In the digital age where analytics reign supreme, traffic and trends have become familiar points of interest in management, security, and as a career choice. Data analytics is an essential tool for companies to determine what works for their business and what does not. It helps companies better equip themselves in developing strategies and decision-making. Tracking and analyzing data is the secret behind every successful business.
The increasing need for analytic experts has become synonymous with the employment demand for data analysts and data scientists. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) sees data science opportunities growing by 16% from 2018 to 2028. Analyst positions like market research analyst will increase by 18%, while management analysts by 11% within the time frame.
Since data analyst positions are in high demand right now, you need not doubt them anymore if you have doubts about pursuing them. Just go for it! You came to the right place! We will give you everything you need to know about a data analyst career.
Table of Contents
- What Do Data Analysts do?
- Skills Required for a Data Analyst Career
- How To Become A Data Analyst
- What Can You Do With A Data Analytics Degree?
- Online vs. Traditional Data Analyst degrees
- Concentrations In Online Master’s In Data Analyst Programs
- Financing Your Data Analyst Education
- Top 5 Data Analyst Careers
- How To Advance Your Data Analyst Career
What Do Data Analysts do?
A data analyst’s job involves collecting large amounts of data and analyzing them. Data collected will be used to spot trends and make forecasts to help in making informed decisions.
While the tasks vary from company to company, your role as a data analyst will mainly include data entry, data auditing, reporting, and data monitoring. Deleting and creating data warehouses may be part of your job duties as well on top of communicating these data to colleagues and clients. Being knowledgeable with corporate policies and procedures is a task that you cannot separate yourself from because the data you collect and the store will be implemented in line with those. All tasks related to ensuring that the data within a company serves its needs are part of a data analyst’s role.
The role of the data analyst has similarities with that of the data scientist. While their work often overlaps, there are significant differences between data analysts and data scientists. They also require different backgrounds and strengths. Depending on the organization, their responsibilities may change. In general, data analysts only require moderate math and statistical skills, while data scientists require strong math and abilities. Data analysts focus on identifying trends and creating a visualization of the data. In contrast, data scientists are the ones who make predictions based on data and are responsible for coding and computer science skills. Having business acumen is one trait that both roles must-have.
Data analysts work in many areas. They are everywhere in big investment banks, hedge funds, and private equity firms. They may also work in the healthcare industry, marketing, retail, large insurance companies, credit bureaus, and technology firms.
Skills Required for a Data Analyst Career
Being a Data analyst is a job that requires technical skills coupled with required knowledge and background. To succeed as a data analyst, you must develop these skills throughout your career. The following are skills you need as a data analyst. Note that the ones listed are only essential skills. It does not include software and program proficiency.
- Data Cleaning and Preparation
Data cleaning and preparation or data management is the most critical skill a data analyst should have primarily because it accounts for 80% of their work. Data cleaning involves retrieving data to prepare it for numerical and categorical analysis. It also involves handling missing and inconsistent data that may affect the study.
- Data Analysis and Exploration
In dealing with data, analysis is essential. Data analysis entails applying statistical techniques to interpret, illustrate and evaluate data. This is one of the skills that a data analyst needs to master. A data analyst’s work turns a business question or need into a data question and transforms and analyzes it to arrive at a solution. Every day a data set is being evaluated and, to a certain extent, interpreted. If you equip yourself with this skill, it will make your job more manageable and help you contribute more to your team.
On the other hand, data exploration is a process that goes hand in hand with data analysis. It is a step in the data analysis process where large data sets are explored to interpret patterns, and it is where trends and other points of interest are identified and studied in detail.
- Statistical knowledge
Statistics uses numerical evidence to get to a conclusion. This process is a crucial part of your role as a data analyst. Having a solid foundation in probability and statistics is a must-have.
Having statistical knowledge helps you use proper methods in collecting data and doing correct analyses. It is essential to do your job correctly, but it will also help you further your career. This skill will help guide your process and help you explore and understand the data you collected. Furthermore, understanding statistics will help you avoid common fallacies and logical errors.
- Creating data visualization
Presentations are common in data analytics jobs. After collecting and analyzing data, you need to communicate your findings to your colleagues and clients, where data visualization comes in.
Data visualization is how you represent your data to make it easier for others to understand. It is the practice of using visual aids to communicate information. An element of the broader data presentation architecture (DPA) discipline aims to format and deliver data efficiently.
This means that you must create clean, visually compelling charts that will help others understand data and find means to avoid things that are difficult to interpret or can be misleading. Most people do not bother reading long paragraphs and looking at a giant numbers spreadsheet. To succeed in data analytics, you must know how to plot and create charts to help communicate your data and findings.
- Creating dashboards and reports
As a data analyst, you are responsible for making sure individuals from your organization get used to handling data and interpreting them. Building a dashboard and creating reports is one way to address this, and this way, you will give them access to essential data more efficiently and effectively.
A data dashboard is a tool used to analyze, track, display data to gain insight into metrics and data points in the organization. It is customized to track your company’s overall performance. You can use the dashboard to monitor the overall health of your business, a specific process, or you can build a dashboard that supports the particular needs of your company.
Other than these, having a dashboard helps retrieve data. It connects to your files like, for example, to your excel spreadsheet or google sheet, attachments, services, and APIs. The dashboard can transform raw data into something readable if you want analysis. Instead of looking at columns and rows of numbers, you can analyze your data quickly through visualizations like tables, line charts, bubble charts, or bar charts with just a flick of a finger.
Your job will vary from position to position, but most data analyst work involves reporting your findings and building dashboards to showcase them. Dashboards and reports maybe just a simple chart and table with date filters, or they can be a large dashboard containing many data points that are interactive and dynamic. Dashboards aggregate data from multiple data sources, and using them will help you save time.
- Writing and communication skills
As mentioned in the previous sections, part of the job of a data analyst is also to communicate their findings. Thus the ability to communicate is essential and a critical data analyst skill. Communication skill is necessary because while you may perfect every data analyst skill, you would still have a hard time if you cannot communicate your work correctly. The ability to communicate will give value to your work.
Strong skills in writing and communication will help you succeed. Not only that, but communication is also key to collaborating with your colleagues. For example, when you present data in a business meeting, you need to explain complex topics to teammates who are not accustomed to the nitty-gritty details of a particular discipline.
Written communication is also essential since, as a data analyst, you need to make written reports. Being transparent, direct, and easily understood is a skill that will help you advance in your career.
- Domain Knowledge
Domain knowledge is understanding the things specific to a particular industry and company you work for. It is specialized knowledge in contrast to a general one.
For example, when you analyze trends on a specific point of interest, you must understand the processes involved in the analysis and be familiar with them. If you cannot, then there is a possibility that the data you will report is unreliable and may affect your company’s performance.
Domain knowledge will mostly depend on the industry where you work. You need to understand what you are analyzing, or it will be hard for you to contribute to your company and even do your job correctly. Having domain knowledge is an essential skill as a data analyst. While you do not need to be knowledgeable about the minute details that fall under the role of data scientists, the fact that some of your tasks overlap is enough reason for you to familiarize yourself with the analysis, processing, and interpretation of data.
- Problem-solving skills
A data analyst must have problem-solving skills to solve issues quickly and effectively. You would run up against problems, bugs, and roadblocks every day in your work. Overcoming this is a critical skill that you must have. Sometimes, you might need to be resourceful about things involving your work, or your company might need to provide you with resource constraints that force you to be innovative in approaching a problem.
- Critical thinking
Understanding, creating, and testing relationships is an essential skill that every data analyst should have. While many software and programs can help analyze complex data, the technology is still new. Data analysts still must rely on their critical thinking skills to do their job correctly and efficiently.
How To Become A Data Analyst
If you are seriously aiming to be a data analyst, you must follow specific steps. The following steps will help you become a data analyst.
1. Earn a bachelor’s degree
If you want to be a data analyst, you must first get a degree in statistics, mathematics, or related subjects involving math, like economics or data science. Other degrees are also accepted if they include informal training in statistics as part of the course, for instance, sociology or informatics.
Some enter the industry through apprenticeship, but the surest way to be a data analyst is to have a bachelor’s degree under your belt.
2. Learn essential data analytics skills
Apart from earning a bachelor’s degree, it would help to equip yourself with the necessary analytics skills, have knowledge of databases, the internet, software, statistics, and analysis. Taking courses in accounting management statistics, data mining, and organizational behavior will help you prepare for a data analyst position within any field.
Getting a data analytics certification indicates that you are qualified for the given role. This is different from getting a data analytics certificate. A data analytics certificate only shows that you have education in a data analytics domain; it does not necessarily mean that you possess a specific skill set.
A data analytics certification is preferred because it proves that you have passed an industry-standard after taking an examination required for a given role.
Here are the following best data analytics certifications that you may want to get:
1. Microsoft certified: data analyst associate
2. Google data analytics certificate.
3. Cloudera certified associate data analyst
4. Certified analytics professional (CAP)
5. Springboard data analytics certification
4. Get your first entry-level data analyst job
In the industry, you must have experience. It is crucial to honing your skills. You must first try to land an entry-level data analyst job and work from there to advance your skills.
5. Earn a master’s degree in data analytics.
After getting your degree and working as a data analyst, you must aim to get a master’s degree related to data analytics to advance your career. This will help you up the corporate ladder. Some data analyst positions require applicants to have a master’s degree. Usually, senior-level posts require a master’s degree.
What Can You Do With A Data Analytics Degree?
Your data analytics degree will help you enter a variety of industries: health, business, banking, etc. The following are typical roles you can pursue.
Business analysts are responsible for studying analytics that will help their company.
Reporting on finances and an organization’s budget are the responsibilities of a budget analyst. They are also involved in conducting analyses on compensation packages and metrics like employee turnover.
Corporate Strategy Analysts
Corporate strategy analysts are the ones who give recommendations that guide the decision-making processes in the company. They are often involved in mergers and acquisitions.
Analyzing marketing channels and identifying areas of strength and weakness is a market analyst’s job.
Product analysts focus on products. They determine and analyze consumer behavior to help make decisions.
The role of a sales analyst focuses on analyzing an organization or business’ sales activities.
Online vs. Traditional Data Analyst degrees
The online bachelor’s degree in data analytics is a new development; only limited universities offer the program online. The program integrates knowledge, statistics, computer engineering, information technology, and organizational science like its traditional counterpart.
The format is designed to be flexible and convenient. It aims to hone the student’s business analytic skills and teach them various tools and techniques for business applications and problem-solving in the comfort of their homes.
There’s no need to worry about the difference between a traditional course and an online one; there is little to no difference when you get your data analyst degree online or through conventional means. However, if you get it online, you need to consider many things: you must enroll in a state-accredited school and satisfy the required paperwork for enrollment. The online degree may also differ in terms of the curriculum. Since online students usually work as they study, they can choose their subjects and customize their curriculum depending on various factors like their situation, finance, and workload.
Concentrations In Online Master’s In Data Analyst Programs
There are certain data analyst positions where companies look for candidates with a master’s degree in data analytics or a related field. A 2017 study by IBM found that 6% of data analyst jobs qualifications required a master’s or doctoral degree. This number jumps to a whopping 11% for analytics managers and 39% for data scientists and advanced analysts.
John Hopkins University reports that expertise at the intersection of data analytics and policy is in demand. The US department of labor estimates operations analysts to grow at 25% through 2030, market research analysts at 22%, and management analysts at 14%.
Concentration in an online master’s degree in data analytics will depend on what you want to master and the school of your choice. It differs from one school to another. For example, Maryville University’s degree program in business data analytics focuses on four areas: business data analytics, warehousing, and database management, forecasting and predictive modeling, and visualization. While Butler University mainly focuses on healthcare analytics, bioinformatics, and business analytics. At the same time, some concentrate on operations analysts, market research analysts, and management analysts.
However, despite this, most of the time, a master’s degree in data analytics focus on the following:
Business Data Analytics
A Master’s in Business Data Analytics involves collecting and analyzing data in an organization. It is a practice by which a specific set of techniques and procedures are applied to explore and investigate business data to help get an insight about a business action or question that needs to be addressed.
Warehousing and data management:
A data warehouse is a system where information is stored. This system secures the data while making it easy to retrieve and manage. Designed to support business intelligence activities and analytics, it is a system that helps manage data.
Forecasting and predictive modeling
Data mining is the process of analyzing groups of information to interpret patterns and relationships between data sets. Data provided through this process will help identify risks and help businesses reduce risks and better strategies.
Visualization is an essential aspect of data analytics, so it is no wonder that this is one concentration of a master’s degree in the field. Visualization involves making sure data is communicated clearly and in a way that is easy to understand.
Financing Your Data Analyst Education
Now that you know how to get a data analyst degree and the many employment opportunities that come after, we need to understand how to finance your data analyst degree. It may be daunting and challenging since money is involved, but do not lose hope. Find ways to fund your degree without burning a hole in your pocket.
- Choosing a School
How much tuition you will pay depends on the school you choose. If you want to save money, an in-state public school costs less than an out-of-state public or private school. It is true when getting an online degree. However, if you’re going to study in an out-of-state school, you may want to consider moving to that state and establishing residency.
The process of establishing residency will vary depending on the state and sometimes the school, but it will be worth it if you want to save money.
- Scholarships and grants
Getting a scholarship or a grant is one way to finance your degree in data analytics. Grants and scholarships allow qualified students to fund their schooling for free. These scholarships and or grants may also shoulder a part of the cost to help students avoid paying a hefty sum for their tuition. Data shows that 71% of college-bound students seek financial aid and pay 92% of their tuition through financial aids.
The federal government, state government, and other organizations offer scholarships and grants. One of the most well-known is the Pell Grant offered to undergraduates in financial need. Students can also apply for assistance by submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
- Student Loans
When you submit the FAFSA, you will have an opportunity to get a study loan. A study loan is designed to help students pay for their college education. This includes tuition, books, supplies, and living expenses. There are primarily two student loan types: private and federal.
- Company Support
An excellent way to fund your education is to apply as an apprentice data analyst. Generally, there are two ways to snag a data analyst job; one is through a bachelor’s degree and one through becoming an apprentice. Some companies pay you to go to college, and they support advanced training that will benefit the company in the future. It will be worth your while to look for companies that offer these opportunities.
Top 5 Data Analyst Careers
Data Scientist salary: $91,494
Data scientists involve themselves in programming, coding, interpretation, and data analysis. They are a technical step above data analysts, and experts in data analysis give a more informed perspective in making predictions. Usually, these people have a degree in data science, computer science, or a related field.
Since the skills required for data scientists and data analysts intersect, many data scientists work as data analysts initially. This position requires a strong foundation of analytical data knowledge, including software tools, programming languages, and data visualization. Suppose you decide that you’d rather be a data scientist rather than a data analyst. In that case, transition by advancing your programming skills, learning more advanced mathematics, and developing an understanding of machine learning.
Project manager salary: $73,247
Project managers is a career path that you may want to choose if you have a background in data analytics and want to move to a managerial position. But before that, you have to advance to the senior-level analyst, analytics manager, and director of analytics. If you want to be a project manager, you have to develop your leadership and data analyst skills by getting a master’s degree in data analytics or business.
Data Specialist salary: $74,135
Data specialists may find themselves working in different fields in different agencies. They can be business analysts, financial analysts, operations analysts, and other kinds of analysts. For example, a business analyst mainly uses data to guide investment opportunities, identify revenue opportunities, and mitigate risk. On the other hand, Operation analysts are tasked with optimizing a company’s performance.
Data consultant salary: $92, 509
Working as a consultant means you perform a variety of analyses and flexibility. However, remember that you can only work as a consultant after gaining several years of experience analyzing data for a company.
Business intelligence analyst
Business intelligence analyst salary: $95,838 per year, plus an average $5,000 cash bonus.
This data analyst role focuses on finding company and industry data patterns. Business intelligence analysts are experts in SQL, data visualizations, and data modeling.
How To Advance Your Data Analyst Career
One of the steps you can take in advancing your career as a data analyst is growing and staying involved in your network. Networking is always important, especially in the business industry. One of the benefits of engaging with other professionals in your industry is that it will be much easier to get career opportunities this way. It will also be easier to get information and contact essential people.
Staying involved with your network will help you overcome problems and will help you demonstrate your value at your current organization to help you advance in your career.
2. Develop Skills
Developing your skill goes hand in hand with career advancement in data analytics. Therefore, you need to improve and grow in your role continuously. You can aim to improve in many areas but remember to choose your focus depending on the essential skills. Some of the most in-demand analytics skills are as follows:
- R or Python
- Data Visualization and Communication
- Business Intelligence
- Machine Learning
- Critical Thinking and problem solving
3. Pursue a graduate education
As previously discussed, some data analyst positions require graduate education. If advancing your career as an analyst and applying for these jobs, you must pursue a graduate education. Taking advanced studies will help you develop new skills and hone your expertise. It will give you an edge compared to other candidates.