There are many routes to becoming a research analyst, but all require mastering certain skills and technical knowledge. Here is a comprehensive guide with 4 steps to help you become a research analyst—including key skills, job roles, and responsibilities.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
Data science is rapidly revolutionizing all aspects of business analytics and strategy. Valuable insights generated by data analysis help businesses identify new opportunities, improve operational efficiency, and guide marketing and outreach programs. To accomplish these goals, organizations need skilled research analysts to reveal the underlying value within huge quantities of data. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the last decade has seen exponential growth in the job outlook for research analysts.
Traditionally, research analysts were largely employed within the economic sector and worked almost exclusively with financial data. But with advances in technology, massive amounts of data are generated in nearly every field. This means that research analysts are widely sought-after in industries ranging from advertising to pharmaceuticals. Some of the most common research analyst job titles are:
The responsibilities of a research analyst vary widely based on the industry and specialization. As such, the career paths leading to the position of a research analyst can be diverse too. There's no single career advancement plan that ensures your success as an analyst. However, there are four fundamental steps to follow for anyone who aspires to be a research analyst.
A research analyst role requires advanced problem-solving, mathematical, technological, and analytical skills. The most reliable way to demonstrate these qualities to a potential employer is with a college degree. A bachelor's degree is generally sufficient for low- to mid-level analyst jobs, but the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) highly recommends an advanced degree for most senior analyst roles. Firms generally prefer to employ graduates with qualifications in data science, economics, mathematics, or computer science. Graduating with a degree from a well-known university makes it much easier to get noticed by organizations looking to hire. Focus on developing soft skills like communication, adaptability, and social intelligence in addition to the technical skills prioritized by most schools.
To get a step ahead in the competitive hiring environment, supplement your education with relevant professional certifications and projects. Working on independent projects improves your critical thinking skills and builds presentation and writing expertise as well. You have the freedom to choose from a wide range of freely available datasets for your first data research and analysis project. You can also find a number of organizations and businesses that offer professional certification courses both online and in person. Most importantly, getting involved in additional projects provides evidence of your focus and commitment to future employers. This is especially valuable if you graduate from a lesser-known university or do not plan on obtaining a Master's degree.
A successful internship as a research analyst can be pivotal in determining your career path. It's usually very difficult to find a suitable job as an analyst with little professional experience under your belt. An internship provides the perfect opportunity to develop your technical abilities and build networks while gaining valuable industry experience. Seek out reputable firms that work on the topics you're interested in and reach out to them with your resume. Make sure you get in touch with firms that you wish to work for in the long term. If they are impressed by your competence and work ethic during the internship, you have a much better chance of getting hired for a permanent position.
The final step is to take up the position of research analyst at a firm of your choice. Your personal attributes and behaviors, practical experience, and technical skills all play a significant role in establishing you as a promising analyst. Spend some time perfecting your resume as it provides your first impression to hiring managers. Utilize your connections from university or the internship to acquire letters of reference and recommendations. A word of approval from a respected figure in your field will give you a substantial advantage over your fellow applicants. Even after you secure a job, look for ways to improve your efficiency and make constant learning a priority.
Throughout this process, make sure you seek out opportunities to get a better understanding of industry operations. Having a willing mentor, preferably someone currently working as an analyst, will help you immensely in the initial stages. Another critical practice is to keep pace with the technological advancements and market conditions in your industry.
According to Glassdoor, the average salary for a research analyst in the U.S. is roughly $65,239 per year. This figure varies greatly by level of seniority, experience, industry, and even work location. The median salary for an entry-level research analyst is around $40,000 per year, while expert analysts can expect to be paid around $84,000 per year. On average, finance is the highest-paying industry for research analysts of all levels. Certain job titles such as operations research analyst and product/pricing analyst also have much higher incomes than the median salaries listed.
The key responsibilities of a research analyst are as a data scientist who collects, researches, analyzes, and presents data. An analyst can take up a wide range of duties depending on the needs of the organization. But the primary component is the effective interpretation of data that improves the operations and decision-making processes of the business. An analytical and detail-oriented approach is necessary to successfully carry out the tasks assigned. Major responsibilities of the position typically include:
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