How to Become
a Data Analyst

Education Pathways, Skills, and Certifications

Data analysis is one of the most in-demand fields in data science. If you want to learn how to become a data analyst and take advantage of this job growth, this guide is for you.

Read this complete guide to launching your career in data analysis, which includes the ideal education pathways, recommended skills, and certifications. In addition, you will learn more about the salary expectations and standard job descriptions for data analysts.

What Is a Data Analyst?

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A data analyst is a data science expert who collects, analyzes, and makes sense of large datasets using advanced tools. The information collected by data analysts is typically used for making predictions or significant decisions to boost efficiency in an organization.

Data analysts combine practicals and theories to deliver data-driven insights to an organization. They consider internal and external factors in data analysis. As a data analyst, you will also design algorithms for automated data manipulation.

What Does a Data Analyst Do?

Data analysts across industries might manipulate different datasets, but the overall job description is typically the same. The three tasks listed below are the most common data analyst duties.

Creates Performance Indicators

A data analyst develops performance indicators like KPIs, also known as key performance indicators. KPIs are made up of quantifiable measures to determine a company’s performance over time. You may be required to develop performance indicators for individual departments within the organization.

Some other essential performance indicators you may be required to work with are the client retention rate (CRR) and profit margin (PM). The company will use your performance indicators to improve client and employee satisfaction while balancing profitability.

Visualizes Data

A considerable part of your job will involve data visualization. This is simply making graphical illustrations of your data to present to others. Visualization makes it easier to spot trends and understand patterns.

Most data analysts use column, line, area, and scatter charts, plus bar graphs, for data visualization. The option you choose should depend on the datasets you are trying to illustrate and the audience you wish to address. Just make sure that you opt for the most efficient technique.

Collaborates with Others

As a data scientist, department heads will depend on your analysis to gauge how the department is doing. In big companies where roles are defined clearly, data analysts work closely with data scientists and data engineers. They also provide valuable feedback to product managers.

At regular intervals, you might make presentations to stakeholders or provide the data used for making these presentations. Significant decisions on how resources should be dispersed are made based on the findings of the data analyst. You should have good communication skills for this position.

Data Analyst Education Pathways

You can get all the education you need to become a data analyst from a university or data science bootcamp. However, if you prefer to train yourself, massive open online courses (MOOCs) are a great resource as well.

Data Analyst Degrees

Gaining a Bachelor’s Degree in Data Science at university takes four years. You can start with a two-year associate degree and transfer your credits. Some good options for data analytics bachelor’s degrees are New York University, Arizona State University, and Webster University.

You can also opt for a Master’s Degree in Data Analytics. It can be completed in about 18 months or less, depending on the school. It can help you earn a higher data analyst salary. Some good examples of schools that offer this qualification are Nottingham Trent University, Georgetown University, and Johns Hopkins.

You can take things to another level with a PhD in Data Analytics, which runs for four to five years. It is a research degree, and you may need a master’s degree before you can apply. Some schools offer waivers to bachelor degree holders who graduate with honors or dual degrees.

Data Analyst Bootcamps

Data analytics bootcamps are accelerated learning programs that train students for lifelong careers. Instead of taking numerous electives and meeting specific standards set by universities, you will discover only what you need to know about becoming a data analyst.

A few good examples of some of the best data science bootcamps are Galvanize, BrainStation, and Flatiron School. These bootcamps have programs that run for three to six months, and they offer career preparation services as well.

Data Analyst Courses

As stated above, MOOCs are ideal for students who would rather learn online with short-term courses. Those preparing to apply for a degree may also benefit from taking a few data analytics courses to increase their knowledge base. Some of these courses are free, but you may have to pay a fee for others.

Udemy, Coursera, and edX are some of the most reliable MOOCs out there. They offer affordable data analytics courses and award students certificates of completion. In addition, some courses are offered in collaboration with top-ranking universities like Harvard.

How to Become a Data Analyst: A Step-by-Step Guide

How to Become a Data Analyst: A Step-by-Step Guide

Going to school to learn data analytics is a great choice, but you can make things easier by improving your skills with the step-by-step guide below.


Learn the relevant programming languages

As a data analyst, you will need to learn how to use Python, JavaScript, R, and a few other programming languages for the data analytics process. These languages are vital. For example, Python is excellent for natural language processing.


Learn how to use existing data analytics tools

Do you know how to write SQL queries? You should learn SQL because it is vital for big data analysis. You also need to learn how to use Matlab, IBM SPSS, Microsoft Excel, and simple tools to analyze data trends and derive valuable insights.


Explore data visualization tools

You don’t need to use a pen and paper for a graphical representation of datasets. Data visualization tools can help you get the job done faster. Learn how to use Power BI, Tableau, and QlikView for clear and accurate data visualization.


Take classes on machine learning

Machine learning tools and algorithms are helpful in data analytics. These tools will help you to sort and make sense out of unstructured data. You can also use machine learning tools for predictive data analytics.


Get a formal education

If you want to get the attention of real-world employers quickly, you will need a formal education. A Bachelor’s Degree in Data Analytics will help you launch your career, but a data analytics bootcamp offers a faster and equally viable alternative to formal education.

Top Data Analyst Skills

Technical skills will help you excel as a data analyst, and most can be developed on your terms. These skills include statistics, proficiency in Microsoft Excel, and data mining. Read below to learn more about the top data analyst skills.


As a data analyst, you will need to use statistics during your work. Therefore, you should learn as much as you can about descriptive statistics and inferential statistics. The latter is used to draw conclusions from datasets after analysis, while the former is used to summarize data before major analysis has been completed.

Coursera has a host of descriptive statistics courses you can use to learn on your own. It also offers courses on inferential statistics. Udemy and edX are other websites you can search for courses on both subjects.

Microsoft Excel

As basic as this seems, proficiency in Microsoft Excel is a must for every data analyst. It allows you to simplify raw data into spreadsheets in readable formats that anyone can understand. Then, when you need to make complex calculations, you can automate the spreadsheet software program to do it for you.

All you need to master Microsoft Excel is a laptop. The application comes with tutorials that will help you get familiar with the program. In addition, you can take free Excel classes online if you need further guidance.

Data Mining and Examination

Data mining is an essential step in the data analysis process. It includes extracting insightful patterns from large and often unstructured datasets using all the tools at your disposal.

Data examination isn’t limited to what you can learn at a school or online. As an individual, you need to be a good observer who pays attention to detail. It doesn’t matter if you’re using automated tools or not. You still need to have a keen eye for spotting discrepancies.

Data Analyst Salary and Job Outlook

Like others in the data industry, the job outlook and salary range for data analysts are respectable. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for data scientists, data engineers, data analysts, and related occupations is expected to increase by 31 percent between 2009 and 2029.

Keep in mind that the average growth rate of all professions is four percent, so this percentage is very high. According to the BLS, the data analyst average salary is $98,230, and data-related jobs are now the eleventh fastest-growing occupations in the United States.

Entry-Level Data Analyst Job Requirements

Typically, you will need a minimum of an associate degree for an entry-level data science position. However, companies are increasingly recognizing bootcamp graduates, especially when they can demonstrate their skills. According to ZipRecruiter, an average entry-level data analyst salary is $43,250.

How to Prepare for Your Data Analyst Job Interview

Your preparation will depend on the type of company you are aiming to join. So, preparations for someone who wants to work in a tech manufacturing company will be different from someone who wants to work in a supply chain firm. Either way, learn as much as you can about the company before the interview.

Below are some of the most common data analytics interview questions.


Data Analyst Job Interview Practice Questions

  • What machine learning software do you prefer for data analysis?
  • How do you overcome challenges during your data analytics projects?
  • What is the difference between data science and data analytics?
  • In your opinion, which tool is better for data cleaning? Trifacta Wrangler, Cloudingo, or Tye?
Data Analyst Certifications

Data Analyst Certifications

This stage of the training will come after your education and some experience in the field. Being able to show these professional certifications to potential employers proves your proficiency in the data analytics sphere.

Some of the best data analytics certifications are listed below.

Certified Analytics Professional by INFORMS

This program is popularly called CAP. It can prove that you understand all the core principles and stages of data analysis. INFORMS is the world’s largest professional analytics and data science organization. The exam costs $695 for non-INFORMS members and $495 for members.

Associate Certified Analytics Professional by INFORMS

For the Associate Certified Analytics Professional certification (aCAP), all you need is $300. It is for fresh data analysts who want to apply for entry-level positions. You don’t need any work experience to get the aCAP certification. You will be certified based on seven data-related fields.

EMC Data Scientist Associate Certification by Dell EMC Education

This is a broader professional certificate to prove that you have what it takes to initiate and complete big data projects. The certification exam voucher costs $230, and people who want to learn more about the exam before taking it may take advantage of the resources available.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Data Analyst?

Becoming a data analyst takes between 10 weeks and four years, depending on the education route you take. The fastest ways are bootcamps and associate degrees.

However, a bachelor’s degree is preferred, which takes about four years. If you want a master’s degree, be prepared to spend up to six years in school. You may also need a certain number of years of experience if you want to enter certain positions.

Why You Should Become a Data Analyst in 2021

You should become a data analyst if you enjoy organizing and working with numbers. All indicators from the Bureau of Labor Statistics prove that opportunities for data analytics and other data-related occupations are bound to keep growing beyond 2021.

The job opportunities for data analysts also make it an exciting career path to take. There are several job titles available, and you can switch from one occupation to another without reskilling. If you want to become a data analyst, 2021 is the right time.

Data Analyst FAQ

Yes, they can. Remote data analysts work with computers. They can use all the same tools and techniques as their in-office counterparts. The only difference is that they work from their homes or other locations.

Yes, bootcamps are viable alternatives to colleges. Save for a few exceptions, bootcamps don’t award degrees. However, you can gain the knowledge and expertise you need to become a data analyst within a short timeframe. Bootcamps are also typically more affordable than colleges.

Data analysts can work in any firm that relies on a heavy flow of big data. In the tech industry, the highest density of data analysts can be found at companies such as Microsoft, Facebook, Google, and Twitter. You can also find work in the supply chain management and finance industry.

No, you do not need a master’s degree for an entry-level data analytics position. You may get other high-paying jobs with just your bachelor’s degree or bootcamp experience. However, some companies may demand a master’s, especially when applying for a management role.

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