Data is more widely available now than ever in the past, given the growth of the technologies that extract them. More industries are leveraging the data to inform their business strategies and increase their market share. Data analytics careers are among the most stable and growing (per the World Economic Forum). Interested individuals would do well to consider a career in data analytics.
Among those who may find a career as a data analyst, most rewarding would be individuals possessing inquisitive natures. They typically enjoy the logic of mathematics and prefer objective approaches to problem-solving – preferably armed with evidence. This level of reward goes beyond the respectable paycheck (the average salary for a data analyst is £32,814 a year and increases with education and experience.)
Data Analyst Career Paths
A large variety of industries, ranging from small businesses to global corporations employ data analysts. Such industries include:
- IT Technology
The world of analytics is wide open in business, particularly in the realm of finance. Such roles in finance include:
- Credit analytics
- Fraud analysis
- Risk analysis
- Investment analysis
Business product analysis is a growing area – investors want to see continuing improvement in the quality of a product and the minimisation of waste. Analysts not only work with the effectiveness of the product itself but with the manufacturing process, ensuring that necessary resources are delivered where the evidence demonstrates a gap.
Marketing is another critical arena for a data analyst, particularly one skilled in managing Big Data. An analyst in marketing would be responsible for targeting the right audience for a campaign and ensuring that the consumer's needs, wants, and spending habits are well-understood and accounted for in the marketing campaign.
Data analyst career paths could also extend into work with consultancy firms. These analysts typically work in the areas of human resources, marketing, accounting, and other types of business intelligence. Many analysts engage in freelance work, often working with researchers in fields such as education, health, and other social sciences.
Data Analyst Roles
Data analyst roles range widely as well. The career path for a data analyst may take him or her from a "front-line" analyst to a manager or corporate leader. At the front-line is the data analyst who prepares the data (extracts it, and puts it into order for analysis), performs the data analysis (grouping, sorting, predicting) and reports the results. The individuals in this role are frequently responsible for discerning the trends in data sets and creating forecasts. This data analyst career path could potentially lead to more senior positions within the company. The individual may then be responsible for defining best practices and guiding continuous improvement (by way of data-informed evidence). These individuals generally identify key performance indicators and determine the benchmarks required to stay ahead of competitors.
Data Analyst Qualifications
The qualifications for a career path as a data analyst start with the individual's aptitude and willingness to engage in the necessary training for skill development. The individual would begin with a background that includes the study of mathematics and proceed into the study of analytics. Such education would consist of training in:
- Data preparation (extracting, cleansing, imputation, etc.)
- Analytical tools (statistical software, developer software, programming languages, etc.)
- Relational databases (how to create/query)
- Data modelling (for prediction)
- Statistical theory and methodologies
- Data visualisation
The ability to work successfully with data typically requires the analyst to understand how things worked in the past to accurately predict future performance. This entails skills in communication. The analyst works closely with other members of the team, the decision-makers, and key stakeholders to understand the business context of the question at hand to deliver the most relevant and meaningful results.
Other skills that a reputable programme would incorporate into the curriculum include critical thinking, and how to dive deeply into detail without losing the overall big picture or goal. The successful data analyst can synthesise various skills into an analysis that guides and informs business practice.
Data Analyst Career Path – Considering a Career Change
Those considering incorporating analytics into their present position or even as a new career may find that such a change is not nearly as disruptive as one may think. Very often, it is possible to remain in the same industry, company, or even position and work toward building an analytical skill set. A robust data analytics programme will include hands-on experiences such as ones found on the job. The business knowledge that an individual has acquired in his or her present company will aid in providing the needed context to provide relevant solutions to problems.
Data Analyst Career Path – The Right Education
Most employers seeking data analysts require targeted analytical education and training. Many require a degree, often at a post-graduate level such as a master's. A credible programme should include courses in:
- Descriptive analytics (the ability to provide an overall picture/summation of the data)
- Prediction (data models to infer future results)
- How to best display the insights gleaned from the analysis
However, the soft skills required for an analyst should be included as well, particularly in terms of communication, teamwork, and leadership. Today's analysts are no longer found working in the background of their industries, but rather are now at the forefront. They frequently work directly with stakeholders to ask the most pertinent business questions and to address the most pressing problems. A good programme will help the analyst use the data to prescribe the most appropriate and feasible solutions.
Many companies offer in-house training, and yes, an aspiring data analyst should avail him or herself of such opportunities. However, many individuals require training that is more extensive yet doesn't take several years to complete. It is possible to obtain the necessary qualifications in a relatively short period. Many programmes can be found online, which is undoubtedly a great convenience for those looking to embark on a career path as a data analyst while currently employed. Aston University offers an online business analytics master’s programme, which covers the primary requirements to be a successful data analyst.
An individual willing to do the work to become a data analyst will find him or herself embarking on a career path that is dynamic, ever-evolving, and genuinely satisfying. As technologies grow, so do opportunities, and thus the ability to continually improve and evolve in the profession. For the individuals described above - curious and driven by evidence and logic – this career would be most fulfilling indeed.