Why Big-Data Science Depends on Skilled Data Engineers

As the field of data science matures, a distinct specialization is emerging: data engineering. Tech giants like Facebook, Amazon, and Google are recognize the value of data engineers relative to data scientists. That’s why they’re targeting candidates with skills to build critical infrastructure like data pipelines and warehouses.

The best computer science degrees keep up with this trend by helping graduate students develop high-level data engineering skills. The University of Illinois Online Master of Computer Science in Data Science (MCS-DS) degree is one of these degrees: it offers a comprehensive full-stack data sciences education  to add this fast-growing career path to the employment opportunities of its graduates.

Data science is one of the most in-demand career fields in computer science according to LinkedIn, job openings increased 56% over the past year. These big data detectives unearth valuable insights through analysis of massive datasets. At the highest level, their skills are essential for developing machine learning algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI) applications.

However, in order to work their magic, data scientists need data. And not just any data — they need a clean dataset. That means they need raw and messy data converted to a consistent format that can be used with the data scientist’s analytic tools. As computer science students know well, this simple-sounding task becomes increasingly challenging and time-consuming as a dataset grows in scale. In fact, some data scientists spend as much as 80% of their time “wrangling” or “munging” data before it’s ready to be analyzed.

That’s where data engineering comes in. Data engineers evaluate, parse, and clean datasets, using programming languages like Python and R to build data pipelines and warehouses. This infrastructure efficiently delivers clean datasets at scale for data science to produce big data products. The data engineer’s specialized expertise becomes crucial to a company’s success as it grows; a startup that can only afford to hire one data scientist might have no choice but to direct 80% of their hours to data engineering. This inefficiency becomes a crippling as the company scales up.

Just as data scientists and data engineers can sometimes be distinct roles within a company, top professionals in these fields can sometimes come from distinct educational backgrounds. While a data scientist typically might focus on math and statistical analysis, data engineers are often system thinkers and programmers at heart. As the data industry continues to develop, it’s becoming apparent that specializing in data engineering early in your education is a significant advantage for your career.

The University of Illinois is one of the top-ranked computer science schools in the country, with an incredible history of pioneering research dating back to the 1940s. Its Online Masters of Computer Science in Data Science (MCS-DS) degree provides a top-tier advanced education for data scientists, and students that want to pursue a career in data engineering have the flexibility to choose courses that prepare them for that direction. The degree requires graduate-level coursework in data mining, cloud computing, data visualization and machine learning for all students, through courses such as Introduction to Data Mining, taught by Jiawei Han, author of the well-known textbook “Data Mining: Concepts and Techniques.”

Computer science graduate students that want to become data engineers have plenty of opportunities to dive deeper as they fulfill their degree requirements. Advanced courses include data engineering-centric classes such as Theory and Practice of Data Cleaning and Data Curation.

MCS-DS students with a data engineering focus can complete their education with a Data Mining Capstone Project. In this hands-on course, students learn the latest data mining research techniques in an online seminar. They also complete a major project that applies data mining techniques to solve a real-world challenge. This kind of interactive, face-to-face learning experience puts the MCS-DS on a higher level than typical online computer science programs.  

The University of Illinois MCS-DS degree gives you excellent preparation for a data engineering career. Illinois’ highly-ranked computer science program is known for its track record of excellence, and Illinois alumni and faculty are responsible for companies that have created entirely new industries.

Want to be a part of this legacy? Learn more about the University of Illinois MCS-DS degreeand gain access to the computational and statistical knowledge needed to turn big data into meaningful insights

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