Data Analyst Careers

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Data analysts review structured and organized data, figuring out trends and patterns for business, companies, or other organizations. Most Data Analysts have a Bachelor's degree at a minimum, and a Masters in Data Analytics or Masters in Data Science is becoming more common.

What is a Data Analyst?

A data analyst tends to study structured and organized data, figuring out trends and patterns that would be helpful for the company they work for. They also create reports, charts, and presentations that explains their findings to other aspects of the business that the data they have combed through is related to. For example, a connection between high clothing sales can be linked to a particular location, and a data analyst can use this as a marketing advantage for the company.

This is very similar to the evaluation aspect of a data scientist, but is generally on a smaller scale.

  • Data scientists: Often work with bigger sets of raw data and often is not structured.
  • Data analysts: Typically do not create hypothesis for business problems, program algorithms, and predictive models. Instead, they attempt to solve problems given by the company, such as improving revenue and/or efficiency.

How to Become a Data Analyst

What can you do as a data analyst?

Data analytics opportunities center around evaluating information and presenting findings for clients, managers, or other employees. In general, a four-year degree in mathematics or statistics is recommended for entry level positions with pay starting at modest rates (approximately $45,000 per year).

Most importantly, technical and communication skills are absolutely needed for success and advancement in any career path chosen as a data analyst.

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What are the educational requirements for a data analyst career?

  • A Bachelor's degree in computer science, mathematics, economics, or statistics is recommended for data analytics positions. Job listings typically will require this for entry-level work and an internship will give them work experience, if not a foot already in the door for full-time employment.
  • Coursework should feature the aforementioned categories along with database management, project management, and writing. It is not uncommon to see advanced degrees in computer science with concentrations in data analytics to gain a competitive advantage.
  • Skills: There are many important skills necessary for data analysts while completing their studies.
    • Technical skills are a must when using various software to organize, evaluate, and query data.
    • Attention to detail is imperative as the job requires interpretation of data at a high level.
    • Because of its advanced nature, there is no surprise that analysts need to be able to make their findings understandable to their audience, be it employees in a different sector, management, or shareholders.

Typical Job Responsibilities of a Data Analyst

  • Gather and organize data using statistical software to interpret the information.
  • Identify trends and patterns to create recommendations for the company.
  • Report these findings and work with colleagues such as other programmers, statisticians, and information technology administrators.
  • Staying up-to-date on new developments in machine learning and data engineering.

It is important to note that some responsibilities can vary based on the size of the company. Typically, the larger the company, the more concise roles are. Due to some overlap and conflation in job titles, data analysts could be responsible for building software and/or scraping data from organized or unorganized sources.

Review of some of the top degrees for a data analyst career

Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, Georgia Tech University

Frequently those working data analytics positions hold a Bachelor’s degree in computer science. One of the highest-rated programs in the nation with the best value is at Georgia Tech. They hold an acceptance rate to nearly a quarter of students that apply and total cost for each year sits at just under $16,000. Highly qualified students can benefit from also receiving a Master in the program and receiving both degrees in a total of five years. 60 credits earned with a minimum GPA of 3.4 is required to reach the graduate school.

Master of Science in Analytics, North Carolina State University

NCSU was one of the first universities to offer an advanced degree through the Institute for Advanced Analytics back in 2007. Based on the most recent employment records released, 95 percent of graduates have found placement. The average base salary set a new record at $98,500. Over the past decade, over 90 percent of their students have been able to find work. On average, they are able to pay back their schooling, thanks to the high-paying opportunities they receive, within two years.

Master of Business Administration with Data Analytics, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater

This MBA program, offered by the College of Business and Economics, is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). Less than 5 percent of business schools have achieved the high curriculum standards this has set. Students have the ability to select an area of emphasis in Data Analytics when pursuing this degree. Other benefits include the ability to complete the program fully online and tuition sits at $637.43 per credit for the 36-credit curriculum. There is a high bar of entry into the program, with a minimum of seven years of work experience recommended (four years for those that have a 3.0 cumulative GPA from undergrad study).

Review of some of the best certifications to become a data analyst

Cloudera Certified Associate Data Analyst (CCA)

Successful exam takers are able to demonstrate preparing and manipulate Hadoop data on a Cloudera Enterprise cluster. This certification is ideal for SQL developers looking to hone their query skills and achieve work advancement. 8 to 12 questions need to be answered within a two-hour time frame and the exam is proctored. Scoring over 70 percent correct is a passing score and each exam attempt is $295. There are no prerequisites to take the exam, but it is recommended to take Cloudera’s training course.

Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate and Expert (MCSA and MCSE)

Two of Microsoft’s most popular information technology certifications for professionals. Those that have little or no experience in this area are better served for an entry-level MCSA certification. The MCSE is intended for those that already have fundamental understanding of Microsoft systems. For example, exams under the MCSA involve configuration and management of various operating systems and servers. MCSE exams involve creation of data platforms, business intelligence, and managing message data and security.

An MCSA certification is required to obtain one in the MCSE category. Job position examples under an MCSA would be database developer, systems engineer, and IT support analyst. In comparison, under an MCSE would include database designer, systems programmer, and enterprise and network managers. It costs $165 to take each exam.

Data Analyst Salaries

The national average for data analysts base pay is just over $72,000 per year according to Glassdoor. Expect to find entry level opportunities on the low end, somewhere between $40,000 and $50,000 annually, with the higher salaries approaching $110,000. Employees can expect up to $8,000 worth of additional incentives and benefits.

Senior positions that equate to at least seven years of work experience can see a boost of at least $10,000 annually. Even paid internships can be fairly lucrative, with major companies like Booz Allen Hamilton and IBM paying well over $20 an hour. The Walt Disney Company has hourly interns at over $30 an hour.

Top Data Analysis Organizations and Companies to Work For


One of the biggest tech conglomerates always has a slew of analyst positions on the market for all of their departments. One example is a Content Insight Analyst at Services, which evaluates content that is viewed with their Amazon Prime service. This leads to potential content acquisition deals, which the analyst needs to have a solid understanding of in order to present ideal conclusions. Four years of experience dealing with high-level account management and licensing is recommended.

Booz Allen Hamilton

Hundreds of data analyst opportunities are available with the consulting firm across the country. For example, they offer a position in San Diego, California, that works with the Navy and other clients to create forms of data collection and query processes that can provide valuable information. Having a Bachelor’s degree with a year of experience with business analysis is recommended, along with knowledge of Microsoft Excel and Access, Visual Basic for Applications, and SQL.

Zelus Analytics (Quantitative Analyst)

For those interested in a sports-based analytical career, this startup company based in Austin, Texas, is a third-party platform that helps professional baseball teams sift through data in order to gain an edge on the field. This includes evaluating players and how they would fit on a team and providing the best strategy involved to win games based on player acquisition. Skills in applied mathematical modeling, baseball analytics, statistical programming, and SQL are all recommended.

Job and Employment Outlook for Data Analysts in the Future

Like many other opportunities in data science, there are more job opportunities available than qualified people to fill them. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects a 22 percent uptick
in market research analysts through 2026. Despite salaries ranging wildly, even an entry level positions can meet median household living expenses across the country. Analysts will always be in demand to evaluate data, and that will continue to be the case as more companies rely on machine learning, and therefore more data sets need to be parsed through. This makes the data analyst position a very attractive opportunity.

Data Analysis Related Careers

Market Research Data Analyst

One of the more popular career paths involving data analytics is market research. In this position, they aid businesses in marketing their products and services by observing consumer characteristics, trends, interests, and any other information they can obtain. This data is retrieved by interviewing customers and conducting surveys or focus groups. There is frequent collaboration with marketers and product management to determine successes and failures, forecasting expectations, and what can be improved on going forward.
Best degree for Market Research Data Analysts: Master of Marketing Analytics

Computer Systems Data Analyst

Another data analyst position centers around helping an organization use their technology to its maximum potential. They observe and maintain hardware and software while also constantly researching new products and services that can benefit the company. Costs and potential benefits of upgrading are evaluated, and they typically oversee new installation and help adapt other employees to new process.
Best degree for Computer Systems Data Analysts: Master of Computer Information Systems

Actuary / Accounting Analysts

An actuary determines how much risk certain events can occur using statistical data, and then provides necessary actions for a client to minimize those risks. That risk can be potential accidents or illnesses, or they can provide a measure on how much a company investment is worth. Typically, actuaries are employed with insurance companies that help determine whether or not it is worth insuring a particular client.
Best degree for Actuaries or Accounting Analysts: Master of Accounting Analytics