Data analysts are in high demand: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field is projected to grow 19 percent from 2014 to 2024—much faster than the average for all occupations.
But finding qualified individuals to fill these roles isn’t easy. These professionals are responsible for helping organizations make sense of their technical data in order for executives to make better business decisions, and that requires a unique skill set, which combines technical savvy with business knowledge.
With more than 2.3 million job openings today, experts predict that by 2020, that number will swell to more than 2.7 million—and some of these jobs are taking twice as long to fill than the national benchmark average. This industry need, coupled with the shortage on talent, means data analysts are well compensated. According to Robert Half Technology’s (RHT) 2017 Salary Guide, these professionals earn between $77,500 and $118,750 depending on their experience, education, and skill set.
To maximize your earning potential, career experts suggest that you focus on four areas: mastering today’s in-demand data skills, considering an advanced degree, seeking extra experience, and knowing the range in which your salary lies.
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1. Master the Necessary Skills
The skills that are in demand today aren’t always the ones that will be in demand tomorrow. That’s why it’s important to keep tabs on industry trends and make sure you’re up to date on the latest skills, says John Reed, senior executive director at RHT.
Experience with databases like Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, and IBM DB2 are essential skills for managing data, he says. Mastery of Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle, in particular, could raise your salary by as much as eight percent and six percent respectively, according RHT ’s 2017 Salary Guide.
Acquiring additional programming skills—particularly R and Python—can also increase your earning potential, says Blake Angove, director of technology services at IT recruiting firm LaSalle Network.
“When you have in-demand skills, you’re in a better position to ask for higher pay,” Reed says. “Your degree can certainly give you a lot of knowledge and skills needed as a data analyst through math, computer science, data modeling courses, and more. And if you’d like to expand your skill set, consider taking an online course.”
2. Pursue an Advanced Degree or Certificate
Businesses are having a difficult time finding qualified individuals with the right mix of skills, training, experience, and education, which is why salaries for these professionals are so competitive.
Entry-level data analysts typically earn a bachelor’s degree from a science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) field, but pursuing an advanced can fast-track you to a promotion and higher salary, Angove says. In fact, 39 percent of advanced analytics jobs require a master’s degree or PhD, according to IBM.
Seek a program with a focus on math, science, databases, programming, modeling, and predictive analytics, he suggests. Northeastern offers a Master of Professional Studies in Analytics, for example, which equips students with a deep understanding of the mechanics of working with data, along with the capacity to identify and communicate data-driven insights that influence decision-making.
3. Seek Extra Experience
Whether you’re considering a graduate degree or are already enrolled in a master’s program, there are steps you can take now to boost your earning potential, Reed says. To begin, gain hands-on experience through internships or project-based roles while you’re in school to build up your resumé.
“These experiences can help you earn a higher salary as a new tech professional, since you’ll already have some of the skills and knowledge needed,” he says.
Research companies and job openings in your area and network with industry professionals to see what opportunities are available. With more real experience and tangible projects, employers may boost your salary.
“One of the best ways to increase salary is to show an employer how you’ve brought value to a previous employer or project,” Reed adds.
4. Don’t Sell Yourself Short
If you’re already employed as a data analyst and are seeking a promotion or bump in pay, prepare yourself for that conversation with your manager. There are a variety of salary calculators and resources available to check how your compensation stacks up in the market, including Salary.com, PayScale, and RHT ’s annual Salary Guide.
These resources are essential to have the most productive conversations with hiring managers, Reed says. “If you find you need to negotiate for higher pay, present your research during a salary discussion with your potential or current employer in order to help strengthen your case. Understanding what your industry peers in your geographic location are making is extremely important to knowing if your compensation is up to par.”