What Is The Difference Between a DBA (Database Administrator) and A SQL Developer

database servers

Have you ever been confused as to the difference between a DBA and a SQL Developer?

Well you are not alone – there are a number of blurred lines around exactly what is a DBA role, and what is a SQL developer role.

A few years ago I was leaving a job and was asked to assist with finding a replacement.

The job was for a Database Administrator yet the CV’s that were passed to me were SSRS and SSIS developers, which is fine if that’s what you are looking for.

If these candidates had been progressed further and eventually hired they could have encountered issues.

An example of this could be if they needed to apply a service pack to a SQL cluster, or move database files around, the likelihood is high that they would not know how to do it.

If you are the hiring manager and you don’t make the job clear, you could end up hiring the wrong person. It can be disastrous.

It’s important to remember that SQL Server expertise and experience cover a very wide spectrum. It is virtually impossible to be an expert in all areas of the product.

What Does A Database Administrator Do?

Generally speaking the primary responsibility of a DBA is to install, administer, maintain and manage SQL Server databases and the SQL instances they reside on.

Often Database Administrators come from a networking/OS/hardware type of background.

Some of the common tasks a Database Administrator will take care of include

  • Setting up new installations of SQL Server
  • Service packing
  • File Management
  • Database security
  • Backups/restores
  • Log shipping, mirroring, High availability, clustering
  • Setting up and troubleshooting replication
  • Checking and troubleshooting SQL agent jobs
  • Database performance tuning in conjunction with devs

What Does A SQL Developer Do?

A SQL developer creates and fixes SQL code.

They will often be from a programmer background.

Some of the common tasks a SQL Developer will take care of include

  • Working with developers and project managers on the database aspects of a project or solution
  • Fixing bugs in and trouble shooting SQL code
  • Creating and maintaining reports
  • Creating and fixing bugs in SSIS packages
  • Working with Analysis services
  • Database performance tuning in conjunction with DBA’s

Do They Overlap?

Yes often parts of the job will overlap, a SQL developer may have a general understanding of many database administrator tasks and vice versa.

There are a few allrounders, but from what I have seen it is rare to find someone that is proficient in both areas.

Where To From Here?

When you are looking to hire someone a good idea can be to try to find someone that already does the job, or knows the requirements inside out, to help write up the advertisement and screen the candidates.

As long as you involve the right people you will soon get told if you are looking at the right or wrong candidates.

Have you ever been in a situation where the wrong skill set has been hired for the job? Tell us about it.

Image credit

Rob StGeorge
Senior SQL Server Database Administrator residing in Auckland, NZ


  1. I was wondering, how is the DBA job market in NZ? My fiance and I were looking to move there from the US and hopefully continue my DBA career.would you say theres a high need for them or is the job market saturated?

    1. Hey Stella, I would say in the main centers like Auckland and Wellington there is a high demand for good DBA’s. Whenever I have wanted to change companies it has been pretty straightforward. If you are an experienced DBA I don’t think you would have any problems continuing your career. Cost of living/housing in Auckland is very high though. Happy to talk more if you want or have any more questions, cheers Rob

  2. Hello thanks for great article
    i just wondering as a Java Developer which one will gonna suit better to have Database Developer or DBA certification?

  3. Hi Rob, I’m an undergrad at AKL AUT Uni completing my 2nd year in a computer science degree which includes papers in sql and data mining . What advice would you give me in starting out career wise if I’m looking to work with database SQL queries and the likes? As in – for a new graduate,
    what would employers like to see if they were looking to hire one..?

    1. Hey Jay, sorry for the late reply. I think that trying to get an entry level somewhere in IT can be a good move, even if it is a Helpdesk role at first. Many start out that way and if you are with a good company and prove yourself opportunities will open up fairly quickly. Application support roles can be good as often involve a lot of basic SQL querying and troubleshooting. And you could also look at entry level reporting roles. As far as what employers look for… the basics are always a good start like learning about the company and having good answers for some of the more common questions. Also having some kind of prior experience always helps but it is the catch 22 of IT unfortunately. Good luck to you!

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