Scientists versus Engineers

Data Scientist vs Data Engineer

Comparing roles, responsibilities and salaries

The growing demand for data-driven solutions has led to the emergence of various roles in the data science field. Two such prominent roles are data scientists and data engineers. While both professionals work with data, their responsibilities, skills, and salaries differ.

In this in-depth comparison, we'll explore the roles of data scientists and data engineers, their key responsibilities, required skills, and earning potential.

Data Scientist: Role and responsibilities

Data scientists are responsible for analyzing, interpreting, and visualizing complex data sets to provide valuable insights for data-driven decision-making. Their primary responsibilities include:

  • Developing statistical models and machine learning algorithms to predict outcomes and uncover patterns
  • Exploring and analyzing structured and unstructured data sets
  • Visualizing data insights and communicating results to stakeholders, including non-technical team members
  • Collaborating with cross-functional teams, such as data engineers and business analysts, to optimize processes and strategies

comparison illustration

Data Engineer: Role and responsibilities

Data engineers are responsible for building, maintaining, and optimizing the data infrastructure that allows data scientists to perform their analysis. Their primary responsibilities include:

  • Designing, building, and maintaining scalable data pipelines and ETL processes
  • Ensuring data quality, reliability, and accessibility across the organization
  • Integrating data from various sources and formats, including streaming and batch data
  • Collaborating with data scientists, business analysts, and other stakeholders to provide the required data for analysis

Skills and qualifications

While both roles require strong analytical and programming skills, data scientists and data engineers possess distinct skill sets.

Data scientists need to be proficient in languages like Python, R, and SQL, as well as machine learning libraries and frameworks like TensorFlow, Scikit-learn, and Keras. They should also have strong statistical knowledge, expertise in data visualization tools, and excellent communication skills.

Data engineers, on the other hand, need expertise in database systems, data warehousing, and ETL processes. They often work with languages like Java, Scala, and SQL, and big data tools like Hadoop, Spark, and Apache Kafka. Data engineers should also have strong problem-solving skills and a deep understanding of data architecture and optimization techniques.

Salary comparison

According to Glassdoor, as of 2021, the average salary for a data scientist in the United States is around $113,000 per year, while a data engineer's average salary is approximately $102,000. Salaries for both roles can vary based on factors like location, experience, education, industry, and company size.

For example, data professionals working in the technology or finance sectors may command higher salaries than those in other industries. Similarly, professionals with advanced degrees, certifications, and specialized skills can expect higher compensation.


Data scientists and data engineers play crucial, yet distinct roles in the data science ecosystem. While data scientists focus on extracting insights and making predictions using data, data engineers create the infrastructure and pipelines necessary for data analysis.

Understanding the differences between these roles can help you choose the right career path and maximize your earning potential in the rapidly evolving data science field.

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