ETL Developer vs. Data Engineer: Comparing Key Differences

CEO, Portable

What is an ETL Developer?

ETL developers specialize in the design, development, and maintenance of ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) processes. ETL developers will extract data from various sources, transform or convert it into a consistent format, and load it into a data warehouse or target system for analysis and reporting purposes.

ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) developers are essential to the data management process. This is because they make sure that information moves smoothly from many sources to its final destination. This is where it can be analyzed and revealed.

These developers have a sharp eye for detail and are knowledgeable in data manipulation methods, tools, and languages. They are skilled at ensuring data quality throughout the ETL process.

ETL developers also work closely with stakeholders. This includes data analysts, data scientists, business intelligence teams, and devops teams. When designing ETL processes, they make an effort to comprehend the data demands of the various departments.

What are the responsibilities of an ETL Developer?

Your work as an ETL developer covers a variety of crucial duties in the field of data management. Your area of expertise is directing the information flow. The following are the main duties that define your role.

  • You are in charge of pulling data from a variety of sources, including databases, files, APIs, and external systems. This calls for an awareness of data architecture, the use of database queries, and the use of suitable extraction techniques.

  • After the data is extracted, a number of procedures are used to change it into a format that can be used. This entails executing data cleansing, data validation, and data verification. As well as implementing business rules and assuring data consistency and integrity.

  • You create, develop, and put into action ETL procedures that specify how data is moved and transformed in order. Using ETL tools, scripting languages, or programming frameworks entails developing effective workflows.

  • You streamline ETL procedures to improve efficiency and cut down on processing time. This means you are optimizing searches, indexing data, and putting parallel processing into practice.

  • You guarantee the data has been changed with accuracy, completeness, and reliability. This includes carrying out quality checks, fixing errors, and validation processes into place.

  • You work with stakeholders to understand their data requirements. You record ETL procedures, data transformations, and mappings for future use.

  • You maintain current knowledge of cutting-edge technology, ETL tools, and industry best practices. You investigate novel approaches, weigh your options, and provide suggestions for improvements.

What skills and qualifications does an ETL Developer possess?

  • For working with databases, querying data, and executing data manipulation tasks, a solid knowledge of SQL is required. ETL developers should be skilled at crafting intricate SQL queries and speeding them up.

  • ETL developers need to be good at ETL processes. This includes data loading procedures, data transformation methods, and data extraction methods. They ought to be familiar with the ETL frameworks and technologies that are frequently employed in the sector.

  • They should know data integration methods, such as data merging, and integration from many sources. They should be familiar with data modeling and schema design, as well as data warehousing ideas.

  • For automating ETL procedures, proficiency in scripting languages is advantageous. It can also be helpful to know programming languages like Java or C#. After all, ETL developers are also a part of the software engineering field.

  • To recognize data difficulties and debug issues, developers need to have analytical skills. They should be able to spot data anomalies, handle data dependencies, and guarantee data quality.

  • In the upcoming years, there will likely be greater demand for ETL developers. This is due to the growing significance of ETL in data management for data-driven decision-making.

  • Additionally, as of May 1, 2023, the average ETL Developer pay in the US is $79,821, although the average salary range is $69,314 to $95,591.

What is a Data Engineer?

A data engineer is a person in charge of planning, constructing, and maintaining the systems for data processing. Raw data capture, storage, transformation, and integration are just a few of the duties that fall under their authority.

To make data accessible, accurate, and available, they collaborate with cross-functional teams. They create data pipelines and implement solutions for the data ETL process.

They do this by drawing on their knowledge of programming, database management, and distributed systems. Data engineers create the groundwork for strong data ecosystems with data quality.

What are the responsibilities of a Data Engineer?

The five significant areas listed below are where data engineers are essential.

  1. The architecture of data systems is designed for ETL for data engineers. To translate requirements into data models, they work with stakeholders.

  2. They construct and manage the data pipelines to provide a constant flow of information from different sources. They create effective ETL processes and make sure data is appropriately transformed and loaded. Read this article to understand the difference between data pipelines vs ETL.

  3. They are in charge of overseeing the infrastructure that enables data processing, analysis, and storage. To maximize performance, they collaborate with technologies. This includes databases, data warehouses, and distributed computing frameworks.

  4. Data engineers develop and update data models that specify the organization of the data. They use methods like entity-relationship modeling and dimensional modeling. This guarantees data integrity and enables effective querying and analysis.

  5. Data engineers are essential to maintaining data governance and quality. They build data validation processes, create quality standards, and enforce data governance policies.

Along with these, they work with teams to comprehend their needs for data and to supply them with the infrastructure and tools they need.

What skills and qualifications does a data engineer possess?

  • Python, Java, and Scala are just a few of the computer languages that data engineers are adept in. They carry out data transformations and automate data processes with them.

  • They are well-versed in the theories and practices of distributed computing. They are accustomed to frameworks like Apache Hadoop, or Spark. These allow for the processing and analysis of enormous datasets across computer clusters.

  • Data engineers are knowledgeable about industry standards and best practices for the field. They use procedures for validating and follow efficient data processing and storage methods.

  • They have worked with a variety of database platforms. This includes NoSQL databases like MongoDB. Or, relational databases like MySQL, PostgreSQL, or Oracle. They are adept at creating sophisticated queries and designing and optimizing database schemas.

  • Cloud computing platforms AWS, Microsoft Azure, and GCP can be used with ease by data engineers. They use cloud services like Amazon S3, Azure Data Lake, or Google BigQuery to store and process data in a scalable and economical manner.

  • Data engineers are knowledgeable about the theories and methods of data warehousing. They are skilled in using ETL solutions like Talend and Informatica, which let them quickly build and maintain data pipelines.

  • They have excellent problem-solving and analytical abilities. They are able to pinpoint and solve issues and accelerate and streamline data operations.

  • A bachelor's degree or master's degree in computer science, or data science is often required for Data Engineers.

  • A Dice survey found that there is strong demand for the position. According to a survey, the number of available opportunities in big data engineering is expected to increase by 50% annually. This makes it one of the fastest-growing professions in technology.

  • The typical compensation for entry-level data engineers with no more than one year of experience is $75,000 annually, while the average salary for those with three to five years of experience is $93,000 annually.

Key Differences Between ETL Developer and Data Engineer Roles

To manage data, allocate resources, and assemble the best team to address their unique data demands, organizations must be aware of the fundamental distinctions between ETL developers and data engineers.

Technical expertise and breadth of responsibilities

Data ETL into a destination system is the main area of attention for ETL developers. Their knowledge of ETL tools, SQL, and data integration are their specialties. Data engineers, on the other hand, have a wider range of technical knowledge. They are skilled in big data technology, distributed computing, programming, and cloud platforms. They manage data infrastructure, build the data architecture, and develop end-to-end data pipelines.

Focus on scalability and performance

Data processing within stipulated data structures and formats is a top priority for ETL developers. Their main concern is assuring the dependability and accuracy of data transformations. Data engineers, on the other hand, place a big emphasis on performance and scalability. They use distributed computing frameworks and develop to manage enormous amounts of data and apply methods.

Data engineering principles and practices

Traditional ETL approaches include extracting data from a source, transforming it, and loading it into a location. However, data engineers use larger data engineering principles and techniques. They place a strong emphasis on data modeling, quality control, governance, and the application of best practices. They need to build data architectures and scalable data pipelines that meet the organization's data needs.

Evolution of the data landscape and emerging trends

As the data landscape has changed, so have the duties of ETL developers and data engineers. In on-premises systems, ETL developers have historically worked with structured data. Data engineers, on the other hand, work in cloud-based or hybrid systems and deal with a larger range of data. Moreover, they keep up with new trends such as real-time data processing, streaming analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence integration. This allows businesses to fully utilize their data assets.

Best ETL Tools for ETL Developers and Data Engineers

ETL tools are essential to the data integration and transformation process. This is because they make it easier for data engineers and ETL developers to do their jobs. With these technologies, data may be extracted, transformed, and loaded more quickly. ETL solutions offer a GUI and pre-built components to make the creation of data pipelines easier and less labor-intensive. They also provide tools that let developers and engineers streamline their data workflows. 

What are the criteria for selecting ETL tools?

There are various factors to take into account when choosing the best ETL solutions for ETL developers and data engineers. The following are some factors worth considering.

  • Able to manage massive information quantities while offering parallel processing and optimization strategies.

  • Having robust data lineage capabilities. This allows tracking data changes throughout the ETL process. This feature is crucial for maintaining data quality and compliance.

  • Should handle a wide variety of data sources and destinations.

  • Should include built-in capabilities for data validation, cleaning, and quality checks.

  • Should have effective monitoring capabilities, error logging, and alarm mechanisms.

In addition to this, data warehouse automation tools simplify the ETL process for warehouse. They do this by automating repetitive tasks. Some examples include schema generation, data transformations, and scheduling. These tools enable faster development cycles and improve overall productivity.

Five popular ETL tools for ETL developers and data engineers

The following is a list of the 5 popular ETL tools every developer and data engineer should consider using. There are several tools apart from those mentioned here like Airbyte or Fivetran. However, the following pose as the best Airbyte alternatives or Fivetran alternatives.

1. Portable

Portable is a no-code cloud ETL tool. It supports long-tail ETL connectors that most ETL tools don't support. With the vast library of connectors, adaptable pricing, and committed support, Portable makes it easier to integrate data for business applications. This frees analytics teams to concentrate on insights rather than expensive and complicated integrations.

  • Offers 500+ no-code connectors allowing you to integrate with every data source or data destination you know.  

  • Supports BigQuery, Redshift ELT, PostgreSQL, and Snowflake data integration.

  • Simplify loading data into large data warehouses. This guarantees that your selected analytics tool will work with them.

  • Process and manage data volume of any size without restrictions or additional fees.

  • Keep up with data integration procedures and get updates straight to your inbox or Slack.

  • Offers flat-rate pricing per data flow.

  • Does not charge based on data volumes, offering predictable costs and removing unforeseen costs.

Airbyte is a great alternative to Portable. However, with Portable vs Airbyte, there are significant advantages of Portable over Airbyte.

2. Microsoft SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS)

SSIS is connected to the Microsoft SQL Server database. It offers a user-friendly visual development environment for creating data integration solutions. 

  • Easy to create data integration workflows. Done by eliminating the need for manual coding. This is because of the drag-and-drop interface, making it usable by people of all skill levels.

  • Provides a wide range of connectivity options.  Enables seamless data loading, transformation, and extraction from a variety of data sources.

  • Data aggregation, merging, splitting, and data quality checks. Enables accurate and dependable data manipulations.

  • Manages massive volumes of data. Results in quicker processing times and improved performance.

  • Communicates with SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS) and SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS).

  • It empowers data engineers to efficiently connect and exchange data between IBM databases, LinkedIn data sources, and other systems

3. Apache Spark

Apache Spark is renowned for its processing of enormous amounts of data quickly and flexibly. It's a popular option for processing large data and developing advanced data analytics apps.

  • Allows for speedier data processing and iterative calculations by storing data in memory.

  • A smooth interface with already available SQL-based tools and systems is made possible by the Spark SQL module. This enables SQL queries and data processing using SQL-like syntax.

  • Spark's Machine Learning Library can build and deploy scalable machine learning models. This offers a variety of machine-learning algorithms and tools.

  • A single API for graph processing and data analysis is provided by the Spark GraphX module. This enables tasks like social network visualization and recommendation.

  • Easily infiltrate and integrate data by integrating with the Hadoop Distributed File System (HDFS).

  • Provides APIs in Python, R, Scala, and Java, making it usable for developers that prefer diverse programming languages.

4. Talend

Talend is a popular platform for data integration that makes it easier to connect, convert, and manage data. Talend is a great alternative for data integration and administration across enterprises of all sizes. This is because of its user-friendly interface, many connectivity choices, and powerful capabilities.

  • Enables users to quickly mix and integrate data from a variety of sources, including files, cloud services, and databases.

  • Developers can graphically build data integration workflows using Talend's user-friendly interface.

  • Provides seamless interaction with a wide range of data systems and applications.

  • Includes tools for data governance and compliance and data cleansing and profiling capabilities. 

  • Supports the processing and integration of big data technologies such as NoSQL databases and Apache Hadoop.

  • Enables real-time data streaming and processing. This enables businesses to decide based on the most recent trends.

  • Offers a variety of transformation tools and mapping functions during integration operations.

5. Apache Kafka

Apache Kafka is a high-performance, fault-tolerant, and scalable open-source tool. It's used due to its powerful capabilities and capacity to handle enormous data streams in real-time.

  • Uses a publish-subscribe messaging strategy. This allows for dependable and effective communication between producers and consumers.

  • Scales horizontally, allowing expansion through the addition of more brokers.

  • Provides real-time data streaming support. This enables quick data processing and analysis as it moves through the system.

  • Able to effectively process massive amounts of data in real-time at high throughput rates.

  • Enables real-time data processing and analytics by integrating with multiple stream processing frameworks. This includes Apache Storm, Apache Flink, and Apache Samza.

  • Airflow offers seamless integration with Apache Kafka. This enhances the capabilities of real-time data processing and analytics in data pipelines.

Transitioning Between Roles

It is quite evident that data engineers have a wider scope of responsibilities and therefore salary. Therefore, if you are an ETL developer looking to expand your opportunities, read along to find out about this transition. 

Your technical skill set needs to be expanded if you want to move from being an ETL developer to a data engineer or data architect. Data engineers must become knowledgeable in big data technologies. For example, Hadoop, Spark, and NoSQL databases. However, ETL developers focus solely on SQL and ETL techniques. You can manage large-scale data processing and analytics thanks to this addition.

You will spend a lot of time working with big data technologies as a data engineer. This entails quick data processing and distributed processing of huge datasets. For organizations dealing with large volumes of data, the expertise of big data consulting services can be valuable. For managing unstructured and semi-structured data, it's also essential to know NoSQL databases. 

For their projects, data engineers frequently use cloud computing platforms. Scalable and affordable options are available for data processing, analytics, and data storage. Such as through AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud Platform. Familiarity with cloud-based web services and infrastructure is important.

Moving from an ETL developer to a data engineer needs bridging the knowledge gap. A wider set of duties, including data architecture, data modeling, and data governance, are included in data engineering. To succeed in your new position, it is crucial to make the necessary investment to understand these additional components.

Data engineering is a field that is quickly developing. For staying up-to-date with the newest technologies, continuous learning is important. To improve your knowledge, take part in online courses, attend conferences, and get certifications.

Recapping the Difference Between ETL Developers and Data Engineers

  • ETL developers focus on the seamless transfer of data between systems. They are experts in data extraction, transformation, and loading. Their knowledge of ETL tools, mastery of SQL, and familiarity with data integration ideas are their areas of specialty.

  • Data engineers, on the other hand, have a wider scope. This includes designing data architectures, developing pipelines, modeling data, and governing data quality. 

  • Technical proficiency, the scope of responsibility, emphasis on scalability and performance, data engineering principles, and keeping up-to-date on new software development in the data landscape are the primary differences between these professions.

  • The ideal role relies on personal preferences, skill capabilities, and professional objectives. Data engineers specialize in managing complicated data ecosystems and creating scalable solutions. Whereas ETL developers excel at data integration and transformation.

  • Both ETL developers and data engineers need education and career development to be successful in these positions. To adapt to the changing data world, one must keep up with the newest tools, technology, and business trends.

  • Understanding these two roles can give you insights into successful teamwork and data-driven tasks. Whether you're thinking about a career in data management or working with experts in these industries.