If you love numbers and have a highly analytical mind, then a career as a data analyst may be a good fit. But what is a data analyst? What exactly does this in-demand career do? How can you put your love for data and numbers to work in this rewarding career field?
If you’re considering a career in data analytics, you will enter a high demand career field. Forbes estimates the demand for data analytics professionals will grow significantly as 700,000 new jobs will be added by the end of 2020 alone.
Before starting down the path to any career, it is best to understand what the work actually entails. What would you do every day as a data analyst? If you feel this is a good fit for your career goals and job skills, here’s a closer look at what it would look like and where you could find employment.
What Do Data Analysts Do Daily?
In the modern business world, data is king. Companies need to track data to make decisions in every area, from deciding how to best market to their target audiences to determining how to increase profits or invest those profits most effectively. So what do data analysts do? Data analysts play a critical role in this, helping to organize and analyze vast amounts of data that flow in and out of an organization.
On a day-to-day basis, the data analyst will spend time developing systems to collect and organize critical data for their organizations. Once these systems are in place, the data analyst will take the time to study that data and compile reports based on it. Sometimes the data analyst will also make recommendations for what the company can do with the information from that data.
Common Data Analyst Responsibilities
A closer look at data analyst responsibilities will help create a picture of what these professionals do on a regular basis. If you choose this career path, these are some of the responsibilities likely to fall on your plate.
1. Collecting Data
At the heart of the job of a data analyst is the role of collecting data. Data needs to come from both primary and secondary sources. Once collected, the data analyst needs to analyze and organize the data in order to perform the other job responsibilities.
2. Compiling Data Reports
At the heart of the work of a data analyst is the ability to look at data and create reports from it. Reports that are properly organized and detailed give management the information they need to make informed decisions for the future of a business.
While this might sound like simply putting numbers on paper, skilled data analysts do much more. A data analyst is able to use data to tell a story about what the business is doing and where it is going. They are then able to compile that data into a report that people who are not well-versed in data and analytics can easily understand.
If your picture of a data analyst is someone in a dark room going through numbers and cranking out reports, you might be surprised to learn that these professionals often collaborate with others to create positive change within an organization. You will often be called upon to meet with marketing professionals, salespeople, and even executives within the organization to share your data and collaborate on decisions.
4. Identifying Data Patterns
Patterns in data are sometimes hard to spot, but they are invaluable in decision making. This is where a data analyst can help a company. By understanding how to identify patterns in data, the analyst can help a business make better decisions.
5. Creating Systems for Data Collection
Since the data analyst takes the time to collect data, they are often responsible for setting up the systems that collect the data. They put in place the automated routines that make data collection a natural part of daily business, even auto-generating reports to streamline the efforts of the reorganization.
Job Titles of Data Analysts
While “data analyst” is a common job title given to these professionals, it’s not the only title they may hold. Those with data analyst training may also find roles as:
- IT systems analysts – These professionals not only understand data analytics, but also the role of software and hardware within the organization. They have strong technical and mathematics expertise.
- Healthcare data analysts – These data analysts work in the healthcare industry to help doctors and researchers find the answers to critical healthcare questions.
- Operations analyst – The operations analyst uses data analytic tools to help streamline operations for their companies.
- Quantitative analyst – This professional uses data analytics to assist in financial firms. A quantitative analyst will help investors and companies find potentially beneficial financial investments using data analytics.
- Data analytics consultant – Some data analytics professionals work on a consultative basis. They work with more than one company to help them solve problems using data.
Skills Needed to Become a Data Analyst
Do you have the right skills to launch a career as a data analyst? These professionals need to have both strong analytic skills and strong technical skills. Data analysts often work with spreadsheets, machine learning tools, and data visualization software. They also need to have a basic knowledge of database languages to use these tools. Understanding SQL, XML, R, SAS, , Hadoop, and Python is helpful. Taking some computer and IT classes in college can help prepare someone for a career in data analytics.
Data analysts must have strong communication skills. They need the ability to take static data and transform it into understandable recommendations. They must be able to communicate what the data means in a way that other stakeholders in the business can clearly understand.
Successful data analysts are strong leaders. While they may not be the executives at the head of a company, they are often called upon to make decisions and solve problems. This requires strong leadership skills.
Excelling in data analytics means having strong attention to detail. These professionals must be able to analyze data with precision and use that precision to draw accurate conclusions. Overlooking small details can impact the success of a data analyst.
Finally, data analysts need to understand numbers and how to analyze what they mean. This is at the core of the work done by these professionals, so good math skills are essential. Mathematics training is also at the core of a career in data analytics, and most of these professionals start with undergraduate training in math and statistics.
The Data Analyst Career Path
If this type of work seems like a good fit for your skillset, then it’s time to take a closer look at how to become a data analyst.
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree
The first step in a data analyst career path is an undergraduate degree. While a degree in IT can work, most successful data analysts will study applied statistics or mathematics. Post University’s Bachelor of Science in Applied Mathematics and Data Science is a good fit.
Step 2: Gain Experience
Data analysts typically need work experience to get a foothold in this industry. Getting work experience can be challenging, but internships can help. Look for internship opportunities working in statistics or data manipulation.
Step 3: Consider Graduate School
A master’s degree in math, data science, data management, or data analytics can also help further your career path. With graduate training, you are better equipped to manage the demands of this career. Grad school is not required for entry-level positions in data analytics, but it may open the door to more career options in the field. Candidates with strong undergrad training in data can consider graduate level training in business or IT to complement their mathematics understanding. A Masters of Business Administration can be helpful.
Start Your Training to Launch a Career in Data Analytics
If you feel that data analytics is the right career path for you, Post University is ready to help you get started. Our BS in Applied Mathematics and Data Science provides a solid foundation in analytics and math, opening the door to this in-demand career field. Reach out to our admissions team today to learn more about how to become a data analyst with the help of Post University.
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