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Cloud Architect vs. Data Engineer: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

Cloud architects and data engineers are two important roles in the tech industry. Both positions work with data, but they have different focuses. Cloud architects focus on designing and managing systems, while data engineers focus on developing and maintaining systems. In this article, we compare and contrast these two positions, and we provide information on what you can do to pursue each career.

What is a Cloud Architect?

Cloud Architects work with an organization’s IT staff to design, implement and oversee a cloud computing strategy. They assess an organization’s current IT infrastructure and applications to determine which can be migrated to the cloud. Cloud Architects also develop plans for migrating data and applications to the cloud, taking into consideration factors such as cost, security and compliance. They work with vendors to select the right cloud platform and services for an organization’s needs. Cloud Architects also create and manage user accounts, set up security controls and monitor activity to ensure that the cloud environment is secure.

What is a Data Engineer?

Data Engineers are responsible for designing, building, and maintaining the complex data systems that power a company’s business operations. They work with large data sets to ensure that they are accurate, accessible, and useful for data scientists and other users. Data Engineers design and implement data warehouses, data lakes, and other data management systems. They also develop ETL (extract, transform, load) processes to move data from various sources into the data management systems. Data Engineers often work with Hadoop, Spark, and other big data technologies.

Cloud Architect vs. Data Engineer

Here are the main differences between a cloud architect and a data engineer.

Job Duties

Although both roles involve working with technology and data, the duties of a cloud architect and a data engineer differ. A cloud architect develops software that helps organizations manage their data efficiently. They design databases and storage systems to meet an organization’s needs. In contrast, data engineers develop algorithms that help them extract useful information from large datasets. Their work often involves using the software developed by cloud architects, which they use to test and refine the database.

Job Requirements

Cloud architects and data engineers typically need at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science or another related field. They might also pursue a master’s degree to gain more advanced knowledge in their field. Additionally, many cloud architects and data engineers earn certifications to show employers that they have the skills needed to perform their job duties. For example, the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Certified Solutions Architect – Associate certification is one option that cloud architects can pursue.

Work Environment

Cloud architects and data engineers typically work in different environments. Data engineers often work in an office setting, where they collaborate with other professionals to create new solutions for their company’s needs. They may also travel to clients’ locations to install and maintain systems.

Cloud architects usually work in an office environment as well, but they may spend more time working remotely than data engineers do. This is because cloud architects are responsible for creating the infrastructure that supports a company’s entire business model. As such, they may need to travel to visit clients or attend conferences to learn about new technologies.


Both cloud architects and data engineers need to have a strong understanding of computer science concepts. They should be able to write code and know how to work with databases. Cloud architects typically use programming languages like Java, Python and Ruby, while data engineers often use languages like SQL, Hive and Pig.

Both roles also require the ability to think abstractly and solve problems. However, cloud architects tend to focus more on designing systems, while data engineers focus on building and maintaining them. As a result, cloud architects need to have strong visualization skills to be able to create diagrams of their designs, while data engineers need to be detail-oriented to ensure that the systems they build are accurate and function properly.

Cloud architects also need to be familiar with cloud computing platforms, like Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform and Microsoft Azure. Data engineers need to understand how to collect, process and store data. They should also be familiar with big data processing tools, like Hadoop and Spark.


Cloud architects can earn an average salary of $136,496 per year, while data engineers can earn an average salary of $113,717 per year. Both of these average salaries may vary depending on the size of the company at which you work, location of your job and the level of experience you have prior to pursuing either position.


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