How to Become a Data Analyst: Career Exploration For Students

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Curious about data analysis as a career? In this video, we’ll talk about what data analysts do, why they are essential for the economy, what skills you need to be a data analyst, industries you can expect to work in, schools and programs that will equip you for a career in data analysis among other useful resources.

So, what exactly is data analysis? It is the process of interpreting a given data set using various statistical or analytical tools to determine useful information. Some of these tools are programming languages like Python or R and then there’s software like Microsoft Excel and Tableau used to present data in visual forms that is easy to understand.

To put it simply, data analysis is the process of cleaning, transforming, and modeling data to determine valuable information for business decision-making. This career is all about helping businesses and institutions make the best decisions based on proven results.

So, how exactly is there an entire career dedicated to data? I mean anyone can go on Google and find out whatever right? Well, not quite. While pretty much anyone can analyze data, you need a professional Data Analyst to show you where to look and what to look for.

It’s thanks to data analysts that the Golden State Warriors won two NBA championships in a row and Liverpool dominated the European Premier League for years while exhibiting a world-class performance. Online businesses are thriving successfully thanks to data analysts. Given the large extent to which data analysis is applied in various industries, without them there would be a lot of ill-informed decisions made in business, healthcare, sports etc.

Check out this video for a peek into what data analysts actually do!

Link will be in the description below.

Skills Needed for a career in data analysis

Now, let’s talk about the skills you need to be a successful data analyst. For starters there’s the technical skills like solid numerical skills, data visualization, proficiency in querying languages or software and communication skills. While these are important to get the job done, there’s a need for soft skills too. Data analysts need critical thinking to come up with strategic approaches, problem solving for the issues they deduce from findings and teamwork because half the work involves collaboration.

Industries that require data analysts

Data analysts are just about anywhere you can imagine including: retail, medicine, transportation, government, energy, entertainment, construction, banking and finance, education and manufacturing industries. Every one of these industries require accurate information to make the best decisions possible. If not, in some cases people’s lives could potentially be at stake.

Some common roles held by data analysts are: business analysts, budget analysts, compensation and benefits analysts, corporate strategy analysts, marketing analysts, product analysts, sales analysts, social media analysts, insurance underwriting, web analysts, credit and fraud analysts. These are largely dependent on industries in which they work. 

Economic Outlook

Data analysts are almost always in high demand because data just never stops being needed. So, you can guess the pay is equally as competitive from state-to-state. The top 3 highest paying states are California with a mean annual wage of $ 129,060 followed by Washington at $ 124,240 and finally New York with $ 118,320. Check out the US Bureau of Labor Statistics website in the description to the data in your state or the state you’re interested in working.

Your next steps

Most analysts have a background in any one of the following or more; accounting, computer science, mathematics or statistics. You could pursue a Bachelors’ degree in any of these majors at a 4-year college like Brown University, Florida State, Ohio State among many other colleges offering them in their programs. Take a look at the directory in the description to weigh your options.

Alternatively, you could get an Associate’s degree in any of these majors to get you qualified for some entry jobs and it only takes about ­2 years. Examples of community colleges that offer associate degrees in these fields are Monroe Community College, San Jacinto Community College, Shoreline Community College etc.

Lastly, there’s always the option of doing it all virtually. Plenty of top schools offer accredited certificates and professional courses to help you launch your career. Here are a couple of schools that offer programs with any of the majors I mentioned: Webster University, New York University, Baker College and Arizona State among others. For professional courses, platforms like Coursera and edX offer quality content from top universities including courses dedicated to data analysis.

That was a lot of information to process but rest assured it’ll come in handy.

If you’re interested in Data Analysis as a career, you can check out some of the schools mentioned here. Visit their website and search for more information. You can also contact the program representatives, and I’m sure they will be happy to provide you with more information on their school and admission process. Most of the schools I have mentioned also offer financial aid and scholarships should you happen to need help funding your studies.

The ball is in your court now.

Do your research. Talk to your guidance counselors at school or professionals who can help you understand more about the field. Research schools and programs that will be a good fit for you and, most importantly, believe in yourself and keep your dreams alive.

Down forget to download the Data Analysts worksheet in the resources page.

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