Becoming a Big Data Engineer

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One of the most significant opportunities for small and medium-sized businesses and startups is the ability to utilize big data and advanced analytics software to empower their businesses in ways unimaginable only a few years ago. Today, startups and other small business entrepreneurs can leverage affordable software and technology that levels the playing field and puts them on a par with larger competitors.

This big data movement is harnessed and channeled by big data engineers to render the data into usable, actionable insights. These insights may take the form of Industry 4.0 technologies, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), or service and logistics-related analytics. And cumulatively, these technologies drive efficiency and operational excellence in companies that use them and revolutionize business processes.

What Is a Big Data Engineer?

A big data engineer designs and constructs the systems used for handling big data. This includes the collection of data and its storage. It also includes advanced analytics and machine learning algorithms to uncover trends and patterns and enable autonomous or semi-autonomous decision-making at the system or machine level.

Big data engineers also design these systems to handle big data at scale. With the global economy still reeling from COVID-19 and other disruptions, the ability to agnostically analyze large data sets at scale can mean significant gains in efficiency. And big data engineers are the ones designing and implementing systems to make those gains.

How to Become a Big Data Engineer

There are new degrees and certifications available at many academic institutions. These programs help train and educate big data engineers for the coming advances in technology. They provide hands-on and formal training in many sub-disciplines related to big data and big data analytics.

But these formal programs are not the only way to become a big data engineer. As an emerging discipline, big data engineering consists of an extensive collection of skillsets earned on the job. And the field is so large that many of the skills required on the path of a big data engineer require skills layered on top of other formal degrees.

Valuable skillsets needed to become a big data engineer include:

Programming Skills

Anyone pursuing a career as a big data engineer must have strong programming skills. These may be formal, certified, or self-taught skills, but they are a requirement. This includes coding, scriptwriting, and using data pipelines.

Diverse Technological Knowledge

Many people who program know one or several programming languages. A big data engineer must know multiple programming formats and be able to determine the correct one for the task and project at hand. This includes Java, SQL, Python, And ELT (Extract, Load, Transform).

Multi-discipline Training

While a degree in computer science is certainly a strong starting point, degrees in math and other disciplines can also be a path. However, many will find the need to layer in additional certifications on specific platforms or find a Certified Data Management Professional (CDMP) qualification helpful. Knowledge of and training in database systems and database warehousing is essential as well.


In big data engineering, few things are as valuable as previous experience in actual data projects. Because the job of a big data engineer is still maturing, many people find experience in hands-on data projects to be acceptable. In some cases, where formal skills are taught only in an academic or formal setting, experience may be equally good or even trump classroom-only training.

Big data engineering is an exciting field that offers numerous pathways to entry. For entrepreneurs and new business owners, becoming a big data engineer or realizing the need for having one on staff can be daunting. The Henry Bernick Entrepreneurship Centre (HBEC) at Georgian College offers new leaders training, advice, mentorship, and other assistance to help them understand how to leverage big data engineering to help their business grow in competitiveness and leverage the data available in today’s robust analytics programs. Contact us today to find out how our expertise can help you unlock the power of big data engineering and analytics.

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