How to Become a Big Data Engineer

Essential Education, Skills, and Job Interview Prep

Big data plays a huge role in how organizations and businesses use data to forecast and analyze their future strategies. Companies seek out big data engineers to help them with analytics. Is collecting and analyzing big data something you’re interested in? Find out how to become a big data engineer in this guide.

Big data analytics push for a more data-driven approach to reporting and business management. Businesses will want to take advantage of the growing variety of technology available for analyzing patterns and gaining insights.

What Is a Big Data Engineer?

A big data engineer is responsible for analyzing huge volumes of data in a company’s possession. Some of the main tasks of a big data engineer include data modeling, programming languages such as SQL, and machine learning.

These concepts may sound intimidating at first, but they are basic parts of data science. In data science, you are making use of programming, artificial intelligence, and automation to analyze data. A big data engineer’s goal is to provide and present the most accurate results possible to their organization.

Big Data Engineer Salary and Job Outlook

According to ZipRecruiter, a big data engineer earns an average of $130,674 per year in the United States. The amount that individual engineers earn is based mostly on experience. This job requires advanced technical and analytical skills.

There is no specific data on the job outlook for big data engineers. If we look at data science and mathematical science occupations as a whole, however, we find a projected job growth of nearly 31 percent from 2019 to 2029. There is a continued interest in the expansion of the digital sphere, so more opportunities are opening up for data scientists.


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Entry-Level Big Data Engineer Job Requirements

According to ZipRecruiter, the average entry-level big data engineer earns $97,621 per year. The minimum education requirement to get a job in this field is a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science or a related field.

Since this is an entry-level job, you may not be expected to have extensive professional experience. Nonetheless, you still have to prove that you are able to do the job.

How to Ace Your Big Data Engineer Job Interview

To ace your big data engineer job interview, make sure to show your extensive knowledge on the subject. It is important to highlight the tools and software that you find most useful for your process. Your interviewer will be interested in your technical skills and how well you can use them for the purpose of the business.

Below are some interview questions that can help you prepare for your interview.

Common Big Data Engineer Job Interview Questions

  • What is big data and why is it important for businesses and organizations?
  • Describe your data modeling process and which software or application you are using.
  • What are some of the programming languages that you know? Do you know how to code SQL and use NoSQL databases?
  • Are you familiar with the Hadoop ecosystem?

What Degree Should I Get to Become a Big Data Engineer?

The shortest path to becoming a big data engineer is to complete a bachelor’s degree. While an associate degree is still a viable option, many organizations and companies would prefer that you complete a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science or another data science-related program.

Associate Degree in Computer Science

There are many available online associate degrees for computer science. This type of program will take around two years, and you will typically earn 20 credits. The programs focus on the fundamentals of data science, mathematics, and critical thinking.

Once you complete an associate degree, you can apply your credits to a bachelor’s degree program. If you choose not to pursue a bachelor’s degree, you have the option of earning certifications to make your job application more appealing to potential employers.

Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science

Instead of an associate degree, you can immediately start a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. This way, you can learn the fundamentals of programming, data analytics, and more. The bachelor’s degree programs will also help you get used to the programming languages needed for big data engineering.

Computer science is the most common major for those who want to pursue a data engineering career. You may also want to consider programs in math or business technology. Any program with an emphasis on data science and computer programming is a viable option.

Master’s Degree in Data Science

Some universities offer a Master’s Degree in Data Science. A master’s degree will allow you to further your studies and learn advanced topics. You can specialize in topics such as artificial intelligence, cloud computing, machine learning, and more.

A Master’s Degree in Data Science is research-based for most universities, but it is becoming increasingly common to get your master’s online. You will learn new processes and techniques, and uncover alternative forms of data analytics and data visualization.

Data Science Doctoral Degree

If you are looking to really advance your knowledge, there are universities that offer doctoral degrees in data science. Data science is a continuously expanding field, so there is new information to study every day. A doctoral degree would also be your gateway if you are interested in teaching in the future.

PhD programs are research-oriented and take years to complete. A strong commitment to the program is necessary if you’re going to graduate and achieve your goal.

What Does a Big Data Engineer Do?

To excel in your job as a data engineer, you must always remember your main duties and responsibilities. The organization you work for will expect your data analysis to be reliable and accurate, so make sure not to shirk any of the following essential tasks.

Collects and Processes Data

You are the one who will establish the data needed for an organization to acquire the information it needs. One of your main processes will be to clean and classify raw data before sharing it with your employer.

Once you have all of the necessary data, you can use available programming tools to extract a result. Programming languages like SQL and Python play a huge part in data modeling and visualization.

Analyzes Data and Creates Reports

Once you have processed your data, you will analyze it and create a report. It is your responsibility to make sure that your analysis is accurate and consistent with prior findings and related studies.

The report should be transparent and contain all of the information you’re able to provide. The data should be reliable and efficient and backed up by research from various industries and businesses.

Presents Findings to Stakeholders

Keep in mind that you are doing data analysis and data visualization for the benefit of your organization and its stakeholders. You have to ensure that your findings are easy for the target audience to understand.

You may also be required to do a verbal presentation of the data. You’ll need to communicate your findings with the help of visuals. You are responsible for making sure that your audience will be able to make decisions based on your report.

Essential Big Data Engineer Skills

As a big data engineer, you need to have certain essential skills. You are primarily expected to have extensive knowledge of big data, in addition to communication and computer science skills.

Big Data Knowledge and Tech Skills

You need to be equipped with the right tech tools to process data. You’ll be expected to use programming languages such as Python, SQL, and Java. With these tools, you can uncover the correct data model and properly visualize the data.

Analytical Skills

Having reliable and accurate data will be useless without the right analytical skills. The data needs to be interpreted so that it makes sense to the stakeholder. Having a thorough understanding of the underlying research will help you come up with a comprehensive analytical report.

Research and Reporting Skills

Building up both your writing and verbal skills is necessary to excel as a big data engineer. Your report needs to be easily understandable by its target user and stakeholders. You are also expected to be able to present your report to higher management.

How to Become a Big
Data Engineer: A Step-by-Step Guide

Focus on your education while completing your bachelor’s degree because this is where you will gain all of the skills you need. Aside from your studies, you can actively look for internships or projects that could hone your practical skills. Below is a step-by-step guide for how to become a big data engineer:


Complete Your Bachelor’s Degree

Enrolling in a university will make your path to becoming a big data engineer easier. Take up a degree in computer science or data science-related field to learn the fundamentals and meet the minimum requirements. Once you graduate, you are equipped with the practical and theoretical skills you’ll need to become a big data engineer.


Improve Your Coding Skills

Data engineering needs people who are immersed in coding languages. Databases, data structures, and data models are processed through Python, SQL, Java, and more. Join free courses or apply for coding bootcamps to hone your coding skills.


Build Your Analytical Skills

By solving data-related problems, you will sharpen your analytical skills. You will need these skills to deeply analyze the data and understand the results. Remember to improve your research skills as well, as you’ll need information other than data to write your reports.


Apply for Big Data Engineering Internships

Being in a professional or corporate setting will prepare you for the future. Apply for big data engineering internships whenever there is an opportunity. This will help you learn practical skills that you will need in your everyday job.


Consider Graduate Studies or Earn Certificates

Graduate studies such as a master’s degree or a doctoral degree could be a viable option if you are aiming for higher positions. Graduate studies are also ideal for those who are interested in research or teaching. You can also consider taking an exam to earn certifications such as the Certified Data Management Professional.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Big Data Engineer?

It takes around four years to become a big data engineer. By this time, you should have acquired the skills and knowledge you need to handle and process data. While some organizations would consider hiring someone with an associate degree, it is still much safer to receive a bachelor’s degree before entering the workforce.

If you do not feel confident after a four-year program, you have the option to continue studying in a master’s program, which would take an additional two years. You could also consider certifications. No matter how long it takes, with the right skills and talent, you can get your dream job.

Should You Become a Big Data Engineer in 2021?

Along with other computer science professionals, big data engineers are in high demand. The world is evolving technologically, and many businesses are now fully online.

Now is a good time to start studying to become a big data engineer or continue pursuing your goal of becoming one. There are also available certification programs that you can pursue if you are not interested in graduate studies.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, more and more universities are shifting to distance learning. This gives you more flexibility in how you approach getting your education. Take advantage of the channels and resources available to you.

Big Data Engineer FAQ

What does a big data engineer do?

A big data engineer is responsible for collecting and processing data and then generating a report. Usually, these reports are a way of monitoring how an organization’s products or services are performing.

How long does it take to become a big data engineer?

It takes a minimum of four years to become a big data engineer. You need to complete a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science or a different degree related to data science or computer programming.

Is the salary of a big data engineer competitive?

According to ZipRecruiter, a big data engineer has an average salary of $130,674 per year. ZipRecruiter also reports that entry-level big data engineers earn an average of $97,621 per year.

What are the skills of a big data engineer?

You need to know how to use programming languages such as Python, SQL, Java, and more, on top of having extensive big data knowledge. Data processing, data modeling, math, statistics, and data visualization are some of the other skills that you need to become a big data engineer.

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