Why Become a Data Analyst?

Kirstie Sequitin, CareerFoundry Editor

Been thinking about entering the world of data analytics? There’s no better time to get started! The Harvard Business Review named the roles of data analyst and data scientist as “the sexiest job of the 21st century.” The data analyst role was also included in Career Karma’s top tech jobs for the past three years running.

In this article, we’ll talk about why becoming a data analyst is a great career choice, outline the tasks and responsibilities a data analyst has, and give a roadmap of how to continue on this exciting career path.

If you want try it out immediately, check out CareerFoundry’s free 5-day data analytics course to start out.

We’ll cover the following topics:

  1. Why become a data analyst?
  2. What does a data analyst actually do?
  3. How to become a data analyst
  4. How long does it take to become a data analyst?
  5. Next steps

Feel free to use the clickable menu to skip ahead to any section. Now, let’s get started!

1. Why become a data analyst?

When considering becoming a data analyst, you might first think about datasets, visualizations, and the like—but there’s a lot more to being a data analyst than just that! In this section, we’ll go into some of the top reasons you may want to go into the field of data.

Let’s begin with…

Data analysts love solving problems 

Data analytics is a fast-paced, challenging career centered on problem-solving and thinking outside the box.

As a data analyst, you’ll work with a number of different teams who require your skills and knowledge to provide them with insights into how they can improve their processes.

Data analysts come from many different backgrounds

While many data analysts come from a more analytical or technical background, anyone can become a data analyst if they apply themselves.CareerFoundry, for example, has many successful graduates who used to work in marketing, sales, teaching, customer service, finance, architecture, HR, and IT roles.

Data analysts are in high demand

Employers struggle to find qualified data analysts, and the demand keeps growing. The average junior data analyst salary in the United States is $59,679 per year, while senior data analysts can earn as much as $108,000, according to PayScale!

Data analysts are constantly evolving

Data analysis moves quickly, and data analysts are constantly learning and advancing in their careers. There is practically no limit to how much you can improve your skills and progress in your career as a data analyst.  

Data analysts can work in many types of companies

As a data analyst, you have the opportunity to work for startups, agencies, large corporations, or even freelance. Your skills can be utilized by all kinds of businesses who want to understand their processes, customers, and business more. 

Data analysts are shaping the future

Almost all companies are collecting data on their customers, and correctly knowing how to interpret such data is becoming of increasing importance. Data analysts define how a business is currently operating. It’s up to them to look for changes, identify patterns, and spot anomalies that give an indication of how a company or organization is performing. 

… so there you have it! 

Working with data analysis is an in-demand, multifaceted, ever-evolving field, well-suited to those who are keen to seek out and solve problems and help inform important decisions using data. 

In the next section, we’ll look at what data analysts do on a day-to-day basis.

2. What does a data analyst actually do?

In a sentence: A data analyst is responsible for turning raw data into actionable insights that help drive business decisions. 

In a paragraph: Data analysts analyze and extrapolate information from raw data to answer business-specific questions, which may include: “Why did we miss on our revenue goals last quarter?” or “What will be the growth of our smallest customer segment this year?” 

They’ll make use of the data analysis process, adapted to the type of analysis they are performing. 

Once they’ve completed their analysis, they’ll present it to the relevant stakeholders in the form of a data visualization (normally a chart or graph on a dashboard). Based on these visualizations, the analyst can then make recommendations on appropriate next steps for the business.

To learn more about what a data analyst’s tasks and responsibilities are, check out our complete guide: What does a data analyst actually do?

If that’s piqued your interest, read on to learn more about how to become a data analyst.

3. How to become a data analyst

You may think that working with data requires some pretty strict certifications. Well, think again!

While you may find that possessing a degree in computer science, economics, or mathematics will give you bricks-and-mortar qualifications, not everyone has the time, patience, or budget for a four-year degree—and they’re not totally necessary, either!

A useful (and fun) way to try and work out your own path in the industry is to take the data careers quiz we’ve created. It should give you a better idea of where to specialize.

In this section, we’ll outline the basic steps to take when looking to start out as a data analyst. For a more detailed roadmap, check out how to become a data analyst.

Step 1: Gain an understanding of data analytics fundamentals

When we talk about the fundamentals of data analysis, what we mean here is getting an understanding of the key principles and tools used within the discipline. With that in mind, you may find the following articles helpful: 

You may also find it useful to take on a free data analytics course, read blogs written by industry experts, or read books on the topic. The world is your data-filled oyster!

Step 2: Obtain a data analytics certification

We’ve just touched upon data analytics degrees, and if that’s the path you choose to go down—great!

However, tech bootcamps have been rising in popularity over the years due to their accessibility, flexibility, networking opportunities, and more options generally not available from sandstone institutions. These allow you to become a fully-qualified data analyst in anywhere from three months to a year, usually while still continuing with your current day job

Of course, each bootcamp provider will offer more or fewer opportunities that will benefit you personally depending on their approach, so it’s best to do your research. Learn more about data analytics bootcamps in this comprehensive guide to the market’s most highly-sought after courses.

Step 3: Create (and update) your data analytics portfolio

A crucial step to take before getting into the job market as a data analyst is creating your data analytics portfolio, which is a repository of your best projects to show prospective employers or colleagues.

Basically, it’s your place online to show off your skills! Many data analytics courses will include capstone projects specifically designed to include as part of your portfolio, but you should also look into passion projects to use in order to show your keenness on the topic.

Be sure to check out our complete guide on how to create a data analytics portfolio, as well as some of the best data analytics portfolios from which to draw inspiration.

Step 4: Apply for jobs and get networking!

Now, this might seem as straightforward as writing your resume and cover letter and answering interview questions, but there’s definitely way more to it than that if you want a truly enriching career as a data analyst.

Networking is also very important—data analysts love to share information, whether it’s about a snippet of code or a promising upcoming project or workplace. Get to know other data analysts on LinkedIn, GitHub, or Medium, and you’ll gain priceless insights into your new world.

Similarly, if your bootcamp provider or university offers opportunities to work with a career coach, take them! While you may have applied for jobs on your own before, a career coach will have a great overview of the industry, and may even have personal insights into roles or traineeship opportunities that won’t be listed online.

4. How long does it take to become a data analyst?

So, you’re coming to the end of the article, and you’re getting excited about the prospect of becoming a data analyst, but there’s one thing on your mind: how long will it take to get there?

Unfortunately, there’s no clear-cut answer to that question. For example, it can take one person anywhere from three months to a year to complete a data analytics bootcamp (potentially longer if also working, and shorter if not).

For those studying at a university, three- and four-year degrees are the most common, but you could also take on a data analytics graduate certificate if you’ve already graduated with a bachelor’s, which would only add on an extra six months to a year. 

Once you’ve finished studying, the journey from graduation to employment is as long as a piece of string—you could get one after your first application if you’re really lucky!

The important thing to keep in mind is that you should study at your own pace and ensure you’re making the most of your time with whatever provider or institution you enroll with. When it comes to the job hunt, research organizations carefully and make sure you’re happy with what they can offer you. Data analytics is a field that can truly take you anywhere, so if it’s possible, it helps to be open to relocation, too!

Bear in mind that data analyst jobs are expected to rise in demand at least until 2031 (according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics), so as the old saying goes: if at first you don’t succeed, try again—there are plenty more jobs out there!

5. Next steps

In this article we’ve answered the question: Why become a data analyst? If you’re looking for a career change, data analytics is a vibrant path to take with ever-increasing opportunities available.

With such demand on the market, our advice to aspiring analysts is not to rush into the field but instead to take the time to learn new skills, apply them to projects you’re passionate about, build up a portfolio, and apply for jobs with companies you care about.

If you’re keen to get started, why not try out this free data analytics short course? It’ll teach you the absolute fundamentals so that you can see whether you enjoy data or not. Pass the short quiz at the end of the course, and you’ll be rewarded with a discount you can put towards the tuition for the full CareerFoundry Data Analytics Program.

You may also find the following articles interesting:

What You Should Do Now

  1. Get a hands-on introduction to data analytics and carry out your first analysis with our free, self-paced Data Analytics Short Course.

  2. Take part in one of our FREE live online data analytics events with industry experts, and read about Azadeh’s journey from school teacher to data analyst.

  3. Become a qualified data analyst in just 4-8 months—complete with a job guarantee.

  4. This month, we’re offering a partial scholarship worth up to $1,365 off on all of our career-change programs to the first 100 students who apply 🎉 Book your application call and secure your spot now!

What is CareerFoundry?

CareerFoundry is an online school for people looking to switch to a rewarding career in tech. Select a program, get paired with an expert mentor and tutor, and become a job-ready designer, developer, or analyst from scratch, or your money back.

Learn more about our programs