What Does a Data Analyst Do?

Learn about a career as a data analyst and what it takes to be successful in this role, including essential skills and responsibilities.

Data analyst roles are growing in popularity. The majority of today’s business decisions are fueled by big data, making data analysts, data scientists, and other technically-skilled roles in extremely high demand.

The day-to-day of a data analyst will vary depending on the organization, the field of work, types of data analytics, and other factors, like the industry or seniority of the position. Overall, data analysts mine data, organize data, and create business strategies and goals based on data patterns.

Below is a glimpse into the world of data analytics and what exactly a data analyst does.

data analytics job description

What Is a Data Analyst and What Does a Data Analyst Do?

A data analyst is someone who discovers trends, patterns, and relationships within data and uses this insight to make business decisions. They are responsible for data mining from relevant data sources and organizing the information found within. From there, a data analyst is expected to understand and interpret the data in a way that can improve and develop the business, as well as communicate these findings to the rest of the organization.

What Is the Average Salary of a Data Analyst?

The salary for an entry-level data analyst typically falls between $66,000 to $85,000. These positions will sometimes require a bachelor’s degree in computer science, statistical analysis, or a related field and can ask for candidates with 0-4 years of experience. That said, many with successful data careers get their education via other paths, such as online courses or bootcamps.

An experienced data analyst can expect a salary closer to $100,000. These candidates typically have at least six years of experience in the field and most often have obtained their Master’s degree, though this is not an absolute requirement.

What Are the Key Skills Of a Data Analyst?

A successful data analyst needs not only sharp technical skills but effective communication skills and comprehensible data visualization capabilities. The following are some of the key technical skills, soft skills, tools, and programs that every data analyst can expect to find in a data analyst job description.

  1. Data cleaning and analysis. Data cleaning involves identifying any incomplete, irrelevant, or inaccurate parts of the data set and how to proceed with these errors. Skilled data scientists and analysts have a well-trained eye that can recognize blips in the system and have the awareness of how to solve any problems before analysis. Aspiring data analysts should be prepared to understand how to take an issue within a business and turn it into a question that can be answered with data then extract the solution by finding trends, relationships, and discrepancies within the data.
  2. Mathematics and critical thinking. The ability to wield your mathematical skills proves crucial in analyzing and understanding data. An understanding of statistics and probability, as well as data integrity, will allow for the discovery of any trends or discrepancies that may appear. Critical thinking allows you to hone in on what counts, and not get overwhelmed. A dataset may contain many relationships, errors, and trends, so it’s important to be able to stay centered and keep the main questions in focus while problem-solving.
  3. Data visualization. A good data analyst is an effective communicator. Written correspondence, presentation skills, and overall communication skills are fundamental in solving data problems. An analyst must know how to tell a story with their data that can be widely understood and applied, by forming relational databases or graphics, creating presentations, or written reports.

Learn more about essential data analyst skills here.

What Are the Key Responsibilities of a Data Analyst?

A data analyst serves as a middleman and liaison between the team and the data itself. From gathering information to using that information to form goals and strategies, data analysts hold many responsibilities in their position. Below are the core four responsibilities you would likely find in any data analyst job description.

  1. Communicating between teams. A data analyst must have an ongoing dialogue with programmers, data scientists, IT, and management in order to stay on track and identify any opportunities or room for development. Written communication, presentations, and meetings are all essential responsibilities.
  2. Data mining. Data mining is a process by which an individual finds relevant data within large data sets or raw data. A data analyst will be mining data from both primary and secondary sources and organizing this information in a way that can be easily understood.
  3. Designing data systems. Organizing the data in a concise and understandable system is a key responsibility for any data analyst. Every data analyst job description includes the task of taking raw data and being able to pinpoint any trends that will be able to help form a structure for the data systems.
  4. Creating reports. While gathering and organizing the data is crucial, the way each insight is presented is just as important. (So it can be understood, and applied, by the larger organization.) It is the duty of a data analyst to be able to get their message across using evidence-based data.

Learn more about the key responsibilities of a data analyst here.

what does a data analyst do

What Qualifications Do Data Analysts Need?

Effective data analysis requires high-level education and hands-on experience. It also requires a well-developed background and a specific set of skills. Below are the key qualifications needed to become a data analyst.

  • Bachelor’s degree or equivalent technical/theoretical knowledge. Most organizations expect their entry-level data analysts to have their bachelor’s degree in data science, statistical analysis, or a related field. For more senior roles, a master’s degree may also come up as a qualification for the role, depending on the seniority and organization. However, it's now possible to become a data analyst without either a bachelor's or master's degree. Find out how here.
  • Excel & SQL. Microsoft Excel is a widely used jumpoff point for any data analyst. It’s an absolute must in becoming an analyst and is the beginning of understanding data technologies. It’s a light and quick tool for analytics. SQL is Excel’s much stronger big brother. It is used to update and communicate with a database, as well as serve as a tool to access and manipulate data.
  • R/Python. R and Python are the top two open-source programming languages to provide predictive analytics. The two are very dynamic programs with new features being added very often, assisting with data mining, engineering, application, and more. A data analyst should be proficient in at least one of these languages.

Data Analyst Job Description and Job Duties

A typical data analyst job description includes a number of essential duties and expectations. Below are the key roles and skills expected with each data analyst position.

  1. Collaborative nature and leadership skills. Each organization should have a deep understanding of what they are trying to accomplish, and how data analysis can guide that. It is the role of the data analyst to work with IT, leadership, and data scientists to determine the end result they are looking for in the data.
  2. Programming language expertise. Every job description will call for proficiency within a few specific programming languages, analytics tools, and database languages such as Excel, SQL, R/Python.
  3. Analytics experience. A data analyst will be expected to use statistical tools to interpret the data they have gathered. Work with the data to find any relevant patterns, or trends and be able to perform predictive analysis. Further, be able to recognize relationships within the data set and what each relationship could mean.
  4. Database maintenance. A routine should be established where a set of tasks will be used to continuously improve the data. A data analyst will fix any coding errors, track any patterns or trends, delete any irrelevant information to free up space.

How Do You Get An Entry-Level Job in Data Analytics?

The most important aspect of getting that entry-level role is your education. Receiving your degree in a quantitative major that can be applied to a data analyst role is a potential first step, but it’s not the only option. Aspiring data learners consider internships or roles within IT or a field related to data science.

There are also plenty of online tools and bootcamps that can prepare you for your dream role that can also help you find a network that works for you. Bootcamps with a focus on career placement will help you make meaningful connections within the field and learn how experts got started on their own data analytics journeys. Good luck!

Is data analytics the right career for you?

Springboard offers a comprehensive data analytics bootcamp. Our data analytics curriculum goes beyond just technical skills to focus on areas where employers find the biggest gaps: strategic thinking, problem-solving, and communication. Watch videos from Microsoft. Learn insights from McKinsey experts. Tackle case studies from Harvard Business School. No other data analytics bootcamp does this. You’ll graduate with an analytical mindset. That’s an edge not just for your job search, but throughout your career.

Check out Springboard’s Data Analytics Career Track to see if you qualify.

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