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(Spark with Python) PySpark DataFrame can be converted to Python pandas DataFrame using a function toPandas(), In this article, I will explain how to create Pandas DataFrame from PySpark (Spark) DataFrame with examples.

Before we start first understand the main differences between the Pandas & PySpark, operations on Pyspark run faster than Pandas due to its distributed nature and parallel execution on multiple cores and machines.

In other words, pandas run operations on a single node whereas PySpark runs on multiple machines. If you are working on a Machine Learning application where you are dealing with larger datasets, PySpark processes operations many times faster than pandas. Refer to pandas DataFrame Tutorial beginners guide with examples

After processing data in PySpark we would need to convert it back to Pandas DataFrame for a further procession with Machine Learning application or any Python applications.

Prepare PySpark DataFrame

In order to explain with an example first let’s create a PySpark DataFrame.

import pyspark
from pyspark.sql import SparkSession

spark = SparkSession.builder.appName('').getOrCreate()

data = [("James","","Smith","36636","M",60000),

columns = ["first_name","middle_name","last_name","dob","gender","salary"]
pysparkDF = spark.createDataFrame(data = data, schema = columns)

This yields below schema and result of the DataFrame.

 |-- first_name: string (nullable = true)
 |-- middle_name: string (nullable = true)
 |-- last_name: string (nullable = true)
 |-- dob: string (nullable = true)
 |-- gender: string (nullable = true)
 |-- salary: long (nullable = true)

|first_name|middle_name|last_name|dob  |gender|salary|
|James     |           |Smith    |36636|M     |60000 |
|Michael   |Rose       |         |40288|M     |70000 |
|Robert    |           |Williams |42114|      |400000|
|Maria     |Anne       |Jones    |39192|F     |500000|
|Jen       |Mary       |Brown    |     |F     |0     |

Convert PySpark Dataframe to Pandas DataFrame

PySpark DataFrame provides a method toPandas() to convert it to Python Pandas DataFrame.

toPandas() results in the collection of all records in the PySpark DataFrame to the driver program and should be done only on a small subset of the data. running on larger dataset’s results in memory error and crashes the application. To deal with a larger dataset, you can also try increasing memory on the driver.

pandasDF = pysparkDF.toPandas()

This yields the below panda’s DataFrame. Note that pandas add a sequence number to the result as a row Index. You can rename pandas columns by using rename() function.

  first_name middle_name last_name    dob gender  salary
0      James                 Smith  36636      M   60000
1    Michael        Rose            40288      M   70000
2     Robert              Williams  42114         400000
3      Maria        Anne     Jones  39192      F  500000
4        Jen        Mary     Brown             F       0

I have dedicated Python pandas Tutorial with Examples where I explained pandas concepts in detail.

Convert Spark Nested Struct DataFrame to Pandas

Most of the time data in PySpark DataFrame will be in a structured format meaning one column contains other columns so let’s see how it convert to Pandas. Here is an example with nested struct where we have firstname, middlename and lastname are part of the name column.

# Nested structure elements
from pyspark.sql.types import StructType, StructField, StringType,IntegerType
dataStruct = [(("James","","Smith"),"36636","M","3000"), \
      (("Michael","Rose",""),"40288","M","4000"), \
      (("Robert","","Williams"),"42114","M","4000"), \
      (("Maria","Anne","Jones"),"39192","F","4000"), \
      (("Jen","Mary","Brown"),"","F","-1") \

schemaStruct = StructType([
        StructField('name', StructType([
             StructField('firstname', StringType(), True),
             StructField('middlename', StringType(), True),
             StructField('lastname', StringType(), True)
          StructField('dob', StringType(), True),
         StructField('gender', StringType(), True),
         StructField('salary', StringType(), True)
df = spark.createDataFrame(data=dataStruct, schema = schemaStruct)

pandasDF2 = df.toPandas()

Converting structured DataFrame to Pandas DataFrame results below output.

                   name    dob gender salary
0      (James, , Smith)  36636      M   3000
1     (Michael, Rose, )  40288      M   4000
2  (Robert, , Williams)  42114      M   4000
3  (Maria, Anne, Jones)  39192      F   4000
4    (Jen, Mary, Brown)             F     -1


In this simple article, you have learned to convert Spark DataFrame to pandas using toPandas() function of the Spark DataFrame. also have seen a similar example with complex nested structure elements. toPandas() results in the collection of all records in the DataFrame to the driver program and should be done on a small subset of the data.

Happy Learning !!


Naveen Nelamali

Naveen Nelamali (NNK) is a Data Engineer with 20+ years of experience in transforming data into actionable insights. Over the years, He has honed his expertise in designing, implementing, and maintaining data pipelines with frameworks like Apache Spark, PySpark, Pandas, R, Hive and Machine Learning. Naveen journey in the field of data engineering has been a continuous learning, innovation, and a strong commitment to data integrity. In this blog, he shares his experiences with the data as he come across. Follow Naveen @ LinkedIn and Medium