How Do I Become a Data Analyst?. Common data analyst questions answered | by Vicky Yu | Nov, 2020


There is not one exact answer because there are many ways you can become a data analyst. These are the typical ways:

  1. Transition from within the company — I’ve known people that had to learn SQL because they needed data and there were no data analysts around. Over time they were able to transition into a data analyst role at the same company.
  2. Data related degree — This can be a data analytics or data science degree but I’ve also seen people with economics or business degrees become a data analyst. This is the most straightforward path.
  3. Data analytics bootcamp — This is common for people looking for a career change without having to go back to graduate school. A bootcamp typically lasts between 3 to 6 months depending on full-time or part-time options and focuses purely on coursework intended to cover the primary skills needed for a data analyst.
  4. Self-taught — The DIY version where you have to figure out what you need to learn to become a data analyst. The upside is you can learn at your own pace but the downside is there’s no one to guide you if you have questions.

These are the most common skills data analysts have.

  1. SQL —This is a must have skill. It’s not possible to be a data analyst without being good with SQL.
  2. Excel — Not required but nice to know. I find Excel extremely useful to quickly graph data to find outliers and spot trends. Excel pivot tables are my best friend.
  3. Python — Most job listings will require Python knowledge but I’ve rarely used it on the job. It may not be the case for other data analyst jobs. It’s good to learn Jupyter notebook basics to run Python code and common data analysis packages like Pandas and NumPy.
  4. Data visualization — Tableau is a common visualization tool if you would like to learn one. It’s not deal breaker if you don’t know the hiring company’s data visualization tool. I learned Tableau on the job and my lack of knowledge was not a factor in hiring me.
  5. Data pipeline development — This is rarely mentioned by very important if you join a company that has no data infrastructure or lack of data engineers. A key part of a data analyst’s job will be pulling data from different sources to load into a central database and transform it for downstream analytics and reporting. Knowing how to link sources together and making it usable data for analysis can be a big part of an analyst’s job depending on the company.

Job descriptions will require more skills than what the hiring manager will accept because they want to find the best candidate possible even if all the skills are not needed to do the job. If you have at least half of the skills listed I suggest applying for the job.

If I became a data scientist by just knowing the data as a data engineer then it is definitely possible for a data analyst to become a data scientist. Data scientists spend 80% of their time on data preparation. A big part of a data analyst’s job is also data preparation and you would need to learn the remaining 20% to become a data scientist.

The primary role of a data analyst is to answer business questions using data for stakeholders to make an actionable decision. These are typical ways a data analyst will answer business questions.

  • Pulling data to analyze trends. The data will vary depending what department you support such as marketing, product, finance, and so on.
  • Evaluating A/B tests is a common way for companies to determine the best performing version of something. This can be an email subject line test to determine which subject increases email clicks or a new product feature to see if it increases user engagement.
  • Developing dashboards to monitor KPIs ( key performance indicators )

Data analyst duties vary depending on the company. Read the job description carefully and make sure to ask questions during the interview to assess what kind of work is needed because data analyst responsibilities are not universal.

In addition to all the technical skills, a successful data analyst will have excellent soft skills. Good communication skills are the foundation to developing the soft skills required to be successful. No matter how great an analysis you did, if you don’t have the ability to convey the key points to your stakeholder to help them make a decision, then you may as well never done it at all. Data analysts are hired by companies to help them make better data driven decisions rather than relying on gut feel. Understanding the needs of your stakeholders and presenting results in a clear manner are developed from good communication skills.


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