Database administrator vs. database architect: What's the difference?

While the job positions might seem similar, these two roles have some key differences. Here's what you need to know.

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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.

SEE: 13 things that can screw up your database design (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Both job positions are also in high demand. With the rise in Internet of Things (IoT) technology, machine learning, and artificial intelligence (AI), all organizations are generating some form of data. To process, organize, and store that data, businesses need database administrators and database architects.

The value of database administrators and database architects in the enterprise is reflected in their salaries. The average annual US salary for database administrators is $80,683, and database architects earn an annual average of $100,857.

However, database administrators and database architects are not the same role, as also indicated by their salaries. While both positions work with the same technologies, they have different functions.

"Think about building a house, which makes sense when talking about architects," said Dary Merckens, CTO of Gunner Technology, an AWS Partner specializing in JavaScript development for government and business. "There's a group of people who are involved in drawing up plans for the house itself, optimizing it, making sure it's both practically and aesthetically pleasing. There's another group of people who builds the house. That's somewhat akin to the difference between database architects and database administrators."

On a general level, database administrators are responsible for the operation of the database, while database architects are responsible or the design of the database, according to Gloria Metrick, principal consultant at GeoMetrick Enterprises.
Some key responsibilities of database administrators include maintaining the database's security, organizing database recovery and backup procedures, and keeping the database running smoothly, Metrick said.

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, Metrick added.

Donel Martinez, a CISA and CAMS certified director at Focal Point Data Risk consultancy, identified the key differences between database architects and database administrators (DBA) in the chart below. 

Database Architect                         

Database Administrator       

Architect is generally associated with the SDLC process and operates as part of change management groups

Although they may get involved with change management processes, they are usually not responsible to design the data structure at early phases of system design or for system changes

Usually responsible for management of data structure at the design phase of database management

Usually involved of managing operation of the database to make sure it meets applicable business requirements

Not involved with other areas such as troubleshooting, backup and recovery, etc.

Responsible to make sure database is available and protected for business continuity purposes

Involved in proper design of database to meet scalability, security, performance and reliability requirements

Responsible to continuously monitor database performance and make necessary changes to meet requirements identified in the design phase

Usually does not need or have direct access to the production databases

DBAs have the most privileged access to a database

For more, check out TechRepublic's database administrator cheat sheet.

Also see 

dbarch.jpg

Image: iStockphoto/dusanpetkovic

By Macy Bayern

Macy Bayern is an Associate Staff Writer for TechRepublic. A recent graduate from the University of Texas at Austin's Liberal Arts Honors Program, Macy covers tech news and trends.