Career Highlight: Data Analyst

Adapted from and 

Job Duties: 

Responsibilities of data analysts will vary depending on the type of organization and the extent to which a business has adopted data-driven decision-making practices.  Usually, the responsibilities of a data analyst include: 

  • Designing and maintaining data systems and databases; this involves fixing coding errors and other data-related problems.  
  • Mining data from primary and secondary sources then reorganizing it in a format that humans or machines can easily read. 
  • Using statistical tools to interpret data sets, highlighting trends and patterns important for diagnostic and predictive analytics efforts. 
  • Preparing reports for leadership that effectively communicate trends, patterns, and predictions using relevant data.  
  • Collaborating with programmers, engineers, and organizational leaders to improve processes, recommend system modifications, and develop policies for data governance. 
  • Creating documentation that allows stakeholders to understand the data analysis process and duplicate or replicate the process if necessary. 

Data Analyst vs. Data Scientist vs. Business Analyst 

When reading about data analysts, you might also be wondering about the similarities and differences between other related careers like data scientist and business analyst. The differences between what they do comes down to how the three roles use data: 

  • The data analyst gatekeeps an organization’s data so stakeholders can understand and use data to make strategic business decisions. It is a technical role that requires an undergraduate degree or a master’s degree in analytics, computer modeling, science, or math. 
  • A business analyst serves a strategic role focused on using the data analyst’s information to find problems and propose solutions. These analysts typically earn a degree in a major such as business administration, economics, or finance.    
  • The data scientist takes the data visualizations created by data analysts and sifts through them to find weaknesses, trends, or opportunities to organize the data. This role also requires a background in math or computer science, along with some study or insight into human behavior to help make informed predictions. At startups and other small organizations however, it is not uncommon for a data analyst to take on some of the predictive modeling or decision-making responsibilities that may otherwise be assigned to a data scientist.   

Education and Training: 

A bachelor’s degree is necessary to get started in the field. While many people begin a data analytics career with a degree in math, statistics or economics, Lawrence’s Statistics and Data Science minor would be a nice supplement to any student with a quantitative skillset who is interested in a post-graduate role as a data analyst. 

Within a bachelor’s program, you may wish to explore courses in mathematics while also pursuing classes and research projects focused on data mining, simulation and optimization. You can learn to find and define data challenges across industries, gain hands-on practice collecting and organizing information from many sources and explore how to examine data to find relevant information.  

A master’s in data analytics can further your career, exploring how to use data to make predictions and how data relates to risk management. This also helps you dive deeper into data-driven decision-making, explore project management and develop communication and leadership skills. Finding an internship can give hands-on experience that helps you stand out when applying for data analyst jobs. 

Pay and Job Outlook: 

The average salary ranges from approximately $60,000 to $138,000. Roles at financial and technology firms tend to pay higher than average. The data analyst role can also act as a gateway for more senior data-driven jobs. According to PayScale, data analysts move on to roles such as senior data analyst, data scientist, analytics manager, and business analyst which also come with substantial increases in pay. According to IBM, the annual salary of data scientists will start at nearly $95,000, while analytics managers will make nearly $106,000 per year. Moreover, demand for mathematicians and statisticians is projected to grow by 33% and jobs for database administrators are expected to grow by 8% through 2030 according to the BLS.