require a bachelor's degree in computer science or information technology, but this isn’t always the case. A database administrator may not need a degree at all: sometimes a solid portfolio and work history prove a candidate’s worth to a hiring manager. But those wishing to pursue a degree should have one or more of the following:

  • Bachelor's degree in computer science (CS) or information technology: These degrees provide students with the foundation in computer science and information technology that is essential for a career in database administration (and other tech fields, as well).
  • Bachelor's degree in database administration: These degrees are specifically designed to prepare students for a career in database administration. They typically cover topics such as database design, database management, and database security.
  • Master's degree in computer science (CS) or information technology: These degrees can be a good option for database administrators who want to advance their careers or specialize in a particular area of database administration.

Do you need experience to get a job as a database administrator?

Any employer is going to want to see that you have experience working with databases. You can gain experience by working as an intern at a larger company that affords you the opportunity to work on a variety of projects, or by taking on database-related projects in your current role (if possible). Added bonus: you’ll learn a lot of hands-on aspects of database administration that you won’t necessarily pick up in school.

Is a degree required to get a job as a database administrator?

Tim Dodge, database developer at Database Providers, says: “No, but this is a competitive environment. Candidates must position themselves is such a manner that they have more to offer than those they are competing with. All these factors will make a difference: level of education, years of experience in the work force, credentials/certificates, referrals, and communication skills.”

No matter what your degree path, relevancy is key. “When it comes to landing a job as a DBA, degrees that focus on computer science, information systems, or database management can be advantageous,” notes Vladislav Bilay, DevOps engineer at Aqua Labs. “However, what employers often value more than specific degrees are relevant skills, knowledge, and experience in working with databases and related technologies.”

Nazmul Asif, co-founder of DiviFlash, tells Dice: “It is possible to get a job as a DBA without a degree, but it will be more difficult. You will need to have a strong portfolio of work and a deep understanding of database administration concepts. You may also need to get certified to demonstrate your skills."

Which certifications are best for database administrators?

Our experts all agree that these are the degrees database administrators should go for, provided they have sufficient time and resources:

  • AWS Certified Database - Specialty
  • IBM Certified Database Administrator
  • IBM Certified Database Associate
  • ICCP Certified Data Professional
  • ICCP Certified Data Scientist
  • Microsoft Certified Azure Database Administrator Associate
  • Microsoft Certified Azure Fundamentals
  • Microsoft SQL Server: MCSE (Data platform and Business Intelligence) and the older MCDBA
  • MongoDB Associate DBA
  • Oracle Certified Professional (OCP)
  • Oracle Database SQL Certified Associate Certification
  • Oracle MySQL Database Administrator
  • Oracle MySQL Database Developer

That’s a lot of certifications—which should you focus on? Experts agree that you should devote time and resources to the certifications most critical to your work, which your employer will often dictate.

Moreover, experts suggest you inquire about an employer covering the expense of your certification if it’s a job requirement. Most employers will pay for certifications, and some companies will even pay for certifications not required for your role—sponsored training is increasingly seen as a key to retention.

“Continuing education is also crucial for database administrators to keep up with the rapidly evolving technology landscape,” Bilay notes. “Staying updated with the latest database management systems, security practices, and industry trends is essential. DBAs can achieve this through attending conferences, participating in workshops and webinars, pursuing advanced certifications, or engaging in self-directed learning.”

What programming languages should database administrators master?

Our experts align here, too:

  • SQL
  • PHP
  • VBA
  • Python
  • Bash
  • Powershell
  • Java
  • C++
  • .NET

Again, it’s not important you master each language, but you should familiarize yourself with them—especially if you didn’t learn them during a formal education program.

How much can database administrators earn?

According to the Dice Tech Salary Report, database administrator salaries average $107,828 per year (down 3.2 percent year-over-year). Possessing advanced degrees and certifications can boost your salary still further, especially by allowing you access to higher-ranking jobs. Whenever you engage in the job-interview process, you can use your background, degrees, and experience to leverage higher compensation and better benefits—the key is to show how you’ll use those attributes to enhance your future employer’s strategy and outcomes.