Career Advice

A Guide to a Career in Data Engineering

John Smith

Are you considering a career as a Data Engineer? Data Engineering is quickly becoming one of the most in-demand jobs in the Big Data domain worldwide, making it the ideal time to launch your career. Find out everything you need to know about Data Engineering and how to get started.

What’s in this article?

What is Data Engineering?

Data Engineering refers to the building and maintenance of computer systems to collect, store and analyse data. The job description of a Data Engineer combines elements of both Software Engineering and Data Science.

Data Science vs Data Engineering

The roles of a Data Scientist and a Data Engineer are similar and there is an overlap in skills, however, the roles are not the same. Data Engineers build the programmes that process data and deliver this to the Data Scientists in the appropriate format, a Data Scientist will then clean and analyse the data.

Types of Data Engineers

  1. Big Data Engineer – an IT professional who works with large data sets to build and maintain complex processing systems.
  2. Data Architect – is responsible for dealing with the policies and procedures associated with data handling within an organisation.
  3. Data Analyst – is tasked with analysing data to identify patterns and insights that will benefit the business.
  4. Machine Learning Engineer – work as part of a team to design and build AI algorithms and programmes.
  5. Data Scientist – is responsible for analysing data to draw actionable insights, identify opportunities and solve problems.
  6. Software Engineer– an expert in programming languages whose role is to design and develop computer systems and applications.
  7. Data Programmer – builds database programmes, carrying out troubleshooting and updating systems based on business and user requirements.
  8. Data Warehousing Engineer – develops and manages data warehouse systems and strategies.
  9. Cloud Engineer – designs and implements cloud-based systems, ensuing cloud systems meet organisational requirements,

Data Engineering job description

A Data Engineer is responsible for designing, building and maintaining systems for data collection, storage and analysis. Their main goal is to create data sets that are high-quality, reliable and can be interpreted; they do this using a combination of different raw data sets. The key roles and responsibilities of a data engineer include:

What skills do Data Engineers need?

The skills and knowledge required to work as a Data Engineer will vary depending on your company, but here is a breakdown of some of the essential skills required for a Data Engineer:

Does Data Engineering require coding?

Yes, a high level of proficiency in coding is required to fulfil the role of a Data Engineer. Some of the most common programming languages for the role include Java, NoSQL, Python, R and Scala. You may be required to work with a few different languages within your role, however, in most cases, you will not need to learn all of these. The preferred language will depend on your employer and will vary for different tasks.

Which language is best for a Data Engineer?

Data from PayScale reveals that the following programming languages and skills are associated with higher salaries for Data Engineers:

So, if you’re interested in becoming a top earner in your career, we recommend getting to grips with a handful of these languages and staying up to date with the latest coding languages.

Is Data Engineering a good career?

Data Engineering is a fantastic career to pursue, offering ample opportunities for career progression, high earning potential and job satisfaction.

Data Engineering career progression

Data Engineering isn’t always an entry-level role and you could find yourself starting off in similar roles before progressing. Some people may start off as Software Engineers or Business Intelligence Analysts before making the switch. As you gain more experience in the industry and grow your skill set, you could progress into different specialisms and managerial roles, such as a Solutions Architect or Machine Learning Engineer.

Average salary for a Data Engineer

The average salary for a Data Engineer will depend on a number of factors, such as your geographical location, employer, level of seniority and experience. Employees in more senior positions can make upwards of £80,000 per annum, indicating that becoming a Data Engineer has great earning potential.

Job satisfaction as a Data Engineer

The technology sector is known to have the highest job satisfaction, particularly in coding jobs. The best roles  in the UK for job satisfaction are Java Developers, Enterprise Architects, Product Managers, Full Stack Engineers and Data Scientists. Choosing a career in Data Engineering could offer a balanced work/life split and flexible working schedules.

How to start a career in Data Engineering

Some employers may require you to have previous experience as a Data Engineer or work in a similar role, however, this is by no means necessary. There are a number of different paths you can take to becoming a successful Data Engineer, with any academic and professional background. The debate around experience and education is still prevalent, yet many recruiters look at potential for the role and a candidate’s behaviour over anything else.

Here are some of the steps you can take to kick-start your career as a Data Engineer:

University degree

Completing a university degree in Computer Science or a related field can be a great way to lay the foundations for a career as a Data Engineer, however, it is not always essential.


Taking part in an apprenticeship is another great way to get started in a Data Engineering role, providing you with practical experience and learning opportunities.

Data Engineering certifications

There are a number of Data Engineering certifications available that are widely recognised across the UK. Some of the most popular certifications include IBM Data Engineering Professional Certificate, Google Cloud Certification: Cloud Data Engineer Professional Certificate, IBM Data Warehouse Engineer Professional Certificate and Meta Database Engineer Professional Certificate.

Data Engineering career programmes

Career programmes are a brilliant option for those looking for a fast-tracked route into their dream career. The FDM Data Engineering Programme offers several weeks of extensive training, followed by a two-year work placement with industry-leading clients. You’ll be equipped with the necessary skills, knowledge, and experience to go on to do great things and lead a successful career.

Are you interested to learn more about the FDM Data Engineering Programme? Get in touch for more information.