Statistics, calculations, graphic representations and data-mining are facets of the data analyst job description. Data analysts, sometimes referred to as statistician assistants, generally perform the same functions and share in part the same qualifications. However, the particular employer or industry can shape the job duties, skills, qualifications and prospects for employment and advancement.
Job Overview: What Does a Data Analyst Do?
Data analysts obtain, assemble and help others interpret and understand data. To do so, the analyst must cultivate and summon skills in analysis, communication, computers, math, and statistics.
The specific economic sector may guide the kinds of data with which the analyst works. For example, data analysts in the healthcare field handle information such as laboratory data, insurance claims, prescription records, office or hospital visits. In marketing, customer preferences, sales, and demographics of customers form significant portions of data analysis.
Data Analyst Job Duties
- Use statistical formulas to compute and also analyze data.
- Verify the accuracy, completeness, and reliability of data.
- Compile statistics using sources such as records, reports, and surveys.
- Enter data and other information into computers.
- Interview participants on studies or surveys and track or record their responses.
- Assemble or prepare charts, graphs, tables and other depictions of data, surveys, and findings.
- Organize data, survey forms and supporting or source materials.
- Search for and identify new sources and method of data collection.
- Obtain requirements of customers for data collection.
Data Analyst Essential Job Skills
Analytical. The data analyst job description includes the ability to discern patterns and render other conclusions based on data. With analytical skills, data analysts also determine the reliability of the data, sources, and materials.
Computer. Data analysts rely on databases, word processors and other computer applications to calculate data, probabilities and other statistics and prepare displays of data. In fact, software applications include structured query language (SQL) and other database user inquiry products and those oriented to analysis or scientific methods.
Mathematics. To analyze and compute data, analysts must exhibit mathematical skills, such as multiplication, division, and use of other math operations. The ability to calculate ratios, fractions, percentages and various formulas can help data analysts prepare useful charts, reports, and graphs.
Communication. Skills in listening and comprehending participants’ responses help ensure reliable surveys and results from them. Communication also involves clearly and directly presenting findings, conclusions, and other information to supervisors, team members and perhaps third-party users.
Becoming a Data Analyst Professional
Within the data analyst job description lies a background with math, statistics, and computers. Depending on the employer or sector, prospective data analysts include industry-related classes and work experience in becoming qualified.
Qualifications & Training
Typically, data analysts should have at least a high school diploma. According to O*NET, approximately six in ten employees have a bachelor’s degree. Another 12 percent have taken at least some college courses.
Majors normally include business administration, mathematics, computer science or psychology. Math, statistics, business and computer science are often part of the educational fare of data analysts.
Aspiring data analysts may need to tailor their educational background to particular industries. For example, applicants to healthcare or pharmacy companies might need to major in or include in their curricula health care management, biochemistry, and biology. In the environmental sector, data analysts may concentrate on biological, environmental or natural sciences.
Data analysts can gain experience from jobs that require the use of spreadsheets, data bases, and other computer applications. For certain companies, the data analyst job description calls for candidates to have experience with SQL servers and other database systems. Those with experience in data mining can also enhance job prospects.
As with education and training, employers may prefer candidates with experience in the particular industry. For example, data analysts for property insurance companies likely have worked for other insurers, mortgage companies, banks or insurance agencies. In the school setting, applicants typically bring a prior work history in studying or measuring student performance and teaching methods.
The healthcare industry could generate significant job opportunities for data analysts. As reported by Bryan University, health informatics job postings have increased ten-fold between 2007 and 2012. By 2018, the field could experience a major shortage of workers.
The data analyst job description can include full-time work. However, according to O*NET, approximately 49 percent of statistical assistants usually work 40 hours per week.
Data analysts typically log regular daytime hours on weekdays. Additionally, some evenings or weekends may be needed for data analysts and their companies to meet project deadlines. For analysts who work on phone surveys, evening or weekend work may be necessary to reach potential survey participants at home.
Job Outlook & Advancement Opportunities
According to O*NET, the growth of employment of statistical assistants should decline by two percent by 2024. However, this benchmark may not necessarily reflect a lack of demand for data analysts.
Retailers, marketers and similar businesses or departments rely on data about customers to target marketing efforts and improve customer service. Moreover, according to a 2016 Rocket Fuel report, approximately 91 percent of surveyed marketers indicated an interest in learning more about data management platforms.
A May 2011 McKenzie Global Institute report projects that, by 2018, the shortage of workers with deep analytical skills could number between 140,000 to 190,000. Among managers and analysts who can use the data for effective decisions and actions, the shortage could reach 1.5 million by 2018.
PayScale reports that data analysts can progress to jobs such as financial analyst, senior data analyst, database administrator. Experience in these advanced roles can lead to positions such as director of analytics, finance manager, data manager, senior database administrator and project manager in information technology. To get a better understanding of the field, take the time to also read the financial analyst job description.
With a potential shortage of data analysts, job opportunities may abound for candidates with education and experience with obtaining and interpreting data, math and a business environment. The demand for data analysts should rise especially in marketing, sales, and healthcare as companies seek to improve market share, find customers or control costs. To conclude, to help organizations fulfill these and other goals, the data analyst must ensure that the data and methods to obtain them are reliable and clearly communicated.