A data analyst is a highly trained individual that specializes in collecting, organizing, and analyzing data from various resources. For example, the data may be obtained from secondary source documents such as statistical studies, or from direct consumer marketing surveys. In terms of analysis, the data analyst generally uses data management and reporting systems to collect and organize specific data drawn from relational databases. While this process is largely automated, it must first be initiated by developing mathematical computations and collection protocols in order to extract and extrapolate data into meaningful statistical analysis or “what if” scenarios.
Although the primary tasks of this position are compilation and analysis of numerical information, a data analyst often takes on other roles. For one thing, he or she is expected to possess a certain degree of technical expertise with automatic data collection and reporting systems, including a capacity for program troubleshooting and system security measures. Depending on the nature of the data being collected and analyzed, the individual may also be required to be familiar with procedural standards and regulations specific to a particular area of research, industry, or market. In addition, data analysts often engage in making projections regarding future trends based on current economic and/or market conditions. In some cases, the data analyst may be involved the research phase of a project by participating in the design and implementation of relevant studies and surveys.
Most data analysts are also comfortable with the reporting aspects of data analysis in terms of preparing written summaries to accompany graphs and charts. However, this position often calls for additional writing tasks, such as drafting company memorandum, press releases, or other documentation. In addition, this position often lends itself to collaborating with database programmers and administrators in writing system modification recommendations, or in-house instruction and training materials.
Data analysts typically find employment in a business or clinical setting and can usually expect to work a 40-hour week. However, certain projects or those given high priority status may require devoting an occasional evening or weekend to the job. In addition, some data analysts find that they can work from home or other remote location a few days a week or more. In fact, as communications technology continues to advance, this trend is becoming increasingly more feasible.
In terms of qualifications, a minimum of a four-year degree from a college or university is usually required, preferably in statistics, computer science, or business administration. However, other coursework may be acceptable if the candidate can also demonstrate substantial experience working in a related field, such as statistical analysis or research. Of course, many professionals entering this field obtain a Master’s Degree in order to maximize their starting salary and advancement potential.