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Data Engineer - data engineer vs software engineer - Software Engineer

Comparing roles: data engineer vs software engineer.

When most people think about tech workers, they probably think of software engineers. They think about people who sit at a computer all day, coding websites and apps. In reality, there are many different kinds of tech workers. 

Some engineers do spend all day coding websites (these are known as software engineers), but others spend their time building data pipelines to help data analysts do their jobs (these are called data engineers).

There is a bit of overlap between software engineers and data engineers. Keep reading to learn the main differences, and similarities, between software engineers and data engineers.

Tools and skills for the job.

There is a lot of overlap between software engineers and data engineers when it comes to skills and tools for the job. Both roles require an ability to code, a good understanding of algorithms, and a solid grasp of databases. The differences between the two come down to details.

Software engineers use coding languages like JavaScript, Python, C/C++, Ruby, and Go. They utilize frameworks like React, Ruby on Rails, Django, Vue, etc… The tools they use on the job include Git, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and VS Code.

Data engineers spend some time coding, but that isn’t the main focus of their job. When they do, they typically use languages like Python, R, and Java. Their go-to software tools are Looker, Kafka, Tableau, Snowflake, SQL, Redshift, and BigQuery.

Product end users.

One of the biggest differences between software engineers and data engineers is who will be using the product they are working on. 

Software engineers generally develop for customers of the website, applications, or software. The users are people external to the organization, who may or may not be paying to use the product.

Data engineers generally develop internal tools that are used by members within their own organizations. The users tend to be data analysts and data scientists, though they can also be product managers and other engineers.


While both software engineers and data engineers make a lot of money, data engineers are paid slightly better than software engineers. This is due to the fact that there just aren’t as many data engineers as there are software engineers, and the specialized skill is in high demand.

The average base salary for a software engineer in the United States is $94,000, with average entry-level pay starting around $87,000 and seasoned developers making an average of $118,000.

The average base salary for a data engineer in the United States is $115,000, with seasoned developers making an average of $148,000.

Start your career in data or software engineering today.

Whether you’re interested in data engineering or software engineering, there’s never been a better time to start learning how to code. From great salaries to ample opportunities for career growth, becoming a software engineer or data engineer is a great move.

To get started on your path to learning to be a data engineer or software engineer, check out Udacity’s Nanodegree programs today.


Jennifer Shalamanov
Jennifer Shalamanov
Jennifer is a content writer at Udacity with over 10 years of content creation and marketing communications experience in the tech, e-commerce and online learning spaces. When she’s not working to inform, engage and inspire readers, she’s probably drinking too many lattes and scouring fashion blogs.