Data analytics is one of the best career options today. Everything is connected, and every device has its own story to tell. The issue? Understanding and using all that data is practically impossible. That is if you don’t have a background in data analysis and big data or a business analytics degree. There are many skills you will need to succeed, but if you follow this guide, slowly but surely, you can secure yourself a high-paying, exciting career in data analysis.
What is Data Analytics?
Data analytics is the science and process of taking large data sets and organizing them into understandable and actionable intel. As you can imagine with the sheer amount of data that we produce, this cannot be done by hand. Therefore, the data analyst doesn’t just understand data and visualization but often has core skills in computer programming.
What is Big Data?
A big part of data analytics today is known as Big Data. In normal data analysis, the data sets are typically from the company itself, from its own data management programs and logistics. In Big Data, we look on a grander and more global scale. Big Data is of great interest to global companies, researchers, governments, and those in healthcare. There are, however, many obstacles to using Big Data. Privacy is one of the most primary concerns. You need to extract personal information from the data you need. In healthcare, for example, it means you need to keep personal data private while sharing things like test results.
It might seem like privacy is the more important factor here, especially for such sensitive information like your health, but there is a lot that can be learned on a global scale. We can learn more about how a disease affects those in different regions, learn more about an unknown disease or condition, and so much more – and that’s just in healthcare.
The potential is there. The need is there. We still need to catch up to ensure the privacy and protection of the data. Even with this hiccup, Big Data analysts are in great demand and fetch very high salaries.
Career Prospects Working as a Data Analyst
As a data analyst, you will be working with data sets. The purpose and the situation, however, will differ depending on the role you work in. All have higher than average salaries, especially today as data analysis is still a new field and there is a huge demand for experts. It is great if you love problem-solving, like technical and interpersonal communication work, and are good with programming. Due to the nature of your work, it is also very easy to work from home, so if you are interested in remote work, this could be the perfect role for you.
To give you just a taste of what you can do as a data analyst, here are the top five positions today:
- Business Intelligence Analyst
Business Intelligence analysts find patterns in the company’s data. They work on visualizing and modeling the data and working with strategists and executive level management to provide actionable advice and direction for the company. Examples could include improved buying, supply chain optimization, spending, and more.
They earn an average salary of $95,800 per year and are often included with company bonuses, putting their yearly average salary over $100,000.
Remember that this is the average salary, so you will earn less when you first start out and far more later on in your career.
- Data Analyst
A data analyst is the more generic version of a business intelligence analyst. Your job position will be very similar to the business intelligence analyst, but your work will be more behind the scenes, unlike the BI analyst. Those in this role need to be very proficient in programming and in machine learning, but they can work anywhere from the private sector to the non-profit sector, all the way to the government or healthcare.
They earn around $75,200 per year, though the specific range you can expect will vary drastically depending on which industry you end up working in.
- Data Scientist
Data scientists work with larger sets of data: Big Data, demographic data, and more. You likely wouldn’t find a data scientist role in a private company, for example, unless it were a large, global business. They are highly qualified and have the highest level of technical knowledge on the list so far. Where a data analyst will process the data, it is the job of the data scientist to extract understanding and insight from the data. They earn over $90,000 per year and often work in R&R departments, for large international corporations, and the government.
- Quantitative or Financial Analyst
A financial analyst, otherwise known as a quantitative analyst, uses data organization and technical skills in order to determine financial investment opportunities or solve risk management issues for their company. They typically work for a bank, pension fund, insurance company, and large businesses. They earn between $82,800 and $113,000, though you can earn massive amounts by starting your own investment or financial analyst firm.
What Does a Data Analyst Need to Know?
Data analysts need to have a firm background in a variety of different skills and programs. You can learn these one at a time as you go, or you can gain a firm foundation with a business analytics degree. You can always expand on your skillset as you go. The industry and job are still very new, to the point where what you know and can do will trump any degree. That being said, a business analytics degree can certainly open a lot of doors, especially if you are shifting your career in a new direction.
You will need to know a few programming languages, like Python, as well as data visualization and warehousing. Familiarity with how to use and make the most out of SQL Databases, how to use database querying languages, how to data mine, and machine learning skills will all help you succeed in this role.
If you are new and want to get started in data analysis as part of your career change, you can learn a lot of the basics and get a good foundation going with a business analytics degree. However, if you already have experience in many of these skills, certification and rounding out your skills is a must.
How To Become a Data Analyst
To become a data analyst, you will want to follow these steps.
Start With a Math or Computer Science Degree
If you know you want to go into data analytics right from the start, then a great way to do it is with a math or computer science degree. These BSc degrees will help prepare you for statistics and data visualization. However, the computer science degree will allow you to learn and become proficient in a variety of programming languages, like Python, which is essential to any data analyst.
Start with a Business Analytics Degree
Though the natural progression for those wanting to become a data analyst is to start with a math or computer science degree, that is not the only way forward. You can earn a master’s business analytics degree from any background with the right degree.
It is best to earn your master’s after spending some time working. This applies to both those working as a junior analyst out of their undergrad and those who want to transition to data analytics later on. At the end of the day, understanding the data and what it needs to be used for is one of the most important aspects of any job role.
As you likely will not want to or be in a position to take time off from work to take on this business analytics degree, you need to make sure that it was designed to be online and for working professionals. The difference here is simple: in a degree designed for working professionals, there won’t be a mandatory log-in time. You can work after work, whenever those hours may be.
You will also want to ensure that the degree is accredited. This isn’t always strictly necessary, but for online degrees, it offers that extra bit of assurance that you will be taught to a high standard and that your degree will be recognized by your employer. For that business analytics degree, the accreditation that you will want to look for is AACSB.
Finally, before you apply and enroll, check to see what exactly you will be learning. You want more than just data visualization skills. You also want to learn:
- A foundation of statistics, programming, and data in relation to business solutions
- How to collect, analyze, and extract actionable insight from large data sets
- Proficiency in Tableau, SQL, Python, and SPSS
- How to present and make decisions based on the data
A combined focus on communication and data analysis is key to any business analytics degree. It will give you the best foundation necessary to transition into the field.
For those who already have that experience, especially through a computer science degree, you will want to find a more specific degree that builds from your existing Knowledge. However, do be careful as you may end up having to pay tuition to learn concepts and skills you already have if you are not careful.
Look for Junior Analyst Roles
A junior analyst role is perfect for those who have just graduated from a relevant undergraduate or have transitioned into the career with a business analytics degree. They will be less paid but think of them as the opportunity to apply what you have learned to real-world situations. A year or two in a junior analyst role is often more than you need to learn essential skills and spread your wings.
This may be within the company itself, or it may be in a new industry. As the job role is booming, but the list of qualified experts is low, you should find it easier to find the right job and company for you than in other industries.
Work Your Way Up
You will need experience in order to get the higher paid and more senior positions as a data analyst. This doesn’t just mean the role, either. Big companies like banks, research organizations, and governments all pay very highly for a qualified data analyst, but they also have far higher expectations than when you first start out. Work to continue earning certifications and try to stay on top of the news that will impact your industry the most to make your skills highly relevant and in demand.
There are many certifications that you can earn while you work your way up the career ladder. Though they are not strictly essential, they can help you stay on top of the latest updates and computing languages. Things change fast in the technology sector, and understanding those changes is the minimum that will be expected of you.
What to Remember on Your Journey
There are a lot of things that you will want to remember as you go. It is not an easy task to complete a science-based undergraduate, and harder still to earn a master’s business analytics degree while working full-time. Throughout your efforts, you must put your own health and mental wellbeing at the forefront. Listening to yourself and your health can keep you dedicated and committed to your goals.
Part of listening also means knowing when to leave and adjust your career trajectory. As a business analyst, you can work almost anywhere, so don’t restrict yourself to a certain industry. Sure, if you were working before deciding to transition with a business analytics degree, you will have greater insight into that company and that industry. Your expertise there can help you get a great paying job pretty much out of the gate. If you don’t love it, however, or have different ambitions, it is always worthwhile seeking them out.
This could mean working in a new industry, or it could mean opening up your own business. As a business data analyst, you have many, many great options ahead of you.