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ETL Developer vs. Data Engineer: What Are the Differences?

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

ETL developers and data engineers are both responsible for working with data, but they have different roles and responsibilities. If you’re interested in a career in data, understanding the difference between these two positions can help you decide which one is right for you. In this article, we discuss the roles of ETL developers and data engineers, the similarities and differences between them, and what you can expect from each position.

What is an ETL Developer?

ETL Developers are responsible for the Extract, Transform, and Load (ETL) process of data for their company. They extract data from various sources, then transform and clean it before loading it into a data warehouse or other data repository. ETL Developers work with data from many different departments within their company, so they must be able to understand and interpret that data to determine how it should be processed. They also work with data from external sources, such as partners or vendors, which may require them to normalize or transform the data to fit the company’s internal data standards. ETL Developers use a variety of tools and programming languages to perform their job, so they must be proficient in multiple technologies.

What is a Data Engineer?

Data Engineers are responsible for designing, building, and maintaining the data infrastructure that allows organizations to make data-driven decisions. They collect, process, and store data from a variety of sources, including social media, sensors, and financial systems. Data Engineers design and implement data pipelines that clean, transform, and aggregate data for analysis. They also develop and optimize data storage solutions, such as databases and data warehouses. Data Engineers work closely with Data Scientists to ensure that data is accessible and can be effectively analyzed to answer business questions.

ETL Developer vs. Data Engineer

Here are the main differences between an ETL developer and a data engineer.

Job Duties

Both data engineers and ETL developers have similar job duties, although the tasks they complete each day can vary. For example, both professionals may conduct research to determine the best way to extract, transfer or migrate data. They may also create databases and design schemas to make it easier for other employees to access the data they need. Another key difference is that an ETL developer typically focuses more on the technical aspects of their job, such as writing code in multiple programming languages and using tools like SQL Server and Oracle. In contrast, a data engineer often performs managerial duties, such as delegating projects to ETL developers and assigning resources to different teams.

Job Requirements

ETL developers typically need at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science or another related field. Data engineers might also need a bachelor’s degree, although some employers prefer candidates to have a master’s degree in computer science as well. Additionally, both professions often require experience in programming languages like SQL, Java and Python. ETL developers and data engineers can also pursue certifications to make themselves more attractive to potential employers.

Work Environment

Both data engineers and ETL developers work in office settings, but they may also travel to client sites. They typically spend their days working on computers, analyzing data and creating reports for clients.

ETL developers often work more independently than data engineers because they’re usually the only member of a team who works with an organization’s data. Data engineers are part of larger teams that collaborate on projects together.


Both ETL Developers and Data Engineers use a variety of skills to perform their jobs. They both need to have strong technical skills, including the ability to write code in languages like SQL, Java and Python. They also need to be able to work with databases, understand data modeling concepts and have experience with big data platforms.

The main difference between ETL Developers and Data Engineers is that ETL Developers focus on extracting, transforming and loading data, while Data Engineers focus on designing, building, maintaining and optimizing data pipelines. As a result, ETL Developers need to have strong skills in data cleansing and transformation, while Data Engineers need to have strong skills in data architecture and engineering.


The average salary for an ETL developer is $99,808 per year, while the average salary for a data engineer is $113,717 per year. Both of these salaries can vary depending on the size of the company, the location of the job and the level of experience you have prior to pursuing either position.


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