How to Become a Data Engineer
How to Become a Data Engineer

From smart speakers to fitness trackers to self-driving cars, the proliferation of digital technologies is creating a wild world of data. 

To be valuable, though, that data has to be tamed. That’s where the data engineer steps in. 

 “Today’s data is produced in large quantities, at high rates, and often in novel forms, with millions of internet-connected devices contributing to this flood,” says Jerry Kuch, an instructor for the Certificate in Big Data Technologies, offered through UW Professional & Continuing Education. “Data engineers are here to tame the beast.” 

What does a data engineer do? 

Data engineers design, build and maintain the behind-the-scenes infrastructure that delivers data reliably and quickly to those who depend on it, whether it be to data analysts, upper management or consumers.  

    Median annual salary

U.S.: $98,862
Washington state: $115,856

Source: Emsi Q2 2022 Data Set

A decade ago, data engineers brought together various sources of data in a repository known as a data warehouse to get it ready for analysis. But today, with the volume, velocity and variety of big data, data engineers need more than the traditional data warehouse; they need to be able to support increasingly advanced queries and real-time data analysis.  

“Data engineers must be well-versed in a wide range of data storage and processing technologies, as well as adept at writing, debugging and maintaining the code that keeps data stored safely and available on demand,” Kuch says. 

A typical day for a data engineer includes a lot of working on one’s own, writing code and configuring software that keeps data moving. But data engineers can also expect to collaborate on teams with hardware experts, as well as data scientists, who mine data and translate it into information that’s useful to an organization. 


Throughout Seattle’s ecosystem of data-driven industries — from Amazon to Zillow and all kinds of enterprises in between — demand for data engineers has grown by 58% since 2021, according to data from the labor market analytics company Lightcast. It’s a trend that’s expected to stick around: In 2020, LinkedIn ranked big data engineer as eighth in emerging jobs nationally. 

How do you become a data engineer? 

As more companies move to take advantage of big data, the Certificate in Big Data Technologies prepares students for jobs that require scalable skills to connect multiple systems and meet the need for speed. 

The certificate program focuses on core data engineering concepts and emphasizes the most popular technologies, most of which are open source. Certificate students will learn about a range of leading data processing frameworks, including Hadoop, Hive and Spark.  

"Tools for handling big data are constantly evolving,” Kuch says. “In this program, we emphasize learning skills for dealing with widely used systems and their potential future successors so you can face new challenges in your work.”

Explore Other Data Offerings

Besides the Certificate in Big Data Technologies, we offer a variety of data-related programs, including: 

For more career tips and industry trends, visit the News & Features section of our website, and subscribe to our email list. To learn more about UW Professional & Continuing Education certificates, specializations, degrees and courses, explore your options or contact us.

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