What Is a Field in Microsoft Access?

By Nora Tarr

A field in Microsoft Access is a piece of information related to a single person or thing. Related fields are grouped together to form a record. In a database, where information regarding a company's employee information is stored, a record would be the information related to a single employee. A field, for example, would be specific information regarding the employee, perhaps the employee's name, hire date or social security number.

Size Considerations

A field is a segment of information that when grouped with other related segments, provides a detailed record for a specific object. Dividing the information in smaller increments makes it easier to work with the data. For example, it is easier to set up letters and their corresponding mailing labels if you have three fields for a name, such as "Mr." "John" "Smith" rather than lumped together as "Mr. John Smith", especially if you want the salutation of a letter to read, "Dear John" and you want to address the letter to "Mr. John Smith".

Fields Keep Data Where Expected

In Microsoft Access the records (groups of fields) are displayed as rows and the individual fields are displayed in columns. The field also designates and identifies exact information about a person or thing. The field also instructs the database where certain information begins and where it ends. A field labeled, "first name" identifies the actual information (the letters that make up the first name) and it designates the point where the first name begins and where it ends.

Fields Organize Your Data

Fields provide a way to organize and sort particular information in a database. Using an employee name as an example, there might be three fields involved, and each field specifies where the first name begins and where it ends, and separates it from the middle name or last name. In a Microsoft Access database, you can list your employee names based on criteria you select to group all employees who reside in a certain state, and then list them in the groups by last name from "a" to "z".


The field also differentiates between one record of information and another. Remember that a record is a collection of fields containing values related to a particular topic, such as a new employee. In the situation where there is an employee with the same first and last name, it may be a third field, such as a name suffix (Jr., Esq., M.D.) that would differentiate between the two similar names (John Smith, and John Smith, Jr.). Additionally, there could be a field set up in the database that is for the "date of hire". This date of hire field could be used to perform sorting, filtering and selection of certain records (specific employees) that meet specific selected criteria (date they were hired).

Field Confusion

Occasionally, people may refer to the field as a data entry area in an online form. This is not entirely accurate; however, because the field itself is actually part of an underlying table in Microsoft Access, where information is stored in the database. The field you enter data in on the form is really just a method used to collect data to provide values for the fields in individual records.