Database Developer vs. Database Administrator

Data is the lifeblood of a business or company. Therefore, for any institution to run efficiently, you need proper databases and qualified personnel in charge of it. But what exactly are these professionals required to do?


Database developers and database administrators are responsible for ensuring a company’s information is organized, secure, and accessible. But more specifically, developers build databases or upgrade existing ones while database administrators are responsible for the systems’ daily functioning. 


This article seeks to explain in detail the differences between a database administrator (DBA) and a database developer. I will outline their roles and responsibilities, point out the difference in their remuneration, and highlight the skills required to be considered for any of these jobs. Read on.

Difference Between a Database Developer and Administrator

Database developers and administrators are often very similar positions. Their differences are usually more company-specific. That said, each of these jobs has a different focus and, therefore, has varied responsibilities. 


Generally speaking, the roles of administrators are mostly to do with maintenance and operations. These are the people who ensure the company’s database is working properly. They deal with the customer-facing end of the system to ensure the smooth running of operations.


As for the database developers, they closely work with the development team of a company. Their duties include designing and programming. These roles majorly involve the non-customer-facing end or the back-end of data storage systems.


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, these professionals’ salaries also vary, further evidencing the fact that these are different positions. Database administrators had a median annual wage of $93,750 in May 2019, with an hourly payment of $45.07, while all software developers had a median wage of $105,590 per year in May 2018 or $50.77 per hour.


For both database administrators and developers, their education and skill set requirements are quite similar. An educational background in computer science is required. Their skills should include knowledge in computer programming, software systems, and a range of programming languages (e.g., SQL, Java, and Python). 

Job Title Database Developer Database Administrator
Education Requirements Bachelor’s degree in computer science or a relevant field. Bachelor’s degree in computer science or a relevant field.
Median Annual Pay* $105,590 for all software developers (2018)* $93,750 (2019)*
Job Focus Developing and modifying databases Maintenance and operations of databases
Job Growth (2018-2028)* 21% for all software developers 9%


Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Database Developers vs. Database Administrators

As we’ve mentioned earlier, the roles and responsibilities of database developers and DBAs will vary from one company to another and depending on the goals of the particular institution or industry. 


The goal of database administrators is to ensure the smooth and secure running of the database. Developers, on the other hand, focus on providing efficient data storage and data management systems.


Let’s take a closer look at these specific functions: 

Database Developer

Database developers are also known as programmers or engineers. These are software developers who work in the IT department of a company to design or create database systems that enable storage and smooth retrieval of information.


A developer may be tasked to develop new applications for a company’s database or upgrade existing ones to make them more efficient. They basically do programming work to create systems that hold data securely and allow it to be accessed by users. 


A database developer’s position requires high-level working knowledge of software engineering, coding, and fluency in different programming languages.


Apart from technical skills, database developers should be equipped with soft skills, including great communication, problem-solving, and attention to detail skills. Analytical and organizational skills are also necessary. 


Here are the duties and responsibilities of database developers:

Developing and Designing Databases

With the huge amounts of data generated in companies and institutions nowadays, it’s necessary to organize all this information in an orderly manner and in a secure place. Database developers are tasked with this responsibility in institutions like hospitals, banks, insurance companies, etc. 

Testing New Products

Database developers are responsible for carrying out performance-testing procedures. This helps to check for efficiency, ease of use, and to make sure the products adhere to rules on data handling. 

Modifying Databases

Another key responsibility of database developers is modifying databases. Developers may find data management systems already set up in a company. Their role in this situation may include identifying the business needs, assessing if the current systems are meeting these needs, and making necessary edits on the database. 

Developing Database Documentation

This documentation includes operational manuals for databases that the programmer has created. As more editing and modifications are made, the developer should update the existing information.

Search for the Latest Data Trends and Report

Staying up to date with the latest data trends is vital for database developers. This can help refine their product offering and possibly infuse some more creativity when handling their company’s data. 

Troubleshoot Problems With the Databases

Making the most efficient database is a continuous process of tweaking the program and improving it bit by bit. A database developer can upscale efficiency by assessing areas of weaknesses, identifying the problem, and working to create a relevant solution.

Database Administrator

The main role of a database administrator is ensuring the safety and availability of databases on a daily basis and whenever needed by users. Administrators make sure the institution’s data is not lost or corrupted. 


Database administrators often communicate with various company departments and data users since they work on the customer-facing end of the system. They, therefore, require very good communication skills. 


Here’s a detailed list of the roles and responsibilities of DBAs:

Installing and Maintenance of Software

Once the developers have created software for data storage, database administrators are involved in installing and configuring this software. They are also responsible for its maintenance to ensure it’s properly functioning for the users.

Performance Monitoring

Performance monitoring is an on-going system maintenance. It involves ensuring the smooth running of the databases and the hardware. Tracking the data, watching out for any slowing down in the system, and making improvements are some of the tasks carried out by DBAs.

Specialized Data Handling

Some of the very large databases and unstructured data such as videos, images, and sound require specialized skills to manage, handle, or monitor. DBAs are well skilled in doing this while maintaining the efficiency of the data. 

Ensuring Data Security

Database administrators are responsible for establishing the best practices for the security of the company’s database. The point is to minimize the risk of data loss or attacks. 

Creating Backups and Recovery Plans

One of the most crucial roles of the DBA is to preserve data and ensure it’s available whenever needed. To make this happen, the administrator is required to back up all data. Today, the common practice is to backup data in the cloud as it’s more secure that way than when stored in hardware. 


In case of data loss or server failure, it’s again the database administrator’s responsibility to recover the lost data. There are different recovery strategies depending on the type of failure. 

Capacity Planning

As the company grows, the database administrator monitors the growth of the data and makes predictions for future needs. It’s his/her role to facilitate an increase in capacity whenever the need arises. 


There you have it, a detailed comparison of database administrators vs. database developers. It’s clear that these two positions have a lot in common, including some overlapping roles, similar education level requirements, and basic skill set requirements. That said, the roles and responsibilities of the DBA and developer are different.


While the DBA’s focus is on the daily running of the software, ensuring its availability and security, the database developer is more focused on the designing and creation of new databases or modifying existing ones.


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