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How to Become a Data Analyst: Salary, Job Outlook, Courses, and Certifications

The data analyst profession is one of the most skilled and sought-after careers. Almost every company collects data and therefore has a need for detail-oriented, organized, and clear-headed professionals to analyze it for them. If that sounds like you, then read on to learn how to become a data analyst.

What Is a Data Analyst?

Essentially, a data analyst uses data to produce valuable business information. They look for trends, new markets, and investment opportunities to enable a business to make informed, beneficial decisions.

Data analysts also solve data-related problems. They mine data from various primary and secondary sources and then organize that data into a human- or machine-readable format. They use analytics tools to interpret and analyze datasets to identify trends and patterns.

What Does a Data Analyst Do?

Data analysts carry out various roles and activities in their position. From managing raw data to presenting reports and results, they must have a keen eye for detail and show the initiative to improve data quality.

Manage Data

Data analysts manage an organization’s data systems and databases. They gather the data from primary and secondary sources and then translate it into a more human and machine-readable format.

Spot Trends and Patterns

A huge part of data analytics deals with business intelligence. A good data analyst will use data in an effective and useful way to produce results that will benefit the business. They will spot trends and patterns to create reports and recommendations for market researchers, businesses, and customers.

Use Statistical Tools to Analyze Data

Data analysts use various statistical tools and techniques to analyze and keep data in order. Statistical analysis of data helps create data that can be used to make informed decisions.

Essential Data Analyst Skills

Whether it’s advanced analytics or business analytics, an excellent data analyst will need to possess the essential skills needed to excel in their field. These skills include learning programming languages, data visualization, organization, and communication skills.

Data Mining

It goes without saying that one of the most basic and essential skills a data analyst must possess is a strong knowledge of data mining. Once you gather the unstructured data, you will then need to sort and clean it, turning it into a structured and readable format.


You cannot be a successful data analyst without having hands-on knowledge of programming. Programming languages such as R, SAS, and Python are must-have skills for data analysts. But don’t worry. Coding isn’t as hard to learn as you might think.

Microsoft Excel Proficiency

Excel can be a powerful tool for data analysts. For small or medium-sized data, Excel can be a great tool to streamline your work.

Data Analyst Salaries and Job Outlook

Data analysts are highly sought-after employees in almost every sector. According to PayScale, the average data analyst salary is around $61,000. And according to Glassdoor, it’s closer to $62,500. Keep in mind the pay rate will vary depending on your seniority level.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that there will be a 25 percent growth rate for the profession between now and 2029. This growth is attributable to the higher demand for efficient systems and predictive analytics in our ever-changing technological landscape.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Data Analyst?

The time it takes to gain skills in this field can vary depending on your existing skillset, background knowledge, and experience. It can take as little as a few weeks to as long as a couple of years to become a data analyst.

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

Like any other field, you can learn the skills and knowledge to become a data analyst using a variety of resources. We have compiled a step-by-step guide to get you on your way to becoming a data analyst.

Step 1: Enroll in an Undergraduate Program

Computer science departments all around the United States offer bachelor’s degree programs where you can specialize in data analytics, data science, database management, machine learning, and more. These undergraduate programs typically take around four years to complete.

Step 2: Take an Online Course

If you are looking for alternative methods to traditional study, enrolling in an online course or a bootcamp can be a great way to learn data analysis. Many vendors offer data analytics courses that can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to complete.

These courses can be a great way to learn skills in a limited amount of time and can be more affordable than a traditional bachelor’s degree. However, keep in mind that candidates who have a bachelor’s degree may have a higher chance of employment.

Step 3: Apply for an Internship

Internships can be a great way to prepare yourself for the workforce. Internships provide a practical, hands-on learning experience that can increase your chances of a successful career in tech.

Step 4: Apply for a Job

Any company that deals with data will have open positions for data analysts. Use job boards such as Indeed, LinkedIn, or Jobvite to look for job descriptions in the relevant field. You can also ask your friends already working at various companies to add your resume to their referral systems. This is a quicker path to landing an interview than other methods.

Required Education to Become a Data Analyst

To become a data analyst, ideally, you should have a bachelor’s degree. However, if you do not have the time and resources to complete a bachelor’s degree, you can enroll in short online courses instead.

Many universities offer online degree programs and short courses that can be useful resources to prepare you for the workforce.

Additionally, taking certification exams is highly recommended in any profession. They determine your proficiency in the field and increase your chances of employment in the hiring process.

Best Programs and Courses to Become a Data Analyst

Platforms such as Coursera, Udemy, and LinkedIn offer many online courses for anyone interested in advancing their knowledge in the data analysis field. Here are some of the best programs and courses to become a data analyst.

Statistics with R Specialization

  • Provider: Coursera
  • Cost: Standard Coursera rate
  • Prerequisites: None
  • Time: 7 months

This is a specialized course for those interested in the field of data analysis. This course will teach you how to analyze and visualize data in R. You will learn statistical inference, modeling, and the Bayesian approach. In addition, you will learn the art of communicating statistical results accurately and effectively.

Data Analysis: Statistical Modeling and Computation in Applications

  • Provider: edX
  • Cost: Free, or $300 with verified certificate
  • Prerequisite: None
  • Time: 15 weeks

In this course, you will learn how to perform statistical analysis on real-world data. You will learn some of the common statistical and computational tools such as hypothesis testing and regression. In addition, you will learn to use Gaussian processes to model environmental data and make predictions.

Data Analysis with Pandas and Python

  • Provider: Udemy
  • Cost: Varies
  • Prerequisite: None
  • Time: 20.5 hours

In this course, you will have at your disposal Python’s “pandas” library. You will have fun creating data operations such as grouping, joining, and more. This course will also teach you how to manipulate 1D, 2D, and 3D data sets.

Data Analyst Certificates

Certifications are a way to showcase your expertise in a certain profession. There are many certificates available for you as a data analyst. Below are some of the best data analyst certificates that you can start working towards now.

IBM Data Analyst Professional Certificate

This is a beginner-level certificate course. This certificate course will help you get hired for an entry-level data analyst role. In 10 months, you will gain hands-on learning experience and practice in the field. Once you complete the course, you will earn a certificate that you can showcase on your LinkedIn profile and resume.

Associate Certified Analytics Professional (aCAP)

This certification is for a beginner or entry-level professional who has not yet started in the workforce. The aCAP certification provides a stepping stone for beginners to carve a professional career pathway for themselves.

To be eligible for this certification, you need to have a master’s degree or similar level of education in a related field. In addition, you need to have verified competency in the analytics field and must agree to the analytics code of ethics.

CCA Data Analyst

This is a high-level certification that you can earn as an SQL developer. To gain certification, you need to pass the CCA Data Analyst Exam. Once you complete the exam, you will have the core competencies required for the generation of reports in Cloudera’s CDH environment using Impala and Hive.

Should You Become a Data Analyst in 2021?

The field of data analytics is an ever-growing field and won’t become obsolete anytime soon. Employment in this field is expected to grow 25 percent by 2029, a huge amount of growth compared to other professions. On top of that, a data analyst has the potential to earn a high salary, with many additional employment perks.

If you enjoy gathering, analyzing, and examining data and love making predictions that can be effectively used to drive growth or attract potential customers, then this field will be great for you.

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