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Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a data analyst. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and certification requirements to find out if this is the career for you.
Data analysts collect, maintain, and troubleshoot issues that are produced from storing digital information. A bachelor's degree is required for this career. Although certification is not required, it can make a prospective employee more marketable to a company.
|Required Education||Bachelor's degree|
|Other Requirements||Certifications preferred|
|Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)||15% (faster than average)*|
|Average Salary (2014)||$82,280*|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
A data analyst or database analyst works in the information technology field, assessing and organizing data generated from research, customer relations or business relations. They develop tools or software programs that present data in a useful format for business needs, have knowledge of relational databases, maintain data integrity or security and keep data management systems current.
A data analyst's skills are useful in any field that has a need of collecting and maintaining information. Some of the more popular fields that have need for data analysis include health information management, business analysis and financial data or economics.
Health information management uses patient data collected by physicians or clinical epidemiology to track diseases, overall health of populations and ensure better treatment of local patient populations. Scientists also must be knowledgeable in the manipulation of data they receive through research into reports that are easily readable and demonstrate findings legibly. Business management data analysts collect information gathered through surveys of customers or through financial data analysis in banking institutions and brokerage firms.
Though certification isn't necessarily required, it can open up more job opportunities as well as increase a candidate's salary. A bachelor's degree in a related field, such as statistics, mathematics or computer science, can substitute for some or all of the occupational experience needed to qualify for some of these certification exams.
Data analysts can become certified through several different organizations. Data Management International offers a certification exam to become a Certified Data Management Professional (CDMP). This basic certification is non-vendor specific and consists of three exams. Two parts test basic data management understanding and knowledge of information systems; the third and final exam is elected by the test-taker, depending on their area of expertise.
The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) offers some certification for a career in health information management, but those interested must have a combination of higher education and occupational experience. After they pass the multiple-choice three-hour exam, candidates become Certified Health Data Analysts (CHDA).
Statistical Analysis Software (SAS) also offers a professional certification program that demonstrates competence in the use of their software and provides training on its use to manipulate data--frequently used in businesses management, or interpretation of financial data. Basic certification is for SAS Certified Base Programmer for SAS 9 and requires exam-takers to have previous experience with data files, generating reports, handling errors and other tasks. Exams last a few hours; candidates can prepare through SAS online training materials or through a professional, instructor-led training program.
While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn't have salary or employment outlook information for the broad category of data analysts, it does provide that information for some related industry-specific job titles. For example, the BLS reported that database administrators, who are tasked with organizing and storing data, could see employment opportunities grow by 15% between 2012 and 2022. Database administrators earned an average salary of $82,280 as of May 2014, the BLS reported. In comparison, the BLS indicated a 19% growth for management analysts, and these workers earned $90,860 in average salary as of May 2014.