A strong foundation of skills and experience is required for a successful career in data analytics. Students need to learn fundamental data analysis techniques, data-oriented programming languages, and have a strong background in math. To cut it in this industry, aspiring data analysts also need excellent communication, teamwork, and leadership skills.
If you’re passionate about big data and want to get started in this field, you need to first understand precisely what’s involved. Continue reading to learn what a data analyst does on a daily basis, what skills you need to master, how much you can expect to earn as a data analyst, and the best study options to kickstart your dream data career.
What Does a Data Analyst Do?
Let’s start by looking at the role in more detail. A data analyst gathers, organizes, and mines data to derive useful information and reach meaningful conclusions.
The job of a data analyst is to study what’s currently happening, to identify trends, and predict what’s going to happen in the future. Here are some responsibilities of a data analyst:
- Helping with data gathering procedures
- Collaborating with other team members
- Mining data from both primary and secondary sources
- Cleaning data to remove unnecessary and inaccurate information
- Analyzing and interpreting data with the help of statistical tools
- Spotting trends and patterns in data
- Generating data reports for management and stakeholders
- Designing and managing data systems and databases
- Fixing data-related problems as well as code problems
There are other responsibilities and duties as well, depending upon the company and industry you choose to work in.
Hard Skills Required to Become a Data Analyst
Hard skills include specific technical knowledge and teachable skills. Hard skills are easy to quantify and are likely to be tested during an interview. Here are some hard skills that every company expects data analysts to have:
- Structured Query Language (SQL): This programming language allows data analysts to read, write, organize, and analyze data within a relational database. It’s a fundamental skill required by any experienced data analyst. The majority of data-related companies will have at least one specialist in SQL. There are plenty of job openings that list SQL as one of the basic requirements. Popular database systems that use SQL include MySQL, MS Access, and Oracle.
- Microsoft Excel: MS Excel skills doesn’t just mean basic spreadsheet knowledge. You need to have an advanced understanding of MS Excel methods like macros and VBA lookups. These will help you deal with small data sets and quick analysis. MS Excel is particularly popular among small companies and startups.
- Programming Languages: R and Python are the most commonly used statistical languages. They allow you to analyze large data sets quickly and easily. They’re also used in predictive and advanced analytics. You need to master at least one of these programming languages to be considered a strong contender for a data analyst position. Several certification courses can help you master these languages. Certifications also improve your resume and demonstrate your commitment to prospective employers.
- Data Visualization: Not everybody in the company can understand complicated data patterns and information. A data analyst needs to transform complex data into a form that’s easy to understand. The job of a data analyst is to draw conclusions from data and present them using visually compelling charts, tables, and graphs.
- Data Cleansing: Data cleansing is a significant part of a data analyst’s job. It involves retrieving data from different sources and preparing it for analysis. Data may be in various different formats or contain errors, missing fields, and inaccuracies. Before any useful analysis can take place, the data must be corrected.
- Statistical Knowledge: Statistics is extremely important for analyzing and interpreting data. A background in statistics or knowledge of important mathematical principles will help you stand out from the crowd. You should be familiar with clustering, MapReduce technology, unstructured data concepts, and association rules.
Soft Skills Required to Become a Data Analyst
Unlike hard skills, soft skills are subjective and more difficult to quantify. Soft skills or interpersonal skills (also called “people skills”) deal with the way you relate to and interact with other people. Along with the technical skills listed above, you must possess certain soft skills if you want to succeed as a data analyst:
- Communication: Digging through data and making insightful discoveries is pointless if you can’t tell the rest of your team about your findings in a comprehensible manner. The goal of a data analyst is to help company leaders make informed business decisions with the power of data. In order to achieve this, data analysts need to have excellent verbal and written skills. They also need to be proficient in data visualization tools to effectively tell a cohesive story.
- Presentation Skills: Similar to communication skills, presenting your findings is a vital part of a data analyst’s job. Good presentation skills will help you sell your vision to company stakeholders and allow them to understand your perspective.
- Critical Thinking: To become a data analyst you need to start thinking like one. You need to ask the right questions to get the right information. Sometimes, the result might not be so clear. That’s when you’ll need to think critically. Some short courses are available to help you improve your critical thinking skills.
- Problem Solving: You’ll constantly come across errors, bugs, and roadblocks during your data analyst role. This is why good problem-solving is vital. You have to think on your feet and be innovative in your approach. Since this is an essential skill, recruiters usually ask problem-solving related questions in the interview. They may want an example of when you’ve had to solve a problem in the past. Or could give you a simple task to solve in real-time.
- Collaboration: To be an effective data analyst you’ll need to work alongside other experts. You’ll collaborate with engineers, web developers, and data scientists to achieve your goals. You should be comfortable working with both internal and external stakeholders. You’ll need to have respect and appreciation for your fellow employees to work in harmony with them.
How to Learn and Improve Data Analyst Skills
Learning is a never-ending process, especially in the field of data analysis. It’s easy to fall behind if you’re not proactive in keeping up with the latest analysis tools and techniques. By continually learning you can gain an edge over your competitors in the job market. Here are some ways to improve your skills:
- Enroll in a Bootcamp: Online bootcamps are streamlined learning courses designed to teach you everything you need to get hired as a data analyst. Join our data analytics bootcamp today to kickstart your career in big data. You’ll benefit from expert mentoring, a virtual classroom environment, and a professionally designed curriculum. We’ll support you every step of the way as you go from beginner to hired in less than a year.
- Join an Online Community: There are many online communities, websites, and forums for data analysts. Check out DZone, Kaggle, R-bloggers, and Cross Validated, where you can share your ideas and learn from other data analysts. People usually share their experiences, problems, and difficulties on these platforms.
- Start Reading: The field of data analysis is evolving at an exponential rate. You have to stay up to date with recent developments and trends or risk lagging behind. Reading data analyst blogs, news, newly published online materials, and research papers will keep you posted about recent developments in this field.
- Learn From Your Mistakes: Nobody’s perfect. You’ll make mistakes at work, especially, in the early days. The best way to improve is by learning from your mistakes. Focus on your improvement areas and work on them.
Good Luck Landing Your Dream Data Analyst Job
A future in data analysis promises to be highly rewarding, well-paid, and provide excellent job security. Remember though, it’s not all about the skills. Having the right attitude and being eager to learn will help you achieve your goals and become a success in this field.
If you’re interested in knowing more about big data and want some tips on how to launch your career browse our data analytics blog. Start by reading our article on What Does a Data Analyst Do? to learn more about the day-to-day activities of a data analyst professional.