Finding a Job

Frequently Asked Questions: What Is a Data Analyst?

July 29, 2021

If you enjoy analysing and explaining complex data sets, you may consider becoming a data analyst. Learning about data analysts can help you determine if you want to pursue a career in this field. Understanding this position may help you acquire the skills and experience necessary to become a data analyst. In this article, we will explain what is a data analyst, explore the responsibilities of data analysts and provide a comprehensive guide to becoming a data analyst.

What is a data analyst?

A data analyst is a professional who translates numbers, figures and statistics into easily understandable graphics or simple English. Their primary goal is to explain complex business trends, represented through numbers and statistics, to the rest of their organisation. They provide the necessary information to help company leaders make informed business decisions.

Data analysts often have an in-depth understanding of computer science, business, statistics and mathematics. An IT data analyst also typically has a background in data mining and various computer languages, such as Python. This allows them to extract important information from complex data sets and communicate that information through visual reports. Data analysts often have highly developed interpersonal skills, which helps them explain complex information clearly and accurately.

What do data analysts do?

Data analysts interpret large data sets and communicate what they learn to company leaders and relevant stakeholders. This data may assist a company's management team in making informed business decisions. Data analysts also examine business trends to make predictions about important factors such as a company's sales.

Additionally, data analysts are responsible for the following:

  • Extracting data from primary and secondary sources
  • Examining industry trends and past trajectories to predict what may happen in the future
  • Interpreting vast data sets to extract relevant information that can benefit the organisation
  • Facilitating strategic decision-making within the company
  • Designing data reports that a company's leadership team can understand
  • Collecting data, processing it using advanced tools and summarising it to tell a story
  • Working with technology and management teams to set company goals and objectives
  • Identifying potential for growth
  • Solving data-related problems and coding issues
  • Managing databases and showing end-users how to utilise them effectively

What are the top skills you need to become a data analyst?

Data analysts are essential for companies that want to make business decisions based on real data. Business managers, strategy managers and other executive decision-makers depend on IT data analysts for the information necessary to guide their strategies.

To become a successful data analyst, you can build the following skills:

  • Technical skills: to understand, examine and organise vast data sets, data analysts often have highly developed technical skills. They may be skilled with various programming languages, software and platforms, including Python, Statistical Analysis Software (SAS) and Tableau.
  • Organisation skills: data analysts use effective organisation skills to assess and interpret complex data sets. Then they organise the information into searchable databases to ensure the data is easy to retrieve.
  • Analytical skills: to prepare for a career focused on interpreting data, you can develop your analytical and logical thinking skills. This can help you examine and identify patterns accurately when working with complex data sets.
  • Mathematical skills: to interpret and calculate data, it is helpful to develop advanced mathematical skills. You can enrol in a statistics course to help you improve your mathematical skills and prepare for a career in data analysis.
  • Problem-solving skills: data analysts often help company leaders form business strategies by offering reports on important data. To ensure you're providing useful advice to your company's leadership team, it is helpful to learn effective problem-solving skills.
  • Interpersonal skills: as a data analyst, you may work with your company's leadership team frequently, providing them with the information they need to develop complex business strategies. You can develop this soft skill to help you collaborate efficiently with diverse teams.
  • Communication skills: to explain the results of your data analysis in a manner that everyone can understand, it is essential to have competent communication skills.

Related: Soft Skills: Definitions and Examples

How do you become a data analyst?

To become a data analyst, you can:

Master relevant programming languages

Data analysts often learn a few programming languages to help them prepare for their daily responsibilities in the workplace. Analysts typically learn Python because it helps with task automation, which can help to improve their time management. They may also learn Java because it helps with application development. If you're new to programming, consider taking an online course that focuses on a particular language.

Earn your bachelor's degree

Many employers require data analysts to have completed a bachelor's degree. You can earn a bachelor's degree in a relevant course, such as computer science or engineering. Data analysts also sometimes earn degrees in applied mathematics or statistics. These subjects focus on applying mathematics skills to real-world situations, which may prepare you to help organisations make decisions based on data. Alternatively, if you want to work as a financial or business analyst, you might pursue a degree in finance or economics.

Earn your master's degree

Although having a master's degree is not necessary for every employer, it can improve your chance of getting a job successfully. Data analysts who earn master's degrees may choose the following types of programs:

  • Business analytics
  • Big Data Analytics
  • Data Science
  • Data Analytics

Seek entry-level jobs

While getting your bachelor's or master's degree, you may consider seeking an entry-level position in your target field. For advice about which types of positions to apply for, consider contacting mentors such as your current or former professors. You can also pursue analytics internships to gain a deeper understanding of the responsibilities of a data analyst. Data analysts often apply for entry-level jobs or internships at companies in the following industries:

  • IT services and consulting
  • Financial technology
  • E-commerce
  • Courier and shipping services

Seek data analyst jobs

After gaining experience and training from an entry-level job in your chosen field, you may consider applying for data analyst jobs. Preparing a concise, customised resume that demonstrates your data analysis skills can help you impress hiring managers, which may encourage them to call you for an interview. New data analysts often apply for a position as a junior data analyst or entry-level data analyst. However, if you have some experience performing professional data analysis, you may consider applying for a general data analyst role.

Continue your training

Data science and data analytics are constantly developing fields. To ensure your skills are up to date, you can attend conferences, workshops or enrol in continuing education courses. You can also earn certifications related to your particular field, which may help you advance your career. Data analysts often earn the following certifications:

  • Certified Analytics Professional (CAP)
  • Cloudera Certified Associate Data Analyst
  • Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert: Data Management and Analytics

Types of jobs for data analysts

If you are interested in performing data analysis, you may apply for the following roles:

Data analyst

This position is one of the most common roles for which data analysts apply. In this role, you may evaluate data, convert it into a simpler form and communicate the information with people in your company. To interpret data effectively, you can learn relevant programming languages. You can also develop your interpersonal skills to help you communicate information in a straightforward manner.

Data scientist

Data scientists use programming languages to help them collect, sort, simplify and process data. They often use libraries of programming languages to help them develop complex spreadsheets and perform advanced mathematical functions. Data analysts who become data scientists may learn how to use libraries like NumPy and Pandas.

Data engineer

Data engineers design reliable infrastructures to transform data into formats that their team members can use. They are responsible for ensuring that the data they work with is useful for operational purposes. Data analysts who become data engineers typically specialise in various programming languages, including:

  • Python
  • Java
  • C++
  • Scala
  • Ruby

How much do data analysts earn?

The average salary for a data analyst is ₹4,56,525 per year. This annual salary may vary based on your location, experience, qualifications and the company for which you work. Larger cities often pay data analysts a higher salary than smaller cities. For more information about your earning potential, consider discussing your salary goals with a hiring manager at your target company.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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