RoleDatabase administratorDatabase architect
Average Salary$92,477$131,749
Key skills neededOperating systems (Linux, Windows), SQL, database management, NoSQL, database securityDatabase design, SDLC, data modeling tools, database performance tuning, backup and recovery
Key responsibilitiesDatabase operation,
data security,
backup & recovery,
updates & patches,
database troubleshooting
Database modeling and design, data structure management, database scalability and performance, data integrity and quality, database technology evaluation

Database administrators and database architects are often similar positions, with job postings on Glassdoor even merging the titles together. Both professionals require similar knowledge bases, including operating systems such as Linux and Microsoft, programming languages such as SQL, and various databases like Oracle and SAP, according to a report from the Houston Chronicle.

However, stacked up against each other, they are two distinct positions. The responsibilities, skills and pay associated with each position will help you differentiate them and determine which career path aligns best with you.

Jump to:

What is a database administrator?

Simply put, a database administrator — commonly referred to as DBA — is the guardian of an organization’s data. Database administrators are responsible for the operation of the database, as they ensure databases run efficiently, are secure from unauthorized access and are available to legitimate users when needed.

Responsibilities of a database admin

To become a database admin, here are some key responsibilities you need to be aware of:

  • Database security: Database administrators typically set up user permissions and roles to make sure only authorized personnel can access and modify the database. They also carry out security measures to safeguard their databases from threats and breaches.
  • Database recovery and backup procedures: As a database administrator, you have to ensure regular backups are taken. In case of any failures, you need to have recovery mechanisms in place to restore the database to its previous state.
  • Database efficiency: Database administrators are responsible for the smooth running of databases. They do this by monitoring the database’s performance, optimizing queries, and making sure that the infrastructure is scalable to handle increasing amounts of data.

SEE: For a more in-depth look at the duties and responsibilities of a database administrator, check out our database administrator hiring kit.

Skills needed to be a database admin

The must-haves for a database admin are:

  • Knowledge of operating systems: Database admins need to be familiar with various operating systems, as databases can run on Linux, Windows or other platforms.
  • Proficiency in SQL: Structured Query Language is the standard language for database management. A deep understanding of SQL is a must for any database administrator.
  • Database Management Systems: Database administrators should be adept at using various DBMS like Oracle, MySQL and Microsoft SQL Server, among others.
  • Database security: Database admins should be able to implement encryption, authentication and authorization mechanisms upon databases.

SEE: For more on how to become a database administrator, view our database administrator cheat sheet.

Database admin job market

With the constantly increasing reliance on data in the modern enterprise, the demand for skilled database administrators continues to rise. According to Glassdoor, the estimated total pay for database administrators in 2023 is around $105,156, with an average salary of $92,477 per year. Of course, the figure is dependent on the hiring company and can vary based on experience, location and the specific needs of the company.

What is a database architect?

Database architects are professionals primarily responsible for the design, implementation and maintenance of databases. They are the visionaries who align database structure with organizational needs. Database architects work with the development of the database, determining what goes into the tables and fields within the system to ensure the data is properly represented. They ensure the database’s data storage, retrieval and modification are efficient.

Responsibilities of a database architect

The top responsibilities of a database architect are:

  • Database development: Architects design the blueprint of the database, determining how data will be stored, accessed and updated. They ensure the design is scalable and efficient.
  • Determining database structure and schema: They decide on the structure of the database, including which tables to create, the relationships between them and the fields within each table.
  • Database scalability: Architects plan for database growth by implementing solutions that allow greater data volumes without sacrificing performance.
  • Technical guidance: Database architects give technical expertise to development teams when the database is being implemented.

SEE: Determine if you need a database architect.

Skills needed to be a database architect

As a database architect, some of the technical skills you’re expected to have are:

  • Database design expertise: Architects must have a deep understanding of how to design databases that are not only efficient but also scalable, based on the needs of an organization.
  • Data modeling tools: It is of great benefit to a data architect if they are proficient in relevant data modeling tools like ERwin, IBM Data Architect or Microsoft Visio.
  • SQL and query optimization: A database architect should be able to write efficient SQL queries and optimize them for faster execution.
  • Database performance tuning, backup and recovery: Architects should know backup procedures, disaster recovery plans and failover strategies. They should also be able to identify bottlenecks and optimize database performance.

Database architect job market

As database architects play a key role in ensuring that databases are designed to handle current and future data needs, their pay is significantly higher than that of database admins, according to Glassdoor. The average salary for database architects in 2023 is around $131,749, with total pay at about $155,034. But just like with database admins, the figures may vary based on many factors.

Database admin vs. database architect: Choosing the right role for your needs

While both positions work with the same technologies, they have different functions. Both positions also value similar soft skills, such as problem solving, communication, attention to detail, project management and more. Ultimately, database administrators and database architects are not the same role, as also indicated by their salaries.

Whether you’re looking to join this career path or an employer seeking to fill these roles, understanding their differences is crucial. If you’re someone who enjoys the operational side of databases, ensuring their smooth running, security and performance, then you’d be right at home as a database administrator. On the other hand, if you’re inclined towards the design and structural aspect and building reliable database systems, then a database architect role might be more your speed.

Subscribe to the Data Insider Newsletter

Learn the latest news and best practices about data science, big data analytics, artificial intelligence, data security, and more. Delivered Mondays and Thursdays

Subscribe to the Data Insider Newsletter

Learn the latest news and best practices about data science, big data analytics, artificial intelligence, data security, and more. Delivered Mondays and Thursdays