Should DBAs be Paid Overtime?

For the past several weeks, I have been running a poll on, asking visitors if they thought that DBAs should be paid for off-hours work? With 259 votes, its very clear (see the graph below) that most DBAs think they should be paid overtime. Unfortunately, this is usually not the case.


Most DBAs work on a salary, and are paid the same no matter how many hours a week they work, whether it’s 40 hours, or 60 hours. In some cases, employers will offer compensation time (paid time off) to make up for working overtime, and some employers reward DBAs with annual bonuses, but this is more the exception than the rule.

So why don’t most DBAs get paid overtime, even when we can see in the above poll that they want to be paid overtime? Because the organizations that hire them are generally not required to pay them overtime under U.S. Department of Labor regulations. While these regulations don’t specifically mention DBAs by name, it has generally been assumed that these regulations cover DBAs, and since most organizations fall under these federal regulations, there is no incentive for them to offer DBAs overtime pay, although they can if they want to. So until federal labor regulation change, no matter how much we as DBAs want to be paid overtime, it’s not going to happen.

Note: State labor laws are often more restrictive than federal labor laws, and because of this, you may want to check out your state’s labor laws to see how they affect you. If you live in a country other than the U.S., of course this discussion doesn’t specifically apply to you.

On the other hand, while DBAs generally don’t get overtime, they generally are well paid. For example:

  • DBAs earn from U.S. $63,310 to 106,658 per year on average
  • Developers earn from U.S. $58,592 to $85,621 per year on average
  • Network administrators earn from U.S. $47,393 to $77,781 per year on average

The above salary figures were gathered from in February 2010, and exclude bonuses and benefits. In addition, these figures assume moderately to experienced personnel, for all U.S. locations, company sizes, skill levels, specialty areas, and more. Because of all the many variables, your own salary may not be fairly comparable to the numbers cited above, but they still do indicate that DBAs do make more than most of their IT brethren, which hopefully is some small consolation.

So what if you feel you are being taken advantage of? In other words, what if you work for an organization that doesn’t voluntary offer overtime pay, paid time off compensation, or bonuses, and you often put in more than 40 hours a week? What can you do?

While this is a controversial topic, you might want to consider the following. Over a period of weeks or months, carefully document all of the hours you put in at your job. Summarize the data and politely and professionally present it to your boss, asking what, if any, options are available to either help you to reduce your workload, or for additional compensation for all of your extra hard work. In some cases you may be surprised, and get what you want. In other cases, the manager may fully understand your situation, but may not be able to do anything about it. Or in the worst case scenario, your manager might consider you as a trouble-maker for even bringing up the issue, which could negatively impact your job.

There’s no easy solution to the problem of being taken advantage of. Personally, if I was placed in such a situation, I would first try what I recommended above. If that did not work, then I would quietly start looking for a new job. Of course, I would not do anything rash, like get mad and quit. I would begin to polish my resume, start investigating job openings, and letting my network of friends know that I am looking for new opportunities. Given enough time, and patience, you should expect to find a new job that is not quite so onerous. Of course, if you do find a new job, and are given a  job offer, be sure to negotiate your work hours and compensation up front, as you don’t want to end up with another job that takes advantage of you.

So what do you think? Do you have any opinions on this topic?

4 thoughts on “Should DBAs be Paid Overtime?

  1. Brad I really enjoyed this post and am surprised that there are no comments. I guess I will try to break the ice.

    Brad, do you have a breakdown of submissions by job title? Looking at the results and I will go on a limb and assume that the majority of the sample pool includes DBA’s, Developers and not owners or leaders from the financial side of the house. If this is true, you might be able to flip these results if you only sampled CFO’s, CEO’s and Owners. I am a DBA/Developer so I am trying to look at this from the other side of the table.

    Does anyone have any follow-up thoughts?

  2. I don’t have any control over the sample of people who took the pool, nor any way to easily find out what job title of those who answered the question. But as you have suggested, I assume that DBAs and Developers were the biggest responders. What the response is telling me is that there are a lot of DBAs and Developers who either feel they are being over worked, or under paid. Before the economy went sour, there was a lot of job changing going on as DBAs and developers moved up the pay ladder. Once the economy gets better, I imagine that we will see this happen again. If organizations want to keep good employees, they will need to compensate them accordingly.

  3. Interesting Question.

    Considering myself a white collar professional, it never dawned on me that I would want to be paid for working more than 40 hours a week.

    However, I felt that I would have more flexibility in my day to day work hours: working longer days when the work load required it, and working shorter days when the work was light. Over time ,usually a week, time at work would average 40 hours, although the average usually is more in favor of the employer. This has been my experience as a full-time employee.

    My view changed while I worked on contract: I did charge for over time, but only when the time was mandated by the customer and the contract was amended to reflect the additional hours. Here again I was able to be flexible with my work schedule, working longer days to complete the work load, and banking those extra hours to create longer weekends when the workload was light.

    If someone decides that we will be paid OT, I will not refuse!

    By the way John S, people who have difficulty following instructions from the author have posted comments @ SQL Server Central. That is where I read this blog.

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