What is a data analyst? A key role for data-driven business decisions

What is a data analyst?

Data analysts work with data to help their organizations make better business decisions. Using techniques from a variety of disciplines, including computer programming, mathematics, and statistics, data analysts draw conclusions from data to describe, predict, and improve business performance. They form the core of any analytical team and tend to be generalists versed in mathematical and statistical analysis methods.

The growing demand for data analysts

The role of Data Analyst is in high demand as organizations rapidly develop their analytical capabilities. In August, IDC provide Big data and analytics software revenues are estimated to reach $ 66.8 billion this year and experience a CAGR of 8.7% through 2024.

As organizations have focused in recent years on data science, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), the pendulum may be returning to analytics, says Caroline Carruthers, director of consultancy firm Carruthers and Jackson , former Data Director for Network. Rail, and co-author of The Data Manager’s Manual and Data-driven business transformation: how to disrupt, innovate and stay ahead of the competition.

“We almost looked away from the analysis because a lot of people got excited about machine learning and AI and suddenly were like, ‘Ooh, we’ve got to do all these wonderfully awesome things.’ We forgot that, in reality, organizations derive enormous value from analytics, ”says Carruthers. “We’re starting to come back to how we can really drive analytics across our organizations. “

Data analyst vs data scientist

While data analysts and data scientists can be mixed in analysis teams, their roles differ considerably.

Data analysts seek to describe the current state of reality in their organizations by translating data into information accessible to the business. They collect, analyze and report data to meet business needs. The role includes identifying new data sources and methods to improve data collection, analysis and reporting. Data scientists, on the other hand, are often engaged in long-term research and predictions, while data analysts seek to help business leaders make tactical decisions through ad hoc reports and queries. .

Hillary Green-Lerman, chief scientist at Looker, explains that the difference between data analysts and data scientists comes down to the timescale. A data analyst can help an organization better understand how their customers are using their product in the present moment – what is working and not working for them. A data scientist can use the information generated from this work to help design a new product that anticipates future customer needs.

Data analyst role

Data analysts work primarily with the structured data of an organization. They create reports, dashboards and other visualizations on data associated with customers, business processes, market economy, etc. Data analysts work with all kinds of data including inventories, logistics and transportation costs, market research, profit margins, sales figures, and more. They use this data to help the company estimate market share, product price, time to sell, transportation cost optimization, etc.

Responsibilities of the data analyst

Data analysts seek to understand the questions the business needs to answer and whether these questions can be answered by data. They should understand the technical issues associated with data collection, data analysis and reporting. They must be able to recognize trends and patterns. According to Workable, the main responsibilities of the data analyst include:

  • Analyze data using statistical techniques and provide reports
  • Develop and implement databases and data collection systems
  • Acquire data from primary and secondary sources and maintain data systems
  • Identify, analyze and interpret trends or patterns in complex data sets
  • Data filtering and cleansing
  • Work with management to prioritize business and information needs
  • Locate and define new opportunities for process improvement

Data analyst salary

According to data from Robert Half’s 2021 Technology and IT Salary Guide, the average salary for data analysts / report writers in the United States, based on experience, breaks down as follows:

  • 25e percentile: $ 86,250
  • 50e percentile: $ 103,250
  • 75e percentile: $ 122,250
  • 95e percentile: $ 146,750

Job Search Engine Indeed, on the other hand, the average salary for a data analyst in the United States is $ 75,685 per year. Indeed notes that data analysts can typically earn the most in non-traditional technology areas.

Top 5 Cities For Data Analyst Salaries



Average salary



$ 94,120


Charlotte, North Carolina

$ 88,893



$ 86,503


New York

$ 74,347



$ 74,295

Data analyst skills

According to an analysis of job posting data from Indeed, SimplyHired and Monster, Towards Data Science indicates that the technical skills most in demand by data analysts are:

  1. SQL
  2. Microsoft Excel
  3. Chart
  4. Python
  5. R
  6. SAS
  7. Microsoft powerpoint
  8. Microsoft SQL Server
  9. Oracle
  10. Microsoft Power BI

In addition to analytical and mathematical skills and ease with languages ​​such as SQL, communication skills are essential. Data analysts often need to engage with the business to understand business goals and gather requirements.

Get a data analyst job

Green-Lerman says that an eclectic mix of skills and experience is key to getting noticed when applying for data analyst positions, although ease with SQL and statistical analysis is a requirement.

“The things I generally look for in my team are good communicators and writers. Everything on your resume should look professional and be spelled correctly, because a great thing analysts do is write reports. I usually want people who have some experience beyond a bootcamp or masters program. I want them to have some hands-on experience, even if it’s an internship, ”says Green-Lerman.

Additionally, she is looking for resumes that detail work on at least one analytical project.

“I love that there are actually numbers in their CV because it means they are already thinking in terms of demonstration of value and KPIs. But not everyone’s job lends itself to it, so it’s not a strict requirement, ”she says.

Data analyst training

While there is no defined training requirement for data analysts, most data analysts have at least a BS in mathematics, economics, computer science, information management, or statistics. Coding bootcamps can help, and internships can provide an experience that many organizations are looking for.

Data Analyst Certifications

Data analysis skills are in high demand and are relatively scarce. People with the right mix of experience and skills can demand high salaries. The right Big Data and Business Intelligence certifications can help.

Some popular certifications are as follows:

  • Associate Certified Analytics Professional (aCAP)
  • Certified Analytics Professional
  • Cloudera Certified Associate (CCA) Data Analyst
  • Microsoft Certified Data Analyst
  • SAS Certified Advanced Analytics Professional using SAS 9
  • Tableau Desktop Certified Professional
  • Tableau Server Certified Professional

Other jobs in data analysis

The Data Analyst is just a job title in the expanding field of analytics. Here are some of the most popular job titles and the average salary for each position, according to data from PayScale:

  • Analytical manager: $ 96,396
  • Business analyst: $ 61,091
  • Business intelligence analyst: $ 69,087
  • Data Architect: $ 119,242
  • Data Engineer: $ 92,291
  • Data Manager: $ 63,528
  • Data Scientist: $ 96,303
  • Database administrator (DBA): $ 74,041
  • Database developer: $ 75,578
  • Research analyst: $ 56,267
  • Research scientist: $ 80,802
  • Statistician: $ 74,236

Sean N. Ayres