How to Become a Data Analyst

How to Become a Data Analyst

More businesses across every sector are becoming aware of the many benefits of expert data analysis. As a result, the search for skilled data analysts is on the rise with lots of open positions around the world. If you are already intrigued by the prospects of this profession, all that is left is to know how to become a data analyst.

Without further ado, let us get straight to explaining the important steps you will take to become a data analyst. In addition, you will discover how much data analysts earn, the qualifications required for this job, and more.


Who is a data analyst?

A data analyst is someone who manages datasets for an organization so that the owners can make a better judgment based on their expert report and advice. Data analysts typically collect data, interpret, manipulate it, and provide feedback to stakeholders who use it to make guided business decisions.


Duties of a data analyst

Collecting data

There are different stages data go through before becoming usable and relatable. One of the first stages is data collection. Since data comes from a host of places, it is the data analyst’s responsibility to gather data from many sources.

Collecting data is not always easy, and nor is it a fun job in the whole data management process. Yet, it forms the basis for the rest of the process as any major error could compromise the whole data set.

Data cleaning

Another essential part of data management which is usually done in the early stages of data processing is cleaning data. Raw data is one of the most complex pieces of information to deal with and perhaps the most challenging. This is because raw data takes the most amount of time to sort out. Over 80% of a data analyst’s job involves data cleaning.

Data cleaning is where a data analyst places information in various categories for easier identification. For many data analysts, data cleaning is the most important aspect of data processing for many reasons. To emphasize, when a large collection of data is not in any known order, information could easily get lost.

Also, this process makes the rest of the data analysis stress-free. However, this comes at a price. Data cleaning doesn’t only take up a lot of time, it is a tricky process that involves lots of cross-checking. It is not the most fun process for any data analyst.

Interpreting and classifying data

After collecting and sorting data, interpretation of data becomes easier. However, it is not a walk in the park mostly. A data analyst is responsible for interpreting data of various sizes and complexities. It takes a high level of skill to interpret data. Data interpretation starts with recognizing and understanding the sets of data you need to analyze.

In a word, the interpretation process involves making sense of the available data so that it can be processed accordingly. In terms of classifying data, data analysts integrate various skills in doing this procedure. They use a combination of software and other data analysis tools. Data analysis is a technical process that might be difficult for a layman to understand.

For this reason, data analysis tends to simplify the process during interpretation. Analysts use various data interpretation techniques, especially data visualization, to make data well understood by the average person. Also, through good verbal and written skills, data analysts will be able to explain the outcome of their results clearly.

Analyzing results

Data analysts are tasked with important duties involving data which include analyzing data results. We use data for everything. The whole world revolves around data even if not everyone realizes it. Now, there is a reason behind the whole data processing or management procedure.

After gathering, processing, and exploiting data to achieve a set goal, there must be an outcome. The data analyst must analyze the results gotten during data processing. Sometimes the results might be favorable while at other times, unfavorable.

Reporting data results

The data analyst’s job does not end with analyzing results. Remember that data analysts are given tasks by someone or a group, hence, they must report back to them. Giving reports back to the relevant persons is the data analyst’s job for obvious reasons.

The report will include the processes involved, the target, the expected goal, and the outcome. Data analysts must give detailed reports and make suggestions where necessary to achieve better results.

Identifying coded patterns in data sets

There are specific responsibilities various employers want their data analysts to handle. One of such is to identify patterns and trends in a collection of data. This process is part of data interpretation. Data doesn’t lie. From experience, data analysts and establishments know that there are pieces of vital information within data sets that can make a big difference.

Some of these facts are not easy to spot. However, some patterns and trends hint at a possible outcome. Data analysts have the skillset to find these patterns.


Education and qualification

Although school leavers can get an entry job as a data analyst, you are required to have at least a college or university degree for better opportunities. These courses can be any mathematics, computer science, economics, or statistics. Also, you could attend online classes or boot camps in advanced analytics to amplify your skills. A master’s degree is an advanced degree that will boost your chances of getting the best opportunities.


Qualities of a data analyst

Vast experience with data models

Data analysis is done by experts who integrate a combination of skills with data analysis tools. To function expertly as a data analyst, you need to have experience in using some of these tools. Data models and reporting packages are two of the major aspects you need to be familiar with. From the hierarchical to the relational models, experience in using these data models is key.

Attention to detail

Data is a delicate entity that must be handled with precision. To do this, prompt attention to detail is needed. Data analysts need to be attentive to the last detail as every piece of information is vital. The process of analyzing data is somewhat long and tasking in many cases and mistakes can prove costly.

Having to rectify mistakes would be even more tiring; in the worst cases, one might have to start from scratch. Paying attention to detail will ensure that you carry out your duty accordingly and succeed and avoid mistakes.

Team player

Data analysis is a process that involves teamwork. In big establishments, employers bring together a team of data analysts to work on diverse projects both long-term and short-term. Apart from a group of data analysts working together, other professionals join hands to achieve a common goal. Thus, a data analyst will have to work with other people in an organization on various projects.

That is why a data analyst must have impeccable teamwork qualities. The ability to work comfortably with others, support each other, and make sure you meet your target are traits of a team player.

Working well under pressure

Employers know how intense business is and the high demands placed on them by their competitors and customers. For these reasons, they look for professionals who can handle the pressure while they carry out their duties without problems.

Data analysts handle lots of information which can be overwhelming at times. Also, they sometimes have tight deadlines to meet which adds to the pressure. Thus, you must be able to work well under pressure if you are to work effectively.



Analysis of large datasets

Some sets of data are small and can be managed without much stress by the average data analyst. Then, there are those sets of data that are large and complex. These sets of data are why employers need data analysts. Therefore, you must be skilled in this aspect. It takes a good knowledge of datasets and processing techniques to possess this skill. You could learn it as well.

Comprehensive report writing

Writing reports forms a crucial part of a data analyst’s job. Not only do data analysts have to process and analyze data, but they also have to make official reports. These reports are well-documented facts about the procedure and outcome of the analyses. Therefore, a data analyst must be skilled at writing reports comprehensively. These reports must be written to be well understood especially by those who are not familiar with data analysis processes.

Solid communication skills 

Another important skill to have as a data analyst is communication. This includes solid written skills as well as verbal skills. Since you will have to explain your concept of the final result to others in the organization, communication is key. There will come a time when you would need to write reports. Do this to make the reader understand by using less technical terms. Also, when communicating verbally, how to explain complex ideas in simple terms is a must-have skill.

Mathematical and statistical skills

To excel as a data analyst, you need to be good with numbers. This skill is not always easy to have but it is essential. That is why a high level of mathematical ability is required for this job. In addition, a data analyst must be highly skilled in statistics. A combination of these skills will set you up for a rewarding career.

Programming languages

Data analysis is a relatively complex field that involves special skills and sophisticated data analysis tools to carry out. Being skilled in Microsoft office tools, especially Excel, is a good first step. With Excel, data analysts perform basic data analysis tasks effectively as the Microsoft package comes with numerous useful functions.

For complex data analysis, you need to be skilled in programming languages to carry them out. Database management requires programming languages like SQL, Oracle, and Python, among others to manage complex datasets. Also, these programming languages will do a dozen times better than what Excel will offer you. They are essential to assess, collect, manipulate, and allow access to databases.

Data visualization

Data analysis is not rocket science yet it is a technical field. A lot of technical terms and processes are used during data analysis which is best known to data analysts. Data analysts need to explain the results of their analysis to others who are not data analysts.

As a result, you must interpret data in a way that the layman can understand. One of such ways is through data visualization. This is a skill that lets you make illustrations including charts, graphs, and more, to explain your data analysis better.

Problem-solving skills

As a data analyst, you are hired to solve problems relating to information. These problems are vital to the success of the organization and they never stop coming. Another challenge is that issues can spring out of nowhere that could be astonishing. The ability to solve problems is a very important skill to have. Since issues can come in any form, devising solutions to problems in an instant will always come in handy.


Where can a data analyst work?

Data analysts are some of the most sought-after professionals in the labor market. They are needed in nearly all the sectors and organizations you can imagine. Firstly, financial institutions need expert data analysts- every bank has them. Also, software development companies are always hiring data analysts to join their teams.

Other organizations including telecommunications companies, manufacturing companies, pharmaceutical companies, and public sector organizations need data analysts. Universities cannot do without data analysts, while consultancies and media agencies need them as well.


How much does a data analyst earn?

Data analysts command a decent salary for their troubles. In the U.S. for example, data analysts earn between $40,000 and $98,000 on average. Their U.K. counterparts earn an average salary of GBP40,000. Data analysts in Nigeria make a monthly salary of NGN160,000 on average.



A data analyst’s position is an important role in any organization. To become a data analyst, you need to have the necessary qualifications and skillset for the position. Communication is one of the most important skills every data analyst must have along with sound presentation skills. Also, the ability to analyze and interpret data is a must-have in this profession.

Finally, there is no shortage of places to work as data analysts as virtually every organization needs them.

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