Data administration is the development, maintenance, and control of databases. This area of computer science covers a wide variety of topics. Data professionals typically need at least a four year college degree to work, and many have special certifications in particular types of databases as well as security techniques. Employment in this sector began growing rapidly in the early 21st century.
One aspect of data administration involves setting up databases. This requires critical thinking skills as well as a knowledge of programming languages. The work requires thinking about what kind of data will be stored in the database and how it will be used. The data administrator must plan ahead for growth as well as access needs. She may be able to use a commercial product to create the database or could need to code her own to meet the needs of a given situation.
Once a database is established and users start to populate it, maintenance is a concern. Specialists in data administration use cleanup tools to prevent the buildup of extraneous data. They are also alert for signs of corruption so they can maintain the integrity of the data. Security can be an integral part of this process, to control who is allowed to use the database and what they can do in it. A secretary might be able to enter data but not mass delete entries or create new fields in the database, for example.
Data administrators also control databases. When a database needs to be moved or updated, this information technology professional plans and executes the activity. He can also be involved in the development of new security systems as well as patches to address security holes like vulnerable operating systems on the computers of database users. The data administrator can revoke or add access and determine which access level is appropriate so personnel can get the information they need without accessing sensitive materials.
For a career in data administration, a bachelor of science degree in computer science, information technology, data administration, or a related field is usually necessary. It can also help to pursue independent technical certification through a professional organization that focuses on specific types of databases and programming languages. These qualifications can be helpful when seeking jobs. At large companies, administrators start in junior roles and gradually take on more responsibilities, while smaller companies may use a single data administrator and can provide a more autonomous position to a new graduate.