Becoming a Data Analyst: Job Description & Salary Information

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What are the pros and cons of a data analyst career? Get real job duties, career prospects and salary info to see if becoming a data analyst is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career as a Data Analyst

Data analysts collect information from different data sources, analyze it and make recommendations to companies about how to solve problems and achieve their goals. Read on to see the pros and cons of the profession and determine if becoming a data analyst is right for you.

Pros of a Career as a Data Analyst
A bachelor's degree is often enough to begin entry-level work*
Analysts can have a direct impact on a company's operations*
This field has applications in many areas (economics, engineering, political science, etc.)*
Analysts often work closely with top-level managers and executives*

Cons of a Career as a Data Analyst
Job opportunities are typically better for analysts with a master's degree*
Continuing education is expected throughout your career*
This can be a high-pressure job with tight deadlines*
Travel for business and conferences is often necessary*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Job Duties and Career Information

Data analysts, also known as operations research analysts, collect data from a variety of sources to help companies make decisions and solve problems. Data analysts typically work on a team and use different methods of statistical analysis to advise top managers and executives. Analysts will also document their findings and write detailed reports based on their findings and recommendations. Their work can help companies allocate resources, set prices and administrate a supply chain.

Job Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), data analysts earned a median annual salary of approximately $61,000 in May 2014. The BLS notes that the highest-paid analysts were employed in security and commodity contracts intermediation and brokerage. The BLS also reported that employment growth for operations research analysts would increase by 27% between 2010 and 2020.

What are the Requirements?

A data analyst is typically required to have at least a bachelor's degree in order to obtain an entry-level job, though a master's degree may be preferred. You can complete a bachelor's or master's degree program in a subject like management science or operations research, or in a more technical field like physics, mathematics, computer science or engineering. High-level mathematics, quantitative analysis and statistics courses are typically important for aspiring data analysts. Once analysts are working, they are often required to keep up with technological advances related to data collection, storage and analysis.

Companies typically prefer analysts who can work well with spreadsheets and have the ability to produce clear and concise reports. Additionally, analysts should also have experience working with databases, have sharp analytical and mathematical skills, be able to solve problems and be able to communicate well.

Real Job Listings

Once you begin your job search, you will find that many employers value professional experience and computer skills. For example, employers prefer analysts who work well with reporting software, such as Microsoft Excel. Additionally, companies may prefer analysts who have a background in SQL and other database languages and applications. Below, you will find some available jobs that were advertised in April of 2012:

  • A health care company located in Wisconsin is interested in hiring a data analyst with a bachelor's degree and a minimum of ten years of experience. The successful candidate will be able to create reports in Excel, work with databases using SQL and Business Objects and have sharp problem-solving skills.
  • A company in Torrance, California, is looking for a data analyst with a minimum of three years of experience. The company would prefer an analyst with a bachelor's degree an experience using Excel. The successful candidate will work with a team and help define company goals and benchmarks.
  • A Massachusetts-based company is seeking a senior data analyst. The company prefers an analyst with a master's degree in a field like statistics, economics, mathematics or finance. The successful candidate will demonstrate proficiency with SQL, strong report design skills and advanced knowledge of databases.

How to Stand Out in this Field

Data analysis can be a competitive field, but there are ways that you may be able to distinguish yourself from others. You can work towards obtaining a master's degree in a field like finance or statistics. Some companies prefer analysts that have an advanced degree in a quantitative field, according to the BLS. Additionally, you can look into becoming certified in software programs that are commonly used by data analysts. Earning a Microsoft Certification, such as the Microsoft Office Specialist credential, could help you demonstrate your competency using programs like Word and Excel to future employers.

Career Alternatives

Economist

If you are interested in investigating financial information and studying economic trends, you may look into working as an economist. Economists analyze the production and consumption of goods and resources. The BLS notes that in May of 2011, economists earned a median annual salary of approximately $91,000. The BLS also projected that jobs for economists will only increase by six percent between 2010 and 2020. While a master's or doctoral degree is common for economist positions, a bachelor's degree can qualify you for entry-level jobs.

Management Analyst

You may find that you are interested in the organizational aspects of data analysis. If that's the case, you may want to explore a career as a management analyst. Management analysts propose different ways that a company can improve its efficiency and reach its goals. The BLS projects a 22% increase in jobs for management analysts between 2010 and 2020, which is faster-than-average growth. In May of 2011, the agency noted that management analysts earned a median annual salary of about $78,000. A bachelor's or master's degree is typically required for this position, and certification as a Certified Management Consultant through the Institute of Management Consultants USA, Inc. is usually preferred.

Market Research Analyst

If you are interested in consumer behavior and how it might affect the decisions that a company makes, you should look into working as a market research analyst. These analysts investigate the consumer habits of specific regions or communities and analyze the type of products and services that are regularly purchased. The BLS projects that between 2010 and 2020, there will be a 41% increase in market research analyst jobs. In May of 2011, the BLS reported that market research analysts earned a median annual salary of about $60,000. At least a bachelor's degree is required for work as a market research analyst, and master's degrees are commonly necessary for advanced positions.

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Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • Bachelor of Science in Information Technology
  • AASBA in Information Processing
  • Associate: Information Technology

Which subject are you interested in?

Johns Hopkins University

  • Post-Master's Certificate in Sequence Analysis and Genomics

What is your highest level of education?

Lincoln Tech

  • Technology and Skilled Trades

What year did you graduate High School / Receive GED?

Everest

  • Associate's - Computer Information Science

What is your highest level of education completed?

Northcentral University

  • PhD-TIM - Data Science
  • PhD-TIM - Computer Science
  • MSTIM - Data Science
  • MSTIM - Computer Science

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado Technical University

  • Doctor of Computer Science - Big Data Analytics (Executive Format)
  • MS - Computer Science - Data Science
  • BS - Business Administration - IT

Are you a US citizen?

Grand Canyon University

  • DBA with an Emphasis in Data Analytics
  • Bridge to the M.S. in Information Technology Management
  • B.S. in Information Technology

What is your highest level of education?

Ashford University

  • BA/Sports and Recreation Management - Information Systems

What is your highest level of education?