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How to Become a Data Analyst

A data analyst is someone who is able to crunch numbers, search within the data for specific trends, nuances, consistencies, inconsistencies, or answers to questions, and interpret the results to form real-world solutions to their client’s problems. They interpret data on a daily basis and recommend the best course of action. If you enjoy searching for trends in statistical data and using this information to solve problems, then becoming a data analyst could be right for you.

Sample job description

Here at [Your Company Name], we understand that in order to continue to grow at an industry-leading pace, we must adapt to all of the industry changes. As our data analyst, you will be at the forefront of making sure that progress remains our reality. In order to accomplish this, you will be responsible for gathering all types of data, such as employee data, client data, industry data, and pricing data.

You will be tasked with analyzing these data sets, looking for trends, and comparing these trends across each quarter. Whether it is necessary changes to employee processes, vendor changes, industry pricing, supply changes, or something else that may affect our growth, it will be up to you to find these inefficiencies and figure out how we can improve them. An ideal candidate will be knowledgeable in data cleaning and visualization, an expert at Python, and work well under immense pressure.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Develop data analysis systems, functions, and programs
  • Implement data analysis systems, functions, and programs as seamlessly as possible
  • Maintain these systems to ensure proper function and operation
  • Identify, dissect, and comprehend data in order to optimize processes and inefficiencies
  • Collaborate with management and other departments to assess business needs and data optimization
  • Filter data 
  • Data cleansing 
  • Perform routine business analysis
  • Evaluate changes across quarters and suggest the best plan of action

Education and experience

  • Bachelor’s degree in mathematics, statistics, computer science, or a related field
  • Since this is often considered an entry-level position, most places don’t require experience

Required skills and qualifications

  • Proficient in Microsoft Excel, Access and SharePoint
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Ability to meet tight deadlines 
  • Proficient mathematical skills
  • Excellent IT skills
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Strong project management skills
  • Leadership skills
  • Experience problem-solving data-related tasks
  • Excellent analytical skills
  • Ability to gather and measure data
  • Experience in statistical analysis and data mining

Preferred qualifications

  • Data science or business analytics certifications are highly encouraged 

Typical work environment

Many data analysts work in a remote environment on a computer. Especially with the Covid-19 pandemic, remote data analysis has become more and more common. Data analysts may work for one specific company, or they may work for a variety of companies as a freelancer. Those who are working with one specific company may work in an office and in a team setting.

Typical hours

A typical work week for a data analyst is Monday through Friday from 9 AM to 5 PM. On occasion, overtime hours will be required depending on the current workload and deadlines. Overtime hours can vary from evening weekday hours or occasional Saturday hours.

Available certifications

  • Google Data Analytics Certification. This certification helps you process and analyze data by teaching you how to use the best tools and platforms. Put on by Google and Coursera, it’s under 10 hours a week and a great starting point for data analysts.
  • Microsoft Certified: Data Analyst Associate. This certification validates that you have the skills and knowledge to increase the quality of your data. You can do the course for free by yourself, or you can get the course through an instructor and pay for it. At the end, you’ll need to take the exam, which is $165.
  • Certified Analytics Professional (CAP). To become a CAP, you’ll need to first be eligible. You have to either have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in a related field. Then, you’ll need anywhere from 3-7 years of experience depending on your education. You’ll take a test that costs between $495-$695 depending on your membership level. Once through, you’ll need to maintain your certification.

Career path

In order for you to become a data analyst, you need to have a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, statistics, computer science or a related field. Although some places don’t require experience since this is considered an entry-level job, you will need to be knowledgeable of the software and analytic tools that each company uses. 

If you’re a student hoping to become a data analyst, it’s imperative to study math and IT. Getting an internship in a tech company that cleanses data will be especially helpful. Once you receive your degree, you may choose to go on to get a master’s degree. Data analysts can become senior analysts who manage multiple data streams at a time.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 15-2031

2020 Employment104,100
Projected Employment in 2030129,700
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 25% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift25,600 increase

Data analysts have unique responsibilities that are paramount to a business’s success. Being able to collect, analyze, and interpret data to assess weak areas in business or inefficiencies, allows companies to predict data trends and make informed decisions. As companies focus more on their online sales and marketing, data becomes even more important. 

Data analysts often have to understand all departments of a business so that they can know how to optimize and improve these individual departments. This leads to an abundance of opportunities for data analysts since they have a comprehensive understanding of how business works. There is a specific increase in data analysts that are being used for marketing purposes as well to track and optimize how a company’s marketing dollars are being spent. This is one job that won’t be going away any time soon.