So, you want to be a Data Engineer?

So you want to be a Data Engineer


Merging the roles of Data Analyst and Data Scientist, a career in Data Engineering may be the perfect pathway for data gurus in search of a lucrative salary and career longevity.


What is Data Engineering?

Working alongside Data Scientists, Data Engineers are responsible for readying data for either operational or analytical use. A Data Engineer’s work can be funneled down to three main areas of focus:

  1. Maintaining the working order of the data pipeline.
  2. Working alongside the internal data team, which includes Data Scientists and Data Analysts.
  3. And, having ownership of the financial costs for the moving or storing of data.

Basically, Data Engineers ready data for the Data Scientists and Data Analysts. They ensure the data is clean and organised. On a more complex scale, Data Engineers are responsible for implementing larger assignments that deal with larger datasets.

They are tasked with compiling, managing, interpreting and visualising these large datasets. Data Engineering professionals are the people responsible for transforming raw data into insights. Beyond the above, Data Engineers are also tasked with building and managing ETL pipelines (Extract, Transform and Load).


Data Engineer Skills

Whilst some skills required of Data Engineers overlap with a Data Scientist, working in Data Engineering demands a superior knowledge of programming. Beyond programming, Data Science has a maths-focus whereas Data Engineering has a stronger focus on technology.

Of the required skills, advanced knowledge of a programming language, either Python, Scala or Java, is necessary along with an understanding of data structures and algorithms. Beyond these toolsets, given the data element of Data Engineering, knowledge of how databases operate and the underlying structures of these databases is a non-negotiable.

Whilst the list of tools required may differ from role to role, Data Engineers agree that one must be a strong developer to succeed. Finally, confidence with a diagramming tool, such as Lucidchart, is recommended as Data Engineers will be required at some point in their career to visually map their pipeline architecture.

Moving beyond technical skills, successful Data Engineers are detail oriented people with a passion for both coding and data. They have well-developed interpersonal skills and are confident working in collaborative environments. 


Career Progression

Data Engineers usually have a Master’s degree in Computer Science, Software Engineering or Information Technology. Employers are looking to hire professionals who are coming from either a Software Engineering or Backend Development background. As Data Engineering sits at a mid to senior career level, those hopeful professionals who lack relevant experience should look to a job in Data Analysis as an initial stepping stone into Data Engineering.

Experience typically trumps education in Data Engineering. It is only with strong programming experience that a Data Engineer will have the technical and systems knowledge lacking in academic teaching.



Those working in Data Engineering can expect an average annual salary of £45,633 in the United Kingdom, $137,776 in the United States and €61,961 in Europe. Engineers with less than one year of experience in the role can naturally expect a lower salary. In the United Kingdom this average salary sits at £30,000 and in the United States this sits at $103,000.

A career in Data Engineering is not a data role to overlook. With demand at an all time high, Data Engineering is fast becoming one for the top jobs in the data sphere. 


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