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What Qualifications Do You Need to Become a Data Analyst?

Every job description lists a myriad of required or recommended skills, but perhaps no field is quite as diverse as data analysis.

On any given day, data analysts cycle through dozens of necessary skills. Some are quantitative, while others are qualitative; some are taught in college, while others can be learned and practiced independently.

Wondering if you should be a data analyst? Regardless of where you pick up your knowledge and technical skills, this guide can help you prepare for a potential career in data analytics.

Essential Skills for Data Analysts

A data analyst’s responsibilities are diverse, and the necessary skill set reflects this. One day might be full of big data coding, while the next can be eight hours of leading meetings and giving presentations on your team’s business analytics.

If you’re considering a data analyst role, these are the six data analyst skills you’ll want to start practicing as soon as possible.

#1 Mathematics

The bulk of any data analyst’s job will involve crunching numbers, so an aptitude for—and love of—math is highly recommended. Common concepts that come up frequently in data analysis include:

  • Statistics
  • Probability
  • Calculus
  • Linear algebra
  • Graph theory

#2 Computer Literacy

If math isn’t your strong suit, worry not. You can harness powerful computer programs to solve complex equations—or even create your own. In fact, much of your day-to-day work will likely happen on the computer, so the more comfortable you are with technology, the better.

Programming

When data sets reach thousands or even millions of entries, sifting through all of them manually is impossible. That’s where an aptitude in computer programming comes in handy.

Popular programming languages used to analyze large data sets are:

  • SQL
  • R
  • Python
  • JavaScript
  • C++
  • Julia

While you won’t need to be an expert in all of these languages, it helps to be proficient in at least a few. Even a cursory understanding of several programming languages will help immensely.

Microsoft Excel

Excel can perform many of the same equations as the above programming languages but in a more user-friendly package. Your fellow employees will likely be more comfortable with Excel, so taking a crash course on the program can be beneficial.

#3 Economics

Because many data analysts work to increase revenue or decrease spending, it pays to know the basics of economics. For actuaries and business analysts, this is practically an essential skill. Still, even marketing analysts will find economics to be beneficial in the long run.

#4 Critical Thinking

Deriving usable information from data is only half of the job. Data analysts also often solve problems and make decisions based on the evidence they’ve found. A background in logic and critical thinking will allow you to creatively approach everyday roadblocks.

#5 Strong Communication

While you may be expected to make influential decisions, you won’t typically be alone in making them, as data analysts often work in teams. They also need to communicate their ideas with some of their less technically proficient colleagues.

Clear and concise communication is a valuable skill in any workplace, but as a data analyst, it’s especially important to know how to collaborate with coworkers from various backgrounds and effectively answer their questions.

#6 Presenting

Similarly, data analysts will often present their findings to other members of the business, including executives. While you don’t need to study drama in college, sharp public speaking skills will prepare you for these inevitable meetings.

Another part of successful presenting involves visualizing data with legible, intuitive graphics that tell the right story. You may want to familiarize yourself with an editing program that can easily create charts and graphics, such as Tableau or Canva.

Typical Educational Requirements for Data Analysts

Most data analysts will have completed some post-secondary education. Many of the skills that contribute to a successful data analysis career are highly specialized and often taught effectively in educational institutions.

Depending on your ideal career trajectory, you’ll want to consider one or both of the following data analyst qualifications.

Bachelor’s Degree

These days, many data analysis jobs require or prefer a bachelor’s degree. If you’re keen on graduating with a bachelor’s, there are lots of options as to the major you choose.

Popular data analyst jobs may look for bachelor’s degrees in any of these subjects:

Data analysis often involves skills and aptitudes across all of these disciplines, but specific industries may favor certain degrees. Before deciding on a college major, you’ll want to research the degrees that are most often associated with your dream career.

Master’s Degree

Master’s degrees are optional for many data analysis positions, but some companies may actively seek out candidates with additional higher education. 

Hone Your Skills at Alliant

Whether you’re looking to explore these technical skills or are already experienced, Alliant International University can be the place to continue honing your craft. With a BS in Information Systems Technology and an MS in Data Analytics, we can help you acquire critical thinking, visualization, and analytical skills that data professionals often benefit from.

Take the next step today with Alliant. Call, start a chat, or visit us to learn more.


Sources: 

  1. Columbus, Louis. “IBM Predicts Demand For Data Scientists Will Soar 28% By 2020.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, May 13, 2017. https://www.forbes.com/sites/louiscolumbus/2017/05/13/ibm-predicts-dema…. Accessed: January 5, 2022. 

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