Last Updated 11/15/2023
Are you good with numbers? Do you enjoy solving problems? If so, a career as a data analyst may be the right path for you. Between 2023 and 2027, data analyst jobs are expected to grow by over 25% according to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2023, making now a great time to launch a career as a data analyst.
One of the most in-demand careers, data analysts are tech professionals who inspect, clean, transform, and model data. According to LinkedIn, there are more than 170,000 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?
- Benefits of Becoming a Data Analyst
- 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 this role, a data analyst:
Uses business intelligence ("BI") and analytics tools (and sometimes sets them up)
Collects raw data, finds patterns in it, and then uses the patterns to find insights for the organization
Creates visualizations of the data
Creates reports using those visualizations
Develops key performance indicators
Collaborates with multiple stakeholders and team members
Streamlines data collection
Trains others in the data-collection system
If you were to become a data analyst, here is a breakdown of some of the responsibilities you may have:
Use business intelligence ("BI") and analytics tools
As a data analyst, you’ll regularly use tools like Excel, Tableau, and SQL to retrieve, analyze, and visualize data. 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, find patterns, and then use the patterns to find insights
You’ll collect data from various sources and feed them into a common destination, like an SQL database, or a “data lake,” like the one featured on Amazon Web Services. Once the data is in this destination, you’ll use BI tools to find patterns in the data that can help improve processes for the 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. As a data analyst, 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—combining number crunching with creativity to build stunning data visualizations.
Create reports using data visualizations
Creating beautiful data 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 key performance indicators (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 with multiple stakeholders and team members
If you want to become an analyst, you’ll need to have a number of technical skills, but non-technical 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.
Benefits of Becoming a Data Analyst
As a fast-growing career path, becoming a data analyst has its fair share of benefits. Here are just a few:
Remote Work: If you’re looking for a remote role, data analytics could be the right career path for you. Many organizations allow data analysts to work remotely or on a hybrid schedule.
Competitive Salary: According to ZipRecruiter, the average salary for a data analyst in the U.S. is $80,429, over 25% higher than the national average for all roles.
Growing Job Demand: The data analytics market is expected to reach over 300 billion by 2030, which means there is ample demand for skilled data professionals.
What Soft Skills Do You Need to Succeed as a Data Analyst?
If you’re aiming to transition into a new career as a data analyst, it can be helpful to consider what transferable 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 and attributes recruiters are looking for when hiring data analysts:
Critical thinking and problem-solving skills
Effective written and verbal communication
Grasp of 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 data analytics professionals have backgrounds in teaching, communications, human resources, marketing, the military, and more.
Considering a career in data analytics?
Learn more about our full-time and part-time data analytics bootcamps.
Types of Data Analysts: Jobs and Salaries
There are many types of data analyst roles, and the salary for each will depend upon factors like location, experience, and certifications. Here are a few examples of data analytics roles and average salaries.
Data Analyst ($77,587 | Glassdoor)
Data analysts take large amounts of data and use it to share trends, and forecast and extract information to help their employers make better-informed business decisions. They use reports, explanations, and visualizations to scan and present data.
Business Consultant ($98,766 | Glassdoor)
The day-to-day of a business consultant can vary depending on the role. In the field of data analytics, business consultants often use their visualization skills to share key data findings with employers and teams. They may work with a consulting firm or as an individual contributor. Consulting can provide flexibility to work with many types of clients.
Insights Analyst ($74,305 | 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 discover opportunities and predict potential issues.
Data Analytics Consultant ($106,096 | 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. They can be hired to work on a specific project or for a period of time.
Business Analyst ($86,534 | Glassdoor)
Business analysts review data and how it relates to business, serving 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 ($90,962 | Glassdoor)
A critical member of any organization's IT team, a database administrator works to ensure company data is secure and can only be accessed by authorized people. They're also responsible for backing up data and setting up databases.
Junior Data Engineer ($100,706 | Glassdoor)
Perfect for someone with a mix of technical and business skills, junior data engineers work to design and develop information systems. This collaborative role 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 ($92,371 | Glassdoor)
Data journalists create dynamic news stories rich with statistics, infographics, and charts. This is a great role for people who have backgrounds in communication or other creative, highly visual fields.
Data Modeler ($142,637 | 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 bootcamp for data analytics 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 Virginia Tech, 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, the cost of the data analytics bootcamp, and your budget. Make sure to compare each program’s payment options to see if any scholarship or funding opportunities are applicable to you. It can also be helpful to attend an event or two to get a sense of 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 Virginia Tech Data Analytics program? Start your application today to take the next step toward launching your tech career.