Data Science vs. Software Engineering: Which One is Right for You?

If you're looking into careers in technology, a few probably stand out. Software engineering and data science are two of these for many people. After all, both are great jobs with a lot to offer. 

However, you'll ultimately need to choose between the two. So, how can you decide? 

The best way to do so is to gather information. This article will do exactly that. We'll investigate some of each career's common pros and cons that may influence your decisions. From there, you can make an informed choice about which is better for you: software engineering or data science.

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What Is Data Science?

Data scientists work with data in a variety of forms. Nowadays, almost every company at every level collects and uses data. Because of this, data is becoming more and more important for every industry. In turn, data scientists are becoming highly sought after.

Data science careers work with data in all its forms. Some data scientists find new ways to gather data from various sources. Meanwhile, others analyze the data to get helpful information out of it. Even newer positions use data to train machine learning and AI programs.

Using, gathering, or manipulating data is important in all these jobs. 

What Is Software Engineering?

While data science is about gathering, collecting, and interpreting, software engineering is about creating. Like a mechanical engineer creates machines and an aerospace engineer creates aircraft, a software engineer creates software. 

This starts from the very beginning and moves forward. Software engineers plan, begin designing, and then start building the software. When working with a client, software engineers will design to their specifications and play a significant role in the creative side of the process. 

What Qualifications Are Needed?

Both of these careers require some intense knowledge and skills. Some of these are shared, while others are entirely different. 

The most basic shared requirement is a degree in a computer-related program, typically information technology or computer science. Higher degrees are helpful, mainly when going after more advanced positions but are not entirely necessary, especially when starting out. On top of this, both require a few similar skills. These are primarily technical skills with an emphasis on math, statistics, programming languages, and reading code. 

Regarding qualifications that differ, data science has a few requirements. These are typically related to the specific subset of a person's data science career. For example, a job working with machine learning requires knowledge of concepts relating to machine learning and expertise with related programming languages. In a similar way, other jobs will require knowledge and experience in working with specific data sets. 

Meanwhile, a career in software engineering is often more focused on coding knowledge. This includes knowledge of a few different coding languages and experience in working with them. In addition, software engineering typically requires more interpersonal skills, as this job often involves working with others.

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What Are the Career Paths? 

The career paths for data science and software engineering branch out in wildly different directions. However, they still follow somewhat similar trajectories.

Data Science Career Path

Most data science careers start with a position as an analyst. This could be as straightforward as a data analyst or something more specific, like a marketing or operations analyst. In any case, this involves basic data science tasks. 

From there, a typical progression is to take on a more significant role in the same position. For example, a data analyst can become a senior data analyst with a higher team position. Or they can go on to become the company's lead data analyst. 

After that, a position as a company's chief data officer is one of the most desirable positions. This is especially true at larger, well-respected companies. 

Related: Software Developer vs. Software Engineer?

Software Engineering Career Path

The software engineering job hunt includes commonly seen jobs like front-end engineers, back-end engineers, and full-stack engineers. However, since there is a lot of diversity in software engineering, there is also a lot of diversity when it comes to jobs available in software engineering. Positions are available when it comes to mobile apps, graphics, games, data, and so much more. 

Typical progression in this career would have one start out as a beginner in one of these professions. Then, after working for a while, that person could take on a more senior position. 

From there, they could take on a leadership role. Tech leads and managers have more responsibility and have to have the skills to back that up. Beyond that, a software engineer could even go on to become the chief technology officer for an entire corporation. 

Which Job Makes More?

Data science jobs range from around $55,000 on the lower end to $100,000 on the higher end. Meanwhile, software engineering jobs range from around $60,000 on the lower end to $130,000 on the higher end. The lower end of these spectrums typically includes entry-level positions, while the higher end includes more prestigious positions or positions that take on far more responsibility. 

By these numbers, you can tell that, in general, software engineering jobs pay more. However, the difference is not that dramatic. Plus, there are still plenty of high-paying positions in both career paths. 

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Which Job Is Better? 

Both data science and software engineering have plenty of things going for them. Chief among these is that they pay well and are in high demand. In fact, data science has been one of the top-growing jobs in recent years. So, both will pay well and will have positions available in the future. 

Ultimately, which job is better depends on which job is better for you. If you're more interested in the machine learning or mathematical aspects of data science, then you will enjoy that career more. If the same is true and you enjoy staying up to date with programming trends and understanding different coding languages, software engineering may be a better fit for you.

Data Science vs. Software Engineering

Both data science and software engineering have a lot to offer. However, these lines of work have distinct advantages and disadvantages that you need to be aware of. Doing so will help you make the right decision when determining which one is right for you.

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