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Data Engineer Career


What Is a Data Engineer?


A data engineer constructs information pipelines to get the right data from the best sources to the right people. They usually work with data scientists. In simple terms, they extract the data, transform it, and load it into a warehouse where it is accessible to experts. This is known as the ETL (extract, transform, load) process.

As an example, a data engineer might create an ETL process for a food ordering service. To work, the service will need to extract information from mobile apps, transform it into orders and payments, and load it so that the restaurants and delivery workers can deliver it to the customer. 

Such a system will collect lots of data, which means that different databases are needed to handle various kinds of information. These can include restaurant and user information, analytics, an order database with information about each transaction, and a customer service log with interactions between the app’s users and customer support agents.

A data engineer can work on a large development project or focus on a single aspect, such as creating a script that pulls data about user activity and organizes it so that marketing professionals can then use it to plan targeted offers. This job can also involve creating an interface that data scientists can use to access and organize the information. 


What Are the Job Duties of a Data Engineer?

The duties of data engineering roles can differ, but the jobs usually fall into three general categories:

Generalist data engineers

Generalist data engineers are more common in smaller companies with small teams. Sometimes, they might be both the data engineer and the data scientist.

Generalists usually handle the entire information pipeline from end to end. In some companies, however, the scope of the projects may be smaller, so they may have less work even though there are more responsibilities. 

Pipeline data engineers

A pipeline-centric data engineer is more common in mid-sized to large companies. Such organizations have more complex data needs. In this case, the pipeline-centric engineer works with the data science team to transform the company’s data into a form they can analyze. The engineer should have a deep knowledge of computer science to excel in this role.

Database data engineers

Database-centric data engineers are focused on setting up, inserting data into, and maintaining analytics databases. They work a little with pipelines, but most of their work has to do with creating the most useful databases and fine-tuning them for faster performance. 

Such engineers are most common in very large companies, where analytics databases have grown to the point where they need dedicated personnel to maintain them. This role involves a lot of highly specialized work, and therefore requires strong technical skills.

What Does a Data Engineer Do?

Data engineers have a wide range of responsibilities. Below are some of the most common ones:

  • They develop, construct, test, and maintain data pipelines.
  • They ensure that the architecture of the data pipelines is well-aligned with the business’s requirements.
  • They gather data from different sources and organize it in one place.
  • They develop algorithms to analyze the data and extract what is needed by the data scientists.
  • They write automation scripts to handle repetitive tasks.
  • Lead data engineers also play a managerial role, supervising their teams.
  • They regularly work with data scientists and upper management to understand the organization’s data needs and create relevant strategies.

These are only some of the roles played by a data engineer. Depending on where they work, they might even be responsible for analyzing the data, in which case they double as data scientists.


What Education Does a Data Engineer Need?

Given the knowledge demands of this role, data engineers need to have a strong educational background. Usually, you start on this career path with a bachelor’s degree in computer sciencesoftware engineering, information technology, or a related field.

You will also need extensive experience with different programming languages, such as Java and Python. Knowledge of relational database management systems and how to design and manage them is also necessary, especially if you plan on being a database-centric engineer. In that case, you will have to learn database querying languages, like SQL.

In some cases, you may wish to pursue a master's degree in data analytics in order to gain additional experience and a higher-level understanding of data management technology, techniques, and real-world applications.

Best Degrees for a Data Engineer


Computer Science – B.S.

Problem solvers and math lovers needed! Your task:...

Problem solvers and math lovers needed! Your task:

Lay the groundwork for the computing breakthroughs that will enable tomorrow's technologies. Utilize your previous college courses or IT experience to help you complete your degree faster.

  • Time: 60% of graduates in similar programs finish within 25 months.
  • Tuition: $3,985 per 6-month term.
  • Courses: 38 total courses in this program.

You'll have the opportunity to earn these certifications:

  • Linux Essentials
  • Axelos ITIL Foundation

Skills for your résumé that you will learn in this program:

  • Architecture and systems
  • Data structures
  • AI
  • Computer theory
  • Version Control
  • Linux

Software Engineering – B.S.

You're a creative and tech genius who wants the bigger opportunities....

You're a creative and tech genius who wants the bigger opportunities.

  • Time: 60% of graduates finish similar programs within 35 months.
  • Tuition: $3,985 per 6-month term.
  • Courses: 36 or 38 total courses in this program depending on your track.

Certifications included in this program at no additional cost are:

  • CompTIA Project +
  • AWS Certified Cloud Practitioner 
  • ITIL®1 Foundation Certification

Skills for your résumé that you will learn in this program:

  • Scripting and programming
  • Web development
  • Mobile application development 
  • User experience design
  • Software quality assurance

Information Technology – B.S.

Award-winning coursework and value-add certifications make this online...

Award-winning coursework and value-add certifications make this online program a top choice.

  • Time: 61% of graduates finish within 39 months.
  • Tuition: $3,625 per 6-month term.
  • Courses: 36 total courses in this program.

Certifications included in this program at no additional cost:

  • CompTIA A+ 
  • CompTIA Network+ 
  • CompTIA Security+ 
  • CompTIA Project+ 
  • CompTIA IT Operations Specialist
  • CompTIA Secure Infrastructure Specialist 
  • Amazon AWS Cloud Practitioner
  • ITIL®*^ Foundation Certification
  • LPI Linux Essentials

Skills for your résumé that you will learn in this program:

  • Scripting and programming
  • Networking and security
  • Systems and services
  • Data management
  • Business of IT

Data Analytics – M.S.

Lead businesses with strong analysis skills:...

Lead businesses with strong analysis skills:

  • Time: 61% of graduates finish within 20 months.
  • Tuition: $4,055 per 6-month term.
  • Courses: 11 total courses in this program.

Skills for your résumé that you will learn in this program:

  • Data Analytics Lifecycle 
  • Data Science and Advanced Analytics Applications
  • Data Mining Techniques
  • Machine Learning 
  • Data Management

Master data mining, visualization, and SQL—and lead analytics at the business of your choice.

How Much Does a Data Engineer Make?


According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, data engineers are in a larger category of database administrators. The median wage for this group was $99,890 as of May 2022. The top 10% earned over $155,660 while the lowest 10% earned less than $54,070. The exact data engineer salary is affected by several factors, including educational level (especially certifications), experience, the company hiring, and the location.

What Is the Projected Job Growth?


Data engineering is a strong field that is developing rapidly. According to the BLS, database administrator jobs are expected to grow by 10% between 2019 and 2029, which is faster than the national average for all jobs.

As the data needs for companies grow, there will be an increasing need for professionals who can work with that data. Third-party database-as-a-service companies will also likely develop to help fill the demand gap, increasing employment opportunities for skilled professionals.


What Skills Does a Data Engineer Need?

A data engineer requires a wide variety of hard and soft skills to excel in their work:

  • Strong analytical skills: Data engineers work with complex data and systems, and they will have to solve complex problems regularly. Strong analytical skills are necessary to thrive in such an environment.
  • Attention to detail: When you’re working with large amounts of data, every piece matters. A data engineer should be able to pay attention to detail so they don’t miss anything.
  • Communication and collaboration: This is especially important if you work on a team. You will need to be able to work with others and communicate clearly.
  • Technical skills: These include coding, distributed systems, database design and administration, and other applied computer science skills. These abilities will come from your education.

The more skills and education you have, the more you could potentially earn as a data engineer.

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