Data Engineer vs. Software Engineer

Data Engineer vs. Software Engineer: Know the Differences

In today’s world, which is the era of dynamics and advanced technologies, sometimes we are faced with different job titles such as programmer, software developer, software engineer, coder and data scientist, and we may not know what duties and skills each of these titles has. It may be necessary to clarify their responsibilities.

As data becomes more prevalent in companies, companies need experts to manage large volumes of customer data, competitor research and product performance results. Meanwhile, these companies need specialists in software and development for building and managing websites and complex programs. It is here that data engineering and software engineering jobs come into play. Although some duties are the same in this type of job title, there are still differences between these two engineering fields.

Software engineers typically need more involvement in data infrastructure. Their main focus is on building user-friendly websites. Data engineers, however, manage large data sets and build structures to store them. So, while each profession includes a common background in data management, software engineers and data engineers have very different responsibilities.

The story doesn’t end here. In this article, we will discuss these jobs along with their job descriptions to get to know their differences.

What is data engineering?

In answer to “What is a Data Engineer?”, it should be noted that many organizations and businesses have embraced digital transformation in the last few decades. Over the years, they have produced a vast amount of different types of data every day. For this reason, in this situation where data is more complicated than ever and produced at high speed, it is crucial to have someone who can verify the data’s quality, security, and usability. In addition, they should be able to prepare and analyze this data in order to identify suitable patterns.

Data engineering is the science of designing, building, and maintaining infrastructure, tools, and systems. This helps organizations and businesses collect, store, process, and analyze data. But by this definition, who is a data engineer?

Data Engineer vs. Software Engineer

Who is a data engineer, and what are his duties?

Data engineers work in an organization or business with large and complex sets of data that require efficient and scalable processing methods. The data engineer is responsible for ensuring that data is accurate, complete, and available to data scientists and others who can use it for analysis and decision-making.

Data engineers in an organization or business include:

  • Data Pipeline Development: This process involves extracting data from different sources and processing it into a format that can be analyzed.
  • Data Storage: A data engineer designs and develops storage systems that handle large data sets efficiently.
  • Data transformation: Making data usable by data scientists and other stakeholders by cleaning, standardizing, and transforming it.
  • Data integration: To achieve this, data from many sources must be compiled and integrated into comprehensive data sets.
  • Data quality: One of the most critical tasks of data engineers is to ensure that the data is accurate, complete and consistent and to develop processes for quality assessment and data cleaning.
  • Data security: One of the most critical tasks of data engineers is to ensure that data storage is safe and complies with legal requirements.

What is Software engineering?

The process of developing software for operating systems, hardware, and networks is called software engineering. In fact, software engineering is a combination of computer science and engineering that designs software for different devices. From computers and mobile phones to web applications and networks, it covers a wide range of technology.

Software engineers develop software products, create computer games, and implement network control systems using engineering principles and programming languages. As today’s world relies on smart devices more than ever, the number of software developers will only increase. However, the software engineer job outlook is projected to grow 25% by 2031.

Who is a software engineer?

Software engineers are experts in computer science, web development, or engineering. In each of these fields, at least a bachelor’s degree is required, and experience in web development is always a plus.

Engineers develop websites and other software applications as part of a software development team. To become a software expert, you should have basic programming knowledge such as C, C++, C#, HTML, and JavaScript. Software engineers working in a team should be able to manage projects independently and work alone if necessary.

In answer to ” what is a Software Engineer?”, it should be noted that software experts develop systems and software that range from apps and games to network control systems and operating systems. However, if you want to get a better insight into what a software professional does, look at their day-to-day work. Among the responsibilities of a software engineer are the following:

  • Designing, building and testing applications to meet user needs
  • Analysis, diagnosis and debugging of existing software
  • Optimizing current software for speed and scalability
  • Monitoring system performance
  • Back-end architecture and design
  • Using new technologies in current software
  • Consulting with customers, engineers, security professionals and other stakeholders
Data Engineer vs. Software Engineer

What makes a Data Engineer different from a Software Engineer?

Data engineers specialize in developing systems for the storage, amalgamation, and access of data necessary for software engineers’ applications and systems. As a subset of software engineering, data engineering has evolved to address specific challenges related to data management. This is distinct from general software engineering duties. Data engineers extract information through reliable, well-defined APIs that access historical data from external sources.

Data engineers provide reliable data to stakeholders like company executives, data scientists, and analysts, helping them make informed decisions. Their expertise includes distributed systems, complex data structures, data pipelines, and parallel programming. The area is continuously changing, requiring data engineers to keep abreast of the latest technologies.

Software engineers collaborate with designers, programmers, and developers to create software and applications. Their responsibilities encompass operating system development, software architecture, front-end and back-end development and mobile app creation.

In addition to being known as infrastructure or platform engineers, software engineers have a wide range of responsibilities. This includes data modelling and technologies. Software engineers, unlike their data engineering counterparts, are responsible for overseeing a broader architecture. In this way, data can be seamlessly integrated and stored across websites, specialized software, or applications.

In short, these differences include the following.

Data Engineers:

  1. Specialize in creating systems for storing, merging, and retrieving data needed by software engineers for applications and systems.
  2. It evolved from software engineering to focus on data-specific tasks.
  3. Extract data using stable, documented APIs for accessing historical data from external sources.
  4. Provide accurate data to stakeholders like executives, data scientists, and analysts for decision-making.
  5. Work involves distributed computing, advanced data structures, data pipeline creation, and concurrent programming.
  6. Must continuously update skills with advancing technologies (e.g., Kafka, Hadoop, Hive, Spark) to stay competitive.

Software engineers:

  1. Work with designers, programmers, and developers to build applications and systems.
  2. Engage in developing operating systems, designing software, and front-end and back-end development, including mobile app development.
  3. It is sometimes called infrastructure or platform engineers.
  4. Focus on broader tasks, including data modelling and applying technologies like Spark and AWS.
  5. Responsible for building the overall system architecture that manages data import and storage across various platforms.


Data engineers and software engineers are vital figures in information technology, mastering complex coding and handling vast datasets. These professions share many skills and duties, but their core areas of focus differ significantly. Gaining insight into these distinct roles could help you identify what career path is right for you if you are intrigued by the IT industry.

If you are interested in data analysis, you can learn how to become a data freelancer in the article “How to Become a Freelance Data Analyst”.

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