What Does a Data Analyst Do?

Data analysts are responsible for identifying and extracting valuable information from structured and unstructured data to explain business performance. Using this information they identify the best analytical models to present to business users and the best approaches to explain these models.

Data analysts were among the most prominent sources of data understanding in the era prior to the rise of data science. They are still relevant today due to their distinct role, and in some companies have a role that has transformed due to a combination of data science know-how and the need to integrate data scientists into the existing business data framework of that company.

Related: 5 Ways To Spot a Fake Data Scientist

The primary role of the data analyst is to take questions or problems supplied by the business team and come up with solutions to them. Unlike data scientists, you will not be creating many predictive models, but instead you will be diving deep into data, finding new and innovative ways to turn it into something that is either directly actionable or can be used as the basis for the company or unit’s larger strategy.

You will be required to become an expert in how either the business as a whole or your particular unit operate, depending on the scale of the company. Being effective in your position will require you to be able to take the data-driven insights you acquire and turn them into something that is directly relevant to your business. As an effective data analyst you will end up understanding the nuts and bolts of how your company operates in a way that few other will be able to match.

One thing to be aware of is that due to some level ambiguity during a time of rapid expansion in data science, some positions for data analysts may be referred to as data scientists and vice versa.

What You Need To Know About Becoming a Data Analyst

Data analysts typically require a bachelor’s degree, though some positions at larger companies or those with more rigorous expectations may demand a master’s degree. Degree programs are typically statistics, information technology, or a particularly statistically rigorous business degree. 

Required Skills of Data Analysts

The two core skills of a data analyst are database management and applied statistics and database management.

  • Database Management – Database management knowledge will give you the capability to successfully extract the right data while applied statistics will give you a grounding in how to ensure that the data you are using is valid and providing the information you think it is providing. Currently database management practically requires mastery of SQL, to the point that many tools used to access database-like systems use languages modeled after it.Additional skills will vary based on the requirements of the role and what sort of position you would like to carve out for yourself in a company. Familiarity with data warehousing is the most natural of these and one that will become increasingly more necessary as time goes on. The ability to understand the point and power of various methods of predictive analytics is useful if your position will involve dealing with individuals who have the formal title of data scientist, or if that is a position you would eventually like to have.
  • Applied Statistics – Applied statistics ensures that the data you are using is valid and providing the information you think it is providing. Because you will be working a lot with statistics, it is worthwhile to learn one or more statistical languages.Python, R, and SAS are the most commonly used, and getting a foundation in one or more of these will allow you to expand further as time goes on. A lot of data analysts will end up working mostly in Excel, but being able use a more powerful tool when necessary is helpful.

Career Development

There is lot of potential for growth for people who have the level of business and statistical knowledge that a data analyst possesses. There are two main paths for this growth, both of which will eventually require a master’s degree.

If you are more interested in a management position, an MBA will allow you to combine your data know-how with management techniques and position you to gain a leadership position.

If you want to go in an even more data-focused position, getting a master’s degree in computer science or statistics will put you in a good position to become a data scientist.

Either way, becoming a data analyst is worthwhile and rewarding, particularly if you have the knowledge required to be excel.