DBA Salaries: What Do You Earn?

DBA salaries are assumed to be among the highest in IT. Is that accurate? Is it fair? What’s the deal? Talking about salary issues is a sure fire way to get people excited about a topic. Everyone has an opinion on salaries. Usually, if it is your job we’re talking about, you’ll think salaries are too low, or not rising fast enough. If it is your employer looking at the same exact numbers though, salaries may appear to be too high or rising too fast. With this in mind, let’s talk about DBA salaries.

According to US News & World Report, the Labor Department reports that database administrators made a median salary of $75,190 in 2011. The highest-paid 10 percent in the profession earned $116,870, while the lowest-paid earned $42,360 that year.

Of course, the pay varies based on a number of considerations including industry, metropolitan area, and years of service. As might be expected, salaries on the East and West coast pay better than the middle of the country.

What about DBA pay versus other IT positions? Well, according to the same source DBAs are well-compensated, but not as well as IT managers, software developers, or computer systems analysts.

If you wish to look at DBA pay from another point-of-view, consider the statistics at ITCareerFinder. According to their data, DBA salaries have risen, on average 7.2 percent over the last two years. In 2010, the average starting DBA salary ranged between $72,750 – $107,000, whereas in 2012 the range has risen to $79,000 – $113,750.

Of course, if you review the information at ITCareerFinder, it is interesting to note that the other data-related positions all pay higher than DBA.

  • Database Devloper had a salary range of $82,000 – $119,750 for 2012 with an 11.2 percent increase since 2010
  • Database Manager had a salary range of $96,500 – $133,500 for 2012 with an 8.2 percent increase since 2010
  •  BI Analyst had a salary range of $87,750 – $123,500 for 2012 with an 11.2 percent increase since 2010
  • Data Architect had a salary range of $97,500 – $134,250 for 2012 with an 11.4 percent increase since 2010

It makes sense, though, to take some of these details with a grain salt. I mean, how accurate are these titles? What is your specific title at your organization? Does it reflect what you truly do on a daily basis?

Additionally, the site indicates that you should add a multiplier for specific DBMS skills. For IBM DB2 add 5 percent, for Oracle add 9 percent and for SQL Server add 10 percent. What if you have both DB2 and Oracle, should you add both? And are SQL Server skills really at that level of premium over DB2 and Oracle. I don’t believe it!

The other bit of skepticism I’ll voice here regarding the ITCareerFinder numbers is the comparison of the high level salary information at the top of the page and the breakdown by geography at the bottom of the page. The average DBA salary by state comes in at what looks like considerably lower numbers than expected, given the aggregate numbers above. Of course, the numbers at the top of the page are only for new hires (given that they are “Database Administrator Average Starting Salaries”). But that tends to raise a whole series of additional questions (along the lines of “Why should the average starting salary be higher than the average existing salary?” and if it is “Why shouldn’t I go looking for a new job?”)

On the other hand, the data is the data, and it offers up some interesting conclusions. First of all, DBAs are not as highly paid as some folks think. Secondly, even if DBAs are not the highest paid IT professional, the pay is still good… and when you combine that with the type of work and number of projects that the DBA gets involved with, DBA is still a great career choice. 

At least I think it is!


About craig@craigsmullins.com

I'm a strategist, researcher, and consultant with nearly three decades of experience in all facets of database systems development.
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9 Responses to DBA Salaries: What Do You Earn?

  1. Pingback: DB2 Hub | DBA Salaries: What Do You Earn?

  2. Louisville HVAC says:

    This was a really wonderful article. Many thanks for providing these details.

  3. Mark Miller says:

    You may not want to pay heed to a single survey though. In that case, you should check out the IT Salary Survey conducted by Certification Magazine. The average DBA salary in this survey is listed as $78,640. That sounds better if you’re a DBA.

  4. You are absolutely correct, Mark. One survey does not a reality make! The Certification Magazine survey is an additional data point. As is the Computerworld 2012 salary survey (http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9224243/IT_Salary_Survey_2012) which puts the avg DBA salary at $95,187.

    Salary-related blog posts always seem to be some of the most popular ones I write, so I will continue to be on the lookout for new salary surveys to write about here… if you know of any, drop a comment here.

  5. A lot of this depends on where you live and the industry you are in.

    If you live in London or work in the Hedge Fund industry your salary will be affected by those factors.

    of course, so will your cost of living (related to the former).

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    I appreciate you spending some time and energy to put this short article together.
    I once again find myself personally spending a lot of time
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