How to Become a Data Engineer

becoming a data engineer woman at laptop

There is a growing demand for big data professionals across the world. According to a recent Forbes article, the top jobs in demand on LinkedIn today are data scientists, machine learning engineers, and big data engineers. People are turning to a career in big data with an eye on building high-salary and exciting careers.

The role of a big data engineer is taking center stage in many organizations across diverse industries. Data engineers are at the core of major business activities in all leading industries. Organizations need data engineers to streamline, categorize and decode the vast amounts of data flowing into their systems every day. Without data engineers, data would remain an indecipherable mass of valueless information. They will lose out on huge business opportunities.

If you are planning a career in data, it is a smart move, and the time is right too. Big data is the buzzword in career pathways. It can set you up for an exciting future.

Before we delve into how to become a data engineer, let’s understand their role and responsibilities. 

What Does a Data Engineer Do? 

A big data engineer is entrusted with the responsibility of developing, managing, and maintaining an organization’s data infrastructure. They collect and convert data for storage in the company’s databases in an appropriate and accessible format. They collaborate with data scientists and analysts to achieve this critical business objective.

How to Become a Big Data Engineer

You now have a broad idea of what role a data engineer is expected to perform in an organization. Are you convinced that data is where you want to build your career? Here are the steps to follow to become a data engineer.

Get the Relevant Degree

It would help if you began with a degree in computer science or allied fields such as software engineering, math, or physics. The degree will help you develop the basic skills needed to build a launch pad for the future. It will also provide the foundation to become a big data engineer.

Many colleges are offering degree apprenticeships. It works in the same way as a traditional degree but is better in many ways. The course combines academic learning with real work experience, as you can work with a company. It gives you exposure to real-world experience. Many people use this option because it costs less than a full-time degree. The prospects of landing a job are also higher when you graduate with a degree apprenticeship.

Enroll in a Specialized Course

If you have a degree in a different field and the big data inspiration has come later, you can still become a big data engineer. You can take an online course in relevant areas such as data analytics. This option can fast-track your efforts as this is a targeted course. It will also cost you less than what you would pay for a full degree course.

Online courses are available to develop your skills in key areas like big data architecture and data analytics. A comprehensive course will arm you with the basic tools needed to become a data engineer.

Gain Hands-On Experience

The fact is that data engineering is not the first job title you will get, even when you have the relevant degree. You will have to develop into a discipline specialist. To get there, you must start with entry-level jobs and gain some experience in data-specific fields.

In data engineering, experience is a relevant term. It would help if you have worked previously as an analyst or dealt in data science as an intern. You can build on that experience.

Sharpen Your Knowledge of Databases 

Brush up your general knowledge of databases. Research the trending tools in the industry to understand them better. Databases form the core of data engineering. They work as the foundation on which larger infrastructures are built. Also, familiarize yourself with Structured Query Language or SQL and NoSQL. Dabble with systems like MySQL or PostgreSQL. These are open-source systems and can help you further sharpen your skills.

Develop Expertise in Handling Diverse Toolset 

Develop your skills and sharpen your knowledge by using a diverse set of web-based data engineering tools. It can improve your job prospects vastly. There are hundreds of options to choose from. The most popular ones include cloud architecture (AWS), Cloudstack (Apache), and SQL Server Management Studio (Microsoft).

It is not practically possible to gain expertise in all these tools. However, it is important to know them at a basic level. You need to understand the underlying principles. There are numerous data engineering tools out there, so it’s common to find them all integrated.

Consider Alternative Jobs 

To take the right step into big data engineering, you might have to transverse a long road. Don’t be disappointed if you don’t find your dream job immediately. Most people don’t get their deserving jobs straightaway. Consider big data engineering as a long-term objective. This approach will not leave you dejected at initial failures. Keep trying your hand at other related jobs. They can offer you the learning curve you need to climb ahead. 

For example, you can start working as a developer. You can get a developer’s job more easily than in other roles. You can also consider working as a data analyst in the early stages of your career. It has proven to be an excellent stepping stone toward data engineering.

Likewise, any computer-specific or data-related job will provide you with hands-on experience to develop important skills. It is seen that the most effective data engineers are those who have persevered. They have gained a breadth of expertise from different jobs and at different levels.


Data engineering is a vast field. There is a growing demand for skilled professionals as companies face the challenge of managing colossal data volumes. This field has enormous potential for those willing to persevere and develop their skills.

Many institutions are offering postgraduate diploma courses in software development. Specialized programs in big data are also available for working professionals. Most of these courses are online. They cover major programming languages and tools. You can also sharpen your skills at practical hands-on workshops. They offer rigorous learning opportunities and also come with job placement assistance with leading IT firms.

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