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Data Analyst vs. Database Administrator Jobs, Which Is Better?

Database Administrators are the Information Technology (IT) professionals responsible for keeping a database up to date and running.

Their responsibilities include: writing scripts and updating the database, keeping the database running 24/7, and backing up the database.

Database analysts are IT Professionals responsible for analyzing and reporting on the data in a database.

Their duties include reviewing the database design as well as the relationships between the tables in a database and analyzing / reporting trends, patterns and insights.

With this in-mind, let's take a quick look at the differences, similarities and areas of shared responsibilities:

  1. Database Backups, Data Loss and Disaster Recovery

    The Database Administrator (DBA) is primarily responsible for performing database backups, preventing data loss, recovering databases from backups or advocating and implementing disaster recovery plans.

    Unlike the DBA, the Database Analyst (Data Analyst) is not burdened with any of these types of tasks except in smaller organizations where lines of responsibility are blurred because their is no real division of labor!

  2. Data Reporting

    Organizations that employ both a DBA and a Data Analyst will defer to the Data Analyst for their reporting needs which may include preparing SQL Query based reports in; HTML / CSV / PDF / Excel or using sophisticated / enterprise reporting tools like Crystal Reports, Business Objects, SQL Server Reporting Services, etc.

  3. Salary, Wages and Income

    The Database Administrator (DBA) role usually goes to highly experienced IT Professionals as such, it is not unusual for a Database Administrator to earn upwards of six (6) figures.

    Database analyst positions on the other hand may be staffed by less experienced IT Professionals and as such may not earn quite as high an income as a database administrator (DBA).

  4. Learning Curve / Level of Challenge

    Without a doubt, it is much harder to be a DBA than to be a data analyst. That is not because the data analyst's job is easy but because there is a lot more that goes into being a DBA!

    For example, a DBA can perform the tasks traditionally assigned to a database analyst and in addition, also perform additional duties related to:

    • Data Security
    • Database Design Standards
    • SQL Query Performance Tuning
    • Database Uptime and Reliability
    • Data Extraction, Transformation and Loading
    • Database Server Configuration / Management
    • ... and lots more!

    The Database Administrator (DBA) is the resident database expert and SQL Guru and the DBA job title is only available to highly experienced database professionals.

  5. Database Design & Development

    While the DBA will be in charge of enforcing his / her database design standards and managing multiple enterprise databases and/or data warehouses some of which may spawn hundreds of tables, the Data Analyst may be in charge of designing the database for a single application.

    The data analyst may design and develop a database subject to the standards and guidelines set by the DBA for the entire organization.

  6. SQL Query Writing

    While Data Analysts are responsible for and must be competent at writing the queries used in their line of work, the DBA may also review and provide them with feedback from time-to-time.

    Data analysts may also have to ask for or incorporate the DBA's feedback over long-running / poorly performing queries.

As you can see, the Data Analyst job is excellent role for entry-level, junior, mid-level or even senior database / IT professionals while the DBA's job is almost, always designed for highly skilled, expert senior-level database / IT professionals!