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Database Administrator vs. System Administrator: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

A database administrator (DBA) and system administrator (sysadmin) are responsible for different areas of a company’s computer system. A DBA focuses on the database, while a sysadmin manages the server. Both positions require a high level of technical expertise and a strong understanding of computer systems. In this article, we compare and contrast the job duties of a DBA and sysadmin, and we provide information on education and training requirements, salary expectations and career outlook.

What is a Database Administrator?

Database Administrators (DBAs) are responsible for the design, implementation, maintenance and repair of computerized databases. They work with Database Management Systems (DBMS) to ensure that data is stored securely and efficiently. DBAs use their technical skills to optimize database performance and troubleshoot any issues that may arise. They also develop data backup and recovery plans to protect against data loss in the event of a system failure. In addition to their technical duties, DBAs also work with business users to understand their needs and design databases that meet their requirements.

What is a System Administrator?

System Administrators are responsible for the day-to-day maintenance and operation of computer systems. They install, configure and troubleshoot hardware and software. They also monitor system performance and ensure that systems are available and accessible to users. System Administrators may also be responsible for developing and implementing system security measures. They may also train new users on how to use the system. System Administrators typically work in an office environment, but may be required to travel to various locations to troubleshoot issues.

Database Administrator vs. System Administrator

Here are the main differences between a database administrator and a system administrator.

Job Duties

Although both database administrators and system administrators perform IT duties, their job responsibilities can differ. A database administrator is responsible for maintaining a database and ensuring its security. This involves tasks like creating databases, monitoring them for errors and protecting them from external threats. System administrators are responsible for managing the systems within an organization. They may do this by troubleshooting existing systems or developing new ones to meet the needs of the company. Database administrators often work with more technical tasks, while system administrators typically handle more software-related issues.

Job Requirements

Database administrators typically need at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information systems or a related field. They might also pursue a master’s degree in business administration with a focus on information technology. Some employers prefer candidates to have a certification in database management from organizations like the Oracle Corporation or Microsoft.

System administrators usually need a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field as well. They might also pursue a master’s degree in business administration with a focus on information technology. Many system administrators become certified through organizations like Microsoft, Cisco and Linux.

Work Environment

Database administrators and system administrators both work in office settings, but they may also travel to client sites. System administrators often spend more time on the road than database administrators because they’re responsible for maintaining a company’s entire IT infrastructure. Database administrators usually only travel if their company has multiple locations or clients.

Database administrators typically work full-time during regular business hours, while system administrators may work overtime or weekends depending on their employer’s needs. Both professionals can expect to work 40 hours per week.


Both database administrators and system administrators use technical skills to perform their jobs. However, database administrators typically focus on one type of database, such as Microsoft SQL Server, while system administrators are responsible for managing multiple types of systems.

Database administrators use their analytical skills to identify issues with databases and develop solutions to address those issues. They also use their problem-solving skills to troubleshoot errors that users experience when accessing databases. In addition, they need to have strong communication skills to work with developers and other stakeholders who may be using the databases.

System administrators also use analytical and problem-solving skills to identify and resolve issues with systems. However, they often need to have a broader range of technical skills because they manage multiple types of systems. In addition, they need to have excellent communication skills to coordinate with different teams who are using the systems.


Database administrators earn an average salary of $90,558 per year, while system administrators earn an average salary of $82,947 per year. Both of these salaries may vary depending on the size of the company at which you work, location of your job and the level of experience you have prior to pursuing either position.


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