Career Overview: Data Analyst

What They Do

More companies are making use of big data. Because of this, the demand for data analysts and scientists has increased. There is a great deal of data about customers now available to companies, including what they want, how they use certain products and services, and how often they purchase these items. As a result, these companies need data analysts to help them sort out the information. They can also help businesses create better products and find a more accurate way to market them.


The term “data analyst” is somewhat broad. However, it can be split up into three separate fields: technologists, who function as coders and writers of algorithms; statisticians; and creatives who consume content in order to find the most important and telling results. Translating any data, whether it is numbers or market research, into plain language is at the heart of what a data analyst does.

Responsibilities and Skills

An analyst’s responsibilities are based on the type of company or organization, as well as its size. For example, a data analyst might focus on specifics like reducing costs, solving costly issues and problems and generally helping the company make better business decisions. Other data analysts assume responsibilities in a certain specialty, such as those who work as operations analysts, marketing analysts and financial analysts.


The main skill a data analyst needs is the ability to comprehend facts, figures and numbers. An analyst takes these numbers and then condenses them into understandable language that can be used for decision-making. Communication skills are key to success as a data analyst. An analyst must be able to take the raw information and present the results verbally and in writing.


For entry-level positions, most employers look for data analysts with at least a bachelor’s degree. Business administration is a common major for these positions. Information systems is also a common subject area that data analysts study. Courses in accounting, management, statistics, data mining and organizational behavior are all relevant subjects for potential data analysts.


Technology plays a huge role for data analysts. Therefore, computer science courses or a concentration in technology may be helpful when pursuing this line of work. A data analyst must understand the five main competencies of data analysis: programming, statistics, data visualization, munging and machine learning. These competencies help an analyst not only understand the numbers but also turn those results into abstract concepts that can be applied to a particular business. Though many individuals have the talent and understanding to look at the numbers, extracting insights from them can be a challenge.

Salary and Outlook

While salary for data analysts varies depending on industry and experience, salaries are generally high. Entry-level market research analysts, for example, make around $60,000. Entry-level information security analysts, on the other hand, make about $86,000 a year. Experienced data analysts can make upwards of $110,000 a year.


The job outlook for data analysts is positive. According to the Occupational Information Network (O*Net), job growth will be slower than the national average. However, many companies say that there is a lack of experienced and highly skilled data analysts to fill the positions that are currently open.