What does a Data Analyst do? A Career Guide

When you hear or read the word, Data Analyst, what comes to mind? A tech person? Someone who analyzes data? [duh! It’s in the name]. If you thought of any of these, you wouldn’t be far off. But, analysing data is just a small part of what data analysts do.

There is the question of what data is being analysed, how such analysis is being carried out and how the results of the analysis will be applied.

Think about it. Data is an intrinsic part of our lives and the results of the work that Data Analysts do can be seen all around. Think weather updates or route estimations, these solutions that make life easier for you are only possible because of data experts.

With the myriad of opportunities that exist within the field, if you are looking to switch into tech, data analysis is one to consider. Asides from the many problems it provides solutions to, It is also in high demand. Currently, there are more than 86,000 open jobs worldwide that are seeking data analysts.

This article will be taking you on a deep dive into what a data analyst does and how you can get started as a Data Analyst.

Before we go further, I want to let you in on a secret. If you have your heart set on a career in data analysis and are not sure where to begin, AltSchool Africa is a good starting point. You can move from beginner to industry ready in just 12 months. Get started HERE.

Who is a Data Analyst?

Let’s get right to it! A data analyst is someone who deals with the identification, collection, processing, analysis and interpretation of data through statistical and/or logical techniques. Data analysts process raw data. Data in its raw form is usually unstructured or noisy, it is the job of the data analysts to find ways to refine this data into meaningful insights for better business decision making.

Any piece of information is data. Your name is data. Your gender is data. Your age is data. Your favourite food is data. You’re beginning to see what we mean here, right? According to Domo, about 2.5 quintillion bytes of data (0.0025 zettabytes) are generated by more than 4.39 billion internet users each day. An interesting fact by Data Pine also states that only a mere 0.5% of the vast amount of data being generated is actually analysed and used for data discovery, improvement, and intelligence.

What does this mean? The data analysis market has very big potential and growth is going to be astronomical.

The day-to-day activities of a data analyst

Now that we have a better understanding of who a data analyst is, let’s explore the various day-to-day activities of a data analyst. Bearing in mind that there would be specifics that apply to data analysts working within specialised industries, this is a general representation of what a typical work day for a data analyst looks like:

  1. Analysing data for insights, patterns, or trends: spotting patterns, processing data
  2. Interpreting the results of the analysis through presentation and storytelling with reports and dashboards
  3. Collaborating with stakeholders to utilise key findings
  4. Designing and maintaining data systems and databases; this includes fixing coding errors and other data-related problems.
  5. Mining data from primary and secondary sources, then reorganising said data in a format that can be easily read by either human or machine.
  6. Using statistical tools to interpret data sets, paying particular attention to trends and patterns that could be valuable for diagnostic and predictive analytics efforts.
  7. Demonstrating the significance of their work in the context of local, national, and global trends that impact both their organisation and industry.
  8. Preparing reports for executive leadership that effectively communicate trends, patterns, and predictions using relevant data.
  9. Collaborating with programmers, engineers, and organisational leaders to identify opportunities for process improvements, recommend system modifications, and develop policies for data governance.
  10. Creating appropriate documentation that allows stakeholders to understand the steps of the data analysis process and duplicate or replicate the analysis if necessary

Source: Northeastern.edu

How to get started as a data analyst

Does the data analysis career path fascinate you and would want to know more on how to get started? Then you need to be highly proficient in the following skills for you to thrive in this career path:

  • Data visualisation (Spreadsheets, Slides/Powerpoint, Tableau Public, PowerBI, Google Data Studio)
  • Data Cleaning
  • R programming
  • Python
  • SQL and NoSQL
  • Knowledge of RDBMS (MySQL, PostgreSQL)
  • Fundamental statistical principles

In addition to the technical skills, you need to have a good grasp of relevant soft skills considering you will be relating with different stakeholders and contributors. Important soft skills like effective communication, critical thinking, time management, collaboration and organisation are crucial for success.

Career options as a data analyst

Data analysis remains one of the most lucrative tech careers. The average salary for a data analyst is about $63,442/annum according to PayScale, keep in mind this varies based on hierarchy, location and other factors. More advanced roles like Senior Data Analyst, Analytics Manager, and Chief Data Officer command a higher pay grade.

Depending on career objectives, data analysts could also transition into related roles such as data engineer, data scientist, analytics engineer, and business analyst.

The importance of a data analyst in today’s business world

Businesses generate massive data volumes and they need experts who can make these data work for them. Whether it’s picking up lessons from past events or predicting future events, data analysts play a big role in business growth.

Across various facets of a business, data analysis is crucial – like improving marketing conversion metrics, making financial projections, detecting fraud or financial irregularities, identifying new market opportunities, sales forecasting, and/or analysing consumer behaviour to improve product development.

The insights that data analysts bring to an organisation are very valuable. Bottom line, to thrive in the global market, you need smarter decision making, this underscores the importance of a data analyst in any organisation.

Now that you fully understand what a data analyst does, Do you see yourself in this career path? You can start by acquiring the skills required to make you a great data analyst. If you are looking for a program with a robust and comprehensive curriculum specially designed to take you from beginner to diploma certified Data Analyst in 12 months, look no further than  AltSchool Africa.

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