Being a data analyst is all to do with numbers. Those in the job have a passion for mathematics, are highly analytical and have a curious mind. It’s a unique role, designed for people with great attention to detail, who are highly organised and have a strong understanding of how data works.
A data analyst is a crucial and demanding role across all sectors. It’s increasingly becoming more popular and a beneficial line of work.
What is a data analyst?
A data analyst is a data expert, who collects information to identify trends and patterns. You use these trends and patterns to create models to perfect what could happen in the future. Your findings are shared via charts, tables, graphs, infographics and diagrams.
Data analysts are highly analytical roles, with a strong focus on mathematics and a need to think innovatively. It’s a demanding position for all sectors including government, education, consulting, finance, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and more.
As a technical role, your job as a data analyst is to understand the data and provide insight, and analysis through written, visual and verbal communication, for the range of organisations you will work with.
As you develop, you will be working with specialised programmes and tools.
Data analysts work across numerous sectors which means you can vary in the type of data analyst you are, based on the industry. For example, you can work in finance, marketing, data quality, business intelligence and many more.
The collaborative and technical role of a data analyst is a varied job. These are your general everyday responsibilities:
- Analyse and interpret data sets relating to the employer’s business.
- Analyse large data sets and present the results successfully to management.
- Based on findings, identify areas to increase the efficiency of processes.
- Collaborate with internal and external clients to fully understand data.
- Create and develop the processes and policies for records management.
- Create and maintain automated data processes.
- Create and partake in surveys and analyse the data results.
- Create documents outlining sector and competitor benchmarking.
- Create graphs and a data dashboard.
- Identify and utilise external services and tools to support data validation.
- Prepare various reports for the external and internal audiences using analytical tools.
- Regularly monitor and audit data quality.
- Support and develop existing reporting processes.
- Use statistical software to help with data analysis.
- Using appropriate tools and techniques, gather and document detailed business requirements.
A data analyst's salary can vary on who you are working for and your skill level. In the UK, the average data analyst salary is around £35,200 per year. For data analyst trainees or entry-level data analysts, you can start at around £23,250. For more experienced and senior data analysts, your salary can increase and exceed the £70,000 mark.
For a data analyst job, degrees are not always required, however, can be beneficial in your career development.
Degrees in relevant subjects are useful such as:
- Business information systems degrees
- Computer science degrees
- Economics degrees
- Information management degrees
- Mathematics degrees
- Statistics degrees
Any other degrees similar to these subjects can always come in handy, as long as you can demonstrate relevant skills for the role. If the courses offer a year in industry as well, this can be a great benefit to finding a data analyst job.
Postgraduate degrees are also useful but not essential. A postgraduate qualification can be beneficial if you want to develop your analytical skills further or if you are changing careers in this role.
There are many postgraduate qualifications including:
Universities can also provide short courses which focus on developing your data analysis skills and can further your knowledge of the role. An alternative to university is studying at college. Many colleges offer a T Level in Digital Business Services. This course takes around two years to complete and is suitable for anyone wanting a career in data analysis. The course will provide you with plenty of skills needed for a trainee data analyst position.
Training and development
Training and development are down to you or your employer in the role of a data analyst. It’s not essential to gain professional certifications to progress within the career, however, you may be offered professional development opportunities.
If you’d like to work and study, a data analyst apprenticeship may be an option for you. You could start your career as a junior data analyst through a data technician advanced apprenticeship.
As you develop, you will be working with specialised programmes and tools. You may wish to specialise in one of the particular tools or programmes, and alternatively, become certified by BCS - The Chartered Institute for IT.
To further your professional development either personally or through your workplace, utilise the opportunities offered by The Operational Research Society. They’re a professional membership body to support development for various sectors including data analysis. They offer a range of various courses of all levels and webinars to update your skills when needed.
As a data analyst, it’s crucial to work well with others and take an analytical approach to your work.
These are the skills required:
- A patient approach to work.
- Aspiration to succeed and persistence to work hard.
- Be able to create data visualisations and graphical representations.
- Be familiar with other relational databases.
- Excellent communication skills and ability to work well in a team.
- Excellent knowledge about data cleansing, data modelling and data enrichment techniques.
- Experience in data analysis techniques and statistical methodologies.
- Have a logical and analytical approach to work.
- In-depth knowledge of data analysis tools such as advanced skills in Excel and at least one relational database.
- Strong knowledge of computer systems and using their software and applications effectively.
- Strong numerical and analytical skills.
- Strong understanding of Google Analytics, SEO, keyword analysis and web analysis aptitude for marketing analyst roles.
- Strong understanding of data protection issues and their importance.
- The ability to create and develop document procedures.
- The ability to pay attention to detail.
- The ability to work independently.
- Understand how to carry out data validation, quality control and linkage.
If you’d like to work and study, a data analyst apprenticeship may be an option for you. You could start your career as a junior data analyst through a data technician advanced apprenticeship. There are also higher-level apprenticeships such as data analysis higher apprenticeships or data scientist degree apprenticeships.
When it comes to gaining work experience, it’s a huge advantage in landing a job as a data analyst. You can find entry-level roles across all sectors and large companies can offer graduate analyst schemes to help get your foot in the door. For example, the Royal Statistical Society offers work experience opportunities.
Alternatively, you can gain a data analyst internship for various organisations to teach you the hands-on skills for the job at hand. If you are taking a degree, for most courses, you will experience a work placement to also teach this. Committing to an internship and other programmes shows your loyalty to the profession and keen interest in developing your skills.
For analyst jobs, the progression routes you can go down vary massively. You can move up the ranks into management or a supervisor. There’s also the option as a skilled analyst to work for significant companies such as government advisory bodies. Alternatively, you can work in teaching or academic research, sharing your expertise with junior or trainee data analysts.
A data analyst is a data expert, who collects information to identify trends and patterns. You use these trends and patterns to create models to perfect what could happen in the future.
If you prefer to work for yourself, you can move into a self-employed position as a freelance consultant and set your fees per project. You could specialise in your niche such as specific domain experts, data mining, data visualisation or in a particular technical language.
In a fast-moving industry, data analysts are in high demand across every sector and are an opportunity for you to succeed in your career. This strong growth can see you working for international corporations, across multiple industries and developing your specialisms further. The need for a data analyst means progression is likely to be fast and you can reach your goals quicker than in other jobs.