Structured Arrays and Record Arrays in NumPy

NumPy is a powerful library in Python for scientific computing, specifically for array manipulation and mathematical operations on arrays. One of its key features is the ability to create structured arrays and record arrays, which allow users to work with tabular data of different data types.

What are Structured Arrays?

A structured array is a NumPy array where each element is a tuple with fixed-length fields. It is similar to a structured data type in other programming languages. In a structured array, each element can be accessed using field names, giving it a similar behavior to a dictionary or a structured record in a database.

Let's consider an example where we want to store information about employees, including their names, ages, and salaries. We can create a structured array using the numpy.array() function by specifying the data types of each field.

import numpy as np

# Define the data types for the structured array
dt = np.dtype([('name', np.str_, 16), ('age', np.int32), ('salary', np.float64)])

# Create an empty structured array with 3 elements
employees = np.zeros(3, dtype=dt)

# Populate the array with employee data
employees['name'] = ['John', 'Alice', 'Bob']
employees['age'] = [30, 25, 35]
employees['salary'] = [50000.0, 60000.0, 55000.0]



[('John', 30, 50000.0) ('Alice', 25, 60000.0) ('Bob', 35, 55000.0)]

In the above example, we defined a structured data type dt with three fields: name of type string with a maximum length of 16 characters, age of type int32, and salary of type float64. We then created an empty structured array employees with three elements and assigned values to each field.

We can access individual elements or fields of the structured array using field names:

print(employees[0])  # Output: ('John', 30, 50000.0)
print(employees['name'])  # Output: ['John' 'Alice' 'Bob']
print(employees['age'])  # Output: [30 25 35]
print(employees['salary'])  # Output: [50000. 60000. 55000.]

Structured arrays are useful for storing and manipulating heterogeneous data in a tabular form. They provide a convenient way to organize and access data beyond a simple NumPy array.

What are Record Arrays?

A record array is a subclass of a structured array that provides additional functionality for accessing and manipulating the data. It allows fields to be accessed as attributes, making the syntax more readable and concise.

Record arrays are created using the numpy.rec.array() function, which takes a structured array as input and returns a record array. Alternatively, you can directly create a record array by specifying field names and values.

import numpy as np

# Create a structured array
data = np.array([('John', 30, 50000.0), ('Alice', 25, 60000.0), ('Bob', 35, 55000.0)],
                dtype=[('name', np.str_, 16), ('age', np.int32), ('salary', np.float64)])

# Convert structured array to record array
records = np.rec.array(data)



[('John', 30, 50000.0) ('Alice', 25, 60000.0) ('Bob', 35, 55000.0)]

In the above example, we created a structured array data similar to the previous example. We then converted it to a record array records using np.rec.array().

Record arrays allow accessing fields as attributes, which makes code more readable:

print(  # Output: ['John' 'Alice' 'Bob']
print(records.age)  # Output: [30 25 35]
print(records.salary)  # Output: [50000.0 60000.0 55000.0]

Note that the field names become attributes of the record array, enabling straightforward access to the data.


Structured arrays and record arrays in NumPy provide a convenient way to store and manipulate tabular data with different data types. Structured arrays allow accessing elements using field names, while record arrays provide additional functionality by allowing fields to be accessed as attributes. These features make NumPy an excellent tool for working with structured and heterogeneous datasets.

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