Data Analyst Job Description (Duties, Skills, Salary, Certification & More)

By Jeff Gillis

There are some misunderstandings surrounding the data analyst job description. In a way, it’s kind of surprising. After all, data isn’t anything new. Heck, it even had a place in ancient Mesopotamia. That’s right, about 7,000 years ago, there were accounting records. And that counts as data.

It wasn’t until relatively recently that data was thrust into the spotlight. All of a sudden, headlines were peppered with the phrase “Big Data.” Companies began searching for ways to leverage all of the information they were collecting, including everything from sales records to engagement on their social media profiles.

But who would make all of that happen? Who would dig into those stores to derive meaning and identify patterns? Enter the data analyst, an investigator who makes it their mission to turn all of that information isn’t something meaningful.

Alright, so that may be a little ambiguous. Luckily, if you’re looking for a clearer data analyst job description, we have that covered. Let’s take a look at the ins and outs of this role.

What Is the Data Analyst Position?

Alright, let’s start with the basics. What is data analysis?

Well, it’s the practice of taking information and sifting through it. Along the way, the goal is to identify patterns and trends, leading to helpful insights that can guide a company’s decisions and direction. The professionals that handle all of that are data analysts.

Companies hire data analysts to help them find answers to critical business questions. Often, the goal is to examine past experiences as well as general customer information. The goal is to find the story within that information. Then, the organization can use those insights to make better choices.

Now, it’s important to note that data science is different. Data scientists also have more advanced capabilities, like data modeling, predictive analysis, and machine learning, just to name a few. So, these roles aren’t exactly alike, even though they do have responsibilities in common.

What Are a Data Analyst’s Duties & Responsibilities?

Okay, so you’ve got a solid idea of what a data analyst is. But that only scratches the surface. If you really want to understand that a job is all about, the best way to do it is to look at its core duties.

So, what does a data analyst do on a daily basis? Well, they handle a wide range of responsibilities, that’s what. Exactly what is involved does vary a bit from one company to the next. After all, every organization is different, each with its own priorities, data sources, and goals.

But many of them have quite a bit in common. Looking for specifics? Sure thing. Here’s an overview of the most common duties you’ll find in a data analyst job description:

    • Collect data from a variety of sources
    • Create mechanisms for exploring structured, semi-structured, and unstructured data
    • Handle confidential information responsibly
    • Manage metadata
    • Commission and decommission datasets
    • Assess data quality
    • Support data integrity initiatives
    • Define new collection techniques
    • Identify patterns in data
    • Generate insights from the available information
    • Examine trends for clues to boost performance
    • Create reports to share insights with company leaders

What Skills Do Data Analysts Need?

While the core responsibilities above probably give you a solid idea of what it takes to become a data analyst, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t dive into the specifics. By understanding the data analyst skills, you can ensure that you bring everything you need to the table, increasing the odds that you’ll succeed in the role.

It’s critical to reiterate that every job is different. However, certain foundational skills are practically universal must-haves. Here’s a look at the most commonly requested data analyst hard skills:

    • Data collection
    • Statistical modeling
    • Data mining
    • Database management
    • Report generation
    • Data visualization
    • Business process development
    • Data analysis

While you might think that covers everything, it doesn’t. Along with technical prowess, you also need soft skills. These help you navigate the professional world with greater ease, making it more likely that you’ll succeed. Here are some of the soft skills every data analyst simply must possess:

JEFF'S TIP: While much of what a data analyst does appear to be solo activities, it’s actually a very team-oriented job. Most data analysts work as part of a group, allowing them to dig into numerous sources, combine their efforts, and come up with stronger insights. That means, even if teamwork doesn’t appear to be the most crucial soft skill, you shouldn’t underestimate its importance. There’s a decent shot the hiring manager will favor candidates who shine in the teamwork arena, so make sure to reference those capabilities when you apply for a data analyst job.

Data Analyst Certification & Education

Like many technical positions, your journey toward becoming a data analyst starts with education. Usually, you’ll need at least a Bachelor’s degree, typically in a field like information technology, computer science, statistics, or mathematics.

If you want to get ahead, then having a certification isn’t a bad idea. It can let you showcase your data analysis-specific skills. That can be a boon since there are very few data-oriented college degrees, giving you a way to highlight your relevant knowledge.

Here are some of the top data analytics certifications available:

What Are the Salary Expectations?

Working as a data analyst can be lucrative. Generally, there’s a shortage of tech talent. As a result, because demand outweighs supply, companies have to offer strong salaries to attract candidates. In the end, that works in your favor, particularly as you gain some experience down the road.

In the United States, the average annual salary for data analysts is $76,000 a year. That’s pretty solid. Plus, it’s certainly possible to go above that. In some cases, a six-figure salary might not be out of the question, particularly if you work in a region with a higher cost of living, like Silicon Valley.

Additionally, if you work your way up into a senior data analyst position, you’ll get an appropriate salary boost. In those roles, the average annual data analyst salary hits $94,501. For the top 10 percent, earning above $117,600 is the norm.

What You Need to Know for Your Job Interview

Alright, if you’ve gotten this far, you’re probably thinking that the data analyst job description is sounding pretty good, and you’re right. It’s an intriguing position.

Additionally, there are an estimated 2.7 million data-oriented positions. And new ones are being created on a seemingly daily basis. Since big data isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, there’s at least a degree of job security in that.

But that doesn’t mean you don’t have to worry about your data analyst interview. As with any job, failing to impress the hiring manager means you won’t be selected.

If you want to shine like the amazing candidate you are, start by reviewing the data analyst job description carefully. Identify the must-have skills and traits. That way, you can make sure to incorporate them into your answers.

Ready for a bit of secret sauce? Then take a trip to the company’s About Us page. Review the mission and values statements, then work details that reference those priorities into your answers, too.

What to go further? Well, head to the company’s social media pages. There, you’ll learn about the culture, recent achievements, and more. If you can find moments to talk about those, you’ll really stand out.

When it comes time to answer behavioral interview questions, embrace the right strategy. If you combine the STAR Method and the Tailoring Method, you can make sure that your answers genuinely pack a punch. Your responses will be relevant and engaging, increasing the odds that you’ll impress the hiring manager along the way.

Putting It All Together

Ultimately, if the data analyst job description sounds great to you, going down that road can be a smart decision. If you enjoy identifying patterns, critical thinking, and working as part of a team, it could be the right role for you.

Additionally, the ability to move up means you can bring in a stellar data analyst salary once you secure a senior-level job. That means it can be a very lucrative path as well, which is a nice bonus.

So, if it seems like a match, why wait? Take advantage of all of the information above and start your journey to your new career today. You’ll be happy you did.

Thanks for reading!

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About The Author

Jeff Gillis

Co-founder and CTO of TheInterviewGuys.com. Jeff is a featured contributor delivering advice on job search, job interviews and career advancement, having published more than 50 pieces of unique content on the site, with his work being featured in top publications such as INC, ZDnet, MSN and more. Learn more about The Interview Guys on our About Us page.