If you enjoy working with numbers and solving problems, you might be interested in pursuing a job in data analytics. There are many career paths for data analysts, as data analysis is an integral part of industries ranging from finance and business to technology and healthcare. This guide to a career as a data analyst covers what types of jobs you may pursue, what to expect from a data analyst salary and more.
What Is a Career in Data Analytics?
Data analytics jobs and specific responsibilities may look different depending on the industry. For example, here’s how the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) describes what financial analysts do:
Analyzing data and applying mathematical and statistical techniques to help solve real-world problems
Deciding what data are needed to solve specific problems or answer certain questions
Interpreting data and reporting conclusions based on data analyses
Using data analysis to improve and support business decisions
Generally speaking, a professional who’s become a data analyst will use data to identify and solve problems as well as provide projections and appropriate recommendations. Data analytics services can assist both individuals and organizations.
Data Analyst Work Settings
Data analyst job titles may vary depending on the particular role and employer. Data analytics job settings may also vary widely depending on the industry in which the analyst works. Some data analysts may work in contractor roles, providing expertise for smaller organizations that don’t have the capacity for a full-time in-house data analyst. Others might work for large entities alongside a team of engineers, scientists or other professionals.
Work environments that deal heavily in numbers may rely on data analysis to drive business decisions. These include:
Finance, commodity contracts and securities
Healthcare and social assistance
Professional, scientific and technical services
Research and development in life and physical sciences
Credit intermediation and related activities
If you’re interested in a specific industry, you may be able to find in-house data analysis positions at large organizations. You may also choose to specialize in a certain industry and work as a contractor, helping a variety of organizations.
What Career Paths Are Possible in Data Analytics?
The BLS lists a variety of careers for a data analyst. For most careers in data analytics, the data analyst qualifications include at least a bachelor’s degree. The following is a list of analyst careers for professionals who work with data, along with the typical education that’s required for each one.
What if you want to work as a data analyst and have a degree in a different area of study? Depending on your skills, experience and what’s required of the position, you may be able to pursue a data analytics career with the right education and skills. There are online data science courses and data science bootcamps that can help you grow your skill set in specialized areas depending on the job you want.
Data Analytics Jobs in Business
The world of business is diverse, and so are the types of data analytics jobs available. You may encounter the following types of work functions for various business data analytics positions.
Data Analytics in Supply Chain Management: In supply chain management, a data analyst can examine data to make supply chains more efficient. Data analysis can be used to improve product traceability, provide better relationship management and customer service, improve forecasting, predict supply chain disruptions, plan resources and shorten order-to-deliver cycles. Data analysts in supply chain management can also use data analytics to improve inventory management and use predictive analytics to address problems and opportunities based on data set patterns.
Data Analytics in Project Management: Data analytics in project management enables project managers to create project schedules, monitor and control risks and estimate costs. Data analytics can also be used to analyze project performance and make decisions. Project management data can also help managers evaluate complex projects and make better outcome predictions to keep projects within budget and on schedule.
Data Analytics in Marketing: Data analysts who work in marketing analyze data from collection methods like opinion polls, market analysis surveys, focus groups and questionnaires to gain insights on consumers, market conditions and competitors. They analyze and present their findings to help make marketing recommendations and predictions.
Data Analytics in Accounting: Data analytics in accounting can be used in a variety of ways. Analytics can support continuous auditing and monitoring, financial planning for companies and financial strategy based on patterns in customer behavior. Data analytics can also be used for analyzing financial records and operations, identifying risks and challenges and suggesting strategies to improve profits and reduce costs.
Data Analytics in Finance: In finance, data analysts evaluate financial data to develop investment strategies for companies and for financial services sales agents who sell investments like stocks and bonds. Data analysts in finance may specialize in areas such as securities markets, economic forecasts, business valuations, hedge funds, venture capital, real property and debt.
Data Analytics in Machine Learning: Machine learning is a technology service that relies on artificial intelligence (AI) to automate data analysis workflows. Data analysts who work in machine learning typically have advanced programming skills and work with algorithms and predictive models to facilitate machine learning data analysis.
Data analysts may also work in areas like management, where they analyze data like revenue and employment reports to make recommendations to management to improve their businesses. Similarly, data analysts specializing in operations use statistical analysis to help solve business problems.
Some data analysts who work in business work for a single company, while some work as consultants with a variety of businesses.
Data Analytics Jobs in Government
There are a variety of data analytics roles in government work settings at local, state and national levels. Government operations that are structured similarly to businesses will likely also have a need for data analysts. For example, some government analyst duties might include:
Develop and analyze surveys that collect data such as wages, unemployment rates, health-related issues and environmental issues
Determine spending patterns for government programs based on the development and production of trend analysis
Analyze data to determine government program effectiveness and make recommended changes
Use data to measure and communicate program success in areas like education
Use data analysis to inform policy decisions
Formulate complex IT data and systems and conduct data extraction and transformation
Generate and analyze data about society, behaviors, brands and markets
Use data to prevent abuse, fraud and waste in government
Many areas of government deal with significant amounts of data. Data analysts discern what will help optimize spending and better serve constituents through data-driven decisions.
Data Analytics Jobs in Healthcare
Healthcare is another area where there’s an abundance of data, and data analysts can transform it into useful recommendations. In healthcare work settings like hospitals and physician practice groups, data analysts may examine data from sources like electronic health records, patient surveys, billing claims and cost reports. Data analysts working in healthcare help organizations provide better patient care and lower costs by making data-driven recommendations.
Data analysts in healthcare may also provide reports based on data and communicate them to healthcare executives. They may make recommendations to management and analyze changes that have been implemented to monitor their progress and resulting improvements.
Healthcare data analysts may also consult with insurers and vendors to make recommendations for population health management and cost containment based on healthcare data analysis. The day-to-day tasks of a data analytics job in such a large, diverse field might vary widely depending on the specific role.
Data Analytics Jobs in Other Industries
Other industries that use data to make decisions may employ the services of a data analyst. In research and development, for example, a data analytics pro may analyze consumer data to develop consumer goods pricing and marketing strategies. Working at a college or university, a data analyst may conduct research on a variety of topics and publish their analyses for the public.
How Much Do Data Analysts Make?
There’s no one-size-fits-all average salary for data analysts, because data analyst pay depends on factors like industry, title and location. To get an idea of salaries, here were the 2020 median salaries for various data analyst roles, according to the BLS.
Like most jobs, data analytics salaries will depend on a variety of factors, including:
Where you work geographically
How much experience and education you have
What industry you’re working in
What type of leadership role you have
Earning potential as a data analyst will generally be higher the more education and experience you have. As the BLS reports, in 2020, the median usual weekly earnings for workers with a bachelor’s degree was $1,305. For those with a master’s degree, they were $1,545. For those with a doctoral degree, they were $1,885. Cost of living in a particular area may also factor into salary.
What Is the Job Outlook for a Data Analyst?
The projected job growth for those working in data analyst positions tends to be strong across industries. According to the BLS, the following is the projected job outlook for various data analyst positions between 2020 and 2030.
Industries that deal with data analytics are expected to have a continued need for these types of professionals.
Data Analytics Alternative Jobs
Not sure if data analytics is right for you? Explore other options that could provide alternative jobs for data analysts and other career opportunities in operations, retail and sports.
Operations analyst jobs: A certificate or degree in business analytics can help you enter the world of operations. Operations research analysts help organizations identify and solve problems and make better decisions by using advanced mathematical and analytical methods.
Customer analyst jobs: With an in-depth knowledge of quantitative database marketing analytics, you could work for a marketing agency, company or nonprofit to develop forecasts for direct mail, email and alternative media programs. Customer analysts may collaborate with clients’ business analytics team to provide forecasting guidance to call centers and marketing program owners.
Sports data analyst jobs: Sports data analysts estimate the value of individual athletes to inform sports team recruiting, as well as the most effective techniques for training and play. Most sports data analysts specialize in a certain sport and may work for a team, a sports league or association, or a consulting firm.
As you can see, if you enjoy working with data and want to solve problems, there are numerous career paths you can pursue.
Is a Career as a Data Analyst Right for You?
Those who specialize in data analytics have an array of industries and career paths to consider. Wherever data influences decision-making, a data analytics professional may be able to find a full-time in-house position or offer services as a contractor.
Consider your ideal career as you explore data analytics educational programs. You may be able to move into data analysis specialization by adding a bootcamp or short course experience to your resume. You also may be interested in pursuing a longer degree program depending on the role you’re interested in.
This page includes information from O*NET OnLine by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration (USDOL/ETA). Used under the CC BY 4.0 license. O*NET® is a trademark of USDOL/ETA.