Data is everywhere. It's the reason companies like Amazon and Spotify know precisely what you want when you want it. But before Amazon can—seemingly miraculously—intuit how badly you need a BackScratcher9000, a data analyst needs to take raw data and turn it into usable information.
A data analyst can find work in almost any industry, including:
In this age of lightning-fast computers and near-limitless data storage, every activity that takes place online generates reams of data. Analysts find useful data—a process called data mining—that can be turned into actionable insights.
Some senior analysts earn over $100,000 per year, but the average income for this profession is much lower. To pull six figures working in data, you may find that you need to bolster your skills, education, and experience to advance to a higher-level position. Good news: people do it all the time.
This article on how much do data analysts make tells you how to get the most out of your career in data. It covers:
According to the University of California - Berkeley, "Data analysts procure, investigate, and elucidate the meaning of data for businesses and nonprofits, helping them to evaluate the success of past projects and plan for the future." Their work can be broken down into four broad categories:
Capable data analysts know how to collect, package, and distribute data. As a data analyst, you might find yourself working alongside data architects and database administrators to build and maintain databases and collection systems. Still, the role of data analyst is not typically a highly technical position. The most important part of a data analyst's job is to gather insights from raw data and turn it into something understandable to laypeople.
Data analysts need both soft and hard skills to reach their full potential. While they needn't be as technically proficient as data architects and systems administrators, they still do need some wonky skills, including an aptitude for:
Though not always required, understanding machine learning (the process of teaching machines algorithms to identify data patterns and predict the future) can advance your career.
Most data analytics revolves around employing problem-solving skills to collect insights and then report the findings to a group of people who don't understand data. For this reason, a data analyst must be proficient in critical thinking and communication.
Data analysts can earn salaries anywhere from $43,000 to $95,000, according to Glassdoor; the average annual income is $62,453. In addition, they can earn another $4,442 in bonuses, commissions, and incentive payments. PayScale reports that data analysts collect an average salary of $60,036 with another potential $10,000 in incentives, and Indeed concurs, pegging data analyst salaries and incentives at $75,000 per year. Robert Half, a well-known consulting and recruiting firm, says that salaries for data analysts can range from $81,750 (for less-experienced employees) to $138,000 (for senior analysts).
Developing an analytics specialty can improve your salary. Marketing analysts, who use data to interpret marketing trends, earn nearly $63,000 per year, which is right in line with projections for general data analysts. But financial analysts, who analyze business data to help investors and companies, earn a median salary over $85,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If your data skills complement another area of expertise, it can be profitable.
Another determining factor for your salary is location. Living in a major city likely leads to a bigger salary—to go along with the higher cost-of-living. According to Indeed, the five highest paying cities for data analysts, and their average salary, are:
Data analysts are far from the best-paid workers in tech—even among careers that require only a bachelor's degree for entry. Operations research analysts, who employ more mathematical and statistical analysis to solve business problems, earn a median salary over $80,000.
Some other higher-paying data-related careers include:
The good news is that a driven data analyst can land any one of these jobs, especially after completing a graduate degree. Becoming a chief information officer or data architect almost certainly requires going back to school for a Master of Science or MBA, but it is possible to become a senior data analyst through sweat and demonstrable past success.
Data scientists do many of the same things as data analysts, but they also design models and algorithms to disseminate usable information for business partners. Another thing that sets data scientists apart from analysts is their focus on predictive modeling, which can be important to a company trying to determine its next steps. The average data scientist's salary is so much higher that it might be worth making the jump.
Earning the right certification might be the only thing regular analysts need to become big data analysts, though earning a master's degree is certainly also a worthwhile option. Certifications and trainings help professionals use familiar skills, such as SQL and Hadoop, on larger number sets. Data scientists are also able to enroll in many of these programs.
Some common big data certifications include:
It is common for data analysts to have a degree in:
There are a few undergraduate degrees in data analysis available, though it is not strictly necessary, or even very common, for those entering this field to have one. Schools offering this option include:
Hands-on experience is the most important part of your data analytics resume. One way to gain experience without attending college is through a data analytics bootcamp. These programs are almost always cheaper than a four-year degree—and can be taken through well-known schools, such as Columbia University or the University of Arizona. Third-party organizations, such as Springboard, also offer them.
A master's is typically the highest level of education for data analysts, though not everybody needs to get a master's degree to work in data analytics. Heck, you don't even necessarily need a bachelor's degree to work as a junior data analyst. Still, you're unlikely to reach the top of the payroll without the proper education, so maybe go ahead and earn a bachelor's degree anyway.
If you are looking to advance your career, a master's degree in data analytics can offer a leg up. These programs are often designed for working data analytics professionals who want to increase their knowledge. A Master of Science will generally help improve your technical skill set. Areas of focus include:
Top schools with master's programs in data analytics include:
You might also consider earning a Masters of Business Administration (MBA), such as the business analytics MBA offered through the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. An MBA prepares you for a career in management, which can lead to a huge increase in salary—especially if you hope to climb your way into the c-suite as a chief information officer.
Other degrees that might be worth earning—especially if you want to change career fields at some point—include:
Finally, acquiring certifications can be a great way to advance your career; they provide a more definitive way to measure skills and can lead to an increase in salary. Some of the top certification programs are:
Data analytics may not be the most prosperous career choice at first, but it can lead to some great jobs with a little maneuvering. Being able to make numbers accessible is a valuable skill, even if you don't spend your entire career as a data analyst.