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Data Analysts: Who They Are and What They Earn

Industry Advice Analytics

Ninety percent of the world’s data has been created in the last two years, according to IBM. With that sudden influx of information, it’s no surprise that data analysts are in high demand—and, in turn, earning a salary that matches the growing needs of today’s employers.

What Do Data Analysts Do?

Data analysts turn large volumes of data into insights that organizations can use to make smarter business decisions. They work across a wide range of industries—from healthcare and education to retail and the government—collecting data and looking for patterns within that data to uncover any trends they can use to make recommendations to their clients or colleagues.

As they uncover and share insights, data analysts focus on improving their own systems to make communicating future insights easier. The goal is to develop approaches for analyzing large data sets that are both reproducible and scalable, according to a recent report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

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What Skills Do Data Analysts Need?

For those interested in advancing their data analytics career, there are specific skills that can help boost your resumé, according to PwC. They are:

  • Business intelligence
  • Data visualization
  • Data warehousing
  • Extraction, transformation, and loading (ETL)
  • Operating systems
  • Optimization
  • Scripting languages
  • Software development principles
  • Statistical software
  • ERP systems (SAP or Oracle)

The tools data analysts use vary by industry, but typically include Microsoft Excel, SQL, Python, Google Analytics, and Tableau.

Earning a master’s degree is one way to acquire those skills—and is another way to boost your resumé. Twenty-five percent of employers hiring data analysts prefer or require that candidates have a graduate degree, according to data from job market analytics firm Burning Glass Labor Insight. The firm reports there are approximately 394,715 graduate-level jobs available, adding that the number of postings have increased by 32 percent over the last two years.

The Power of Data Analysts

Data analysts work across organizations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, helping managers decide how to distribute resources, manage their supply chain, create production schedules, and set prices.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics uses the aviation industry as an example of the impact data analysts can have, writing that, when determining how much to charge customers for tickets, data analysts might consider the number of cities flights have to connect to, the amount of fuel it takes to fly between those cities, the expected number of passengers, and any maintenance costs.

Data analysts are also used to improve order fulfillment, service level performance, and customer value. Michael Chapin, CEO of e-commerce floral company FromYouFlowers, shared his story with Inc., saying that they use data analysis to predict customer demands to either make deliveries or pass on business if next-day delivery is not possible. Data analysis is also used to help identify customers who are more likely to become repeat customers in order to build long-term business relationships.

How Much Do Data Analysts Earn?

So the demand is there, but what do data analysts earn? The average salary for data analysts currently rings in at $57,261, according to salary comparison site PayScale. That number varies by city—from $71,000 in Boston to nearly $89,000 in San Francisco.

Here’s a look at the median salaries that mid-career data analysts across the country can expect to make, based on reports from PayScale:

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