Since the emergence of big data and data science as a necessity in the everyday life of large companies, there has been a heated discussion about the possible roles of data science vs. data engineering. It is an important issue to understand, especially if you are an entrepreneur attempting to start utilizing big data analytics in your company. And there’s the question of a difference between data science and data engineering. What are both these disciplines all about? Let’s take a closer look at them and make a quick data science vs. data engineering comparison.
With the rise of data importance, several topic-related subfields occurred. One of them is data engineering. In fact, there is a massive overlap between professionals concerned with data science and data engineering, especially when it comes down to their skills and primary responsibilities. The main difference between data scientists and data engineers lies in their focus. So what does it exactly mean, and what differentiates data science vs. data engineering?
What is data engineering?
Data engineering is primarily about developing, preparing, testing, and maintaining large datasets and processing systems. The main emphasis is put on the production readiness of data as well as things like data security, scaling, resilience, and formats.
Data engineers deal with or work on data that may contain errors made by humans or machines or can be unformatted and not validated. And here comes the data engineer. Their role is to write a complex recommendation and implement some improvements that will ensure that data is accessible, efficient, realizable, and of really high quality. In fact, various programming languages and tools need to be employed to achieve this goal.
However, it is vital to mention that data engineers are not concerned with all computing systems within a company. Their responsibilities cover only the parts of the system which are connected to the data pipeline.
In order to become a professional in data engineering, you need to acquire proficiency in programming languages such as Java, Scala, and Python. Software engineering, math, or statistics degree is also welcomed, as the ability to apply different analytical approaches to solve multiple business problems is needed daily. The work of data engineers is of great help for data scientists, as thanks to them, even large volumes of data can be converted into valuable and easily accessible insights.
Data Science vs. Data Engineering: What is data science?
On the other hand, data science is commonly defined as an interdisciplinary field that uses scientific methods, processes, algorithms, and systems to extract knowledge and insights from many structural and unstructured data. Before the rise of data engineering, data science was also concerned with the creation of data infrastructure and cleaning up data. Nowadays, its primary purpose is to identify trends and opportunities through high-level business and market research.
In short, we can say that once data engineers prepare the data, it is studied by data scientists.
Data scientists use special tools such as analytics programs, statistics, and machine learning to prepare data that can be analyzed and used in modeling. They develop various data-based apps and algorithms and conduct experiments to help enterprises gain a better understanding of themselves and customers and to facilitate business scaling. To fulfill both of these tasks, data scientists need to go through huge amounts of internal and external data. This stage is necessary to find hidden patterns that may turn out to be useful in the future. When the analysis is finished, results and conclusions derived from it should be presented to key stakeholders in the company.
Responsibilities of a data engineer
As we have previously mentioned, a data engineer ensures that databases and processing systems concerned with data are highly efficient and well-maintained. They also prepare raw data so that data scientists can analyze it. Even though this job requires primarily technical skills, few non-technical abilities can come in handy.
Since a data engineer often needs to cooperate with colleagues from other departments, they need to possess excellent communication skills to ensure efficiency while working with slightly less data-oriented colleagues.
They also have to implement highly analytical projects that focus on collecting, testing, analyzing, managing, and visualizing data in real-time. That is why well-developed analytical skills are a huge advantage in this position.
To systemize which skills and abilities are necessary to become a data engineer, we have prepared a list of the most common tasks and duties that are necessary for this position:
- Building, testing, and maintaining data pipeline infrastructure
- Automatization of various manual processes
- Developing data infrastructure in order to increase scalability
- Integration of large data volumes in a way that it meets relevant business needs
- Creation of the infrastructure necessary for the ETL processes
- Cooperation with data scientists
- Designing, implementing, and facilitation of the data-related internal processes
Responsibilities of data scientists
Data scientists usually work with data that has been already cleaned and made more accessible. Thanks to that, they can quickly put that data inadequate software and search for necessary information.
However, before entering data into the system, they need to formulate the question that has to be answered. Typically, these questions are usually concerned with issues such as:
- Customer service
- Business needs
- Business development and scaling
When they receive answers to previously asked questions, they present the results to the company’s stakeholders. This stage requires data visualization. We discussed this question in the previous article.
When a company is looking for a data scientist, they usually look for:
- Research abilities
- Ability to develop statistical models and perform experiments
- Ability to design data-driven solutions
- Innovative data-related ideas
- Development of data models and algorithms
Data Science vs. Data Engineering: Used tools and languages
Something that perfectly pictures the difference between data science vs. data engineering are tools, programming languages, and software that are used in these two fields.
Tools are something that heavily depends on the characteristics of a given company. However, there are a few versatile tools that make the work of data engineers easier, and therefore, they are commonly used by them. The list of such tools includes:
The situation is similar when it comes to Java. Even though its popularity among data scientists has increased, it is not commonly used by professionals. However, if you consider a career in any of these fields, advanced knowledge of the mentioned languages will be beneficial. The same goes for tools such as Spark, Storm, and Hadoop. It is important to remember that each software, language, and tool needs to be seen in a specific context, which is how exactly it can be used in data science or data engineering.
Data scientists vs. data engineers
It seems obvious that data engineering and data science should work together. Cooperation between them is necessary to provide a critical insight that will facilitate multiple business decisions within your company. While the overlap of skillset between them is clear, both fields tend to receive more and more individual recognition in the industry.
Data engineers are usually responsible for data architecture and setting up data warehouse solutions. They work with data API tools and database systems for the purpose of data extraction, transformation, and loading (read more about the ETL process here).
Data scientists, on the other side, have to be advanced in statistics, mathematics, and machine learning in order to be able to build predictive models. Apart from possessing technical and IT skills, data scientists need to be able to visualize and report their work to business stakeholders. That is why storytelling skills may turn out to be useful on this position.
To sum up, when asked, “What is a difference between data science and data engineering” it is essential to point out that:
- Data engineers build data infrastructure, while data scientists are responsible for deep and advanced analysis of the previously generated data.
- Even though data scientists are in constant interaction with the data infrastructure, their only task is to acquire from it information that can be crucial for project development. Maintaining, building, and developing these data systems are the tasks of data engineers.
Once you remember these differences, you can be sure that you will not confuse these two fields with each other. What is more, you will be able to understand the internal structure of most of the companies, as nowadays data is one of the most valuable sources that can be acquired. And if you are interested in implementing data science in your company, we are at your service! Addepto team will gladly help you with your needs and challenges!
 Wikipedia. Data science. URL: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Data_science. Accessed Dec 14, 2020.
 Claire D. Costa. Top Programming Languages for Data Science in 2020. Aug 24, 2020. URL: https://towardsdatascience.com/top-programming-languages-for-data-science-in-2020-3425d756e2a7. Accessed Dec 14, 2020.