Data is everywhere and is humungous (big data!). So, there is an increasing need to quantify and analyze data for maximizing business productivity and growth.  Industries across many verticals adopt data analytics techniques to facilitate decision-making and improve operational efficiency. 

Data analytics encompasses varied emerging technologies such as business intelligence, reporting, online analytical processing, and advanced business process management.  

As the need for analytics grows, so does the need for qualified individuals who can handle such data. Worldwide, data analysts are going to be in high demand by 2020, predicts the World Economic Forum. IBM too has similar predictions for 2020 in which, they expect the hiring of 700,000 data science professionals including data analysts! 

What Industries Use Data Analytics?

If you’re confused about what industries would hire you as a data analyst, you’re in for a pleasant surprise! 

Check out some of these industries (apart from IT) where data analytics plays a prominent role:

  • Health care
  • Gaming and Sports
  • Energy management
  • Travel
  • Finance 
  • Digital marketing
  • Online search engines

What Does It Take to be a Data Analyst?

Some questions to ponder:

  • Are you extremely curious and often question everything? 
  • Do you have logical thinking and reasoning abilities? 
  • Are you a wizard in math, statistics, or computing?
  • Are you crazy about coding?
  • Do you have a passion for handling data and numbers?
  • Are you fascinated by emerging technologies?

If the answer is “Yes” to one or more of the above, you have what it takes to be a data analyst. 

Let’s look at some of the required skill set of a data analyst:

  • Programming skills especially, Python, R, or SAS
  • RDBMS skills like SQL and query languages
  • Knowledge of Hadoop 
  • Statistical or mathematical skills, experimental design skills
  • Machine learning skills
  • Data mapping and visualization skills
  • Analytical skills
  • Knowledge of spreadsheets such as MS Excel

A degree in computer science, mathematics, information science/management, statistics, or finance will be a big plus. 

What Kinds of Jobs/Roles Can a Data Analyst Expect?

Here are some job titles that a data analyst can look for:

  • Data scientist 
  • Big data professional
  • Data engineer
  • Data architect
  • Data analyst 
  • Financial analyst

“Data scientist” is a broad term that refers to any individual working in the field of data, which includes data mining, data analysis, statistical analysis, and so on. 

Data analysts can also be known as Market Analysts, Research Analysts, Operation Analysts, System Analysts or Quantitative Analysts, depending on the industry or technology they are working in. There exists a blurred or dotted line between jobs in data analytics and other umbrella technologies such as data science, big data, data warehousing, and business intelligence. 

Therefore, being a data analyst gives you the flexibility to choose your area of expertise (for example, you can work as a Market Analyst) or even hop between different technologies (for example, start as a Market Analyst and move on to being a Business Intelligence Analyst).

What Does a Data Analyst Actually Do?

The roles and responsibilities of a data analyst are based on the industry or segment that the individual is working in. 

However, a data analyst is typically expected to:

  • Gather data from various sources through surveys, research, or other primary and secondary sources (data mining)
  • Eliminate redundancy or irrelevant information, that is, trim data
  • Interpret and analyze data using statistical tools and techniques
  • Present data and provide reports in forms of charts or tables 
  • Create, design, and maintain database systems
  • Improve data collection, data analysis, and reporting methods 
  • Identify new sources or opportunities for data collection or process improvement
  • Troubleshoot issues and incorporate learnings

What is a Data Analyst’s Career Path?

Most common career path for a data analyst is:

  1. Entry-level Data Analyst or Data Scientist
  2. Intermediate level Data Analyst
  3. Senior Data Analyst
  4. Analytics Manager
  5. Director of Analytics
  6. Other upper management roles such as Business Analyst, Finance Director, and so on

Moreover, with data analysis skills, you can choose other dotted line careers such as digital marketing or operation analysis, which require similar analytical skills and experience. 

 If you have entrepreneurial skills, then you can also consider freelance data analysis as an option. This way, you can opt to work with multiple clients and domains. 

How Much Does a Data Analyst Earn?

So, how much is a data analyst worth in the market?  

Pay may vary among data scientists, data analysts, big data professionals, or other similar roles. 

According to PayScale, the basic pay of a Data Analyst ranges from $42,000 to $83,000 per annum, depending on experience and seniority.

According to Glassdoor, the average pay of a Data Analyst is around $60,476 per year.  The average pay of a Senior Data Analyst is between $59,000 to $119,000 per year. 

What Can You Do to Become a Data Analyst?

To start your career as a data analyst, you can either enroll for the right data analytics courses or take data analytics certifications. 

Many data analysis courses are available in the market. Check out Springboard’s Data Analytics Career Track, a comprehensive and a unique course covering key aspects of data analysis such as SQL, MS Excel, Python, Microsoft Power BI, and other advanced analysis techniques. This is provided in partnership with Microsoft.  

If you are looking for free courses, see Intro to Python for Data Science course by Springboard. You can also consider related courses in Data Science or Business Analytics.

If you already have a degree in statistics, mathematics, information science/management or computer science, consider taking additional certifications such as:

  • Certified Analytics Professional
  • Certified Data Management Professional
  • SAS Certified Base Programmer 

Lastly, consider upgrading your skills by learning new tools such as Spark, Scala, D3, and so on.   

With the right course, tools, or certifications, you can accelerate your career in data analytics, so get started now!