The Skills You Need
to Become a Database Administrator

See also: Presenting Data

A career as a database administrator (DBA) can give you the job security and satisfaction that most people crave.

Of course, this is also a role which demands quite a few skills of its practitioners, so if you want to delve into dealing with databases, here are just a few of the most important abilities to nurture in yourself.

Glasses in front of a laptop screen.

Dedication and focus

DBAs have a number of responsibilities to fulfill in the course of a typical day, and while this variety helps to keep things interesting, the job also requires you to be able to focus your attention on technically complex tasks and see them through to completion.

In this sense it is not just about your training and experience, but your ability to avoid distractions and prevent procrastination from derailing your duties.

Knowing how to create SSIS tasks for moving data is one thing, for example, but actually having the dedication to deal with this in one sitting is another. So, if you find your mind wanders easily and you can only focus in short bursts, database administration might not be for you.

Time management

Time management is of course linked to the previous set of skills, but is more about knowing how to organize your day and organize tasks in a way that makes sense. This means being able to prioritize the most mission-critical duties and ensure that they are seen to swiftly, rather than taking a scattergun approach which could lead to database performance issues and even downtime.

You can expect that your employer will empower you with tools to assist with time management, and in certain organizations you may find that the structure of your work schedule is determined for you anyway. Even so, you cannot afford to be complacent, as if you let your workload get on top of you, it could quickly spiral out of control.

Problem solving

Problem solving skills are talked about in relation to a broad range of jobs, but few require such a specific application of these abilities than database administration.

Indeed much of the role will see you monitoring the database, looking out for issues that are affecting performance, and intervening to troubleshoot them.

In this sense, your problem solving needs to be proactive. You cannot afford to let this type of tech infrastructure fall into disrepair, as the productivity and profitability of an entire business may be at stake.

Again, with the right tools it is less taxing to troubleshoot database problems, but it is still in the realm of the DBA to solve them, so the buck stops with you.

Interpersonal expertise

The stereotype of DBAs being in the same category as lots of IT workers when it comes to their reticence and tribal exceptionalism is entirely unfair and inaccurate. This is not a job that involves being shut up in the basement of an office block, with only the whine of server fans for company; quite the opposite!

The most effective and employable database administrators are those who have a knack for working well with other people, especially in terms of cross-departmental communication.

While this is undoubtedly a technical role, you will regularly need to explain and dissect aspects of it for colleagues and managers who may not have the same background in database design and programming as you. This means you need to be just as good at communicating and collaborating with others as anyone who works in sales, marketing, HR or management.


Troubleshooting a database is not always a quick process, and indeed the more complex software performance snafus and server hardware faults can take hours or even days to resolve.

As such, DBAs need to be patient and not prone to frustration if they cannot find the solution to a problem within the first five minutes.

Likewise, you need to be willing to accept that certain issues, even after they have been fixed, may crop up again in the future. This is all part and parcel of helming a database successfully. And if a DBA is doing their job well, then they will essentially be an invisible yet vital part of the broader business machine.

Level-headedness in a crisis

For the most part, DBAs will be able to keep a database ticking over without incident just by following maintenance schedules and nipping problems in the bud as soon as they crop up.

However, unplanned downtime is likely to occur at some point in your career, and this is the point at which DBAs really have to prove themselves.

Server outages can take websites offline, render software applications inoperable and damage the reputation of businesses forever. DBAs need to therefore be calm, composed and methodical when crises like this arise, and this is definitely a skill you can drill into yourself through the right training and planning.

A logical mindset

This is another skill that is a must-have asset for any DBA, and one which feeds into several of the abilities discussed so far.

Logicality is needed to tackle all sorts of database related tasks, because of course platforms like SQL Server and the underlying rules which define and control them are rigorously logical in their own right.

This goes hand in hand with having a good memory for technical facts and processes. There is a correct order in which to do things in a database context, whether you are optimizing queries or looking into performance imperfections. Having a logical approach, both to work and to life in general, will stand you in good stead.

Wrapping up

While DBAs may need specialist education and training to get jobs in this industry, it is also the case that the skills they need as discussed above are applicable to all sorts of other roles.

This is good news, as it enables you to get started as a DBA and then potentially change path at a later date without having to start from scratch if you realize this career isn’t quite right for you.

About the Author

Cristina Par is a content specialist with a passion for writing articles that bridge the gap between brands and their audiences. She believes that high-quality content plus the right link building strategies can turn the tables for businesses small and large.