Database Administrator Salary: How High Can It Go?

Database administrators have one of the key jobs in tech: Ensuring that a company’s database runs smoothly, with optimum availability. It’s been named one of the fastest-growing jobs in America, according to some studies, and it shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

On a day-by-day basis, database administrators must build and maintain the databases containing company information. Depending on the company and its technology stack, they might find themselves dealing with a hybrid of cloud-based and on-premises systems; many companies also turn to either Microsoft or Oracle for their database infrastructure (which means that database administrators may need to master Java and/or .NET, depending on those vendor choices).  

All of which leads to the big question: What’s a typical database administrator salary? Does all that complexity and skill translate into getting paid a handsome amount?

Is database administrator a dying career?

As alluded to in the intro, database administrator should remain an in-demand career for quite some time to come. According to Burning Glass, which collects and analyzes millions of job postings from across the country, database administrator jobs will grow 11.5 percent over the next decade. 

At the moment, the average time-to-fill an average database administrator position is 36 days. While that’s slightly lower than some other tech professions—for example, the average time to fill an open network administrator position is 39 days, while it takes around 40 days to fill an open software developer role—it’s still very high, indicating that it’s taking quite some time for employers to find a database administrator who fits their needs. 

If you’re a database administrator (or studying to become one), it’s pretty clear that you have some leverage to negotiate salary, perks, and other aspects of your job, especially if you have database administrator certifications and skills that make you unique. 

What is a database administrator’s average salary?

Burning Glass estimates that the median database administrator salary is $90,067. While that might seem lower than the average tech salary—estimated at $94,000 in the most recent Dice Salary Report—this is a job with quite a bit of potential to grow, depending on factors such as experience and education. 

According to an analysis of Dice data, meanwhile, the “average” database administrator salary is $93,435, with boosts thanks to specialization. For instance, Oracle DBAs can earn an average of $103,126, while SQL DBAs can make around $95,501 per year.

Does this role pay well?

Those database administrators in the 90th percentile for income can make $115,769 on average (again, according to Burning Glass). At this juncture, it’s worth examining how years of experience in the role will influence your salary. Take a look at the chart:

As you can see, those with 9+ years earn quite a bit more than those just starting out. That’s a reflection of their skills and abilities, of course. But which database administrator skills are particularly in-demand among employers? Fortunately, an analysis of job postings gives us an answer to that, too:

It’s no surprise that SQL would rank highly on this particular list. SQL (structured query language) is the standardized language for relational database management, which makes it one of the most vital elements in most companies’ technology roadmaps. Knowledge of SQL is also vital if you want to fully grasp its offshoots and derivations such as NoSQL. Mastery of the data backbone of so many systems is key if a database administrator wants maximum pay.  

Do I need a degree to become a database administrator? 

Some 78.8 percent of job postings for database administrators ask for a bachelor’s degree, while 12.3 percent say that applicants only need to have completed high school. Very small percentages want candidates with an associate’s degree, master’s degree, or doctorate. 

According to the data, earning at least a bachelor’s degree can have a significant impact on your earnings, irrespective of any particular skills or experience you might bring to an employer. Take a look at the chart:

Those with a bachelor’s degree could potentially earn a six-figure salary, depending on company, skills, and other factors. And that’s before you consider some of the other elements of a typical compensation package, including bonuses and stock options.