How to become a data analyst – complete career guide
A data analyst is responsible for understanding the trends and insights that are revealed in massive data sets. Data analysts are often hired by companies to help inform decisions or improve business practices. This guide walks through the necessary steps to become a data analyst, and contains detailed job description, salary information, and future job outlook.
The three steps to launching a data analyst career
Step 1: Earn a bachelor’s degree in information technology, computer science, or statistics
Minor or study applied statistics or data analysis. Also take computer science classes that emphasize project management and database management. Find an advisor or career counselor that is familiar with a data analyst career path.
Step 2: Gain data analyst experience
It is difficult to gain employment as a data analyst if you do not have any experience. Interning while in school is a good way to gain valuable experience and will help with insights about additional skill development and training. Even still, most people in technical careers start at entry level positions in this case including positions such as a statistical assistant or technician. These jobs will provide valuable on-the-job training and experience. Take as many in-house training classes as possible, especially ones about analytical software programs and big data management. Experience, knowledge, and willingness to learn will help you rise to the level you desire.
Step 3: Advancing your career – consider a master’s degree or certificate program
An advanced degree will offer more job opportunities and ways to advance your career. Employers want candidates to have an array of knowledge and be familiar with the latest technologies and tools. Consider a master’s degree in data science, data analytics or big data management. These programs will generally provide exposure to the newest software programs from experts in field. Many universities partner with corporations to create team assignments, internships, and capstone projects: which will gain invaluable real world experience while earning an advanced degree.
What is a data analyst?
A data analyst takes data and uses it to help companies make better business decisions. A data analyst acquires information about specific topics and then interprets, analyzes, and presents findings in comprehensive reports. Many different types of businesses use data analysts to help collect and analyze data. As experts, data analysts are often called on to use their skills and tools to provide competitive analysts and identify trends within industries.
A data analyst is similar to a data scientist, but are often not responsible for creating the algorithms used for data discovery and acquisition. Rather than creating their own data projects, data analysts often find themselves tackling specific business tasks using existing tools, systems, and data sets. Both careers share a common goal: to discover how to use information to answer questions and solve problems for the benefit of their business/industry.
What does a data analyst do?
Data analysts translate numbers, trends, and trajectories into digestible and accessible information. Businesses collect data (i.e. sales figures, inventories, market research, profit margins, logistics and transportation costs). A data analyst’s job is to take that data and use it to help companies make better business decisions. Often, the main goal of a data analyst is to solve issues that cost the company money and to help make decisions for expanding the business.
Some examples of a data analyst basic job functions include: 1) estimating market shares; 2) establishing a price of new materials for the market; 3) reducing transportation costs; 4) timing of sales and 5) figuring out when to hire or reduce the workforce.
Data analysts are responsible for collecting, manipulating, and analyzing data. Data analysts use systematic techniques, standard formulas and methods to analyze the relevant information. They then typically prepare reports detailing the results from their analysis.
Data analysts might perform basic statistics such as variations and averages for a particular product over a certain time period. They also predict yields and interpret the underlying frequency distribution of a set of continuous data. They use the standard methods of collection, analysis, and reporting when completing their tasks. Data analysts always protect the organization’s data, making sure that the data results produce consistent, reusable guidance.
Data analyst job description
- Figure out what questions are being asked and figure out if those questions can be answered by data.
- Determine technical issues with collecting and analyzing data, and design reports.
- Identify new sources of data and methods to improve data collection, analysis, and reporting.
- Collect, analyze, and report data to meet business needs.
- Distinguish trends and patterns.
- Report data in a comprehensive and repeatable way.
Skills needed to become a data analyst
Like business analysts, data analysts often possess sharp technical skills complimented by strong industry knowledge. They have a complete understanding of relationships that exist among the organization’s various databases and data sources. They obtain information using complex query statements and advanced database tools and techniques.
Analytical skills: Data analysts work with large amounts of data, including: facts, figures, and number analysis. They need to see through the data and analyze it to find conclusions.
Communication skills: Data analysts present their findings, and translate the data into understandable documents or reports. They need to write and speak clearly and be able to communicate complex ideas into easily understood terms.
Critical thinking: Data analysts must look at the numbers, trends, and data in order to formulate conclusions.
Attention to detail: Data is precise. Data analysts have to make sure they are attentive in their analysis to come to correct conclusions.
Math skills: Data analysts require math skills to process numerical data.
Data analysts salary
According to Payscale.com the “average salary for a data analyst is $57,261 per year.” There are some factors that affect the salary, including educational level, years of experience, certifications, and involvement in professional organizations. For the first five to ten years in this position, pay increases somewhat, but any additional experience does not have a big effect on pay. Most people move on to other jobs, such as data engineers, data architects, or data scientists once they have more than 10 years of experience in this career.
Data analyst job outlook
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of computer and information research scientists, including data analysts, is projected to grow 11 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations. Computer scientists are likely to enjoy excellent job prospects, because many companies report difficulties finding these highly skilled workers. Many companies are still trying to staff with the talent shortage in full force, and expect to see even more teams getting on board this year as they hurry to catch up to the rest of the market.