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How to become a data analyst

Considering a career in data analytics? Great choice. With more and more companies making business decisions based on data, the demand for data analysts is skyrocketing. You can also expect a decent salary, as the average data analyst makes $77,923 a year before accounting for bonuses. But how do you enter the field? What skills do you need to become a data analyst?

Below, we'll explore what data analysts do and the requirements for the role before showing you where to get started.

What do data analysts do?

A data analyst has several roles and responsibilities, including:

  • Collecting and interpreting data: As a data analyst, you need to be able to find the right kind of data to collect for your organization's needs. Your objective is to gather data that can be used to derive insights that strengthen the organization as a whole.
  • Analyzing data: After data is collected, you'll have to analyze it to see where the company stands, where they need to go, and how they can get there.
  • Locating patterns within data trends: Patterns within data are what lead to compelling insights. Finding and interpreting them is crucial to your role as a data analyst.
  • Reporting results to key stakeholders: After analyzing data for patterns and insights, data analysts share their findings with executives and other stakeholders to help them make strategic decisions.
  • Working side-by-side with other team members: Various departments rely on data-driven insights, so data analysts often meet with them to ascertain their needs.
  • Designing new ways to collect and use data: Data analysts use their data collection and manipulation skills to devise new systems that help companies meet their objectives.

Data analyst requirements and skills

To become a data analyst, you'll need to combine a basic understanding of math and programming with the ability to apply insights to solve business problems. You'll also need to be proficient with the tools required to collect, manipulate, and visualize data.

To start your career as a data analyst, you'll need the following skills:

  • Programming languages: Data analysts use programming languages like SQL and Python to collect and manipulate the data stored in relational databases. These languages will also help you build databases from scratch, which is helpful when you're trying to find the right data for your purposes. You'll also need a basic understanding of common database protocols.
  • The ability to model, analyze, and interpret data: Along with the programming languages above, data analysts also use libraries and frameworks like pandas and NumPy to organize and visualize their data. You'll also need to know how to analyze data to find solutions for your company's objectives. For data analysts, data tells a valuable story, so you need to be able to see more than just figures on a spreadsheet — you need to see the narrative they convey.
  • Interpersonal skills: Data analysts have to share their findings and ideas with those who have the power to put them to use. In other words, you'll have to convince your company's stakeholders that your insights are worthy of action. Doing so requires the ability to interact with people in a meaningful way — even when under pressure.
  • Teamwork and collaboration: As a data analyst, you'll likely be working as part of a team. Knowing how to delegate responsibility to others, accept tasks delegated to you, listen to others, and incorporate their ideas will be essential to your success as a data analyst.

Where can I learn data analytics for free?

If you're set on becoming a data analyst, you'll need to learn SQL. Our Learn SQL course will teach you the basics of SQL programming and show you how to use it to manage relational databases.

After learning SQL, you'll want to learn programming languages like Python or R. R is especially useful as it was designed specifically for data science.

Once you've mastered these languages, explore their associated libraries and frameworks that help you collect, manipulate, and visualize your data. Check out any of the Skill Paths below to get started:

Finally, if you want to learn all the knowledge and skills you'll need at once, try our Data Analyst Career Path. Not only will you learn all of the skills listed above (and more), but you'll also use them to build complete projects that you can use to build a portfolio that showcases your ability in your future job search.

For more information about careers in data science, check out our data science career guide.

Get more practice, more projects, and more guidance.

Adam Carpenter

Adam Carpenter is a tech, fintech, and business innovations writer. Passionate about user safety, Adam writes about cybersecurity solutions, software, and innovations.

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