So you want to become a data analyst, but there’s one thing bothering you. You don’t have any industry experience, and you’ve been working (or studying) in a completely unrelated field.
Now, as you consider a big career change, you’re wondering: Is it really possible to make the switch? And what are your chances of getting hired?
The short answer is yes, it’s entirely possible—and yes, employers will be open to hiring you (even without any prior experience). In this post, we’ll explain exactly why and how.
We’ll answer the following questions:
- Is it possible to become a data analyst with no previous experience?
- What steps do you need to take to become a data analyst?
- How can you increase your chances of getting hired?
- What kinds of companies (and salary) can you expect to work for?
- What next?
Ready? Let’s go.
1. Is it possible to become a data analyst with no previous experience?
We’ll cut to the chase: It is absolutely possible to become a data analyst, even if you’re starting from scratch and don’t have any industry experience.
How can we be so sure?
There are several factors that make the data job market relatively accessible for newcomers:
- The significant and rapid growth of the data market
- The data skills gap
- The value of transferable skills within the data analytics field
Let’s take a look at these in more detail.
The data industry is booming
In 2019, the global data analytics market was valued at $49 billion USD. That’s more than double what it was worth in 2015. And, from 2020 to 2023, the market is projected to grow at a rate of 30% each year.
This rapid industry growth is reflected directly in the data analytics job market. In their Jobs of Tomorrow Report (2020), the World Economic Forum highlights seven high-growth emerging professions, with data and artificial intelligence (AI) showing the highest growth rate at 41% per year.
Ultimately, a burgeoning data market means a wealth of job opportunities for data professionals—and, at present, the demand far outweighs the supply.
The data talent shortage
The data market is growing at a rapid pace, and businesses are desperately trying to keep up. Data-driven organizations consistently outperform their competitors, so it makes sense that hiring data experts will be an increasing priority across all industries. At the moment, though, we’re seeing something of a data skills gap. In a study conducted by NTUC LearningHub, 93% of working professionals said that their workforce is not achieving optimal productivity due to a lack of data skills.
This handy infographic put together by QuantHub captures the difficulties companies are facing when it comes to hiring skilled data professionals. The following stats are especially interesting:
- More companies are investing in big data projects (83%)
- By 2030, it’s predicted that there will be a global shortage of around 85 million skilled professionals across the tech industry
- Data science and analytics was identified as the second most difficult area in which to find skilled professionals (second to cybersecurity)
In short: Data analysts are in high demand, putting newcomers in a great position. The jobs are there; as long as you’ve mastered (and can demonstrate) the right skills, there’s nothing to stop you getting a foot in the door.
Data analysts rely on a vast array of transferable skills
Aside from the fact that data analysts are in high demand, the role itself requires a vast array of skills—many of which you’ll bring with you from other work and life experiences.
Some key transferable skills that will set you in good stead include:
- Curiosity and an inquisitive nature
- A penchant for problem solving
- Excellent communication skills (e.g. being good at explaining things)
- The ability to carry out research
- Attention to detail
- Collaboration and teamwork
You’ve no doubt picked up at least some of these skills already—be it at school, at work, or simply by interacting with different people. In the absence of data-specific experience, these transferable skills can help you demonstrate your suitability for data analytics jobs. And, with employers placing increasing importance on soft skills, it’s certainly worth highlighting these in your applications. We’ll show you how to do this in the next section.
2. How to become a data analyst from scratch (actionable steps)
We now know it’s possible to get hired as a data analyst, even without any previous experience on your resumé. First, though, you need to learn the necessary skills and start to market yourself as a data analyst. Here are some practical steps you can follow to get your career change underway:
1. Complete a data analytics certification
You don’t need a full-blown degree to become a data analyst, but you do need a structured and formal approach to learning the necessary skills. The best (and most flexible) way to do so is through a project-based course. Some key things to look for when choosing a course are:
- A hands-on curriculum that contributes to your portfolio
- Some form of mentorship
- A certificate of completion
- A focus on job preparation and career advice
- A job guarantee
For help finding the right course, take a look at this comparison of the best data analytics certification programs.
2. Polish up your data analytics portfolio
Data analytics is a hands-on field, and employers want to see proof that you can apply what you know to real projects. If you don’t have any real-world experience, you might be wondering what you could possibly include in your data portfolio. Here are some ideas:
- Take a course that includes projects in the curriculum
- Work on passion projects. We’ve put together some fun data project ideas here
- Volunteer your data skills
You can learn more about how to build a professional data analytics portfolio in this guide.
3. Identify (and emphasize) your transferable skills
As you immerse yourself in learning new skills, it’s easy to forget that you’ve already got a pretty solid skillset under your belt—and that it will add to the value you bring as a data analyst. If you’re brand new to the field of data, it’s especially important to draw parallels between your previous experience and your new career. Spend some time identifying your core hard and soft skills, and think about how they might be transferred to data analytics.
Perhaps you’ve got a marketing background and are already familiar with some basic analytics tools. Maybe you’re a teacher, which makes you great at explaining things—an excellent skill when it comes to presenting your data insights and explaining what they mean to non-technical stakeholders. Can you see how seemingly unrelated experience will actually set you apart as an excellent data analyst? The trick is to recognize your value and convey it to employers through your portfolio, your resumé, and how you talk about yourself in interviews.
3. How to increase your chances of getting hired
You’re learning the necessary skills and building your portfolio. What else can you do to increase your chances of getting hired?
In the absence of industry experience, the best thing you can do to sharpen your competitive edge is to recognize the unique value you bring as a newcomer to the field. This advice comes from Mike McCulloch, Head of Career Services at CareerFoundry, who specializes in coaching graduates through their career change.
Mike points out that, rather than being a setback, having no prior experience in the industry is actually seen as a major asset. As Mike explains: “Newcomers don’t come with any of the preconceptions that mid-level professionals do. They see the business and its challenges through fresh eyes, and are therefore able to approach it from completely new angles. They don’t yet know what’s possible, so they ask different and unexpected questions. Not only does this keep seniors on their toes; it also helps the business to find new solutions to old problems.”
There are other advantages to hiring complete beginners. For one, it gives senior team members the opportunity to mentor someone. Another benefit that many companies will appreciate is the chance to train someone from scratch and nurture them for future career growth. Good hiring managers know that employees are an investment, and the best companies will see your newcomer status as an opportunity rather than a setback.
Many industry experts have written about why companies should hire entry-level professionals and the benefits they can expect if they do. Bear this in mind both in your job search and when speaking with hiring managers; if you’re well-versed in the value you bring, it’ll be easier for you to talk about it and get it across to others.
Ultimately, it’s all about how you market yourself. In addition to mastering the necessary skills, you need to reframe how you think about your lack of experience. Perhaps it’s not a deficit after all, and will actually help you stand out from the crowd!
4. What kinds of companies can you expect to work for?
Data analysts are among the most in-demand professionals, and you’ll find that, once you’ve mastered the core skills, you can work in almost any industry. When you’re just starting out, you can expect to land the job title of “data analyst” or “junior data analyst.” More specialized roles, such as healthcare data analyst, will require some industry experience.
As a newly qualified analyst, you’re likely to find job opportunities in the following sectors:
- Media and entertainment
- Wellness and fitness
- Transport and logistics
…to name just a few! For a more specific idea of the opportunities available to you as a newly qualified data analyst, it’s worth searching for “data analyst” or “junior analyst” positions in your local area. Browse sites like LinkedIn, indeed, and glassdoor for a well-rounded view of the current job market.
How much do entry-level data analysts earn?
How much you can expect to earn in your first data analyst job depends on where you (or the job) are based, and the sector you’re going into. According to data from indeed, the average base salary for a junior data analyst in the United States is $56,956 USD. That’s higher than the national average income of $49,764, so it’s not a bad starting point!
You can learn more about entry-level data analyst salaries in this article.
5. Key takeaways and next steps
The data market is growing exponentially, and the demand for skilled data analysts is growing with it. As a newcomer to the industry, you have plenty of value to offer—and not just despite your lack of experience, but in many ways, because of it. Ready to get the ball rolling? Here’s a free introductory data analytics short course to ease you in. And, if you’d like to learn more about forging a career in data, check out the following: