What is the Data Analyst Career Path? [4 Steps]

What is the Data Analyst Career Path? [4 Steps]

Data science and business analytics jobs are in high demand at the moment, what with the job titles coming higher average salaries by the year. That, coupled with how easily you can embark on a data analyst career path, make sit a very viable career choice. 

In this article, I'll do a complete breakdown of the data analyst job and explain how hopeful candidates can start a data analytics career.

Let's get started.

An Overview of a Data Analyst Career Path

Analyzing available data before making decisions is not a new concept in the business world. 

However, with big data being central to business operations and accurate analysis quickly becoming the differentiating factor between good and bad business decisions, the position has recently become much more valuable. 

Some of the industries currently employing data analysts include:

  • Manufacturing: The manufacturing industry needs data analysts to discover how their target market responds to their products, and how they can change it to gain and retain customers.
  • Healthcare: Healthcare institutes employ data analysts to collect data from reviews, best practices, case studies, and medical research to help improve the quality of healthcare they provide. 
  • Finance: Financial institutes need to know the ebb and flow of the market in order to make better investment decisions. Data analysts are at the head of global financial research for these institutions.
  • Technology: Tech companies, by and large, hire the highest number of data analysts globally. These analysts are responsible for discovering audience behavior online, as well as trends in the cyberspace technology market, among other factors. 
  • Marketing: Marketing firms hire data analysis experts to perform market research and gauge how the audience responds to specific marketing efforts, in order to understand how they can reach more people. 

Additionally, jobs for data analysts are not limited to these industries. 

Government agencies and institutions are always looking for qualified data analysts for a variety of positions across dozens of departments. 

Examples of these include internal and national security agencies that collect data on criminal patterns to improve the quality of their response.

4 Steps to a Data Analyst Career Path

Whether you're looking for an entry-level data analyst role or seeking an advanced data engineer's position, the career path will generally be the same for all analytics professionals. 

However, the level of qualifications and professional experience will be different for data collection versus those for a data scientist.

For the sake of clarity, the steps below lead to an entry-level position within the data analytics job description.

Here are the 4 steps to becoming a data analytics professional. 

Step 1: Get the Right Qualifications

Since the job is more on the technical side, skilled data analysts need the right qualifications in order to start a career.  

The necessary qualifications for a data analytics professional are:

  • Bachelor's degree in IT, statistics, or computer science. (Some institutes also offer degrees in programming and data science)
  • Certification course in programming languages, data analysis, or business intelligence
  • Master's degree in data management or business operations management (optional)

Candidates can also apply for extended internships as part of a master's program while studying.

These will help them develop the technical skill set and problem-solving ability that will benefit their career later on. 

It's important to note that a bachelor's degree is not an absolute requirement for a potential data analyst. 

There are tons of online courses that teach all the skills necessary to land a job in the field, and plenty of hands-on experience to grow their careers. 

Step 2: Get Certified through Online Courses

Certification courses serve as the perfect vocational learning methods for skilled professionals, especially in the data and business analyst realm.

This is due to the purpose-built nature of most certification courses, and how they deliver specific skills that candidates can specialize in.

Here are some of the top areas that data analytics professionals can get certified in.

  • Programming: Programming is central to data analysis and big data management. A certification course in programming languages such as Python and CSS will help you handle raw data, sift through it for meaningful data sets, and process it to get the information you need. Furthermore, it will help you progress your career towards big data management.
  • Database Management: All the data you collect has to be stored somewhere and those stores have to be managed for data transfer and security. That's where certification in database management with a focus on SQL and Hadoop will assist you.
  • Data Visualization: Businesses need to process data to gain actionable insights and make better business decisions. However, managers and executives won't always have the expertise needed to understand data in its natural form. A course in data visualization (Microsoft Excel, Tableau, etc.) will enable you to always present data in a simplified and easily understandable way.
  • Machine Learning: Machine and deep learning are the future of data management and processing automation. Certifications in machine learning may be on the more advanced end for data analysts, however, it's a helpful skill to attain early on as it will come in handy when the candidate is ready to take on the data scientist role. 

Some online institutes offer courses that feature a combination of all the skill sets mentioned here. 

Taking one of those courses will upskill a candidate to a point where they can begin their career immediately, without requiring practical experience.

Step 3: Apply for an Internship

Hands-on experience is always a beneficial thing for professionals in complex areas of work such as data analysis. 

This is due to the nature of data processing, and how you need to do it in a practical capacity to really understand how to manage it in different circumstances. 

An internship, although not always required, will always be very helpful in providing candidates with experience in professional data processing and management, but will also give them a taste of how their careers will progress in the future. 

Most companies with open data analyst positions offer internships as career starters. 

Step 4: Find the Perfect Data Analyst Job

Here are some tips on finding the perfect data analyst job for yourself:

  • Look for keywords such as 'data management', 'analyze' and 'visualization'. These point directly to the job being for data analysis, instead of data science, which is a more advanced version of the same. 
  • Look for responsibilities that coincide with your primary competencies. If you have a certification in a particular area of data handling, you will be better off working in that area for the time being. Once you gain enough experience in the position and are ready to progress, you can either apply for promotions or better jobs that apply your broader skills.
  • Look for jobs in developing companies. While there's nothing wrong with getting a job in a major corporation, chances are that those jobs offer little to no career progress, and very slow growth if any. This is because corporations usually don't need employees to progress to a certain position when they can simply hire someone for advanced roles. Start with a smaller company and help it grow through your skills for greater career growth.  
  • Look for positions that are similar to how you want your career to progress. If you're already working towards data analysis as a career, chances are that you already have a career trajectory in mind. Look for a job that matches closely with that career path. This way, you won't have to change jobs that often and harm your resume in the process. 

Additionally, look at multiple job boards and professional networking sites to find the best data analyst job for you. 

Sites like LinkedIn, Glassdoor, and Indeed are ideal for job searching and networking with currently working data professionals. 

Average Data Analyst Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for data/operations analysts is $84,810 per year, at an hourly rate of $40.78.

Furthermore, the job outlook for data analysts is very positive, with a 25% growth projected till 2029. This is good news for fresh candidates, seeing as the job market is not as convoluted as it will be in the near future, making this the ideal time to join. 

Final Thoughts

The actual career path of a data analyst depends on the qualifications an individual has, and where they are applying for a job. 

That said, there is an ideal pattern that professionals can adopt to more career success, instead of starting out dry and learning things over the years. The latter method is not ideal in this day and age of quick career progress. 

Regardless of where you apply for a data analyst job, make sure you have the right tools of the trade beforehand, so that you make faster progress on the job, and don't have to go back to college to gain additional skills. 

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