Find out how to become a Data Analyst. Learn the educational qualifications, skills, personal qualities, short courses and certifications you need to enter and grow in this field. Also find answers to questions like, “Who are Data Analysts?”, Growth prospects for data analysts etc. Equally useful for freshers and experienced candidates.
During last 15-20 years companies have generated a huge amount of data. This data is like a gold mine for them because it has a lot of information hidden in it. But, until and unless it is dug, analyzed and presented properly, it is useless because without analysis it is difficult to make any sense out of this data.Also, the presentation of information in visual forms like graphs, maps, dashboards etc. makes it easier for the management to understand it and strategize. And, this is where Data Analysts come into picture.
These are the people who dig the meaning out of that data and convey it to the stakeholders with their reports. Any company who wants to get newer products or services to the market needs to get the data analysed.
What is Data and How can Data Analysis help?
Now, for those of you who don’t know what data is – Whenever you use Internet on your phone or laptop to you buy a product or just look out for things or you get your Aadhaar card made, you are generating data. Infact, we generate data in everything we do.
What companies want to do is, with help of this data, they want to understand the profile, buying pattern, product usage, future requirements etc. of their customers so that they can serve them better, get them better products etc. And, they want to see what does the data suggest.
This is one of the most demanded professions of current times and is going to see a rise even in the years to come.
Technical Skills Required to be a Data Analyst
If you decide to pick this career up, you would require some technical skills, personal qualities and education background. Let’s discuss them one by one.
Beginning with the technical skills
There are three types of technical skills that you need to know:
i. Managing and Querying Database
ii. MS Excel
iii. Visualization tools
iv. Programming language
Since the position itself says, Data Analyst, you can see, Data is the most important element here.
To work on the data, you need to be very good with managing and querying the data. So, get a good command over one of the database packages.
Some of the most popularly used databases are SQL,Hadoop etc.
ii.) MS Excel – Then get a command over MS Excel. You may be an expert in any package like Sas, R or Tableau, you will still need to use Excel.
Its powerful features like form creation, PivotTable, VBA, etc. make it so large that no analytics tool can surpass it.
All of you these days have laptops. Start exploring and learning Excel in depth from Day 1 of your college. Learn from various videos and tutorials. Set yourself a time frame and by the end of this time, you should be an expert in Excel. It’ll be helpful not just in this profession but everywhere.
iii.) Visualization tools: Now see, while Excel can do a lot of jobs, it was not built with a purpose of analysis. But, there are specific BI tools in the market that have been built with this goal. It is important to learn some of those tools as well. For e.g. Tableau, Power BI, FineReport etc.
Since these tools have been designed with a data analysis purpose so they do things in order like data processing, data cleaning, followed by data modeling and lastly data visualization. They use presentation charts to identify the problems and influence decision-making.
You must gain expertise in using some of these tools.
iv.) Programming languages - Then if you really want to grow in your career, it is important to know either R or Python, the programming languages used in this industry. These languages are far more effective then Excel and other BI tools.
R programming is used for statistics and modelling, which is an important thing to know if you wish to grow. It can manipulate your data and present it in various ways. This is an Open Source and free to experiment software with a strong package ecosystem, making it very easy to work with.
Now, if you talk about Python, it is a scripting language, easy to learn and use. It has got very good machine learning libraries viz. Scikitlearn, Tensorflow and Keras.
Some of you may be afraid of coding but let me tell you both these are very easy to learn and use. The coding here is not tough like Java or .Net. So, don’t get scared.
For non-IT people and people with no background in mathematics, statistics, the beginning may be a little difficult but if you set your mind to it, you can do it too.
Personal Qualities Required by Data Analysts
Since the role we are talking about is, Data Analyst, it is very obvious that it requires an analytical bent of mind which means you should be able to look at things from various angles and see their impact.
The position also needs to you be good at mathematics and statistics.
Also, this is going to be an evolutionary field. So, the new developments will keep happening. It is very important for you to learn them continuously and stay updated, as you work on the older things.
Education to enter the field of Data Analysis:
Moving on to the educational qualifications required to be a part of this profession:
It is no doubt that Engineers and MCAs with an IT or Computer Science degree find it a bit easier to enter because they learn a lot of these technical skills during their curriculum.
In fact, people with a Graduate or Post graduate degree in mathematics, statistics and economics also find an easy entry in this profession because statistics and mathematics are the base of the whole profession. They should just try to gain these skills.
So, if you have already passed out with these background and possess these skills, you don’t have a problem.
But for all my friends who have passed out from backgrounds other than IT and Computers. If you want to get into this profession, you’ll have to learn and master these technical skills.
A lot of medium level and start up companies are working in this domain and they are open to hire even the simple graduates from other streams.
For Experienced people
There are a lot of experienced people also who are trying to make a transition into this role.
The transition is easy and possible for IT people because they can quickly pick these skills and also find the projects inhouse.
While this is comparatively a little difficult, it is not impossible for non-IT people who want to switch to this profession for various reasons. The advantage you have is you possess a Business knowledge of your domain. If you manage to learn these skills, you also can try to find a project inhouse and gain some experience after which you can start applying to the jobs outside, if you want to.
I’m trying not to paint a very rosy picture here. If you have been in a non-IT profession but have an affinity for numbers and can learn these skills, this can be a profession for you. But, jump into the waters very carefully.
Courses for Data Analysts
Now let us talk about some courses that you can take up to learn the required skills:
i.) For those of you who have just passed out of your 12th and are seeking an admission in a UG or PG course but don’t want to do Engineering, a lot of universities these days offer BSc/ BCA in Data Science or Data Analytics. These are the courses you can join. Just see what they cover in their curriculum.You can even join BSc – Mathematics or Stats, but you’ll have to learn these skills separately.
ii.) Infact there are also some universities that offer MSc or Integrated MSc in Data Science and Data Analytics. These are also good courses to join.
iii.) Now for those of you who have already passed out and don’t possess these skills there are two ways to learn them:
a.) Self learning – Use the video tutorials online and learn on your own. To gain the experience, work on a small project for yourself or anyone and deploy it. You can showcase this project on your Resume. In fact, once you have gained the expertise you can also try making some YouTube videos teaching the same things to others in an easier manner. You can put a link to all these videos and demonstrate your expertise to the interviewer.
b.) Certification courses – If self-learning looks difficult to you, join some online or offline certification course & gain the skills. It is important to showcase some experience to get your first job, for which you can also do one of the things we discussed above or may be try to find a project with your current employer. Even if it is a small project, it’ll give you an experience to add in your Resume and land your first job in this profession.