Phase 1: Discover a Career in Data

1.3: Overcoming Educational Barriers

This guide is part of a larger roadmap to data engineering. Please refer back for context.

Entering the field of data engineering often brings up concerns about educational requirements. This section aims to address and help you navigate these potential barriers.


Formal Degrees vs. Practical Skills:

Although formal degrees in fields like computer science have their merits, they are not the sole pathway to success in data engineering. The tech industry places significant value on practical skills and real-world experience. Alternative educational routes, such as boot camps, online courses, and self-directed learning, are increasingly recognized as viable paths to a successful career in this domain.



Rising Above Formal Education: 

The dynamic nature of the tech world demands continuous learning and adaptation to the latest tools and technologies.

  • Credible Certifications: For those without college degrees, obtaining certifications from reputable organizations like Google and Microsoft can demonstrate your competency and dedication to the field; something typical college graduates tend to lack to demonstrate.
  • Embracing New Technologies: AI is revolutionizing the tech industry, creating unprecedented opportunities, especially for newcomers. Being adept at leveraging AI as an assistant can make you a valuable asset to employers.
  • Building a Strong Portfolio: Showcasing your skills through a robust portfolio often carries more weight than a formal degree. Employers are on the lookout for candidates with problem-solving skills, adaptability, and a portfolio that highlights their ability to handle real-world challenges.

Valuing Diversity:

The data engineering field is in need of diverse perspectives. Individuals from various backgrounds bring unique insights, making the industry more innovative and robust. Your unique experiences and viewpoints can be your strength in this field and something that employers will pick up on. Understanding different operational aspects of a business is key, and diverse backgrounds often offer a broader understanding of these aspects. Be sure to showcase such abilities during interviews.


Overcoming educational barriers is a real consideration; but it only plays a role in finding your first tech job. You can overcome it by focusing on practical skills, certifications, and leveraging your unique background. 

The path to becoming a data engineer is not one-size-fits-all. In fact, if you talk to 10 data engineers, they will each have a unique path.