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What Is a Data Engineer and What Do They Do?

With the amount of data organizations collect and store, there needs to be someone to manage it – enter data engineers. 

What is a data engineer, you ask?

Data engineers are data masters – and they’re in high demand. 

If you’ve been thinking about a great career with a lucrative entry-level salary, you’re in the right place. 

We’re here to answer all your questions like, what is a data engineer? And, what do they do? And how to become one? 

Let’s dive in! We will cover it all and share how to become a data engineer with our data science bootcamp

What is a data engineer?

A data engineer is a key IT role within many companies – often within fortune 500 and tech companies – but they’re useful in many organizations and industries.

A data engineer manages and optimizes data gathering, storage, and distribution. They’re responsible for building systems that make data usable for data scientists and analysts.

What does a data engineer do?

Once a data engineer has designed systems for collecting data, they evaluate it and convert it into usable information.

Data engineers examine the data they collect and look for trends to convert it. 

Then, they create algorithms to repackage raw data into insightful information. 

Once the data is readable and usable, data engineers communicate their findings to other departments, which are used to build insights that are important to stakeholders and business leaders. 

That’s why data engineers need to understand and work towards business goals and objectives!

The data engineer role

Data engineers can fall into three roles depending on the industry, company size, and other essential aspects, 

  • Generalist. Often found in small organizations, generalist engineers are responsible for every step of the data process. They design programs and algorithms, translate data, and report their findings to relevant teams. They work end-to-end in all things data.
  • Pipeline-centric. A pipeline-centric data engineer translates gathered data into meaningful information alongside data scientists. You can find this role in medium-sized businesses. It’s a more complex role than a generalist because it needs a thorough understanding of an organization’s goals and the data systems.
  • Database-centric. The database-centric data engineer role usually exists within large organizations. Organizations with large amounts of data require a specialized engineer to monitor analytic databases and warehouses and develop table schemas. 

Common data engineer responsibilities

Now that we’ve cleared up the burning question, “what is a data engineer?” let’s get into their responsibilities. 

Here are some of the most common data engineer responsibilities: 

  • Collect raw data
  • Analyze and organize raw data
  • Build data systems and pipelines
  • Build algorithms and prototypes
  • Develop ways to improve data
  • Manage data systems, processes, and programs
  • Conduct research for businesses
  • Use data to address business issues
  • Deliver updates to stakeholders

Data engineers have many important responsibilities, which is why it’s crucial to have the right tools and skills to get the job done. 

The tools data engineers use

Thorough knowledge of the following tools will help you get data engineer jobs and perform amazingly at them!

  • SQL. To be a data engineer, you need to be proficient in coding languages. SQL is a very common coding language, so it’s essential to learn. 
  • Python. Python is another high-level coding language. Knowing multiple coding and programming languages will give you a more comprehensive understanding. And, your resume will be that much more impressive. 
  • ETL systems. Knowing how to extract, translate, and load. And knowing the systems that make this possible is just as important. 
  • Big data tools. Managing big data is a whole other ball game. And there are tools specifically designed for this. Learning them is a great idea to expand your knowledge.
  • Cloud storage. Knowing the ins and outs of different cloud storage platforms will help with data management and storage – which is a massive part of a data engineer’s job!

Top 5 data engineer skills to know

As with any job, there are specific skills to master that will serve you well as a data engineer. 

Here are our top five. 

  • Programming languages and coding. We mentioned this before, but it’s truly important! Knowing a programming language (or multiple) is a top skill for data engineers. 
  • Communication skills. Not only do you need to communicate in programming languages, but you also need to explain your processes and findings to other team members and stakeholders. Knowing how to communicate effectively and create informative reports is another essential skill for data engineers.
  • SQL database design. Designing databases is part of the job, so learning SQL database design is necessary. This skill will allow you to build your pipelines effectively to get the best results. 
  • Automation and scripting. Learning how to automate your processes within your databases is critical, so learning scripting for this specific task is a great skill to have. It will make your job easier and your processes smoother.
  • Data security. You need to be aware of many security concerns as a data engineer. Learning about data security will help you immensely, and it can prevent you from making big mistakes.

Why pursue a career in data engineering?

Data engineering is a great career to pursue.

If you enjoy IT, computer science, engineering, or mathematics, it’s a rewarding position that will pique your interests. 

Helping businesses make informed decisions is rewarding. 

It’s also a job that won’t become obsolete anytime soon. 

As long as businesses collect data and use it for decision-making, data engineers will be in demand. And we don’t see that changing anytime soon. 

Finally, it’s a job with a great starting wage and room to scale. 

If data engineering suits your interests, it’s a great career that can fulfill you for a long time. 

How to become a data engineer

Many data engineers have a bachelor’s degree – but it’s not completely necessary. What’s most important is having the right skills and learning the right tools. And you can do this through a bootcamp. 

If you already have a degree, a bootcamp is a nice boost. If not, a bootcamp is a great place to start!

Getting certified through a bootcamp like Coding Dojo’s can help hone your skills and give you an extra leg up when applying for jobs. 

You’ll also want a great portfolio to demonstrate your skills and experience when applying for jobs.  

So to get your dream job as a data engineer, get your study on and show off your expertise!

The average entry-level data engineer salary

Data engineers earn an excellent salary – especially when compared to other data-focused roles. 

The pay scale for data engineers starts at $75,000 and can grow to $179,000. 

Entry-level engineers usually start on the lower half of this scale, which is still an excellent starting wage.

Data engineer vs. data scientist: What’s the difference?

If you’ve been exploring a career as a data engineer, you’ve probably come across the term data scientist. 

And we’d bet you’re wondering what’s the difference between the two. 

Data engineers provide the data and easy access, while data scentists examine it to gain knowledge and insight. 

Data scientists work at the end of the pipeline, while data engineers work at the beginning and manage the data until it reaches the data scientists. 

In a smaller company, a data engineer will likely take on the responsibilities of a data scientist. But in bigger companies, the duties are divided into more specialized roles. 

Why learn data engineering at Coding Dojo

Coding Dojo has an awesome data science bootcamp. 

With a focus on data science and machine learning in Python, you’ll become well versed in the Python programming language and other data science processes. 

It’s a part-time program that lasts 12 – 16 weeks, so the course isn’t overwhelming. 

You’ll study the end-to-end data engineering processes and gain a comprehensive understanding of data collection, prep, and analysis. 

Our bootcamp is a great way to build your portfolio, further your education, and start your career in data engineering!

Ready for your new data engineer career?

Are you ready to become a data engineer? 

Being a data engineer is a rewarding career if you’re passionate about data and analytics. 

And with Coding Dojo, you can enroll in our data science bootcamp and become an engineer in no time.