Are Database Administrators the same as Data Engineers? 

By Ryan Freeman

June 27, 2022

data, data engineer, Database, database administrator, DBA

The scope of Database Administrator (DBA) and Data Engineer roles has never been broader, or more confusing. If you look at many DBA job roles today, you will see that many Data Engineer skills are listed as ‘Required Skills’ to land the role – the reverse is also true where you will see DBA skills required to land some roles as Data Engineers. The problem is that the roles of DBAs and Data Engineers vary from one organisation so the definitions and expectations need to be better understood.

In this article we’ll clear up the confusion by firstly clarifying what each role should be focussing on and then to answer the question, are DBAs the same as Data Engineers? 

The Database Administrator 

Database Administrators should be focussed on performance, integrity, and the security of the database platforms. They should be involved in the planning and development of the database, as well as in troubleshooting any issues on behalf of the users. 

They ensure that the data remains consistent across the database, the data is clearly defined, users can access the data concurrently and everything related to security and recovery in terms of an emergency is in place. 

The Data Engineer 

The Data Engineer’s primary role is to prepare data for analytical or operational uses. They are the data pipeline builders who bring together information from various sources. The data is integrated, consolidated and cleansed for use in analytics applications. 

Depending on the size of an organisation, the Data Engineer will work with a different scale and complexity of data. The larger the organisation the more complicated the analytics architecture and the more data they will be responsible for.  

Data Engineers work in data teams with Database Administrators and Data Analysts to improve data transparency and enable businesses to make more trustworthy business decisions. 


So, the short answer to this article’s question is no, DBAs and Data Engineers have very different and defined responsibilities. The longer answer is that there is overlap between the two roles, but it does not make a Database Administrator (DBA) the same as a Data Engineer. DBAs can retrain to become Data Engineers and vice versa – and this does happen frequently as both roles share many of the key skills and disciplines.

If you have require a DBA then you really should look for a DBA to work in the role and the same is true for work for a Data Engineer – you should always let the work be completed by an expert with the correct training and experience. 

Digital Samurai is made up of a team of data professionals with skills and experience stretching across the spectrum of roles and technologies. We would love to hear what plans you have for your data team and projects so please feel free to get in touch.

Ryan Freeman

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