Big Data now provides the foundation on which businesses base decisions and policies. But data comes in a many types and can often be overwhelming for those who do not know what to look for or how to best understand what is in front of them.
Whether focusing on internal company performance or on the customers who purchase goods and services from a company, data is crucially important in shaping useful practices. Managers rely on data analysts to help bridge this gap and ensure managerial decisions are backed up with the best information possible.
The influx of new data demands specialists who know how to interpret it. Data analysts fill this role and are responsible for taking the data collected by companies and turning it into information that can be used. Whether looking at costs, sales, customer demographics, employment figures, internal logistics or transportation infrastructure, if information can be quantified in some way, it is the data analyst’s job to understand it.
Interpreting and understanding data is just the beginning, however; the real goal for a data analyst is to find ways to use this data to inform decision-making in the company.
A data analyst might present findings that help a company adjust prices, for example, or help a company retain key staff and reach optimal wages. Information might be used to propose new projects and business ventures, such as improved company policies or product delivery pathways.
At all levels of an organization, data analysts take the dense, complex information an organization has and use their training and expertise to draw key insights that facilitate better business practices.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not maintain data for the title of “data analyst.” However, they do track the position of “operations research analyst.” For this title, the BLS reported an average annual salary of $84,340 in 2016.
Employment prospects and salary ranges typically vary based on an individual’s work history, geographic location and educational qualifications.
Entry-level positions in data analysis generally ask for a bachelor’s degree, with higher-level positions often requiring a master’s degree. For students interested in getting started, classes in fields like statistics, computer science, mathematics and other related disciplines can provide a strong foundation in the skills needed in data analysis.
For some specializations in data analysis, certificate programs are available and can be a great way to differentiate yourself from the competition in high-demand jobs.
Projected career growth
As noted above, the BLS does not yet maintain growth projections for the job title of data analyst. That said, their projections for operations research analysts are highly favorable with a 30% growth rate from 2014 to 2024, which is much faster than the average across other occupations. This projected growth rate reflects the continued advancement of data technology and increasing reliance of companies on specialists who can understand this data and use it to inform organizational decision-making.