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Data engineering career guide

Software Engineer Working With Data

From ensuring that mobile apps function smoothly to facilitating personalized recommendations and targeted ads, data engineering powers the digital experiences that have become part of many of our day-to-day lives. There is currently a major need for knowledgeable and skilled professionals to fill open data engineer roles. Do you have the skills and experience to land a job in the field? 

The good news is that data engineers typically do not need to hold a master’s degree — a bachelor’s degree in a related field such as mathematics, computer science, or information technology may be sufficient, plus a professional certificate. Known for being incredibly rigorous, completion of a data engineering certificate program demonstrates a commitment to professional development, which is crucial in the ever-evolving field of data science.

Read on to find out if the data engineering field is right for you by considering different career paths, necessary skills, and salary expectations.

What Is data engineering?

The role of a data engineer can encompass a diverse range of responsibilities across a broad array of industries; any industry or organization that produces large volumes of data has a need for this unique skill set. Data engineers enable data scientists and other experts in the tech field to make meaningful use of data through the following efforts:

  • Designing, developing, and maintaining systems that process and store data
  • Collecting data sought by an organization for a specific purpose
  • Overseeing the integration of information coming from multiple sources
  • Organizing, processing, and translating data so it can be easily understood by non-technical stakeholders or decision makers

The insights derived from this data can then be leveraged for business intelligence and strategic planning. For this reason, data engineers are critical to the success of their organization.

Data engineer job description

A data engineer’s ultimate role is to ensure that data is reliable and can be utilized long-term. Their role falls within the fast-growing field of data science, which continues to drive change across nearly all industries, including:

  • Advertising
  • eCommerce
  • Healthcare
  • Law enforcement
  • Marketing
  • Sports
  • Transportation
  • And more

A data engineer’s daily tasks will vary by industry, but often include monitoring data pipelines for performance issues, implementing the latest security measures, and assessing whether new systems need to be created to collect, process, and store data.

Salary expectations also vary by industry. Skilled data engineers can expect to earn an average annual salary over $100,000.

Important data engineering skills

Data engineering requires an in-depth skill set that continually evolves with new technology. Some of the most useful skills current and aspiring data engineers should possess include:

  • Adaptability. New technologies are always emerging, meaning that data engineers need to be able to adapt to new tools accordingly.
  • Coding. Data engineers require coding abilities to perform many basic functions of the job.
  • Collaboration. Data engineers work closely alongside data scientists, analysts, developers, and others.
  • Communication. The ability to clearly communicate with both tech professionals and non-technical stakeholders is essential.
  • Critical thinking. Data engineers should know how to approach complex problems with both an informed and critical eye.
  • Efficiency and time management. A high volume of work in a busy industry requires effective use of resources, including people’s time.
  • Troubleshooting. Issues are sure to arise in this tech-heavy role, and being able to identify causes and provide alternate solutions is a substantial asset to an organization as a whole.
  • Machine learning. Engineering teams that can utilize algorithms and statistical techniques to develop innovative computer systems helps to keep organizations competitive in their industries.
  • Project management. Being able to plan and manage a project from start to finish is vital for successful data engineering.

With their combination of technical and non-technical skills, data engineers consistently prove themselves invaluable in understanding and leveraging data insights for organizational success. If you’re looking for your next role or planning to enter the field, consider completing a professional certificate program to demonstrate your commitment to continuing education and stand out to potential employers.

Author bio

Dr. Andy Drotos is the Director of Professional and Public Programs at the University of San Diego leading Professional and Continuing Education initiatives in business, education, engineering, healthcare, credit validation and other public programs by providing oversight and direction for new course and program development, student recruitment, and fiscal management.

Drotos has been in higher education for the past 29 years serving capacities in campus management, faculty and academics. Prior to joining the University of San Diego, Drotos was the Executive Dean in the College of Education at the University of Phoenix, as well as an adjunct faculty member in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences and in the College of Education.

Drotos received his Ph.D. in Higher Education Leadership from Northcentral University in 2012. His dissertation research focused on community college leadership and was titled: A Collective Case Study on Leadership: Understanding What Defines a Successful Community College President. He received his master’s degree in Adult and Continuing Education 1998, and a Bachelor of Science in Business in 1994; both from University of Phoenix.