How to Make the Switch from Data Science to Data Engineering?

Maria Chojnowska

3 November 2023, 8 min read

thumbnail post

What's inside

  1. Why want to switch from data science to data engineering?
  2. Differences between Data Science and Data Engineering
  3. How to make the switch?
  4. Conclusion

Data engineering can be an excellent option if you are a data scientist looking for a career change. Data engineering involves working with large volumes of data, creating and maintaining data pipelines, and ensuring data quality, all essential for data science.

This article will discuss the steps to transition from data science to data engineering.

Why want to switch from data science to data engineering?

Before making the switch, it's essential to understand the role of a data engineer. Data engineers are responsible for designing, building, and maintaining the data processing and analysis infrastructure. They work on developing and maintaining data pipelines that extract data from sources, transform it, and load it into data storage systems.

I strongly recommend you read the following:

People might want to switch from data science to data engineering for several reasons. While both fields are closely related and often work together, they have different skill sets and responsibilities.

One reason for switching to data engineering is to prefer working with data infrastructure and building pipelines rather than analyzing data. This involves working with big data tools like Hadoop, Spark, and NoSQL databases and developing pipelines that enable data flow between systems.

Another reason for the switch is that data engineering roles often require more specialized technical skills, such as experience with programming languages like Java, Python, and Scala, and familiarity with cloud computing platforms like Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Google Cloud Platform (GCP). Data science roles also require technical skills but are more focused on statistical analysis, machine learning, and data visualization.

A third reason is that data engineering roles may offer better job security and higher salaries. Data engineering roles are also in high demand as more organizations recognize the importance of building robust data infrastructure to support their business operations.

Finally, some individuals may switch to data engineering simply because they find it more attractive or fulfilling. While data science can be exciting, especially when developing cutting-edge machine learning models, some people may enjoy building data systems more than analyzing data.

Regardless of the reason, both fields offer exciting career opportunities and play critical roles in enabling organizations to harness the power of data.

Differences between Data Science and Data Engineering

While data science and data engineering require technical skills, the focus and emphasis of the two fields can differ. Someone who prefers hands-on technical work, is interested in scalable data systems, and is less interested in statistical analysis and modeling may find data engineering to be a better fit for them.

Here are some key differences between Data Science and Data Engineering:


Data Science is focused on extracting insights and knowledge from data to solve business problems. Data Scientists use statistical and machine learning techniques to analyze data and build predictive models.

On the other hand, Data Engineering is focused on building and maintaining the infrastructure required to process and store large volumes of data. Data Engineers work on designing, building, and maintaining databases, data pipelines, and other data-related infrastructure.


Data Scientists must have a strong statistics, mathematics, and programming background. They must be proficient in programming languages like Python and R and understand statistical models and machine learning algorithms. On the other hand, data engineers require a strong background in computer science and software engineering. They must be proficient in programming languages such as Java, Scala, and SQL and have experience with database design, distributed systems, and data pipelines.


Data Scientists use various tools to analyze data, including statistical software such as R and Python and machine learning libraries such as TensorFlow and PyTorch. They also use data visualization tools like Tableau and PowerBI to present their findings. On the other hand, data engineers use a range of tools to manage data at scale, including databases such as MySQL and PostgreSQL, distributed systems such as Hadoop and Spark, and data pipeline tools such as Apache NiFi and Airflow.


Data Science projects typically follow a well-defined workflow that includes data collection, cleaning and preprocessing, exploratory data analysis, model building and evaluation, and deployment. Data Engineering projects, on the other hand, focus on building and maintaining data infrastructure. Their workflow involves designing and creating databases, data pipelines, and other data-related infrastructure and monitoring and optimizing performance.


The outputs of Data Science projects are typically insights and predictions that can help businesses make informed decisions. These outputs include reports, visualizations, dashboards, or machine learning models. The outputs of Data Engineering projects are typically data pipelines and databases that enable businesses to store and process data at scale. These outputs are not directly visible to end-users but are critical to the success of data-driven companies.

  • Read our comparison to learn more about the differences between Data Science and Data Engineering.
AspectData ScienceData Engineering
GoalsExtract insights, solve business problemsBuild and maintain data infrastructure
SkillsetStrong statistics, programming, ML knowledgeStrong computer science, software engineering
ToolsR, Python, TensorFlow, TableauMySQL, Hadoop, Spark, Apache NiFi, Airflow
WorkflowData collection, cleaning, EDA, modeling, deploymentDesign, create databases, data pipelines
OutputsInsights, predictions, reports, visualizationsData pipelines, databases for data processing

How to make the switch?

Switching from data science to data engineering requires a clear plan and deliberate effort. The following steps can guide you in making the transition successfully:

Step 1: Identify the gaps in your skills and knowledge

The first step towards data engineering is assessing your current skills and knowledge. Identify the areas where you lack the necessary expertise to work as a data engineer. This may include proficiency in database management, software engineering, distributed systems, and big data processing technologies.

Step 2: Acquire the necessary skills and knowledge

After identifying the gaps in your knowledge and skills, the next step is to acquire the required expertise. You can take online courses, attend boot camps, or enroll in a data engineering program to gain the required knowledge. Focus on learning the foundational concepts of data engineering, such as SQL, database design, ETL processes, cloud computing, and distributed systems.

Step 3: Build a portfolio of data engineering projects

You need to work on data engineering projects to showcase your new skills. You can start with personal projects or contribute to open-source projects to gain practical experience. Building a portfolio of data engineering projects demonstrates your expertise and gives potential employers an idea of your capabilities.

Step 4: Network and find job opportunities

Networking is crucial when seeking job opportunities in data engineering. Attend data engineering conferences, join data engineering groups on social media, and connect with professionals in the field. Networking can lead to job opportunities and helps you stay informed about new trends in data engineering.

Step 5: Prepare for interviews and make the switch

After identifying job opportunities, the final step is to prepare for interviews and switch to data engineering. Prepare for technical interviews by practicing coding challenges and brushing up on data engineering concepts. Be ready to discuss your portfolio of data engineering projects during the interview process.

In conclusion, switching from data science to data engineering requires a deliberate effort to acquire new skills and knowledge. By following these steps, you can successfully transition and start a career in data engineering.


If you're interested in data engineering, now is the time to take the next steps in your career journey. With the ever-increasing demand for data-driven solutions, the field of data engineering is expanding rapidly. Following the steps outlined in this article, you can successfully switch from data science to data engineering and take advantage of the opportunities available in this exciting and lucrative field.

As you begin this journey, remember that it may take time and effort. But with dedication and hard work, you can achieve your goals and land a rewarding career in data engineering.

The world of data engineering is constantly evolving, and staying up-to-date with the latest tools and technologies is essential. Make sure to keep learning and expanding your skillset, and never stop exploring new opportunities for growth and development.

Remember, the field of data engineering is not only challenging but also highly rewarding. By helping organizations manage and analyze their data more effectively, you can significantly impact their operations and contribute to their success. So take the next step and embark on your journey towards a fulfilling career in data engineering.


AWS Amplify


Recent posts

See all blog posts

Are you ready for your next project?

Whether you need a full product, consulting, tech investment or an extended team, our experts will help you find the best solutions.