How to Become a Data Analyst

Many public and private organizations today need to use large quantities of business data to make critical business decisions that can help them to be more competitive and profitable. Experts in data mining can use practices, skills, technologies and applications to perform effective data analysis to allow the organization to make better decisions.

Effective data analysis helps organizations to boost profits and performance over time. How important is data in business today? Consider these facts:

  • Big data sales will increase to $187 billion by 2019; this is a 50% increase from 2015.
  • Business analytics software will see a growth rate of 10% by the end of 2017. Demand for improved business data decisions will increase and continue.

The growing importance of data in business and organization decision making is encouraging many business people to work in data driven fields.

For instance, a growing profession for people who are interested in using data to make better business decisions is a data analyst, which is referred to in the Bureau of Labor Statistics as a management analyst.

Data Analyst Overview

A data analyst or management analyst uses a large amount of organizational data to propose ways for the organization to improve their efficiency. Data analysts can also be referred to in some companies as management consultants. Their key responsibility is to provide advice to organizations about how to make the establishment more profitable by lowering costs and boosting revenues.

Management analysts or data analysts will typically have the following duties:

  • Collect data about the business or organizational problem that needs to be deal with or improved.
  • Conduct interviews of employees and do onsite observations to determine the best equipment, methods and employees that are needed
  • Conduct detailed data analysis of sales data, revenues, expenditures, and employment
  • Develop solutions that are based upon data analysis
  • Devise new procedures, organizational changes and new systems
  • Provide recommendations to upper level management with written reports or presentations
  • Conduct follow up with managers to make sure that changes are effective

More About What Data Analysts Do

Many data analysts might work for the organization they are working on, but others can work as contractors. Many management consultants and data analysts may be self employed or possibly work as part of a consulting organization.

Some data analysis projects may require several consultants working together and each one specializes in a certain field. You may specialize in inventory management or possibly the reorganization of corporate structures to get rid of jobs that are nonessential. Other data analysts may specialize in a certain industry, including health care or telecommunications.

Tip: A particularly high growth area for data analysts and management analysts in the future will be in the healthcare space. There is more demand for healthcare services with our aging population. Healthcare organizations need to reduce costs and maximize profits in this high demand area.

As a data analyst on a contract basis, you will need to write a number of proposals and submit job bids to win work.

Data Analyst Pay

The median wage for data analysts and management analysts as of May 215 was $81,300. The top 10% earned more than $150,000 per year.

Government statistics state that the median wage in this field can vary substantially based upon the area in which you work:

  • Federal government: $88,020
  • Technical, consulting and management services: $86,300
  • Management of enterprises and companies: $82,800
  • Finance and insurance: $79,800
  • State and local government: $69,700

Data analysts will frequently work for a salary and get a year end bonus.

Data Analyst Job Demand

Employment for data analysts will rise by 14% by 2024, which is much faster than average when compared to other professions. It is believed that demand for all types of management consulting services will increase as companies want to improve their level of efficiency and reduce their costs. As world markets are getting increasingly competitive, companies have to use their resources in a more effective manner.

Demand for data analysts will be especially acute in the healthcare field. This part of industry is seeing more costs as technology is improving and the population is getting older.

Also, federal healthcare reform is causing changes to business practices and more people are seeing doctors and medical professionals to have their illnesses treated. More data analysts are needed to show healthcare organizations how to increase productivity and cut costs.

Experts also anticipate that the growth of international business will increase the demand for talented data analysts. As companies are expanding their businesses overseas, many of them will need to hire data analysts to determine the most effective means to enter the new foreign market.

How to Become One

Most management analysts and data analysts have at least a bachelor’s degree. However, the majority of data analysts in a mid-level or higher position will usually have a master’s degree.

There are many fields today that are suitable as background for management and data analysis work. For example, you can earn an MBA, or a master’s degree in business analytics. You also can study management, business, economics, government, accounting and finance.

While it is not required to find work, you may choose to eventually earn your Certified Management Consultant or CMC designation that is administered by the Institute of Management Consultants USA. Management or data analysts who have a CMC designation must have it recertified every 36 months.

It is typical for many data analysts to enter this field with at least three or five years of related business experience. Companies that are specialized in certain businesses and fields often hire analysts who are experienced in those fields. Common backgrounds for upper management data analyst positions are management, HR and IT.

As you gain more years of experience, you may work as a senior data analyst and supervise teams and work on more complicated projects. Data analysts with the best skills could become partner or executive in a consulting company.

Curriculum Overview for Data Analyst

As noted earlier, there are a variety of degrees that can serve as a good background for a data analyst position. One option to consider is the Master of Science in Business Analytics at Indiana University.

This degree program is 100% online, and will help you to position yourself as an experienced business analytics manager. You will find yourself in strong demand around the globe as businesses want to leverage their data to stay competitive.

This is a 30 credit hour program that can be completed in 15 months or up to five years. After graduating, you will have the skills to make sound business decisions based upon detailed analytic modeling. Also, you will be able to think in a strategic fashion in complex management environments, and be able to unearth highly valuable statistical data from any data set.

If you already had an undergraduate degree in economics, IT, engineering, business or statistics, this degree will help you to refine your skills as a business data analyst. If you have an MBA already, this degree is a good choice for developing more analytical expertise.

Some students choose to pair their Master of Science in Business Analytics with a traditional MBA. This allows you to enhance your general management skills at the same time you are earning your MS.

Required courses include:

  • Introduction to Business Analytics
  • Data Warehousing and Visualization
  • Simulation and Optimization for Business Analytics
  • Developing Value Through BA Applications
  • Thinking Strategically – Game Theory and Business Strategy
  • Operations Management
  • Strategic Marketing Management


The career field of data and management analysts today consists of 758,000 employees, with a total of 861,400 anticipated in this field by 2024. This field is experiencing strong demand and you will be able to find good data analyst positions in many job sectors.

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Written by Robert Sanchez
Robert Sanchez is's Chief Editorialist. Robert Sanchez has over 10 years experience in the Healthcare field and more recently has become an avid writer advising on career and job topics in this exciting field.

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