How to become a data analyst

Becoming a Data Analyst offers plenty of benefits and opportunities. With the growing demand for data-driven insights, data analysts play a crucial role in helping organisations make informed decisions.

 In this article, we'll cover:

Key facts 

  • Become part of a growing sector. Data analysts are in high demand across various industries
  • The average starting salary for a data analyst is between £23,000 - £25,000 according to Prospects
  • There are four main routes to becoming a data analyst: university degree, certifications, practical experience, and networking and professional development

What is a data analyst?

A data analyst collects, processes, and performs statistical analyses on large datasets. Their role is to identify trends, patterns, and insights that can help businesses make informed decisions. Data analysts can work across industries like finance, healthcare, marketing, technology, and more.

Why become a data analyst? 

Data analysts are in high demand across various industries due to the increasing importance of data-driven decision-making. The demand for data professionals is expected to continue growing as more organisations use data to gain a competitive edge. Industries seeking these skills include:

  • Finance: analysing financial data to guide investment strategies and risk management.
  • Healthcare: interpreting medical data to improve patient care and operational efficiency.
  • Marketing: analysing consumer behaviour data to optimise marketing campaigns and customer engagement.
  • Technology: working with user data to enhance product development and user experience.

Salary expectations

Entry-level salaries are between £23,000 and £25,000. After a few years' experience, salaries can rise to between £30,000 and £35,000, with experienced, high-level and consulting jobs earning £60,000 or more.

What does a data analyst do?

The role of a data analyst goes way beyond collecting and analysing data. As a data analyst, you'd be responsible for:

What's the difference between a data analyst and a data scientist?

A data analyst makes sense of existing data through analysis and reporting, whereas a data scientist works on new ways to capture, store, manipulate and analyse that data.

What skills do you need?

To excel as a data analyst, you need to develop both technical and analytical skills. Here are some areas to focus on:

Technical skills

  • Programming languages: proficiency in languages such as Python for data manipulation and analysis
  • Data visualisation tools: familiarity with tools like Tableau, Power BI, and visualisation libraries
  • Statistical knowledge: understanding of statistical methods and their application in data analysis
  • SQL: strong skills in SQL for querying databases

Analytical skills

  • Critical thinking: ability to critically evaluate data and identify meaningful patterns and trends
  • Problem solving: solving complex data problems and providing actionable recommendations

Other skills

  • Communication: effectively communicating findings to non-technical stakeholders
  • Attention to detail: ensuring accuracy and thoroughness in data analysis and reporting

Routes to becoming a data analyst

Most data analysts have a degree in a related field such as Mathematics, Statistics, Computer Science, Economics, or Business.

Undergraduate degrees

International Business, BA provides a comprehensive understanding of global business practices and data analysis, essential for analysing international market trends and making data-driven business decisions.

Mathematics, BSc offers a solid foundation in statistical analysis and problem-solving, key skills required for interpreting complex data sets.

Computer Science, BSc equips you with essential programming skills and an understanding of data structures and algorithms, crucial for data manipulation and analysis.

Business and HR Management, BA combines business with human resources management, providing insights into workforce data analysis and strategic decision-making.

Postgraduate degrees

Some roles may require a master’s degree in Data Science, Analytics, or a related discipline. Applied Data Science, MSc offers advanced training in data science. You'll gain hands-on experience with data analysis tools and techniques, making you proficient in transforming data into valuable insights.

Data analyst career paths

Entry-level roles

Starting positions may include titles such as Junior Data Analyst, Data Technician, or Business Analyst.

Mid-level roles

With experience, professionals can move into roles such as Data Analyst, Business Intelligence Analyst, or Data Scientist

Senior-level roles

Advanced positions include Senior Data Analyst, Analytics Manager, or Director of Data Analytics.

Data analysis is a rewarding career path. It offers competitive salaries, opportunities for advancement, and the chance to make impactful decisions across various industries. Plus, the skills you develop as a data analyst are in high demand, leading to numerous career opportunities and professional growth.