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8 Frequently Asked Data Analyst Questions

1 October 2019

What does a data analyst do?

Data analysts work in a wide range of sectors and across a large number of business units. You find data analysts in marketing, finance, management, supply chain/procurement and markets as diverse as media, management consultancies, defence contractors, manufacturing, call centres and more.

But whatever market they are working in, and whichever business unit they are part of, the skills remain very similar. A data analyst collects the data required (often from a variety of sources), reports it (via visualisation tools, Excel, etc) and analyses it.

From there they are able to produce not just the reports for senior management, but also provide analysis as to what has happened, what is happening and what could happen. Vital tools to enable a business to make important decisions and to track their every day performance.

What skills are needed to be a data analyst? What are top 3 skills for data analyst?

Top 3 skills that you need to be data analyst:

  1. A mathematical mind set. Data is often represented in figures. How these figures interact, how you can manipulate them, etc, is a key part of a data analyst’s job
  2. Communication skills. Both written and verbal. You will be reporting figures and providing analysis that may not make sense to someone without a data background. You need to be able to create stories around what is happening, so that the average person would understand what they are looking at
  3. Computer skills. An important part of a data analyst’s job is being able to manipulate and visualise data.  Much of the manipulation is done using coding languages such as SQL, Python, R, etc and visualisation is often done using the likes of Tableau, Power BI, Excel and more. Being able to quickly pick up various packages and computing languages is key

How to become a data analyst

If you have a degree (Bachelor or above) in relevant disciplines (mathematics, finance, economics, computer science, statistics, etc.), have some basic programming skills (Excel functions and macros) and have some presentation skills (create and explain graphs) then you’ve hit the entry level requirements. Other degrees are possible if you then do a conversion course or find a company willing to give on the job training.

Further education such as a masters is often a big help, as is developing additional skills in software, languages, and packages such as R, Python and Tableau.

Can you become a data analyst without a degree?

Yes, if you have strong analytical, programming and presentation skills. You can start to learn the basics for free (Excel with functions and macros, Google Analytics and Data Studio), then attend relevant courses (SQL programming on Udemy or Coursera, etc) and continue to learn a specialism (Salesforce, Tableau, Qlik).

What are the best courses for data analysts? What to learn and where to start?

For the basics at university:

  1. Mathematics
  2. Statistics
  3. Computer Sciences

Best online courses for beginners to learn data analytics fundamentals, key data analytics, and science tools, and widely used programming languages in data analytics:

  1. Google Analytics and Data Studio are wildly used for marketing analytics, free courses on Google
  2. Excel, SQL, Python, Java programming courses on Udemy (Top Data Analysis Courses)
  3. Data science specialization, data analysis, and presentation skills: the PwC approach specialisation on Coursera
  4. Microsoft Professional Program in Data Science on edX

Is data analyst a good career?

The demand for data analysts and data scientists is high and growing. Companies are quickly waking up to the power of data in all sorts of industries thanks to the likes of Netflix, Airbnb, Uber, etc. What was once safe, offline industries are now extremely data driven.

It’s no surprise that the World Economic Forum rates data analysts as the most in-demand role of the next few years.

As they wrote; “Companies expect data analysts will help them make sense and derive insights from the torrent of data generated by the technological disruptions.”

Whilst no crystal ball can tell you the future, it is safe to say that understanding data is going to be the cornerstone of businesses for many years to come.

What is a data analyst salary?

Entry level salaries for graduates in London tend to come in at £28,000-£32,000.  From there pay scales can vary wildly between sectors and skill sets, but at analyst level it tends to be £35,000-£50,000, seniors at £45,000-£60,000 and principals and above come in at £60k-£100k+

What are the types of Data Analytics?

  1. Descriptive Analytics (Answer the question: What happened?)
  2. Diagnostic Analytics (Why happened?)
  3. Predictive Analytics (What will happen if we continue the same way?)
  4. Prescriptive Analytics (What should we do for the best outcome?)

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