From Apple to Walmart and Citibank to Condé Nast (the media company), there are data analyst vacancies listed on LinkedIn across industries all over the country today. But how does one qualify for these jobs? Do you need to do a degree? Do you need online data analytics courses? Can you pursue a career in data analytics if you graduated already? How will you know which course is good for you?
If these questions are overwhelming you, take a deep breathe. You’re not alone in feeling this way. While speaking to hundreds of data analytics aspirants, our career advisors and mentors have a lot of experience in handling such queries. In this blog post, we’ll explore data analytics courses, what they should teach you, what options are available and how to choose one.
Data Analytics Courses: What They Should Teach You
A useful data analytics course is one that offers the following:
- Technical skills
- Interpersonal skills
- Hands-on experience
- A smooth transition to a relevant job
Data Analyst Skills: Technical
Your technical skills will get you shortlisted for interviews. They are the first thing you need to tackle in order to succeed.
Let’s first look at the technical skills you need.
#1 Database Manipulation
As a data analyst, you will use a database languages such as SQL, to record, delete, organise, relate or alter databases where the information is held. You need to be comfortable enough with SQL to run queries and connect data points. The below video is your comprehensive guide to learn SQL.
#2 Statistical Programming
To conduct data analysis, you will need to interpret large data sets using statistics. For this, you need proficiency in a programming language like R or Python.
#3 Data Visualisation
A data analyst’s role also involves presenting the results in a coherent, engaging manner to your listener, who might be a non-technical colleague or even your client! To do this, you need to know the foundations of visualisation, as well as be comfortable with tools/languages like Python, spreadsheets, presentations, etc.
These technical skills alone don’t make a great data analyst. You need important soft skills for structured thinking, problem-solving, and communication.
Data Analyst Skills: Soft-skills
#4 Critical Thinking
Finding answers and patterns depends entirely on the questions you’re framing for data analysis. Viewing data sceptically also helps correct inconsistencies. As a data analyst, critical thinking skills are fundamental to doing your job well.
#5 Business Understanding
Having an idea of how the business functions, what are its goals, who is the competition, what processes does it follow, who are its customers, how are they behaving, etc. will ensure you frame better questions for analysis and keep your findings accurate and relevant.
#6 Communication Skills
A data analyst is not merely a skilful numbers person. In fact, deftness with ‘analytics’ is just a means to an end. A data analyst must be able to communicate effectively and persuade their audience by simplifying and sharpening the message, freeing it from jargon and emphasising on how the results can specifically improve business.
Learning Data Analytics: What Options are Available
Broadly, there are two types of data analytics courses that you can take up for learning data analytics: traditional degree courses and online programs. Let’s explore each of them now.
1. Degree courses for learning data analytics
If you are looking for an exclusive data analytics undergraduate degree, you will be hard pressed to find one. This is true for postgraduate programs as well, however, some universities offer analytics as a major. Before choosing a college degree for data analytics, here are some things for you to consider.
Undergraduate degree courses take 3-4 years in India, a Master’s degree will take another 2 years. Many BSc or BTech degrees only offer data analytics as an elective. This might not be comprehensive enough and need a top-up online course anyway. University curriculum is often behind on the latest industry advancements, and instructors may not have the hands-on experience needed to make you job-ready. Placements do not guarantee a dream job. In cases that they do, you might be offered roles that are not directly related to data analytics.
2. Online data analytics courses
In India, for most jobs, a Bachelor’s degree is considered mandatory — often doesn’t matter what specialisation. It is best for data analytics aspirants to pursue a degree in mathematics, statistics, actuarial science or computer science, and take a specialised online course in data analytics.
An online course can help in the following ways.
- They are intensive and offer specialised learning experience within a short span of time, typically 3-6 months.
- They are self-paced and allow you to learn at your convenience — evenings and weekends — while continuing your college degree or work. This is also a perfect alternative for working professionals looking to make a transition, but cannot afford to quit their jobs to go to college.
- These courses are up-to-date by industry standards, and often have industry professionals as instructors or mentors.
- They offer hands-on experience with real-world projects, which can help ease the transition to a job.
Given the dearth of talent and ever-increasing demand, employers are also beginning to consider online courses or certifications as a valid qualification. But not all online courses are the same. You must be careful while choosing them. Here are some tips for that.
What to Look for While Choosing Data Analytics Courses
To reiterate what we said earlier, useful data analytics courses offer:
- Technical skills
- Interpersonal skills
- Hands-on experience
- Transition to a job
A good data analytics program must give you a foundational understanding of all the skills we discussed above, as well as practical experience with them. For instance, you must be able to write SQL functions for structured query based analysis like aggregation functions, extreme value identification, slicing and limiting data, etc. While choosing a data analytics course:
- Check the curriculum and course material to see the depth in which these topics are covered.
- Understand how much of theory and how much practice is involved.
- Ask if you will have a personal instructor or mentor who can guide you through the program, answer questions and get you past obstacles while also keeping you updated with real-time industry insights.
If you’re thinking that you can always do a soft skills course outside, think again. While you might become a generally better communicator with that, soft skills for data analytics are different. Ensure that your data analytics course:
- Includes soft skills training for a data analytics career.
- Offers tools and templates that you can use in the present as well as in the future.
- Allows you to practice communication skills across different forms and styles.
Data analytics is a practical field. If you are knowledgeable about the concepts, you’re good to apply them to solve real-world problems. The only way you can demonstrate hands-on experience is through a portfolio. While exploring data analytics courses:
- Check if portfolio projects are part of the course. Make sure there are at least two.
- Ask if you’ll have personal guidance for these projects.
Transition to a job
Most online courses teach skills but expect the students to find jobs on their own. This is a risky proposition. Unless you are confident that you can find a job yourself, look for a course that can make your transition easier. For this, your course can offer:
- Placements and job guarantees. A program that offers a job guarantee shows how confident it is of your transformation.
- Coaching for career transition — such as making a CV, preparing for interviews, salary negotiations, etc.
- Mentors who can connect you to the right people and give meaningful advise.
Based on several conversations with Springboard’s learners, mentors and alumni, we believe that the best approach to learning data analytics is to complete an undergraduate program in mathematics, statistics, computer science, or even business administration, and then top it off with an intensive online bootcamp in data analytics. Our Data Analytics Career Track program is designed to serve exactly this purpose. Focussed on teaching technical, interpersonal and business skills, it offers industry-ready curriculum, 1:1 mentorship, career coaching, and best of all – a job guarantee.