Moving From Software Engineering to Data Science

You have a programming background. So do data scientists. So switching to a career in data science should be pretty easy, right? Yes, and no. While it’s not a seamless transition, it’s certainly doable, and we’ll tell you how. 

Before diving in, it’s essential you know the many differences between these two professions and what to expect if you do become a data scientist. If you’re considering a career change, this guide is the right one for you. 

Software Engineering to Data Science Differences

So, what’s the biggest difference between a software engineer and a data scientist? About $16,000! The average software engineer’s salary in the United States is $108,762 compared to $124,598 for a data scientist. Transitioning to a data science career could potentially boost your earnings.

But salary is not the only difference between these jobs. 

The average person might think software engineers and data scientists have similar roles, but that’s not the case. Software engineering involves building software applications using the principles of engineering—those you learned at college or elsewhere. A typical day for you right now might include planning, designing and testing software solutions for the company you work for. 

Data science, on the other hand, is more of an analytical role. A day in the life of a data scientist might involve mining, managing and analyzing enormous chunks of data and dealing with statistical models and complex algorithms.

There are some similarities between data science and software engineering—mainly, both roles involve programming—but, in reality, these two jobs have distinct differences. 

Why Should You Become a Data Scientist

Software engineering is a lucrative and fulfilling job for many people, but it can be a little rigid at times. That’s because you’re dealing with inflexible engineering principles like testing, integrity and maintainability—things that are already well-defined.

Data science involves more interpretation and you’ll need to use your skills to solve problems that involve lots of data. In other words, there are fewer “rules” in data science than in software engineering, so you need an analytical mind rather than a “logical” one.

If you love solving data problems, then data science is probably a good career switch for you. Plus, you might have a little experience in data cleaning during your time as a software engineer—a skill that transfers over nicely to a data science role.  

Transitioning From Software Engineering to Data Science

The path for transitioning from software engineering to data science depends on the skills and experience you already have. Programming and the ability to clean data won’t be enough to land an entry-level data science position, unfortunately, so you’ll definitely need to start from the bottom and enroll in a data science program of some kind.

This is particularly relevant if you haven’t mastered Beam or Spark—two programming languages more commonly used in data science than software engineering. 

If you dabbled with data science before becoming a software engineer or developed some experience on the side, you could apply for a more advanced data science program and fill in any skills gaps in your spare time. The transition might take some time, especially if you have a full-time software engineering role. But, stick with it, and you’ll soon complete your training and eventually land your first paid position as a bona fide data scientist. 

For example, if you decide to dive into data science and enroll in a specialized program like the Data Incubator’s Data Science Bootcamp. This program typically requires a bachelor’s degree in a data-related subject, so if you studied Computer Science at college—as most software engineers do—you’ll be good to go.

During the program, you’ll learn from industry experts and use your previously learned programming skills to become more proficient at coding in a data science context. You’ll also discover how to use real-world statistical models, algorithms and other data science principles and graduate with a portfolio that will increase your chances of finding work as a data scientist. 

The one advantage you have as a software engineer is that many companies will value your experience when applying for a data science role. That’s not because these professions are similar—they’re not—but because both roles share many of the same workplace experiences. For example, software engineers and data scientists often work side-by-side in corporations and are involved in the technical aspects of a business. You’ll know how important software and data are for any modern company, and employers will appreciate this experience.

Final Thoughts on Transitioning From Software Engineer to Data Scientist

Software engineering and data science are two different roles, but there’s no reason you can’t become a data scientist with the right training and passion for this discipline. Aside from possibly earning more money, data science allows you to solve problems and be more analytical in your job, which might make switching careers worth the time and investment.

What Are You Waiting For?

Transitioning from software engineering to data science is possible when you enroll in one of the Data Incubator’s programs.

Here are some of the programs we offer:

  • Learn the basics of data science part-time in as little as eight weeks with Data Science Essentials before deciding whether this career change is right for you.
  • Or, if you have the right qualifications, jump straight into the Data Science Bootcamp and become the data scientist you want to be.

Contact our admissions team if you have any queries regarding the application process.

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