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What Does a Data Analyst Do? Job Types, Training, and Salary

By: Emily Gregor
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This post originally appeared on Fullstack Academy's blog.

Projected to grow 21.5% over the next 10 years according to Burning Glass, now is a great time to launch a career as a Data Analyst. 

One of the most in-demand careers for 2020 and beyond, Data Analysts are tech professionals who inspect, clean, transform, and model data. According to Burning Glass, there are more than 600,000 Data Analyst jobs in the U.S. at a diverse mix of companies, from startups to large- and mid-sized companies. 

To help you learn more about a career in data analytics, this article will cover the following topics: 

  • What Does a Data Analyst Do? 
  • What Soft Skills Do You Need to Succeed as a Data Analyst? 
  • Types of Data Analysts: Jobs and Salaries
  • How to Become a Data Analyst 

What Does a Data Analyst Do? 

Data Analysts use data to solve business problems. They use complex information to reach conclusions and collect and report on data. If you’re wondering what the day-to-day looks like for a Data Analyst, we’ve outlined some of the core responsibilities below:

  • Use business intelligence ("BI") and analytics tools (and sometimes setting them up)
  • Collect raw data, finding patterns in it, and then using the patterns to find insights for your business
  • Create visualizations of the data
  • Create reports using those visualizations
  • Develop key performance indicators
  • Collaborate well with a team
  • Streamline data collection
  • Train others in the data-collection system

Now we’ll break down these responsibilities even more to give you a better idea of what your day-to-day would look like.

Use business intelligence ("BI") and analytics tools (and sometimes setting them up)

Analysts use tools like Excel, Tableau, and SQL on a daily basis. The better command you have of these tools, the better analyst you will be. As you grow in your career, you may also configure and set up BI tools and make sure they’re being used effectively within your organization.

Collect raw data, finding patterns in it, and then using the patterns to find insights for your business

Analysts collect data from various sources and feed them into a common destination, like a SQL database or “data lake” that runs on Amazon Web Services. Once you’ve got your data coming in, you’ll use your BI tools to find patterns in the data that can help improve processes for your organization—and find insights that can inform strategy, product, and marketing decisions.

Create visualizations of the data

This is where the “magic” comes into data analysis. You’ll use tools like Tableau to summarize large data sets into easy-to-understand infographics that instantly tell a story. You’ll be using both sides of your brain for this kind of work, as you’ll be combining number crunching with creativity to create stunning data visualizations.

Create reports using those visualizations

Creating beautiful visualizations is one thing, but then you need to share them with your colleagues. You’ll need to collect your visualizations into reports that tell the entire story, including a summary of the data, the insights gleaned from that summary, and the recommendations going forward. Reports are designed to be read and/or presented to an audience (like your management team) using a presentation tool like Powerpoint.

Develop key performance indicators

Organizations often use KPIs to guide the way they run their business. KPIs are essential metrics that are used to measure performance and make sure the company is staying on track with its strategy and goals. As an analyst, you may be asked to help design and track your company’s KPIs.

Collaborate well with a team

Analysts need to have a number of technical skills, but soft skills are just as important. You need to be able to work well with a team by doing things like communicating effectively, reliably delivering on deadlines, and generally being pleasant to work with. Don’t underestimate how important this is!

Streamline data collection

It’s easy for organizations to get lost in massive amounts of data and struggle to make sense of it all. The key to success is streamlining the way data is collected—and the actual data that’s collected—by filtering out the “noise” from the “signal.” This is a key role for any data analyst and is essential for being productive and generating useful insights for your organization.

Train others in the data-collection system

The best way to master a subject is to teach other people how to do it. As you grow in your career as an analyst, you may be asked to help train other people in your organization on how to use the data collection system.

What Soft Skills Do You Need to Succeed as a Data Analyst? 

When you’re hoping to transition into a new career, it can be helpful to consider what soft skills you bring to the table. Having the right mix of soft and technical skills can help you stand out when applying for jobs and negotiating with potential employers. Here are some of the top skills recruiters are looking for when hiring Data Analysts: 

  • Critical thinking and problem-solving skills 
  • Effective communicator 
  • Comfortable presenting 
  • Creative/design thinking 
  • Visualization 
  • Likes numbers, formulas, and complex functions 
  • Passion for organization and formatting (Data Analysts spend 70% of their time cleaning up and organizing data and 30% analyzing)

These are just some of the skills that will set you apart in a job search, but they’re worth thinking about if you’re serious about joining the industry.

You can also use what you’ve learned in past roles—you don’t need a background in IT to succeed as a Data Analyst. Many Fullstack Data Analytics students have backgrounds in teaching, communications, human resources, marketing, the military, and more. 

Types of Data Analysts: Jobs and Salaries

Data Analyst ($66,859 | Glassdoor)

Data analysts take large amounts of data and use it to share trends, forecast, and extract information to help their employers make better-informed business decisions. They use reports, explanations, and visualizations to scan and visualize data. 

Business Consultant ($83,621 | Glassdoor)

A business consultant's day-to-day can vary depending on the role, but in the field of Data Analytics, a business consultant often uses their visualization skills to share key data findings with employers and teams across different industries. They can work with a consulting firm or as an individual contributor, but consulting can provide a lot of flexibility to work with many types of clients. 

Insights Analyst ($57,404 | Glassdoor)

An insights analyst helps businesses and teams better understand their target market, audience, and demographic. Using sales trends and metrics like customer satisfaction, insights analysts can help predict potential issues. 

Data Analytics Consultant ($80,391 | Glassdoor)

Similar to a business consultant, data analytics consultants can work with a consulting firm or as individual contributors. Data analytics consultants blend their analytical skills with strong interpersonal and communication skills to help their clients make better decisions and might be hired to work on a specific project or for a period of time. 

Business Analyst ($75,637 | Glassdoor)

Business analysts look at data and how it relates to business and serve as the primary contact between an organization's IT staff and the rest of the company. They are responsible for using data analytics to assess processes, determine requirements, and deliver data-driven recommendations and reports to executives and stakeholders.

Database Administrator ($83,925 | Glassdoor)

A critical member of any organization's IT team, a database administrator works to ensure company data is secure and that it's only able to be accessed by the right people. They're also responsible for backing up data and setting up databases. 

Junior Data Engineer ($79,091 | ZipRecruiter)

Perfect for someone with a mix of technical and business skills, junior data engineers work to design and develop information systems. A highly collaborative role, it requires a high degree of proficiency in software engineering to succeed, although you can get by with SQL when you're just starting out.

Data Journalist ($53,070 | Glassdoor)

Data journalists create dynamic news stories rich with statistics, infographics, and charts. This is a role that's great for people who have backgrounds in communication or other creative, highly visual fields. 

Data Modeler ($84,480 | Glassdoor)

A data modeler creates visual representations of either a whole information system or parts of it to communicate connections between the data sets. They often work with data architects and analysts to share and analyze their findings. 

How to Become a Data Analyst 

If you’re interested in launching a career as a Data Analyst, you can turn to a two- or four-year degree program through a college or university or you can choose to attend a Data Analytics Bootcamp.

A Data Analytics Bootcamp can help you learn the in-demand visualization, Python, and SQL skills employers are looking for in as few as three to six months. Most Data Analytics Bootcamps, including the program offered by Fullstack Academy, are designed for total beginners and can help you build your network and launch a fulfilling career in the field. 

Before you choose a program, consider how much time you have to commit to it, your budget (make sure to compare each program’s financing options to see if there are any scholarship or funding opportunities that are applicable to you), and try to attend an event or two to get a sense for whether or not it’s the right fit.

Every Industry Needs Data Analysts 

With the proper qualifications, a data analyst can work in almost any industry with any type of organization. While IT firms lead the pack in hiring data analysts, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, healthcare facilities, transit and logistics companies, and every other business needs analysts.

Ready to apply for the Fullstack Data Analytics program? Start your application today to take the next step toward launching your tech career.