How to Become a
Data Analyst

Best Education Tracks, Key Skills, and Top Certifications

Most industries use raw information to help management make better business decisions. Market research institutions, call centers, governments, accounting firms, and IT companies like Google all need solid data analysts who are eager to put their skills to work.

Gain experience with an entry-level position in the industry. After several years, you can seek senior analyst positions. There are many global job opportunities to grab as a tech expert. In this guide, you will learn how to become a data analyst and begin your journey.

What Is a Data Analyst?

A data analyst works with companies to interpret various forms of data and present it in a useful and understandable manner. They help businesses optimize profits, minimize turnovers, and streamline logistics processes. Data analysts look at complex sets of information to find solutions to various business problems.

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Data analysts are in demand in several industries. They have a dynamic skillset and tend to be math-oriented. The opportunities that come with being a data analyst in today’s world are endless. You can choose to specialize in an industry, move on to become a data scientist, or even start your own analytics business.

What Type of School Should You Attend
to Become a Data Analyst?

While it is not a requirement, most companies prefer to hire data analysts who attend a degree program, especially in mathematics, finance, statistics, economics, or computer science.

You will still be able to be a data analyst without a bachelor’s degree. You will have to find other means of learning relevant technical skills like statistics and programming. This is when you can decide to attend community college, bootcamps, or online courses.

Best Data Analyst Education Tracks

There are various education tracks for data analysts. From foundation-level courses to professional certifications, several paths are available. The best track to becoming a data analyst is to complete a bachelor’s degree program because most companies require it for entry-level data analysts.


Community College

Community college is a great option if you are looking for an affordable alternative to a four-year degree. Most community colleges offer two-year associate degrees, which can be transferred to a four-year degree once you’ve decided to pursue a career in data analytics.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the average annual tuition cost for in-state residents is approximately $3,300. The cost will be higher if you’re from out of state and have to pay for boarding and living expenses. Some community colleges offer tuition-free programs for qualifying students.


Data Analyst Degrees

University education is essential for data analysts. A bachelor’s degree is needed for most entry-level positions. Most data analysts will have degrees in the field of mathematics, finance, statistics, economics, or computer science.

Depending on which university you choose, an NCES report shows that tuition cost for an in-state four-year degree program is approximately $9,000 for public universities and $31,000 for private universities. Although university is expensive, it is the best path to get your education.


Data Analyst Bootcamps

Bootcamps are crash courses commonly known to complement fundamental skills and knowledge. They are industry-specific and designed for those who are already equipped with fundamental skills. These courses are suitable for recent graduates or professionals looking to upskill.

A wide variety of bootcamps are offered by quality education providers. The Data Incubator is specifically designed for STEM degree graduates and professional data analysts. The NYC Data Science Academy offers an immersive in-person learning experience. Bootcamp tuition can vary drastically, but it is much less expensive than a university program.


Data Analyst Courses

Similar to bootcamps, courses for data analysts are usually industry-specific and provide a deeper dive into topics like cyber security and systems analysis. These courses are great options for those looking for a career shift or professional development.

You can find many basic and professional courses available in the field of data analytics. DataCamp, for example, is an online learning platform focusing on the latest data topics including machine learning and data manipulation. You can access a limited number of courses for free or pay to take more.

How to Become a Data Analyst: A Step-by-Step Guide

How to Become a Data Analyst: A Step-by-Step Guide

Many data analyst job descriptions list a bachelor’s degree as a requirement. Some companies may not require this, but having a bachelor’s will increase your chances of gaining employment. That said, being a data analyst doesn’t just start with a degree.

There are other steps you can take to become a data analyst, which we’ve listed below.

Collect data analytics skills

Attend courses and build your list of skills. Proficiency in certain programming languages will be helpful in fast-tracking your career.

Gain work experience

Some higher positions and certifications require you to have work experience, so you may want to consider completing an internship program. Some degree programs include an internship as part of the curriculum.

Develop a portfolio

A portfolio can sometimes showcase your work better than a resume. If you are working on a project you’re proud of, document your work process and results so you can present them when the time comes.

Earn a certification

Depending on the field, you can choose to earn specific certifications to expand your job opportunities.

Get a master’s degree

A master’s degree will greatly help with career advancement. If you’re working towards being a senior data analyst or a career in a large organization, getting a master’s is the right step in that direction.

Key Data Analytics Skills

Key Data Analytics Skills

Data analysts ultimately retrieve, analyze, and present findings from data. The skill set required of a data analyst can be broad. You need specific abilities depending on your specialized industry.

Aside from general soft skills, data analysts also need to have several core skills to excel at their job.


SQL and Python are common programming languages data analysts use. Proficiency in both programming languages will be helpful as a foundation. You should keep pace with industry developments and decide if you need to learn a different programming language in the future.

Analytical Thinking

Having an analytical mind will help data analysts effectively find, collect, organize, and interpret various types of data. This will also help them present data in a way that is understandable.

Proficiency in Math

Having exceptional math skills is important for data analysts, as they constantly use it to calculate and interpret data. This is why studying mathematics is a great way to start your data analysis career.


Organizations often hire data analysts to collect information in an attempt to solve problems or prevent them. This skill will help analysts identify current and potential issues and find viable solutions.

Data Analyst Salary and Job Outlook

A study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that recent advances in technology such as ecommerce, smartphones, and social networking are generating more job opportunities for data analysis. Therefore, job opportunities will only grow over the next few years.

Moreover, PayScale reports the average salary of a data analyst is currently $61,469 per year. In their late career, with 20 years or more work experience, they have an average base salary of approximately $73,000 a year. Career growth for aspiring data analysts is definitely positive.

Min salary


Average salary


Top salary


Entry-Level Data Analyst Job Requirements

Most employers expect entry-level data analysts to have a Bachelor’s Degree in Statistics, Mathematics, or a computer-related subject. Certain positions may require a specialized degree in predictive analysis, computer science, or database management.

The average base salary for an entry-level data analyst, according to PayScale, is approximately $56,000 a year.

What Does a Data Analyst Do?

What Does a Data Analyst Do?

Data analysts collect and analyze data to turn statistics into digestible information for their clients. They identify areas that require improvement and determine when and where to implement new products or services.

Data analysts perform four different types of analytics.

Prescriptive Analytics

This type of analytics focuses on studying scenarios and advising businesses on which actions to take. They communicate with business leaders and decide together how to reach their goals.

Diagnostics Analytics

Diagnostics analysis involves gathering information about why a problem occurred. Data analysts will look specific data sets to identify if it’s a recurring problem or an isolated event. Either way, analysts will use that data to find a solution.

Descriptive Analytics

Analysts use descriptive analytics to interpret and review historical data such as sales patterns to be better able to advise businesses. Understanding these patterns can help businesses make better plans.

Predictive Analytics

Predictive analytics can uncover the most likely outcomes based on the use of data, algorithms, and patterns. Analysts use this to foresee opportunities to reduce risk or increase sales for a business.

Data Analytics Certifications

Certifications in data science and analytics can help you gain the experience and skills you need for career advancement. Below are some of the most common certifications for data analysts.

Certified Analytics Professional (CAP)

CAP certification is an independent validation that highlights an individual’s expertise in the analytics process. This includes data methodology, model building, business problem framing, analytics problem framing and development, and life cycle management. This is one of the best certifications for data analysts.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) Big Data Specialty Certification

The AWS certification offers role-based certifications for specialized technical roles such as cloud practitioner, architect, and developer. This certification can help you expand your range of technical skills and help advance your expertise in implementing and developing AWS services.

SAS Certified Data Scientist Using SAS 9

The SAS Certified Data Scientist Using SAS 9 certification demonstrates an individual’s ability to manipulate and gain insights from big data with various tools. This will open doors to employment opportunities because it shows potential employers how quickly you can learn and adapt.

Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE): Data Management and Analytics

EMC Proven Professional Data Scientist Associate (EMCDSA)

The MCSE certification provides individuals with a broad skill set in SQL administration, building enterprise-scale data solutions, and leveraging business intelligence data. It may qualify you for jobs such as database designer, database analyst, and business intelligence analyst.

The EMCDSA certification showcases big data and data analytics projects. This will provide you the opportunity to deploy the data analytics life cycle, reframe business challenges as analytics challenges, and apply analytics techniques appropriately.

How to Prepare for Your Data Analytics Job Interview

How to Prepare for Your Data Analytics Job Interview

Data analytics is an essential part of the workforce in many industries. Understanding the best ways to answer analytics interview questions may help you secure your desired job. Read the most common questions below to help you ace your job interview.

Data Analytics Job Interview Practice Questions

  • What are your strengths as a data analyst?
  • How would you test if survey responses were filled at random as opposed to truthful selections?
  • What are your processes for data visualization?
  • Write a function that takes in two sorted lists and combines them into one.
  • Write a sorting algorithm for a numerical dataset in Python.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Data Analyst?

The time it takes to become a data analyst depends on your education track. Considering most companies require entry-level data analysts to have a bachelor’s degree, the most common timeline is four years.

If you choose to attend a bootcamp or a community college, it can take anywhere between three weeks and two years to gain the necessary basic knowledge to succeed. This timeline can increase if you choose to transfer to a four-year program, or if you choose to spend some time taking industry-specific courses.

Associate degree


Bachelor’s degree


Master’s degree


Should You Become a Data Analyst in 2021?

Yes, you should become a data analyst in 2021. The field of data analytics is expanding to different landscapes, which will provide different career opportunities in the years to come. There is no better time to pursue becoming a data analyst than right now. You should develop your skills as soon as possible if you are interested in this career.

Data Analyst FAQ

What duties does a data analyst perform daily?

Data analysts can expect to spend most of their time developing systems for collecting data and compiling their findings into reports.

What is the salary of a data analyst?

According to PayScale, the average base salary of an entry-level data analyst is approximately $56,000 a year.

What qualifications do I need to become a data analyst?

Data analysts should be proficient in programming languages such as SQL and Python. They should also have excellent mathematical skills, great attention to detail, and a knack for problem-solving.

What are the education options for a data analyst?

A bachelor’s degree is the basic education requirement for data analysts. It is also recommended to obtain professional certification for career advancement.

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