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Build It! Databases

Database Workers

Who Works on Databases?

There are several people involved in getting a database-powered site up and running, especially if you are having one custom-developed for your site. They include a:

  • Database architect. This person looks at the type of data you're collecting and how you expect it will be used and recommends a structure of relationships and fields that meets the needs of your site. If you just want to set up a simple blog, you don't need a complex database with dozens of tables. On the other hand, if you're running a news content management system, a database built with only a few simple tables may bog you down. The proper database [schema] can make or break a project, so don't skip or scrimp on this step.
  • Database programmer / analyst. This person usually works closely with, or is also, a Web programmer. Sometimes it makes sense to let database software sort, manipulate or cache your data. Other times, your site will run more efficiently if the Web page reformats the data for display. A database programmer is an expert at making these distinctions and ensuring that the database is communicating data additions and requests properly.
  • Database administrator (DBA). This person makes sure that your database is handling its user load well and is receiving regular backups. The administrator is likely to tell you that everything the programmer wants to do will bog down the database, regardless of how necessary the function is. The programmer, on the other hand, will likely add more and fancier functions and tell you that you can add more servers to handle the load.

How much do these people make? Salary.com reports (https://secure.salary.com/jobvaluationreport/docs/jobvaluationreport/jobsellhtmls/Database-Administrator-salary-job-description.html) that an average DBA makes a little over $80,000 a year, though many can be hired by the hour, week or month. Architects and programmers make a little less if they're just starting out and can charge a lot more as their experience grows.


J-Learning is an initiative of J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism. J-LabTM is an incubator for innovative, participatory news experiments and is a center of American University's School of Communication in Washington, D.C.
J-Learning was funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

American University School of Communication

Knight Foundation

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