In our modern world, one of the most constant and relied upon sources of information is data, and for good reason: data is everywhere. Every action we take, both on- and offline, generates an unfathomable amount of data which governments and corporations collect and analyze in order to better understand why—and how—we do what we do.
According to one oft-cited statistic from IBM, in 2016, 90 percent of all data generated by humankind had been created in the previous two years alone. Another statistic from Raconteur estimates that, by 2020, the entire digital landscape will consist of 44 zettabytes—which is the number 44 followed by 21 zeroes, for context. By 2025, the same report predicts that roughly 436 exabytes—the number 436 followed by 18 zeroes—of data will be created each and every day.
With so much information now available on a daily basis, 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. These individuals hold the key to unlocking insights and predicting trends that businesses and governments can use to become more profitable, efficient, anticipatory, and intelligent.
Read on to explore the role that data analysts play within the organizations that employ them, the salaries associated with this title, and the steps that you can take today to kickstart a career in this promising field.
What Do Data Analysts Do?
Simply put, a data analyst’s job is to interpret data and then to turn that data into a story. 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 trends that can be used to make decisions and recommendations.
Learn More: What Does a Data Analyst Do?
According to a recent report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the overall goal of data analytics is to develop approaches for analyzing large data sets that are both reproducible and scalable. Being able to use and analyze a variety of sources helps data analysts cross-reference information so that they can provide a more holistic view of all data points. As they uncover and share insights, data analysts focus on improving their own systems to make communicating future insights easier.
Download Our Free Guide to Breaking Into Analytics
A guide to what you need to know, from the industry’s most popular positions to today’s sought-after data skills.
The Power of Data Analysts
Data analysts work across organizations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, helping leaders 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 one example of the impact data analysts can have. 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 analytics is also used to improve order fulfillment, service level performance, and customer value. Michael Chapin, CEO of e-commerce floral company FromYouFlowers, shared his experience using data in business with Inc., explaining how his organization used it to predict customer demands and make time-sensitive decisions.
Another common use of data in the commerce industry is the identification of which customers are most likely to become repeat clients. By analyzing purchase history and frequency, organizations can make educated decisions about developing long-term relationships with the customers who are most likely to continue to conduct business with them over time.
How Much Do Data Analysts Make?
The national average salary for data analysts is currently $67,377, according to salary comparison site, Glassdoor. That number varies by city, however, ranging from $71,000 in Boston to nearly $89,000 in San Francisco.
- Atlanta, Georgia: $67,497
- Austin, Texas: $64,930
- Boston, Massachusetts: $75,863
- Charlotte, North Carolina: $63,331
- Chicago, Illinois: $70,535
- Dallas, Texas: $67,499
- Denver, Colorado: $67,428
- Houston, Texas: $66,738
- Los Angeles, California: $76,927
- New York, New York: $75,042
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: $68,014
- Phoenix, Arizona: $64,036
- San Diego, California: $66,092
- San Francisco, California: $91,216
- Seattle, Washington: $71,558
- Washington, D.C.: $75,426
While these numbers reflect average salaries for mid-year data analysts, it’s important to note that there are steps that you can take to boost your salary even higher.
Did You Know: Many of Northeastern University’s regional locations make the list of top-paying cities for data analysts, including Charlotte, Seattle, San Francisco | Bay Area, Toronto, and Vancouver.
Top Skills For Data Analysts
- Business intelligence
- Data visualization
- Data warehousing
- Extraction, transformation, and loading (ETL)
- Operating systems
- Scripting languages
- Software development principles
- Statistical software
- ERP systems (SAP or Oracle)
Data analysts should also be prepared to utilize advanced analysis tools. Although these tools vary by industry, they typically include Microsoft Excel, SQL, Python, Google Analytics, and Tableau, among others.
Honing these skill sets will not only allow you to take on the day-to-day responsibilities of the average analyst, and but excel in this demanding field.
Pursuing an Advanced Degree
Earning a master’s degree or graduate certificate in data analytics is a great way to acquire the skills that you will need to be successful in a data analytics role. In fact, 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 has increased by 32 percent over the last two years alone.
If you’re interested in building a career in analytics, take the first step by downloading our free, comprehensive guide below.
This article was originally published in July 2017. It has since been updated for accuracy and relevance