How to Become a Data Analyst in 5 Steps

Research what it takes to become a data analyst. Learn about education requirements, field of study, average wages, and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Computer Support Technician degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Data Analyst?

A data analyst is a trained professional who gathers facts, statistics, and figures and converts them into usable information. This involves utilizing a variety of data collection strategies, from reviewing databases to implementing data collection programs and more, to easily compile large quantities of information to review and translate. After reviewing the information, it's the data analyst's responsibility to work with higher-ups in the organization to define what uses this data can fulfill and how to improve the process for future use. Take a look at the following chart for an overview of what you need to enter this field:

Degree Required Bachelor's degrees are typical; graduate degrees are available
Education Field of Study IT or another computer-related field
Key Skills Intermediate computer skills, structured query language (SQL) knowledge, analytic and logical thinking
Job Growth (2014-2024) 12% (for all computer-related occupations)*
Median Salary (2016) $56,634**

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

Step 1: Obtain a Bachelor's Degree

Entry-level job requirements vary by employer and level of responsibility; however, many data analysts hold 4-year degrees in computer science, information technology, applied statistics, or other related disciplines. Bachelor's degree programs in information technology, for example, provide you with training in topics like technical communications, IT management, systems analysis, and UNIX administration.

Step 2: Consider Graduate Studies

While graduate degrees may not be required for many entry-level positions, they may be required for advanced opportunities. You might choose to earn a Master of Business Administration with a focus on information systems, or you could earn a graduate-level certificate in data analysis. Graduate certificates in data analysis may include in-depth training in data mining, predictive data, programming, and Statistical Analysis System software.

Step 3: Acquire Work Experience

Various industries require data collection and analysis. As a data analyst, you could research and interpret information for employers like healthcare providers, insurance carriers, wholesale and retail merchandisers, software publishers, telecommunications companies, television broadcast companies, or government agencies. The industry in which you work may dictate the specific type of data that you will collect and analyze. In October 2016, PayScale.com reported that most data analysts earned between $36,276 and $81,290.

Step 4: Join a Trade Organization

Many trade organizations offer benefits to information technology professionals. You might, for example, join TechAmerica, which offers networking opportunities, conferences and information resources to its members (www.techamerica.org). Another organization is the Association for Computing Machinery, which provides members with access to an online learning center, industry publications and a job board (www.acm.org).

Step 5: Stay Current

Staying current on industry technologies, protocols and techniques is crucial to a career in this quickly advancing field. Some employers provide updates in technology advancements and continuing education opportunities. You may also pursue instruction through colleges, trade associations, and other organizations.

What Are Some Related Careers?

A closely related career to data analysis is database administration. Database administrators ensure that databases work as programmed and allow for easy access to the information stored inside them, allowing data analysts to do their job quickly and effectively. Computer systems analysts study the computer systems of an organization in order to find solutions to whatever technical problems they may have. IT managers are in charge of directing and planning computer activities and goals of an organization, and they implement systems to that end. A bachelor's degree is the entry-level education required for all three of these careers.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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