Data Analyst Career Path 2024 We have access to way more information than we’ve ever had before. This has the potential to revolutionize the operations of many industries. But there’s a catch: without the skilled professionals that can expertly manoeuvre through this data, it’s just a useless lump of stagnant information. With data becoming increasingly integrated into nearly every industry, data analysts are now everywhere. According to the Canadian Job Bank, new job openings for Data analysts and administrators are expected to total 29,300 over the next 10 years.

With data analysts needed in just about every industry, you have a wide range of jobs and areas you can work in. Let’s dive in and discover how to become a data analyst and what kind of career you can expect.

What is a Data Analyst?

In simple terms, a Data Analyst is someone who, through self-learning or formal education, has acquired the skills and knowledge to collect, sort, analyze and interpret large datasets, often to uncover insights that organizations can use to drive their business objectives.

How To Become A Data Analyst

  • Get a Data Analytics Education
  • Acquire core technical skills
  • Get an Entry-Level Data Analyst job

Getting A Data Analytics Education

The first step to starting a new career in any field is to acquire the relevant foundational knowledge required for the job. As a data analyst, you will need to master the skills of Data acquisition, cleaning, interpretation and visualization. You will require data management skills and languages such as SQL, Python, R, and Javascript to manipulate and interpret the data in your databases. There are three main paths to acquiring this education:

  • Self-Study: The internet is a treasure trove of information. Suppose you have the time, discipline and commitment to dedicate yourself to a strict learning schedule. In that case, many online resources could help you acquire the foundational technical skills required to launch a career as a Data Analyst. While this is the least costly option, it involves focus and commitment.

Unfortunately, it is easy to get overwhelmed by the number of available resources. Except you are using this option to advance along a similar Data-centric career path, you may have to consider getting additional industry-relevant certification. While employers no longer have a strict college degree rule, you do have to show some formal accreditation. You also miss out on developing many soft skills employers are looking for, which come from a structured and collaborative learning environment.

Pros: Cheapest option. Cons: Can be overwhelming. No accredited education diploma or certificate. Have to pass certifications on your own. No soft skills training.

  • College Degree: As the Data Analysis field gains popularity, it is now possible to find college degrees structured specifically around Data Analysis/Science. However, even if you don't take a specialized degree program, many employers will take a bachelor's degree in a related field, like statistics and computer science.

Manipulating data is the core function of the Data Analyst. A computer science degree that teaches you Python and Databases such as SQL and Advanced Excel will provide a solid foundation for launching a career as a Data Analyst. However, this route requires significant time and financial commitment. This is a good option for young people who plan to go to college anyway but less so for mid-career professionals looking to make a quick shift to Data Analysis.

Pros: Broad curriculum will provide a strong foundation for any tech career. Cons: Expensive. Too time consuming. Depending on your degree you might need to acquire certifications or attend a short-duration course like a bootcamp to get that specialization.

  • Bootcamp: This is the quickest path to getting into the field as a young person just starting their working life and for mid-career professionals looking to make a switch. A Data Bootcamp at Lighthouse Labs will take you from novice to job and career ready in as little as eight weeks. The comprehensive curriculum and quick pace of learning might be challenging for some. Still, this option is the most time-efficient, with a specialized curriculum and a diploma/certificate at the end of your study.

Pros: Quickest option, specialized diploma, industry-aligned curriculum, network and community building, soft-skills enhancement. Cons: Intense pace, more expensive than self-study.

Acquire Core Technical Skills and Build a Portfolio

Once you've acquired the foundational skills to begin your career, it is time to boost your chops as a Data Analyst. This will require knowledge and mastery of industry-relevant tools and software. You will need to become familiar with the tools of the industry, such as Microsoft Excel, Matlab, and IBM SPSS, which are used to analyze and gain insights from large data sets.

You should also be competent in using data visualization tools such as Tableau, QlikView, and Power BI. This will help you translate those patterns and trends into user-friendly presentations.

It would help if you also began building a portfolio of work, taking on personal projects and problems that highlight the essential skills you've acquired.

Finally, you will need to develop or enhance the soft skills that are key to success within the field. Presentation, communication, collaboration, teamwork and problem-solving are all crucial to a Data Analyst's work.

Read our feature: Data Analyst Interview: Top Questions.

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Data Analyst Career Path

You’ve done it; you acquired the education, beefed up the technical skills required for success on the job, and searched for and landed your first Data Analyst job. Congratulations. Enjoy your first few years of learning as much as possible because soon, it will be time to start thinking about advancing your career beyond the entry-level stage.

So what does the career path of a data analyst look like?

The demand for data professionals is high because their skills are used across all industries. This means that the career progression for a Data Analyst is not precisely linear. It depends on where your interests lie. As a Data Analyst, you could take a job in Finance, Healthcare, Insurance, Digital Marketing and many more. This will set the stage for possible specialization down the line if you’re not interested in advancing to a management position.

You can also decide to break out of the Data Analyst function to become a Data Scientist. We will touch on each of these paths below.

Entry Level

As an entry-level data professional, you will be hired as a junior analyst, junior data analyst or other similar-sounding roles. As a newbie in the field, your first couple of years will be dedicated to hands-on intensive learning to gain practical experience.

Some of your duties will include:

  • Data Collection: You will collect, clean, analyze and interpret trends and insights from large data sets. You might also design the channels used to collect that data.
  • Database Design and Maintenance: depending on the size of the organization and your previous experience, you might help design and build the databases, such as CRMs, ERP systems, and others, which will store all the data collected.
  • Producing reports and making presentations: You will produce reports and make presentations of the insights and trends gleaned from the data using tools like MS Excel or Power BI. This is often for the benefit of non-technical stakeholders within the company. So you need to be able to communicate complex ideas, patterns and insights clearly.

Salary: Because data analysts work across all sectors and under different job titles, you should take the average salaries stated by the top job boards more as a guide. Payscale puts the figure at C$61,440, Glassdoor has the figure at C$67,602, while Indeed averages out their data at C$75,653.

Mid - Senior Analyst Roles

As you gain experience as a data analyst, delivering projects and mastering your technical and soft skills, there are two main paths to progress your career in paid employment. These are the management and specialization routes.

  • Management: As a manager, you will identify and delegate projects to junior members of the team. You will also be in charge of allocating and accounting for your team's financial and staffing resources. You will have to set priorities and target dates. You might find yourself moving away from technical tasks to more of a supervisory role.

  • Specialization: The second option brings us back to the field where you got your first position as a junior analyst. You might decide that being a manager is not for you. Maybe you prefer to be in the weeds, using your technical abilities to gain insights to help solve complex problems. In that case, your best option is to specialize in that sector. Depending on that, you can expect job titles such as Finance Analyst, Systems Analyst, Digital Marketing Analyst and so on. This will involve advanced study and taking data certifications relevant to your chosen area of specialty.

Salary: As a senior data analyst, you can earn upwards of C$90,000 as your average base salary. Indeed puts the figure at C$86,750, while Glassdoor pegs it at C$92,628.

Alternative Paths

The two other options for a data analyst looking to advance their career, either independently or along a different path, are Consulting and becoming a Data Scientist.

  • Consulting: Your years of experience, alongside your knowledge of the field in which you’ve specialized, puts you in a position to work independently, either as an independent contractor or by setting up your Data outfit. There are upsides and downsides to both options.

As an independent contractor, you can choose the projects you would like to work on, prioritizing based on preferences of interest, challenge or fees. However, you will have to be in charge of your finance and tax obligations. Setting up your outfit provides even more flexibility if you have strong entrepreneurial skills. However, running a business is not a prospect many find appealing.

  • Become A Data Scientist: A data scientist plays a slightly more advanced and complex role than an analyst. A data analyst might be charged with collecting, sorting, cleaning, analyzing and presenting data. At the same time, a scientist will be responsible for devising new methods for collecting, cleaning and visualizing that data. A scientist will often require a Master's or Ph.D. in a related field.

Click to read our piece on Data Science career. We discuss the salaries and skills required for success.

Types of data analytics jobs and what to expect from them

Depending on what field you want to get into, there are multiple options when it comes to working as an analyst. Your chosen career path will determine which specializations and skill sets you need to acquire to succeed in your role.

Business Analyst

One of the most common jobs a data analyst will work at is related to business intelligence. As a business analyst, you'd be involved in improving the processes, systems, products, and services of a business using extensive, expert research, and thought-out analysis skills. The data-driven insights you generate would help to make the inner workings of a business much more efficient. They would help ensure that the decisions that businesses make are aligned with the data.

Budget Analyst

While business analysts might work on financial budgets in some capacity, for larger organizations this task merits an entire role to itself. A budget analyst does exactly what you’d think: help organizations and institutions analyze, plan, and reflect on their finances. As a budget analyst, you can also work for public organizations like government agencies, and private businesses, schools, universities, museums...the list goes on. Practically every organization needs a data expert to help with their budget. Budget analysts work to specifically develop budgets, review funding requests and other proposals, monitor spending, and project future financial needs by examining trends.

Insurance Analyst & Credit Analyst

An insurance analyst works to examine and analyze the hard data of insurance policies to determine the risks and benefits for the parties on either side of the arrangement. They’ll also utilize risk-calculation equations, review insurance applications, and more. A credit analyst has a role that overlaps a bit with an insurance analyst. These professionals also spend a good portion of their time evaluating risk factors using their complex data-driven equations. They also perform tasks like examining the financial backgrounds of credit applicants, crunching data like records, income, and savings information.

Marketing Analyst

Just like business analysts look at the internal processes and systems of an organization, marketing analysts examine the systems and processes that link businesses to consumers. These professionals are charged with analyzing trends and patterns within the market in general, the customer base, and the business’ competitors. Marketing analysts’ main mission is to track the efficacy of marketing campaigns and understand why things are happening using data. They can perform tasks as disparate as segmenting the target market, or forecasting consumer trends and behaviour. These experts are data analysts that work within a larger marketing department to assist in their campaigns and initiatives.

Web Analyst & Social Media Analyst

An enormous quantity of data is generated by the internet. User behaviour can be analyzed and understood down to its most minute components, but only if qualified data analysts are there to generate wise insights from it. Data analysts can work to analyze the understand the data generated by website in general as a web analyst, or with social media platforms in particular as a social media analyst. Whichever role they occupy, these analysts would examine and track engagement with websites, spot and define trends, analyze user demographics, and more. They would be able to make websites and platforms as effective as possible by testing and comparing new potential functions. They would also help these internet localities be safe from attacks, by supporting data integrity and server security.

Healthcare Analyst

Similar to a business analyst, these professionals work at understanding the internal processes and systems of the organization and rendering them as efficient as possible. But unlike their counterparts, healthcare analysts specifically purport to improve the quality of care provided to patients. To achieve those aims, healthcare analysts work at improving the business operations of healthcare institutions like hospitals, clinics, and care facilities. They’ll evaluate medical data, develop and maintain record-keeping processes, and perform many more tasks involving data to ensure that these institutions are providing care in the most effective data-driven ways possible.

Transportation Logistics Specialist

Beneath all the delivery trucks and workers is an incredible spider-web of routes that underlies our supply chains. These incredibly complex networks need to be meticulously planned out, maintained, and rendered as efficient and effective as possible. To support these aims, data analysts are needed. As a data analyst specializing in transportation logistics, these professionals work to design the tightest transportation networks possible, bridging the gap between businesses so that supply chains run smoothly and quickly.

Frequently Asked Questions

What other jobs can a Data Analyst do?

The use of data in driving business objectives spans many industries and sectors, which means many companies require the services of a trained data analyst. You can utilize your skills to move into Business Intelligence Engineer, Marketing Analyst, Product Analyst, Business Analyst and Research Analyst roles.

Does a Data Analyst have a good career path?

The short answer is yes. With the demand for data on the rise, there is also a corresponding increase in the market for people with the technical skills to collect, clean, sort and analyze that data.

Do Data Analysts need to code?

It is possible to begin a career without necessarily learning to code. The rise of advanced data management tools means you can carry out some of the core functions of an entry-level data analyst without writing a single line of code. However, learning a scripting language will be crucial to help you advance your career. Knowing how to use languages to manipulate data and databases is a core part of the skills you will need to grow beyond the entry-level stage.

Do Data Analysts get paid well?

As we have seen above, the pay for an entry-level data analyst is on par with that of other tech roles. Because it is a field that is slowly gaining momentum, there is still an acute shortage of senior data professionals. Your earnings rise significantly as you gain experience and progress in your career.

Ready to jump in? Join the Data Analytics Program to launch your career.