Database Engineer — Income and Opportunity

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Before we learn about the money, let’s get this question out of the way:

What is a Database Engineer?

A database engineer is responsible for providing the data infrastructure of a company or organization. This involves designing, creating, installing, configuring, debugging, optimizing, securing, and managing databases. Database engineers can either work as employees or as freelancers remotely or onsite.

What Does a Database Engineer Do?

As already indicated, a database engineer is responsible for providing the data infrastructure of a company or organization.

In particular, a database engineer has many responsibilities, such as the following 15 most popular activities performed by a database engineer today:

  1. Creating a new database system.
  2. Finding a database system tailored to the needs of an organization.
  3. Designing the data models.
  4. Accessing the data with scripting languages including SQL-like syntax.
  5. Installing an existing database software system onsite.
  6. Configuring a database system.
  7. Optimizing a database management system for performance, speed, or reliability.
  8. Consulting management regarding data management issues.
  9. Keeping databases secure and providing proper access control to users.
  10. Monitoring and managing an existing database system to keep it running smoothly.
  11. Debugging potential bugs, errors, and security issues detected at runtime.
  12. Testing and deploying a database system on a public cloud infrastructure such as AWS.
  13. Handling distribution issues in the case of a distributed database management system.
  14. Ensuring budget adherence when running on a public cloud and estimating costs for private database solutions.
  15. Communicating and negotiating with salespeople (e.g., from Oracle).

These are only some of the most common activities frequently handled by database engineers.

Database Engineer vs Data Engineer

A database engineer is responsible for providing the data infrastructure of a company or organization. This involves designing, creating, installing, configuring, debugging, optimizing, securing, and managing databases. Database engineers can either work as employees or as freelancers remotely or onsite.

A data engineer prepares data to be used in data analytics and operations, essentially providing automated or semi-automated ways for data collection and creating pipelines that connect various data sources to database management systems such as the ones managed by a database engineer.

A data engineer focuses on filling data into a database system whereas a database engineer is focused on providing the database system in the first place. There are intersection points between data engineers and database engineers at the interface between data sources and data management.

Database Engineer vs Database Administrator

Database administrators perform a similar role to database engineers in that they are responsible for setting up, installing, configuring, securing, and managing a database management system.

The focus is more on the technical maintenance of existing systems than the theoretical development of new solutions.

But the lines between those two job descriptions are blurry and often overlap significantly.

Annual Income of Database Engineer (US)

How much does a Database Engineer make per year?

💬 Question: How much does a Database Engineer in the US make per year?

Figure: Average Income of a Database Engineer in the US by Source. [1]

The average annual income of a Database Engineer in the United States is between $72,536 and $135,000, with an average of $103,652 and a statistical median of $106,589 per year.

This data is based on our meta-study of ten (10) salary aggregators sources such as Glassdoor, ZipRecruiter, and PayScale.

SourceAverage Income$91,541$107,844$120,961$135,000$106,037$88,419$107,141$110,987$96,058$72,536
Table: Average Income of a Database Engineer in the US by Source.

💡 Note: This is the most comprehensive salary meta-study of database engineer income in the world, to the best of my knowledge!

Let’s have a look at the hourly rate of Database Engineers next!

Hourly Rate

Database Engineers are well-paid on freelancing platforms such as Upwork or Fiverr.

Managing NoSQL Databases for $64/h on Upwork as a SysAdmin Freelancer

If you decide to go the route as a freelance Database Developer, you can expect to make between $30 and $130 per hour on Upwork (source). Assuming an annual workload of 2000 hours, you can expect to make between $60,000 and $260,000 per year.

Note: Do you want to create your own thriving coding business online? Feel free to check out our freelance developer course — the world’s #1 best-selling freelance developer course that specifically shows you how to succeed on Upwork and Fiverr!

Industry Demand

But is there enough demand? Let’s have a look at Google trends to find out how interest evolves over time (source):

The interest in database engineering has remained relatively stable over the last two decades.

If you compare the interest with “database administration”, you can see that “database engineering” actually wins in relative importance (source):

Learning Path, Skills, and Education Requirements

Do you want to become a Database Endineer? Here’s a step-by-step learning path I’d propose to get started with Database :

Here you can already start with the first step — do it now! 🙂

SQL Tutorial - Full Database Course for Beginners

You can find many additional computer science courses on the Finxter Computer Science Academy (flatrate model).

But don’t wait too long to acquire practical experience!

Even if you have little skills, it’s best to get started as a freelance developer and learn as you work on real projects for clients — earning income as you learn and gaining motivation through real-world feedback.

🚀 Tip: An excellent start to turbo-charge your freelancing career (earning more in less time) is our Finxter Freelancer Course. The goal of the course is to pay for itself!

$75/h as a DB admin in a dying niche on Upwork?

You can find more job descriptions for coders, programmers, and computer scientists in our detailed overview guide:

The following statistic shows the self-reported income from 9,649 US-based professional developers (source).

💡 The average annual income of professional developers in the US is between $70,000 and $177,500 for various programming languages.

Question: What is your current total compensation (salary, bonuses, and perks, before taxes and deductions)? Please enter a whole number in the box below, without any punctuation. If you are paid hourly, please estimate an equivalent weekly, monthly, or yearly salary. (source)

The following statistic compares the self-reported income from 46,693 professional programmers as conducted by StackOverflow.

💡 The average annual income of professional developers worldwide (US and non-US) is between $33,000 and $95,000 for various programming languages.

Here’s a screenshot of a more detailed overview of each programming language considered in the report:

Here’s what different database professionals earn:

Here’s an overview of different cloud solutions experts:

Here’s what professionals in web frameworks earn:

There are many other interesting frameworks—that pay well!

Look at those tools:

Okay, but what do you need to do to get there? What are the skill requirements and qualifications to make you become a professional developer in the area you desire?

Let’s find out next!

General Qualifications of Professionals

StackOverflow performs an annual survey asking professionals, coders, developers, researchers, and engineers various questions about their background and job satisfaction on their website.

Interestingly, when aggregating the data of the developers’ educational background, a good three quarters have an academic background.

Here’s the question asked by StackOverflow (source):

Which of the following best describes the highest level of formal education that you’ve completed?

However, if you don’t have a formal degree, don’t fear! Many of the respondents with degrees don’t have a degree in their field—so it may not be of much value for their coding careers anyways.

Also, about one out of four don’t have a formal degree and still succeeds in their field! You certainly don’t need a degree if you’re committed to your own success!

Freelancing vs Employment Status

The percentage of freelance developers increases steadily. The fraction of freelance developers has already reached 11.21%!

This indicates that more and more work will be done in a more flexible work environment—and fewer and fewer companies and clients want to hire inflexible talent.

Here are the stats from the StackOverflow developer survey (source):

Do you want to become a professional freelance developer and earn some money on the side or as your primary source of income?

Resource: Check out our freelance developer course—it’s the best freelance developer course in the world with the highest student success rate in the industry!

Other Programming Languages Used by Professional Developers

The StackOverflow developer survey collected 58000 responses about the following question (source):

Which programming, scripting, and markup languages have you done extensive development work in over the past year, and which do you want to work in over the next year?

These are the languages you want to focus on when starting out as a coder:

And don’t worry—if you feel stuck or struggle with a nasty bug. We all go through it. Here’s what SO survey respondents and professional developers do when they’re stuck:

What do you do when you get stuck on a problem? Select all that apply. (source)

To get started with some of the fundamentals and industry concepts, feel free to check out these articles:

Where to Go From Here?

Enough theory. Let’s get some practice!

Coders get paid six figures and more because they can solve problems more effectively using machine intelligence and automation.

To become more successful in coding, solve more real problems for real people. That’s how you polish the skills you really need in practice. After all, what’s the use of learning theory that nobody ever needs?

You build high-value coding skills by working on practical coding projects!

Do you want to stop learning with toy projects and focus on practical code projects that earn you money and solve real problems for people?

🚀 If your answer is YES!, consider becoming a Python freelance developer! It’s the best way of approaching the task of improving your Python skills—even if you are a complete beginner.

If you just want to learn about the freelancing opportunity, feel free to watch my free webinar “How to Build Your High-Income Skill Python” and learn how I grew my coding business online and how you can, too—from the comfort of your own home.

Join the free webinar now!


[1] The figure was generated using the following code snippet:

import matplotlib.pyplot as plt
import numpy as np
import math

data = [91541,

labels = ['',

median = np.median(data)
average = np.average(data)
print(median, average)
n = len(data)

plt.plot(range(n), [median] * n, color='black', label='Median: $' + str(int(median)))
plt.plot(range(n), [average] * n, '--', color='red', label='Average: $' + str(int(average))), data)
plt.xticks(range(len(data)), labels, rotation='vertical', position = (0,0.45), color='white', weight='bold')
plt.ylabel('Average Income ($)')
plt.title('Database Engineer Annual Income - by Finxter')