Become a Data Analyst: Education and Career Roadmap

Explore the requirements to become a data analyst. Learn about the job description and duties, and review the step-by-step process to start a career as a data analyst. View article »

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  • 0:03 Data Analysts
  • 0:29 Career Skills & Info
  • 0:59 Step 1: Bachelor's Degree
  • 2:01 Step 2: Entry-Level Work
  • 2:39 Step 3: Master's Degree

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Video Transcript

Data Analysts

Data analysts compile and analyze information and statistics for businesses in order to identify problems and suggest possible solutions. They might also design and build databases to house the information they need, ensure data accuracy, and make recommendations to business managers about how to improve efficiency or quality based on their findings. Data analysts typically spend many hours sitting at a desk in front of a computer.

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Career Skills & Info

Degree Level Bachelor's degree; some jobs may require a master's degree
Degree Field Information technology, statistics, or a related field
Key Skills Analytical and mathematical skills, knowledge of database types, familiarity with data warehousing and data manipulation, experience working with various computer programming languages
Median Salary (2016)* $52,190 (for entry-level data analysts)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, *

Let's take a look at what kind of degree program can help you qualify for an entry-level job as a data analyst.

Step 1: Bachelor's Degree

Most employers seek data analysts with a bachelor's degree in information technology (IT) or statistics. Four-year programs in information technology may offer a concentration or minor in data management. Classes may cover topics in systems design and analysis, business practices and trends, database management systems, emerging technologies, and IT project management. Programs in statistics focus more on analyzing information mathematically than on information databases themselves. In addition to statistical analysis and mathematics, classes may cover topics like applied regression analysis, discrete data analysis, linear algebra, probability, and programming.

Success Tip:

  • Minor in applied statistics or data analysis. Minors in data analysis or statistics may be available through a school's computer science, information technology, or mathematics department. Completing a minor in applied statistics or data analysis can make it easier to find a job as a data analyst after graduation.

Step 2: Entry-Level Work

Aspiring data analysts usually need some experience, acquired through entry-level jobs as statistical assistants or actuarial technicians. Many entry-level positions include informal on-the-job training with more experienced workers. An entry-level position can provide experience with analytical software like SAS or SigmaStat, financial analysis software such as PolySystems Asset Delphi, or basic spreadsheet software like Microsoft Excel. Aspiring data analysts should also seek out jobs that give them experience working with Structure Query Language, a computer language used in most data analysis jobs.

Step 3: Master's Degree

Some employers may prefer to hire applicants with advanced degrees, so prospective data analysts may want to consider furthering their education in information analysis, management information systems (MIS), statistics, or another related field. These programs offer courses and seminars in software architecture and testing, data warehousing, HTML coding, and e-commerce. Some of these programs also require an independently researched master's thesis on a topic related to information systems or a practicum, which could contribute to an aspiring data analyst's on-the-job experience.

Let's review. Aspiring data analysts usually need a bachelor's degree in information technology or statistics and some entry-level work experience as an actuarial technician or statistical assistant. As of October 2016, the median yearly salary for an entry-level data analyst was $52,190.

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