How to Become a Data Analyst
If there’s one word that’s been especially popular in tech job postings, that would be “data”. But don’t just chalk this up to trendiness. The amount of useful data generated through users’ actions online is staggering and businesses want to capitalize on it.
The need for great data analysts is growing and is showing no sign of slowing down, meaning salaries are very competitive. It’s a new enough field that most people have no idea how to get started in it. Read on for a guide to what’s involved with the job, what sort of training you’d need to thrive in it, as well as what you can expect financially in a data analyst career.
What are the benefits of starting a career in data analytics? Check out these statistics:
Median Data Analyst Salary
Open Job Listings
What Is Data Analytics?
Data analysis is the work of taking data and pulling useful information and predictions from it. This doesn’t just involve looking at rows of numbers. An analyst needs to examine the data for patterns of behavior and any possible trends that might determine future results. It also means cleaning and modeling the data to make it more useful.
The end result of this work is better and more efficient decisions made by businesses or other large organizations.
What Do Data Analysts Do?
The field of data analysis is open ended enough that each position is going to somewhat unique in its duties. There are some common traits with all analysis jobs. It would be worthwhile to first look at some data analysis basics.
Data analysis can be broken down into roughly four different areas of analytics: descriptive, diagnostic, predictive, and prescriptive.
Descriptive analytics covers what has happened. This is the fundamental job of analysis: looking at existing data and explaining what it can tell you about past behavior. This could be as simple as how many units of a product were sold last month, or as complicated as pulling in data from a variety of sources to examine overall costs. This provides companies with a lot of what but not much why.
In diagnostic analytics, historical data is set against other data to try to understand (for example) why profits were down last month. This involves pulling any and all other data to search for correlations. Beyond number crunching, this involves some human analysis and speculative thinking.
If descriptive and diagnostic analysis is about what happened, predictive analysis is about – you guessed it – what’s going to happen. This involves taking the data from the past and using it along with human reasoning to make accurate predictions of future behavior. This is where the real decision making can come into play for a business, as they can use those predictions to determine what products to market heavily, where to spend money, or any number of company actions.
Finally, prescriptive analytics are to help decide what actions to take in the future to get ahead of potential problems or seize a latent opportunity. The work from the preceding three forms of analysis help shape this data so that an organization can make logical and fruitful decisions for their future.
Data Analyst Job Description
The responsibilities of a data analyst varying with employer and specific positions, but there are some general tasks that are common to any analyst position. Any data analyst professional will be collecting data, sift through that data looking for patterns or trends, and produce reports based on their findings. This process will inevitably involve collaborating with others to gather than information and present it in a useful manner. In short, the data analyst job is designed to help companies make informed business decisions.
More specifically, a data analyst will spend a lot of time making data queries on databases (usually with SQL. More on that below), perhaps using self-coded programs to extract that data more efficiently. They will analyze it, possibly using mathematical tools and technical skills to present their findings in reports for a variety of audiences to understand. Statistical analysis is also an important part of the role, similar to the responsibilities of a data scientist.
What Are the Required Skills for a Career as a Data Analyst?
There are a variety of so-called “hard” and “soft” skills required for a career in data analysis. While you shouldn’t write yourself off if you’re currently lacking some of these skills (particularly the math and programming related ones), this should give you a good guide for what you’ll want to address in your current skill set in order to pursue a thriving data analysis career.
Data Analyst Hard Skills
Data Analyst Soft Skills
How Much Do Data Analysts Make?
According to Glassdoor, data analysts in the U.S. make an average base salary of $61,473 annually, but the range varies widely across the board and between organizations. The Robert Half Technology 2019 Salary Guide puts that range at $81,750 to $138,000. No matter what source you turn to, the outlook is good.
Data analytics is a complex field, and workers are in demand–plus, the probability that demand and salaries will increase over time is good. Below, we compiled a table with the average data analyst salaries in 15 large U.S. metropolitan areas.
Obviously, what sort of salary you can command depends on factors like education, geographical region, and years of experience. Nonetheless, the table can give you a good idea of what to expect in the field of data analytics.
|San Francisco, CA||$81,837|
|Los Angeles, CA||$64,919|
|New York, NY||$65,196|
Mean Annual Salary
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)
Data Analyst Salary by Years of Experience
- Average Salary
- Average Salary
Data Analyst Coding Languages
Coding is an important part of data jobs, and data analysts should be well-versed in a variety of languages. Each individual job will have different coding requirements, but data analysts are usually familiar with at least a few common languages. These languages vary in use, purpose, and format, but each is tremendously important for certain aspects of the job. Below, we’ve included 3 examples of common coding languages in the field of data analytics.
How to Become a Data Analyst
If you’re starting to look at undergraduate majors for data analysis, the prime areas are mathematics (especially statistics) and economics. Today there are even graduate level programs and statistics for data analysis specifically, something that wasn’t the case twenty years ago.
If you’re coming to the field after college or after having worked in another career for a while, you’ll want to get yourself a solid statistics and programming background. A bootcamp program can get you started with courses in statistics for the math and Python or R for the programming.
A coding bootcamp in particular will last anywhere from three months to a year and give you the support you need to learn new job skills while not ignoring the experience you’ve had already in the workforce. Think of it as an accelerated college class that’s designed for an experienced adult.
Note that if you’ve already learned another programming language (perhaps through a bootcamp!), this experience will be very helpful in learning R or Python. Programmers are accustomed to learning new languages and usually do so much faster with each new one they pick up.
Data Analytics Learning Paths
What Companies Are Hiring Data Analysts?
Cybersecurity Engineer Positions: 13
Average Salary: $108,000
Data Science Positions: 10
Average Salary: $95,000
Data Science Positions: 27
Average Salary: $60,000
Data Science Positions: 245
Average Salary: $103,000
2020 Best Data Analytics Bootcamps
What does a data analyst do?
Data analysts take complex data and create useful information from it. This information may determine what direction a company goes with a product or how to better appeal to customers.
How long does it take to become a data analyst?
It can take years to become a data analyst through a traditional degree program. However, coding bootcamps have data analyst programs that take an average of 6 months to complete.
Is data analytics a good career?
Yes, not only does data analytics command a high average salary of over $60,000, but its expected growth rate is 23% in the next decade. This is significantly higher than the average U.S. occupation.
What skills are needed to become a data analyst?
Data analysts need skills in programming, mathematics, and data management. They also have to present information in a way that’s easy to understand.