Is Data Engineer the Right Career for You?

A data engineer helps design, build and manage the networks and software – also known as pipelines – that keep big data flowing in an organization. Data engineers often work closely with data architects. Together they find the best content management system (CMS) for a company’s needs and integrate the CMS into the company’s existing data architecture.

There is some overlap in the job responsibilities between data engineers and data architects. While both are responsible for managing a company’s data, the difference is that data engineers are responsible for creating and maintaining the pipelines that clean and transform raw, messy data into an organized and accessible structure within the database.

Becoming a Data Engineer

Most data engineers have a software engineering background. Becoming a data engineer usually involves obtaining a minimum qualification of a bachelor’s degree in data science such as computer programming. Some companies may require candidates to have a master’s in data science or a Ph.D.

The good news is that prospective students have options for achieving the required education. In addition to obtaining a degree from a traditional college or university, they can instead choose an online program, which offers flexibility and the chance to learn when and where they want.

Job Opportunities

Opportunities for data engineers abound in the corporate sector, especially healthcare and finance. Applicants may find jobs under the title of data engineer, data analytics engineer or software engineer. Each company may have a different role for data engineers, requiring them to have various skill sets and programming languages under their belt.

Helpful Skills and Personality Traits

Data engineers should have a strong background in computer science fundamentals including data structures and design, algorithms and coding. They must be proficient in data warehousing techniques, large-scale data pipeline and ETL tools, Hadoop-based technologies like Hive, Pig and Spark, SQL technologies and NoSQL databases.

Due to the exacting nature of nature of the job, personality traits that make for a good data engineer include technical ability, creativity, patience and persistence. Like technicians or plumbers, data engineers can’t be afraid to get their hands dirty as they unearth problems in order to create efficient, reliable and fault-proof data pipelines.

Career Prospects

Data engineers are enjoying high demand for their skills, with job growth for big data engineers expected to increase by 5.8 percent from 2016 to 2017. As big data drives the demand for technology professionals, there continues to be a shortage of skilled IT talent in the U.S., with data engineer being a particularly difficult position for companies to fill.

Highly qualified and experienced data engineers can expect to earn well into six figures. According to recent figures from Glassdoor, data engineers can expect to earn an average of $124,000 per year, with national salaries ranging from $87,000 to $150,000 and beyond. Salaries for data engineers will vary depending on the job, location and the skills and education required.

Making sure data flows smoothly to content management systems is a central task for every business organization. Learn more about these featured degree and certificate programs.

Note: Salary information collected in April 2017.