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How to Become a Data Analyst

The world around you is run by numbers. From the latest political poll to the national census, numbers paint a valuable picture of social realities. With data analytics, we learn how people think, act, and function. However, you may be wondering how to become a data analyst.

If data analytics piques your interest, this article is for you. Here, we'll explain how to become a data analyst, discussing educational paths, job outlook, salary expectations, necessary skills, and much more. Learn more about the steps for becoming a data analyst below. 

What Is Data Analytics?

Data analysis involves the processing, cleaning, and understanding of data to figure out the solution to a problem. Data analysis is used by business and government leaders to make decisions. 

Whereas they used to rely on intuition to make decisions, data analysis has made it possible to hold faith in the numbers. As a data set increases in size, so does the reliability of the analysis that someone has conducted. This is why companies gather data.

What Is Data Analytics Used For?

A data analyst is a person who solves the questions that a business, government, or other organization is seeking to answer. These may include problems like identifying which product should go on sale in an online store. A data analyst uses their knowledge of professional data analysis techniques to find an answer.

The problems a data analyst solves depend on the industry in which they work. Governments use data analysis for a myriad of purposes, such as public health protection and predicting how the economy will change. Businesses, on the other hand, use data analysis to analyze user engagement or find out what features users enjoy most in a given app.

What Does a Data Analyst Do?

A data analyst interprets data by looking at trends and patterns. They turn the data into information that can be used to improve a business. To learn more about what a data analyst does, read through our list of key tasks below.

  • Interpreting data from small or large datasets

  • Identifying data patterns

  • Working with management to figure out ways to improve business operations

  • Obtaining data from sources where it is being collected

  • Developing databases and data reports

  • Implementing strategies to increase efficiency

Data Analyst Skills

Learning data analytics means familiarizing yourself with the various tools involved in the process. There are many different data analyst skills that you need to master in order to qualify for job opportunities. In fact, there are certain hard and soft skills required to become a data analyst. Below are the essential data analyst skills:

Essential Technical Skills for Data Analysts

Many data analyst skills revolve around technical knowledge. Skilled data analysts are adept in math and programming. Below are several of the technical skills needed to be a data analyst. You should have a solid understanding of these topics to work in the data science field. 

  • Math. Data analysis deals with numbers. You do not need to have an in-depth understanding of trigonometry or calculus. However, you will need a firm grasp of mathematics and its concepts.

  • Statistics. Having a deep knowledge of statistics is one of the most useful skills to have if you wish to pursue data analytics. Knowing how different pieces of data are collected is the backbone of the data analysis process. This means you should be comfortable with graphs, charts, regressions, sample sizes, and other data analysis concepts.

  • Programming. Programming literacy is a huge bonus in the world of data analytics. There are plenty of coding languages you may choose to learn, such as Python, C++, and Java.

Essential Soft Skills for Data Analysts

In addition to technical knowledge, certain soft skills are required to become a data analyst. These skills are essential to being successful in a data analyst role. Learn about several of the most important data analyst soft skills below.

  • Communication. The importance of this data analyst soft skill should not be underestimated. Communication, both written and verbal, is key to your success. You need superb listening skills to understand your assignments as well as the ability to clearly explain complex topics to a colleague. Good communication skills can mean the difference between a harmonious working environment and a toxic one.

  • Critical thinking. To analyze real-world data, you need critical thinking skills. This means having the ability to look at one aspect of a study and extrapolating the deeper meaning behind it. If you can do this well, it will enhance your overall data analytics skills.

  • Teamwork. Data analyst duties will require you to access data and communicate complex topics across departments. As such, many job listings will mention that they want a candidate who is comfortable with teamwork.

What Tools Do Data Analysts Use?

Another common question regarding data analysts is which tools they use on the job. The list of data analyst tools is long, but some of the most common ones include GitHub, Amazon S3, and Jupyter Notebooks.

A staple in the data analysis industry is Google Analytics, which data analysts use to gain insights into valuable customer information that can boost business performance. In plain language, Google Analytics tracks and reports web traffic and is the most widely used web analyst service out there.

Another prominent data analyst tool, Tableau, is used for aggregating and analyzing data. These professionals use Tableau to create and share dashboards with colleagues and to create visualizations. 

Types of Data Analysis

A data analyst career path requires a combination of mathematical, programming, and business information analysis skills. As a career field, data analytics varies wildly.  With this, the career path for a data analyst can be tailored toward an individual’s interests. Below are a few common types of data analyst career path options for you.

Data Requirements Analysis

One possible data analyst career path is to focus on data requirements. It's easy to collect data. What's difficult is collecting the right data. Before data analysts begin their work, they must ask what problem they need to solve. Based on this, they decide what data they need to collect. Their answers will tell engineers what data points they need.

Statistical Analysis

Data analysts apply statistical analysis solutions to datasets. This involves several processes. It means figuring out the limitations of a dataset, using statistical principles, and calculating final results with those same principles. This career path for data analysts allows you to use your analytics skills to process data.

Data Visualization

Data analysts are in charge of creating visuals that present their findings. As a result, data analysts need to be good at communicating their findings to colleagues who may lack a technical background. 

An excellent way to do this is through graphics, which are easier to interpret than lists of numbers. Data analysis tools, such as Matplotlib and Tableau, allow data analysts to create graphics and visuals for their work. These visualization tools show team members or stakeholders actionable insights in a way that is easy to understand. 

Business Analysis

While it's easy to think that data analysts just sit and analyze data, they do so in the context of a much larger issue. Data analytics experts need to have a keen awareness of a business's goals and how data can help to achieve them. In this data analyst career, professionals function as industry experts.

Data analysts work with people from different departments to solve problems. This means they need to know how to talk in terms that engineers, directors, salespeople, and other employees will understand.

Ultimately, problems are framed as, “How can this help advance our organization's goals?” Some data analysts even specialize in applying business intelligence to data analytics. These people are called business analysts. In this data analyst career path, they use diagnostic analysis to solve business-specific problems.

Data Cleaning

Data does not come in a neatly packaged file with instructions. It comes as raw data. Data analysts need to figure out what to do with that data. Using a technique called cleaning, data analysts look through a dataset and make sure it is structured in the way they want. This involves removing inadequate data and ensuring the validity of values. Only once a dataset has been cleaned can analysis begin. 

Data Interpretation

Data analysts need to be good at interpreting data. It's no use just knowing what data exists. You need to know what story that data tells.

Once an analysis is conducted, data analysts read through the data to identify trends. These trends are compiled into a final report alongside any visualizations and graphics that the analysts have prepared. 

A Day in the Life of a Data Analyst

You may be asking yourself what a day in the life of a data analyst looks like. To answer your question, the day-to-day tasks of data analysts vary depending on where they work and what tools they work with. However, a typical day in the life of a data analyst could be as follows.

Because they lead a busy life, your average data analyst probably wakes up early and spends the morning on one of the many tasks that fall under his purview. This may include building custom solutions, working with Hadoop and NoSQL databases, performing regression analysis, or creating data visualizations. After lunch, perhaps they find the time to write queries or address standard requests.

Though the average day in the life of a data analyst requires professionals to work at a computer most of the day, they do need to work with many different stakeholders or team members. With this, a data analytics career will also involve attending meetings. 

Required Education for Data Analysts

If you want to learn how to become a data analyst, one of the first things you need to know is what educational path to take. Thankfully, aspiring professionals have several options when it comes to getting a data analyst education.

The education requirements for data analyst roles can vary from company to company. However, you can get the skills you need from a data analytics bootcamp or an advanced degree program. Learn more about how to become a data analyst through either a bootcamp, college degree, or self-study process below. 

Data Analytics Coding Bootcamps

A data analyst bootcamp is a great way to get foundational knowledge in the field within a short time period. Bootcamps are intensive, short-term programs that teach students popular programming languages and specialized skills in a matter of months. A data analyst bootcamp is also typically a more affordable option than a university program. 

Data Analytics College Degrees

Another option for getting a data analyst education is to earn a data analyst degree. While this may be the most expensive method of becoming a data analyst, it is also the most widely accepted among employers. Aspiring professionals can get a Bachelor’s Degree in Data Science. In addition, they can go on to also earn a master’s degree in the field. 

Self-Study to Become a Data Analyst

The last option for a data analyst education is to teach yourself data analytics. There are many online resources that will allow you to gain a foundational understanding of important data science topics. This learning plan requires a lot of dedication and discipline. However, teaching yourself data analytics can be a great option to get an entry-level data analyst job. 

How to Become a Data Analyst: Step-by-Step Guide

Learning data analytics is by no means a simple process. The first step in your journey to becoming a data analyst will probably be to pursue an undergraduate degree, where you will gain theoretical knowledge and develop some key technical skills. If you want to know more, we have compiled a step-by-step guide on how to become a data analyst.

Step 1: Plan Your Career Path

The first step in how to become a data analyst is to plan out your career path. In this step, you should consider what learning experience you want to pursue, what kind of company you would like to work for, and what kind of data science job you would like to have.

Step 2: Get a Bachelor's Degree

As with so many other professions, the journey to becoming a data analyst starts with an undergraduate degree program. You can pursue a degree in data analytics, data science, database management, or machine learning, among other programs. It will take you around four years to complete your degree.

Step 3: Obtain an Internship

Nowadays, internships are an important part of professional development, particularly for students and recent graduates. Through an internship, you can obtain critical practical experience and multiply your chances of landing your dream job. Internships can be a great opportunity to develop some of those abilities that are not covered in academic programs, such as soft skills.

Step 4: Take Online Classes

Your degree and internship may not have addressed every subject relevant to the field. Don't worry, you can turn to online courses or bootcamps to fill those gaps in your learning. Online learning platforms offering data analytics courses abound, with courses taking anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. By taking data analyst online classes, you can enhance your practical skills within the field. 

Step 5: Build Your Portfolio

The next step in how to become a data analyst is to build a professional portfolio. Having a solid portfolio is a great way to showcase your analytical skills to potential employers. This will help you stay more competitive in various job market opportunities. 

Step 6: Work on Your Resume

Building a robust resume is an essential step in the process of becoming a data analyst. A data analyst's resume should communicate your educational background, professional experience, notable qualifications, and past achievements. Your data analyst resume should give the hiring manager a strong sense of your abilities. 

Step 7: Apply for Jobs

If you've followed the steps above, you should be ready to face the dreaded job hunt. The job outlook for data analysts is very positive, which means there are plenty of open positions to go around. Using job boards such as Indeed, LinkedIn, or Jobvite, you are sure to achieve your goal of landing a high-paying job in the sector.

Step 8: Prepare for Job Interviews

The final step in becoming a data analyst is to actually secure a job. This means that you should take time to prepare for job interviews. You can do mock interviews and practice answering common data analyst interview questions. Make sure that you can effectively communicate your data analysis experience and skills. 

Common Questions About Becoming a Data Analyst

How Long Does it Take to Become a Data Analyst?

It usually takes about four years to become a data analyst. Most people that secure a job in the industry have obtained, at least, a bachelor's degree. However, some may choose to pursue a master's degree before applying for jobs, which means they are looking at six years of study.

That being said, how long it takes to become a data analyst will depend on which educational path you choose. It is possible to learn data analytics by joining a bootcamp or taking part in a course. These courses are accessible even if you have no prior data science experience. If you follow this path, it can take anywhere from three to six months to build a strong foundation.

The truth is that there's no saying how long it takes to become a data analyst. However, if you have a strong aptitude for mathematics, statistics, and critical thinking, you'll find success in this field soon enough.

Is It Hard to Become a Data Analyst?

No, it is not hard to become a data analyst if you enjoy math and other technical topics. Though data analytics is a technical field, there are many learning resources available that make the profession more accessible. In addition, data analytics software aids professionals in their everyday tasks. 

What's the Difference Between a Data Analyst and a Data Scientist?

The difference between a data analyst and a data scientist is that the former analyzes data while the latter finds new methods and techniques that can be used by data analysts. In addition, when comparing a data analyst vs a data scientist, one key difference is that data scientists work more often with machine learning models.

Another difference between a data analyst and a data scientist is that data scientists typically need more education. For this role, getting a Master’s in Data Science is a good idea.

What Makes a Good Data Analyst?

A good data analyst should have a sense of curiosity, strong communication skills, and, of course, an analytical mindset. In addition, being detail oriented and skilled in logical thinking are important job skills for a data analyst. If you want to learn how to become a data analyst, these are all essential skills that you should develop. 

Data Analyst Job and Career Outlook

The data analyst job outlook shows that professionals can have a promising future in their careers. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects market research analyst positions to grow by 19 percent from 2020 to 2030, which the Bureau categorizes as “much faster than average.” This optimistic projection is the result of the growing demand for efficient systems and predictive analytics in our tech and business-driven world.

The services of data analysts are increasingly sought by business and government leaders to make decisions. As a data set increases in size, so does the reliability of the analysis that someone has conducted. This is why companies gather data. Taking all this into consideration, the employability of these professionals seems guaranteed, at least for the next decade. With this, there should be many data analyst jobs available. 

How Much Do Data Analysts Earn?

The average data analyst salary is $63,442, according to PayScale. This figure does not include bonuses or commissions, which can significantly increase the income of these professionals. In fact, PayScale estimates that the total pay for a data analyst (including bonuses, profit sharing, tips, commissions, overtime pay, and other forms of income) ranges from $42,000 to $90,000.

Naturally, experience impacts these professionals' income. According to Glassdoor, a senior data analyst salary starts at $99,334 a year. In addition to your experience, the location where you work can also affect the data analyst salary that you earn. 

Where Can I Work as a Data Analyst?

A big aspect of learning how to become a data analyst is discovering where you can find job opportunities. Thankfully, data analysts can work in a wide variety of industries. From banking to retail to healthcare, many different industries today put out job postings for data analysts. However, most data analyst positions are only available at large companies. 

Data Analyst Internships

Getting a data analyst internship is one way to get relevant work experience when becoming a data analyst. These positions are a rich part of your learning journey and offer you a way to build skills, learn what it is like to work as a data analyst, and, oftentimes, earn some money.

If you want to apply for a data analyst internship, you can search for opportunities with large firms in nearly any industry. In particular, the banking and tech industries often have opportunities available.

Data Analyst Certifications

If you want to enhance your resume, getting a data analyst certification is a great option. These are professional awards certifying that an individual has specific skills and experience within the industry. If you want to learn more about some of the best certifications to become a data analyst, read through the options below. 

AWS Certified Data Analytics

This data analyst certification is for those who have at least five years of experience in the field and two years of experience working with AWS. In order to receive this certification, you must pass a 65-question exam. This data analytics certification costs $300. 

CompTIA Data+

The CompTIA Data+ certification costs $246, and you can earn it by completing a 90-question exam. This is a data analytics certification that is meant for those early in their careers and you can receive it after just 18 months of experience. However, it is specifically geared toward business analysts.

Cloudera Certified Associate Data Analyst

You can earn the Cloudera Certified Associate Data Analyst certification by passing a hands-on exam that consists of eight to 12 questions. There is not a certain number of professional years required to get this data analyst certification, but applicants should have mastered certain skills. 

The Best Data Analytics Courses and Training

There are many options for pursuing an education in data analysis. Some of the best courses for data analytics can be found online, making them highly accessible. Below are some of the best courses for data analytics to enroll in right now. These are paid and free data analytics courses.

In-Person Data Analytics Courses

These are the best options for those who want to attend data analytics classes in person. These classes are a great step toward becoming a data analyst. They can teach you all of the necessary skills and allow you to network within the industry. 

Data Analysis Fundamentals: A Hands-on Workshop

This workshop lasts two days and covers a variety of data analysis topics. Modules include the topics of gathering data, creating a data table, analyzing data, and extracting insights from data. The course is offered by the American Management Association (AMA) and costs $2,445 for those who are not members and $2,195 for AMA members.

Advanced Tools and Techniques for Data Analysis

This course is also offered by AMA and takes two days to complete. It is a hands-on course covering many data analytics tools, including R, Tableau, and JMP. Students need to have basic knowledge of excel spreadsheets in order to join the program. This data analytics class costs $2,545 for non-members and $2,295 for members. 

Online Data Analytics Courses

It can be incredibly convenient to take data analytics courses online. Below is a list of some of the best data analytics courses online for those who want to learn from home.

Data Science For Business Leaders | Data Science Dojo

Data Science Dojo offers this online five-day course to help business leaders learn how to use data science to reach their targets. At the end of the course, students receive a certificate of completion. The lessons are taught live by instructors and last three hours each day. 

Data Analytics | Coding Temple

Coding Temple is a coding bootcamp that offers data analytics courses online for students around the US. This is a self-paced program in which students can choose between having access for either 12, 24, or 90 weeks. Upon completion, students are ready to work in any data-related field.

Data Analytics Bootcamp | Metis

Metis is a coding bootcamp with online courses that teach students how to become data analysts. Students in the program participate in intensive data science workshops that last 12 weeks. The bootcamp also includes job placement support, career coaching, and more.

The Data Science Course 2022: Complete Data Science Bootcamp | Udemy

This is one of the top-rated data analytics courses from online course provider Udemy. It will teach you everything you need to know about data analytics and computer science. You will start small and work your way up to study machine learning and advanced programming.

In this comprehensive course, students learn the basics of machine learning, business analytics, and programming languages. It gives you the tools you need to become a successful data analyst.

Business Analytics Specialization | The Wharton School

This course is available on Coursera, a fantastic resource for anyone looking to further their learning in fields such as data analytics. This class shows those new to the world of data analytics the power of raw numbers.

Business Analytics Specialization is a beginner course taught by Eric Bradlow. He is a professor of marketing, statistics, and education at the illustrious Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. Professor Bradlow puts particular emphasis on how data analysis helps businesses. Those who want to get into data science would be hard-pressed to find a better course.

Learning Python for Data Analysis and Visualization | Udemy

Fluency in a programming language is an impressive skill on any resume, and this course on learning Python is specifically designed for data analysts. Students of this course will learn the fundamentals of data visualization and computer science through hours of video instruction.

By the end of the course, you will have a solid intermediate knowledge of Python. Additionally, you’ll have a more impressive resume and a knack for creating data sets and data visualizations.

Introduction to Data Analytics for Business | University of Colorado

Offered by the University of Colorado Boulder through Coursera, this introductory data analytics course will throw students straight into the world of data analytics. The program focuses on business analytics and will give you a strong foundation to build future skills. By the end of this course, you will have a better understanding of how critical business decisions are made.

Data Science: R Basics | Harvard University

This course teaches you the basics of the R programming language and how it is used in data analytics. It's a course offered by Harvard, which ensures you'll get a quality education. Students can audit the course for free or pay to receive a verified certificate.

Data Analyst Professional Certificate | IBM

IBM is one of the largest and most successful tech companies in the world. Through this course, you learn the principles of data analysis and gain hands-on experience. Upon completing the program, you'll receive certification.

Online Data Analytics Resources

As you learn data analytics, there'll be times when you have questions or want to delve into a topic further. Luckily, there are online data analytics resources out there to help you. From forums to websites dedicated to the subject, these are the best online data analytics resources available.

Data Science Masters

Data Science Masters is a resource that helps you understand data science as a concept. There are several data analytics resources on the site, such as tutorials, books, and even study groups. You can learn anything from data design to math and computing.


If you want to learn data science, then this website is for you. Those interested in data analytics can find a wealth of data analytics resources to help with learning. The site covers topics such as linear regression, data explorations, and random forests.


This is an interactive website that offers data analysis of various types. You can find data on health, sports, political issues, and culture. The site was launched by American statistician Nate Silver. You can also enjoy insights into the data through the site's podcast.

Simply Statistics

If you need advice or to see the works of professors in data science, then this is a great resource. Not only does the site provide advice to aspiring data scientists, but it also shows you how some entered the field.

Data Science Weekly

Data Science Weekly is a database of data analytics resources, news updates, and more. If you cannot find the resources needed on the above pages, you may be able to here. You can also sign up for data science newsletters, which have articles, news, and even feature jobs.

Should You Become a Data Analyst?

Yes, you should become a data analyst. As we have shown you, data analytics is a growing field with an excellent job outlook and high salaries.

Data analytics is crucial to our modern economy. Today, data analytics is used by, among other groups, the insurance industry to predict claims and the financial industry to predict the direction of the stock market. Even technology companies use it to analyze user engagement.

What's more, government bodies rely on data to solve societal problems. This is because data can help organizations make more informed, data-driven decisions. When you have data to back up a decision, it is easier to feel confident that you are pursuing the right path.

On an average day, data analysts apply their knowledge of mathematics, statistical dataset analysis methods, and programming to solve business problems. If you're someone who has a knack for numbers and problem-solving, and a dislike for uncertainty, then data analytics might be for you.

Pros of Becoming a Data Analyst

  • Great job outlook. Perhaps the biggest pro of becoming a data analyst is the exceptional job outlook of the profession. The BLS reports a 19 percent job growth for this field, which is significantly higher than the average rate of growth for all occupations.

  • Exiting work. Another pro of becoming a data analyst is that the work is exciting. Depending on the industry you work within, every week could be something new. In addition, you can use your creativity to come up with new ways to collect and organize data.  

  • Ability to make an impact. Working as a data analyst can be a highly fulfilling job. This is because the data you interpret can produce significant insights for a company. This, in turn, can help the company and consumers alike. 

Cons of Becoming a Data Analyst

  • Repetitive tasks. One of the downsides of becoming a data analyst is that certain tasks can be highly repetitive. In addition, some professionals may find working with certain data analytic tools to be monotonous. 

  • Lower-end tech salary. Compared to other tech careers, such as software engineers, data analysts do not typically earn a lot of money. For the tech industry, they have lower-than-average pay, making just over $60,000 on average. 

  • Working at a desk. Though this could potentially be a perk for some individuals, one con of becoming a data analyst is having to sit at a computer all day. Though this job involves working with different team members, much of the work is conducted through software programs. 

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