How to Become a Data Analyst

The role of data analyst can vary a lot depending on what kind of company or organization you work for but, at the core, a data analyst looks at large amounts of data to find trends or insights. In a private business setting, these insights probably have to do with transactions and the success of various products. In a research organization, this analysis might focus on relationships between different variables in a study. A data analyst should have a solid background in statistics and may also use programming languages to work with their data more efficiently. SQL and Python are languages commonly used by data analysts. Data analysts also have a good understanding of the goals of their organization or business. Understanding these goals helps them decide what data to look at and how to view it. Data analysts may be tasked with creating compelling visualizations that illustrate trends or insights gleaned from the data. They may discuss their findings with product managers, a CTO, data scientists, and other analysts.

Job Description for a Data Analyst

A data analyst has two important roles. The first is to collect, analyze, and manipulate data. This data is used to both summarize trends in a company and also predict future trends. The data is also considered with other internal and external factors in order for the data analyst to perform their second role. The second role of a data analyst is to present their findings to key decision-makers in the company in a way that key stakeholders understand.

There are actually 4 types of data analytics that are important for data analysts to use to allow organizations to make well-informed decisions. Descriptive, diagnostic, predictive, and prescriptive analytics all have specific roles in the data analysis process and a data analyst is responsible for knowing why type or combination of analysis to use for the needs of a company.

Qualifications for a Data Analyst

A career as a data analyst requires qualifications that are both academic and skill-related. Both technical and soft skills are needed, from programming language mastery to presentation ability. The list below helps outline some of the most required skills in the field.

Skills Needed:

  • Technical Skills
  • Data visualization
  • Database administration
  • Data engineering
  • Business needs analysis
  • Statistical programming languages
  • Data ethics

Soft Skills

  • Communication
  • Critical thinking
  • Flexibility
  • Presentation
  • Collaboration
  • Data Intuition

Academic Qualifications

  • Bachelor’s degree in a related field: computer science, finance, mathematics, statistics, information management.
  • Data Analytics Certification or Master’s Degree in Data Analytics


  • Programming language knowledge (R or Python)
  • SQL knowledge
  • Critical thinking ability
  • Problem-solving ability
  • Presentation skills
  • Communication skills
  • Statistics mastery
  • Machine learning knowledge
  • Microsoft Excel proficiency

Towards Data Science ranked the most in-demand technical skills requested from data analyst job listings and found many of the same skills above. Notice that skills are needed for both the analyzing of data and presenting the data reports.


What Tools Does a Data Analyst Use?

Data analysts use a variety of tools to perform their job. Tools to manage, analyze, and present the data are all necessary.


  • Programming languages like Python are used to support data collection.
  • SQL is a query language that helps build data models that are complex and easy to analyze.
  • Data visualization platforms and tools like Tableau and Plotly help visualize data with graphs, tables, and maps through interactive graphs and images. Microsoft Excel is popular for simple data visualization.
  • Predictive analysis tools like Tableau, Domo, and Excel use raw data to predict trends and future patterns.
  • Unified data analytics engines take data from multiple sources and bring the data altogether.
  • Industry-specific analytics tools are needed since data analysts span a variety of industries with different needs.
  • ETL tools extract, transform, and load data and take data from multiple sources, and bring it together. They are often used to create data warehouses.
  • Business intelligence tools take data from organizations that have accrued over time. This creates a large amount of data that business intelligence tools analyze to make presentations for decision making.
  • Spreadsheet applications like Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets,  and SmartSheet make it easier to collect, store, sort, analyze, and present data.
  • Data modeling tools like draw.io, SQuirrel, SQL create data models so that data can be stored in a database. There are numerous modeling tools and some are open-source. Each data modeling tool has different strengths for different types of projects.

Steps to Become a Data Analyst

To become a data analyst, follow these 6 steps:

  1. Earn a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field.
  2. Learn important skills in data analytics.
  3. Gain experience in the field of data analytics.
  4. Consider earning certifications.
  5. Get hired for your first data analytics position.
  6. Earn a master’s degree
  1. Earn a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field. 

Possible disciplines include finance, statistics, economics, mathematics, information management, and computer science. These fields are based in statistics and analytics which are the top skills needed to become a data analyst.

  1. Learn important skills in data analytics.

The top skills employers look for in data analysts include,

Data analysts must also be excellent critical thinkers to analyze the data and have presentation and communication skills to present the data to other data analysts and their employers.

  1. Gain experience in the field of data analytics.

If you are looking at how to become a data analyst without experience, this is a great time to land an internship in the field. Since this field is so popular and growing, companies are offering internships for data analysts in both tech and non-tech companies. Internships not only provide hands-on experience to add to your resume and the skills to make you a better data analyst, they also provide networking opportunities to help you find a permanent position.

  1. Consider earning certifications.

Bootcamps are a great way to earn certifications in specific skills needed in data analytics such as learning programming languages like R or Python. Bootcamps are also offered to provide certification in data analytics. Bootcamps are offered in-person and online so you can find the best bootcamp to fit your needs and schedule. If you are looking at how to become a data analyst, bootcamps are a great way to add necessary skills to your bachelor’s degree to make you a marketable candidate for a data analyst position.

  1. Get hired for your first data analytics position.

In order to become a data analyst, networking through internships is a great way to find your first position. Another option is to enroll in a bootcamp that offers career services and networking opportunities. Maven Analytics offers a variety of suggestions for landing your first job in data analytics. Researching hashtags to follow, building your LinkedIn network, and working with recruiters are all great ways to find the first job that is right for you in the data analytics field.

  1. Earn a master’s degree.

Many of the top universities offer master’s degrees in the field of data analytics. Many of

these universities offer online options so that you can earn your degree while working. Earning a Master’s in Data Analytics increases your chances for promotions and higher salaries. Furthering your education and learning more about data analytics will only make you more marketable and in-demand as a data analyst. Some universities offer industry-specific master’s degrees. For example, University of Maryland offers an online Master’s Degree in Business Analytics

Furthering Your Career

What if you ALREADY have a degree or experience?

If you already have a degree in a field related to data analytics or work experience in the field, then a certification through a data analytics bootcamp may be right for you. Online and in-person bootcamps that focus on data analytics provide a comprehensive way for you to become certified in data analytics and ensures that you have all of the skills needed to focus on this particular field. Further, you may consider earning a Master’s Degree in Data Analytics online or in-person from a selection of universities.

Explore schools offering Data Analyst Bootcamps.

Job Outlook for a Data Analyst

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts computer and information research scientists, which include data analysts, to grow 15% from 2019 to 2029. Computer systems analysts, which also include data analysts, are expected to grow 7% in the same time frame. Both rates are above average when compared to other career fields. The job outlook for data analysts is bright and now is a great time to pursue how to become a data analyst with or without previous experience.

Salary Expectations for a Data Analyst

According to Glassdoor, looking at over 18,000 salaries from job postings, the median salary for a data analyst is over $62,000 per year. More experience and a larger skill set generally equate to higher salaries.

A career as a data analyst requires a unique skill set that makes it both rewarding and in-demand. Whether you are just starting out or looking to advance your career, there is a path for you to figure out how to become a data analyst.

Browse bootcamps for Data Analysts.

Explore some of the top schools offering Data Analyst bootcamps and find the right fit for your needs and schedule.