While database administrators are rarely in the spotlight, they play an integral part in any organization that values data. They make sure your queries and transactions execute quickly and flawlessly while also keeping your organization’s data secure. When a database does fail, they work to mitigate the damage and get everything back online quickly.

In this post, we’ll take a quick overview of the work and expertise of a database administrator and give you a solid framework for writing a high quality job post that will help you find the right talent for your needs.

A Day in the Life of a Database Admin

The title “database administrator” actually captures a number of responsibilities, which can range from the routine troubleshooting to designing new databases to suit complex data requirements or stand up to advanced security threats. Generally speaking though, a database administrators oversee three areas of responsibility: optimizing the database’s performance, ensuring data integrity, and maintaining security against attacks.

Let’s break down what each of those functions might entail, depending on the expertise of the database admin. Typical functions of a junior database administrator include the day-to-day maintenance of the database. This involves things like monitoring performance to make sure transactions and queries are running smoothly, writing SQL queries and creating performance reports, monitoring maintenance activities like backups and indexing, setting access permissions and troubleshooting for users.

A more senior database administrator’s tasks will likely include working with stakeholders to design and implement new database systems, defining custom schemas for complex databases, managing junior database administrators, and creating and enforcing security policies. A senior database designer should have expertise with the full cycle of software design, including specification, design, implementation, testing, and documentation. If the project involves creating a new database, it will be the database administrator’s role to identify the right database system for the project based on business goals and capacity requirements.

Defining Your Database Administration Needs

When engaging a database administrator your main consideration will be finding an expert who has experience with the kinds of databases they’ll be working with. An expert in setting up relational databases won’t necessarily know the best way to design and administer a NoSQL database, and vice versa.

You should also consider what level of expertise you need for this project. Are you looking for someone to help optimize a slow-running system, design a security policy, or set up an entirely new database system to support a new app? Each of these tasks will require different kinds of database administrators.

If you’re working with commercial database management systems provided by vendors like IBM and Oracle, there may be certifications available. That said, many of the most popular database platforms, including MySQL and PostgreSQL, are open source. In these cases, you’ll want to know more about specific experience managing those specific databases.

Writing a Project Description for a Database Administrator

Once you have a solid idea of what you’re looking for in a database administrator, you’re ready to write a job post. The quality of your post can have a significant impact on time-to-hire and the quality of interested talent, so it’s worth investing some time and thought into crafting a compelling, detailed post.

You’ll definitely want to specify what kind of database they’ll be working with, as well major elements of the project: Will they be designing access policies for a SQL database that must comply with HIPAA, or do they need to generate performance reports for a NoSQL database to identify areas to optimize?

Include a clear description of what the project entails and what teams or functions they’ll be working most closely with, mention whatever product management or communication tools your team prefers, what availability you expect will be needed, and, of course, your budget. The key here is to give ample context so that you can get a meaningful proposal from an interested database administrator.

Sample Project Overview

Below we’ve put together a sample of how a project description might look. Keep in mind that many people use the term “job description,” but a full job description is only needed if you’re looking for an employee. If you think you might want an employee, check out Upwork Payroll. When engaging a freelancer as an independent contractor, you typically just need a statement of work, job post, or any other document that describes the work.

Title: Database Administration for MySQL Migration

Description: We are a small team of six looking for expertise in migrating databases from SQL Server 2012 to MySQL. The project is to transition approximately 14 databases to MySQL in partnership with our senior DBA. A key part of the project will be maintaining SQL Server 2012 database and supporting users while the migration is in progress. There will also be components of monitoring, backup, and error checks. You should have your Microsoft SQL DBA certification. Experience with MySQL a plus.

Scope and Timeline: Our goal is to complete the migration by the end of Q4. Please include in your proposal whether this timeline is feasible.

About Us: We’re a small data analytics firm based in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Looking for more resources? Learn some of the basics of database systems with this great explainer.