Data Engineer vs. Software Engineer: What’s the Difference?

A data engineer and a software engineer both have jobs that are highly in demand in today’s tech industry. However, many people fail to understand the differences between the two positions and why they are in such high order among employers.

The first difference between these two professions is how they’re paid; while software engineers earn upwards of $90,000 per year, data engineers earn around $60,000 or less annually. Another big difference is their educational backgrounds; At the same time, software engineers generally possess a computer science degree; data engineers do not need an advanced degree or any degree to get started in this career field!

What is Data Engineer?

A data engineer specializes in managing and analyzing big data sets. These individuals have a strong background in computer science and programming. A data engineer may work directly with business users to analyze their data and provide insights into how they can improve their operations.

What is Software Engineer?

Software engineers specialize in building software applications. Their job involves writing code that helps businesses run efficiently. They use different tools and techniques to create programs that help people complete tasks. It can be challenging for a programmer with experience in one type of software development to switch between languages, so they may need additional training or on-the-job experience before changing careers.

Data Engineers: Data engineers work with large data sets and develop analytical solutions, often using scripting languages like Python, R, or SQL. They may also have some programming skills as well as statistical knowledge.

Key Differences Between Data Engineer and Software Engineer

  • Both roles require coding skills.

Both data engineers and software engineers need to know how to write code. However, data engineers focus more on the analysis side of things, while software engineers spend more time writing code.

  • Data Engineers are more analytical.

Data engineers often have a strong background in mathematics and statistics. They understand how to crunch numbers and make sense of complex datasets. They can identify patterns and trends in data and translate those findings into actionable information.

  • Software Engineers are more technical.

Software engineers are responsible for developing the actual code that makes the application run. They are expected to have a solid understanding of the underlying technology behind the system. They should also be familiar with the language and frameworks used to build the application.

  • Both roles require creativity.

Data and software engineers rely heavily on creative thinking to solve problems. Many data engineers start as programmers before transitioning into a role where they can apply their knowledge of analytics and data management to real-world challenges.

  • Both roles require problem-solving skills.

As mentioned above, both data and software engineers rely on creative thinking to solve problems. But, data engineers tend to excel at problem-solving because they have a deeper understanding of the underlying technologies involved. Software engineers are more likely to be good at identifying problems and then devising solutions to those issues.

Job Titles: Data Engineer and Software Engineer

There is a lot of confusion surrounding the titles of data engineer and software engineer. To make things worse, there is a lot of overlap between the two positions. In general, a software engineer is someone who designs, builds, and maintains software applications. In contrast, a data engineer is someone who designs, builds, and keeps the systems that support those applications. However, there are many exceptions to this rule.

Technologies: Data Engineer and Software Engineer

The primary difference between a data engineer and a software engineer is their technology. Data engineers primarily use big data technologies, such as Hadoop and Spark, while software engineers typically use traditional relational databases like Oracle and MySQL.

Additionally, a data engineer analyzes data to derive insights from it. In contrast, a software engineer’s guide is on building applications that help users interact with the company’s business processes. Lastly, most programming languages are used by both data engineers and software engineers; however, most data engineering jobs require proficiency in SQL.

Educational Backgrounds: Data Engineer and Software Engineer

There are many differences between data engineers and software engineers. The most notable difference is their educational backgrounds. Data engineers typically have a degree in computer science or a related field, while software engineers usually have a degree in software engineering or a related field.

They also take different courses in school; for example, software engineers take more programming courses than data engineers. One may learn to code with programming languages like Java or C++ while others learn how to write SQL queries instead.

Workplace: Data Engineer and Software Engineer

In general, data engineers and software engineers work in similar environments. They both work with code and computers, after all. But there are some critical differences between the two fields that can impact where they work and what their day-to-day looks like. For example, data engineers often work for a third-party company or as contractors for other companies to come in and solve problems.
First, software engineers tend to be specialists in one programming language, while data engineers may use multiple languages (Python, SQL). Secondly, while a typical software engineer might spend their time developing an app or writing codes for an application–data engineers have a different skill set–they’re often working on projects that involve processing large amounts of information–like Big Data Analytics projects.

The Career Outlooks: Data Engineer and Software Engineer

A data engineer is responsible for designing, building, and maintaining the architecture that allows an organization to store, process, and analyze data. A software engineer is responsible for developing and maintaining software applications.

Both careers require strong analytical and problem-solving skills. However, a data engineer must also be skilled in working with large data sets, while a software engineer must be skilled in programming languages and software development tools.

The Salaries: Data Engineer and Software Engineer

There is a big difference in salaries between data engineers and software engineers. Data engineers make an average of $95,000 annually, while software engineers make an average of $105,000 annually.

The job market for data engineers is expected to grow by 26% in the next ten years, while the job market for software engineers is expected to grow by 21%. Data engineering is a newer field than software engineering, so there are currently more jobs available for software engineers.


In a nutshell, data engineers are responsible for storing, processing, and analyzing data, while software engineers build the applications that run on top of that data. Of course, there is some overlap between the two roles, but that makes them such a great team!

About Alisha John

A Nature Lover and Freelance Writer! I write about daily practices for optimizing both happiness and health.

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