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5 Skills You Need to Become a Data Analyst

Data analysis is in high demand among today’s companies, with a corresponding shortage of qualified analysts. A Glassdoor study reveals that of the 50 best jobs, Data Scientist is #1.

A career in data analytics starts with core technical skills, but success requires an evolving skill set and excellent people skills. The data scientist is basically the middle man between the IT department and business units asking for specific solutions. Here are some of the essential skills data analysts must have to fulfill that role.

1. Computer Skills

A data analyst needs proficiency in at least one, and often several, programming or scripting languages used to manipulate data. These include Java, C++, MATLAB, Python, PHP, and many more. Nearly every business program has to interact with data in some way. It depends on the company’s existing platforms, which are also subject to change as new projects appear.

While it’s not possible to be proficient in every coding language, the wider your experience, the more value you’ll provide to your employer. Once you learn the fundamentals of coding, it becomes easier to adapt to the different frameworks and syntax of new languages.

Data management and manipulation skills are critical. This comes through languages such as HIVE, R, Scala, and SQL, or Structured Query Language, SQL takes different forms across a wide range of data platforms, such as Microsoft’s T-SQL or MySQL, commonly used online. Building queries to extract the information you want is a must for data analysis.

Furthermore, much of your job will be to create efficient and accurate reports using tools that can spot patterns and forecast trends. Some common solutions include Microsoft Power BI, SAS, Oracle Visual Analyzer, and Cognos.

2. Analytical and Creative Skills

Data collection in the digital age can lead to enormous data sets. You should understand techniques for cleansing, organizing, and structuring data to provide efficient and reliable results. This means defining data rules to work seamlessly with data technologies.

Investigation and verification skills are required to ensure you’re providing the right information for the right business problem. Interpreting data results involves determining the extent and cause of any issues involving “bad” data.

3. Numerical and Statistical Knowledge

Supplying data to provide real-world value will also require mathematical skills with formulas and statistics. You’ll need a good grasp of mathematics, but also skill in combining figures to produce new measures consistently. A data analyst should also understand statistics and formulas to satisfy common business needs such as compound interest or depreciation. You should have the ability to express numeric results as charts, tables, and other graphical elements.

4. Business and Communications Skills

As an analyst, it’s your responsibility to provide accurate information to decision makers. You must be able to understand not just the data, but the specific requirements of the end users. Analysts must be good communicators to ensure the data provided aligns with business objectives and criteria. You will have to discuss and collaborate with executives, clients, other IT specialists, and various employees.

A team attitude and an ability to communicate transparently is important to sharing information. As the person with domain expertise, it’s your duty to ensure that everyone is aware of all influences and constraints on the analyses you provide.

5. Attention to Details and Data Purity

In data analysis, you must be able to pay attention to detail. Spotting incorrect or redundant information is critical to useful results. You must also be able to identify how different facts relate to each other. Errors in the information that business units receive could lead to incorrect conclusions that waste time and money.

Any data that’s used in information systems should be cleaned, or “scrubbed” to eliminate irrelevant, outdated, or incorrect results. Both manual and automated processes may be necessary to ensure data is consistent and accurate.

Demand for analysts is increasing across many roles and industries. Many IT professionals incorporate some level of data utilization in their jobs. Learning more data skills and tools can open up new opportunities for you. Soft business skills and proven data expertise will raise your value even more.

About the Author

Josh McAllister is a freelance technology journalist with years of experience in the IT sector. He is passionate about helping small business owners understand how technology can save them time and money. Find him on Twitter @josh8mcallister

 

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