What Does a Data Analyst Do? (With Skills and Career Steps)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 22 January 2023

Published 13 September 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A data analyst is responsible for collecting, analysing and interpreting data from a variety of different sources. Data analysts often help businesses and organisations to identify new markets, new economic trends and new sources of income. If you're thinking of becoming a data analyst, then it's important to consider what a data analyst does daily and key skills relevant to the role.

In this article, we answer the question, "What does a data analyst do?", before explaining the skills that are often required, the steps you may take to become a data analyst and how much you might hope to earn.

What does a data analyst do?

A data analyst is commonly responsible for analysing data that has been collected from a variety of different sources. A data analyst uses statistical and analytical techniques to interpret the data, finding trends and patterns that can be used to influence business decisions or to make positive changes to the way a company operates. A data analyst may provide management teams and key stakeholders with evidence-based opportunities to improve their operations.

There are four main areas of analytics that many data analysts find themselves specialising in:

  • Prescriptive analytics: Data analysts provide analysis and reports that allow companies and organisations to make informed business decisions with predictable outcomes.

  • Diagnostic analytics: Data analysts may provide a diagnosis report, using analytical techniques to determine why a particular outcome occurred.

  • Descriptive analytics: Some data analysts identify existing trends and interpret existing patterns based on empirical data that has already been collected, such as sales figures or employee retention rates.

  • Predictive analytics: Data analysts can provide predictions for possible outcomes in the future to help businesses and organisations make the informed decisions.

Related: What Is a Data Scientist?

Data analyst typical job duties

Data analysts often work across a wide range of different industries in both the private and public sectors. Data analysts may work to interpret data in areas such as sales, marketing and operations and their daily duties may depend on which industry they're employed in. For example, a data analyst working for a sales company is likely to focus on finding new ways to make more sales. A data analyst working for a logistics company may be tasked with finding ways to reduce transport times or save on petrol.

There is a lot of variety, but here are some common duties that a data analyst is responsible for daily:

  • Sourcing data they can analyse and interpret to meet company goals

  • Implementing new data collection techniques and streamlining or automating existing data collection techniques

  • Ensuring that data collection techniques satisfy privacy laws and government regulations

  • Creating and managing company-wide databases

  • Analysing data that has been collected to find trends and patterns that are useful for decision-makers to consider

  • Compiling detailed reports based on analysed data

  • Presenting analysis and reports to senior management figures

  • Collaborating with a wider team of analysts to collect data and analyse projects

  • Assisting or advising team members on how to recommended implement operational and business changes

  • Keeping informed on the best data collection and analysis techniques, business and economic trends and government laws and regulations relating to data collection

What are the top skills of a data analyst?

A successful data analyst can benefit from several different skills, the most important being analytical, technical and computer skills. Here are some of the most important skills that a data analyst may use:

  • Analytical skills: Data analysts are often required to locate trends and patterns within a dense set of data to identify what may be useful for a company's goals and targets.

  • Statistical skills: Data analysts are commonly required to know statistical models and techniques and basic mathematical abilities.

  • Data collection skills: Data analysts often know how to use a variety of data collection techniques including interviews, questionnaires and database collection.

  • Technical skills: Data analysts can use multiple data collection and analysis platforms.

  • Computer skills: They're often expected to be skilled in the use of computer programmes such as word processing, spreadsheet and cloud sharing technologies.

  • Coding skills: Data analysts might use basic coding skills in programmes such as Python or SQL to create and maintain databases.

  • Communication skills: These professionals are typically able to present detailed, technical findings and complex data in a way that anyone can easily interpret.

  • Presentation skills: Data analysts are often asked to present their analysis in the form of spreadsheets, reports or presentations to management or other team members.

  • Teamwork skills: Data analysts commonly work in teams and collaborate with other departments within an organisation.

Related: Definition and Examples of Analytical Skills

How to become a data analyst

If you're interested in becoming a data analyst, you may consider the education, training and experience requirements that companies usually require. Here's a step by step guide to help you become a data analyst:

1. Complete high school

A successful data analyst is often required to have an excellent grounding in maths, English and computers. This starts in high school, where you can earn a Secondary School Certificate. Gaining knowledge of computer programming, computer science and statistics early in your career can help you develop a strong foundation of knowledge of databases.

2. Gain a bachelors degree

To become a data analyst, you can aim to obtain a bachelor's degree in mathematics, statistics, economics, data science, computer science and information technology. These courses can help you develop the analytical skills required to carry out technical tasks. Achieving a degree in a relevant field can also increase your employability and help you stand out amongst other candidates.

Related: How to Write a Data Science Resume (Plus Resume Template)

If you have gained a bachelor's degree in an unrelated subject or wish to become an expert in your area, you can consider becoming a Master of Data Analytics (MDA) to help you further advance your skills and technical knowledge.

3. Gain experience

It may be useful for candidates to gain experience working in analytical roles before applying for data analyst jobs. You may apply for internships or work experience programmes with companies while at university or apply for entry-level roles once graduating.

Data analysts often start by applying for roles such as statistical assistant, coder or technician. These roles are likely to provide on the job experience handling data analytics and databases. You can include details of your work experience on your resume to show employers that you have utilised the relevant skills in a professional environment.

4. Gain professional qualifications

Prospective data analysts might also want to consider pursuing a masters programme to improve their skill set after completing an undergraduate course at university. Popular masters courses for data analysts include data science, data analytics and computer science.

Data analysts may also benefit from obtaining professional qualifications for technical platforms. Consider taking an accredited online course in coding platforms such as Python, programmes such as Microsoft Word or analytical software including BI Dashboards and Tableau. Alternatively, you can take a TAFE course to earn a Certificate IV in Business Big Data.

5. Apply for data analyst jobs

Once you have gained relevant qualifications and experience, you can start applying for data analyst roles. Many data analysts start by applying for junior data analyst roles before working their way up to data analyst and then senior data analyst.

Consider customising your resume according to each job description to show the employer that your skills and experience align with the job requirements. In your cover letter, try to outline how your abilities can benefit the job role and provide specific technical or analytical qualifications.

Related: How To Write a Skills-Based Resume

How much does a data analyst earn?

The average salary of a data analyst is $90,601 per year. A data analyst's salary may depend on their experience, qualifications and location. Their salary may also depend on the particular industry they provide analysis for and whether they're employed in the public or private sector. Data analysts often improve their salary by specialising in a certain area or taking on more senior responsibilities such as leadership.

What is a data analyst job description?

The following is an example of a data analyst job description to help you learn more about the role:

A tech startup based in Sydney is looking for an experienced data analyst to join its team. The successful candidate will be expected to recommend and implement new data collection and storage techniques to help the company meet its operational targets. Applicants are expected to have 2+ years of experience working in an analytics role, with expert knowledge of BI Dashboards, Tableau and cloud software. Leadership experience is highly desirable, as the company are looking to expand their analytics team in the future.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location. Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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