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Data Analyst Career Guide

How to Become a Data Analyst

Data collection has become more than a formality. From purchase tendencies to website analytics, big data has quickly become a tool that brands are wielding to improve business. Individual user data factors into analytical models and data structures, useful to companies seeking an upper hand in predicting how—and why—customers act.

Data analysts help companies interpret their own collected information, identifying trends, outliers, and other useful data sets that inform future business. The data analysis career path is ideal for anyone adept at drawing conclusions from raw data, and solving problems using data collected by a variety of customer touchpoints.

A man holds a tablet with graph charts and percentage points emanating out of the screen.

What Is a Data Analyst?

As a data analyst, you’ll have your hands in raw data daily. Data analysts are responsible for inspecting, modeling, and interpreting data beneficial in helping businesses draw useful conclusions. Often, this means separating useful data from large data sets, and helping companies understand why the data you’ve found can help inform further operations.

The specialized career of a data analyst often requires a bachelor’s degree in an appropriate field. Certain employers may also require years of experience as a data analyst, or in a position otherwise responsible for data interpretation.

What Does a Data Analyst Do?

Though a data analyst’s daily responsibilities vary, there’s one underlying constant: their daily routine is driven by a desire to better understand their organization’s data. Specific daily responsibilities often include:

  • Designing data models that help businesses better understand their operations.
  • Maintaining data databases for continued use by data analysts and other business team members.
  • Data mining, or leveraging data sets to draw appropriate conclusions on behalf of corporate leaders.
  • Creating user-friendly data dashboards, that allow anyone to understand the data presented through helpful tables, charts, and other infographics.
  • Automating data sets to deliver relevant data through implemented spreadsheet and database functions and code.
  • Communicating with corporate teams to determine the best metrics to track and identify trends to expect.
  • Identifying implementation strategies that allow businesses to take data and use it to benefit the company.

These responsibilities define the career of a data analyst, an individual who works continually on behalf of a company to improve operations through gathered data.

Where Do Data Analysts Work?

Data analysts often work at, or near, a company’s headquarters. Those further responsible for implementing data-driven strategies will often use offices in a company’s IT department.

If proximity to a business’s leaders isn’t necessary, data analysts also have the freedom to work remotely. Many contracted data analysts work directly from home offices. As long as a data analyst has access to the required analysis resources, communication tools, and reliable internet access, they can work from virtually anywhere. 

What Education Does a Data Analyst Need?

As a specialized position, data analysts are expected to receive at least a bachelor’s degree in data analysts/management, or a closely related field. Though not always necessary for an entry-level position, a master’s degree in data analytics can help separate the best applicants from the rest, further informing a candidate’s understanding of data mining, data mapping, and the science behind data acquisition. Advanced education and specialization can also be essential for pursuing a leadership or management role in the field, and the techniques and disciplines learned can help elevate analysts beyond the entry-level opportunities into new and emerging positions in the field.

Data Management/Data Analytics – B.S.

Lean into data, and walk away with a cutting-edge online degree:...

Lean into data, and walk away with a cutting-edge...

Lean into data, and walk away with a cutting-edge online degree:

  • Time: 70% of graduates finish within 35 months.
  • Tuition and fees: $3,920 per 6-month term.
  • Certifications: CIW and CompTIA certs, all included.

Unique to WGU's program is the incorporation of a Udacity Nanodegree—a highly recognized credential designed to prepare you for a career in data science.

Certified Internet Web certification included:

  • CIW Data Analyst

CompTIA certifications included:

  • CompTIA A+ (Parts 1 and 2)
  • CompTIA Network+
  • CompTIA Project+
  • CompTIA IT Operations Specialist

Data Analytics – M.S.

Lead businesses with strong analysis skills:...

Lead businesses with strong analysis skills:...

Lead businesses with strong analysis skills:

  • Time: 70% of graduates finish within 22 months.
  • Tuition and fees: $4,235 per 6-month term.

Master data mining, visualization, and SQL—and lead analytics at the business of your choice.

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Start the 1st of any month—as soon as you complete enrollment!

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No need to wait for spring or fall semester. It's back-to-school time at WGU year-round. Get started by talking to an Enrollment Counselor today, and you'll be on your way to realizing your dream of a bachelor's or master's degree—sooner than you might think!

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What Skills Does a Data Analyst Need?

Data analysts build and maintain an adaptive skill set, since each day brings different data. These skills can include: 

  • Statistical analysis: the ability to comprehend, and draw conclusions from, data sets.
  • Team communication: the ability to correspond with team members, and translate data sets into understandable trends.
  • Data-based reporting: the ability to regularly report on data findings, in both spoken and written formats.
  • Problem-solving: the ability to answer corporate questions, and explain business trends, using sometimes complicated data tables.
  • Mathematical science: the ability to leverage mathematical formulas to make sense of presented data.
  • Platform use: the ability to adeptly use and understand platforms on which data is housed.
  • Spreadsheet skills: the ability to use an advanced command of spreadsheet data models to draw real conclusions.

These skills help data analysts successfully fulfill their job daily, manipulating the numbers in front of them to help companies better understand their practices.

How Much Does a Data Analyst Make?


While exact compensation will vary, depending on overall experience, skillset, company location, and the nature of their hire, a data analyst’s salary can average $61,456. Depending on the exact source, this can mean a range where the lowest 10% of earners receive roughly $44,000, and the highest 10% of data analysts make an estimated $86,000.

What is the Projected Job Growth?


The career of a data analyst is relatively new, and thus the career trajectory and demand forecasts are positively affected by still-rising popularity. Operations research analyst positions are estimated to rise 25% from 2019 to 2029, a growth curve well above the national average.

Data analysis positions are also positively affected by a rise in consumable data. Free and paid data analysis platforms help businesses of all sizes better understand and use core data to invest in real change. And with a rise in these platforms comes a rise in the need for individuals who can interpret them.

What Certifications Does a Data Analyst Need?


While not always necessary for hiring, specialized certifications can help data analysts stay on top of an industry that changes as technology evolves and deepens. Commonly recognized certifications from some of the leading organizations in the industry can include:

-Data Analyst Nanodegree from Udacity

-CompTIA A+ (Parts 1 and 2)

-CompTIA Network+

-CompTIA Project+

-CompTIA IT Operations Specialist

-CIW Data Analyst


Interested in Becoming a Data Analyst?

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