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How to Become a Data Analyst: The Definitive Guide

Posted in Data Science
How to become a Data Analyst

All businesses rely on data to make decisions. A coffee shop might look at sales from different periods of the year to dictate hours of operation over the holidays. A software company might examine labor costs and compare them with profits to decide on staffing for the upcoming year. 

No matter the industry, data analysis is a vital component of strategic planning. If you enjoy using data (or clues, evidence, information) to solve problems and make informed predictions and decisions, you might enjoy a career as a data analyst. And the truth is, becoming a data analyst doesn’t require the same schooling as many other tech careers. Data analyst requirements don’t always include direct certification, though it's certainly helpful.

This guide will teach you about the role of a data analyst in an organization and how to become a data analyst without a degree in 2022. 

Before we get into the steps on how to be a data analyst, let’s look at the specific job duties of a data analyst.

What Does a Data Analyst Do?

Companies collect data on every business activity and expense they have, be it operational costs, sales data, inventory and supply data, and much more. But once they have that data, they need to transform it into information that can guide them to make decisions. 

Data analysts turn data from customers, products, performance, and costs into valuable insights that can guide strategic decision-making. They can help businesses strategically plan for their product development and predict which audiences they’ll find the most success with, for example. 

What Does a Data Analyst Do?

Here’s a breakdown of a data analyst’s duties:


  1. Collect Data: Conduct surveys, track web analytics, buy datasets.


  2. Identify Data Errors: Correct any data errors, including duplicates, and identify outliers. Ensure consistency to maintain accuracy in interpretations, using tools like Microsoft Excel or programming languages.


  3. Create Models:  Design database structures and determine how to store and compare data categories. 


  4. Interpretation: Find trends and patterns to transform the data into valuable insights. 


  5. Contextualize: Find connections with interpreted data in the greater context of a business, including the overall market and industry trends on local and international levels. 


  6. Presentation: Communicate your data findings and interpretations to stakeholders, clients, management, and colleagues, using graphs, charts, and other tools. 


Data Analyst Qualifications 

Many data analysts pursue professional certification to gain knowledge of the role and find job opportunities. This might look like a four-year Bachelor's degree in either math, science, computer science, business, or statistics. Or, it might look like a professional certificate program that often allows more flexibility in study. 

But, professional certification and degrees aren’t necessary to become a data analyst. While the learning paths might offer perks like networking and more structured education, they’re not the only way to become a data analyst. 

Checkout These Top Data Analysis Courses 

Top Data Analysis Courses Online

Data Analyst Skills 

The truth is, data analysts have easily transferable skills. Meaning that to be a successful data analyst, you don’t necessarily need a degree. However, the following qualifications and knowledge will certainly help you on your career path to becoming a data analyst:

  1. Programming Languages: Data analysts use statistical programming languages to present, analyze, and interpret data. Usually, data analyst job descriptions will identify the programming languages they prefer candidates to have. But, you’re safe if you have Python or R knowledge, as they are the most common. 


  2. Data Tools: Data analysts use various software and tools to do their job. Google Sheets and Excel are common amongst all industries, while SQL is a more advanced tool that allows you to work with larger amounts of data. 


  3. Visualization and Presentation Skills: Data analysts need to make complex data digestible. Good communication skills are essential for the role, and visualization and presentation tools like Tableau and Jupyter Notebook help as well. 


  4. Statistics: Most data analysts have an extensive understanding of math and statistics, which help identify data errors and interpret data more effectively. 


How to Become a Data Analyst with No Experience

Not everyone can afford a degree program or professional certification. If you lack the experience and skills needed to become a data analyst but can’t afford the time or money needed for schooling, here’s how you can become a data analyst. Follow these steps to gain the necessary knowledge to become a data analyst. 

1. Start with Self-Study

The internet has a wealth of knowledge that you can access for free oftentimes. If you have the discipline and motivation, consider learning data analysis skills on your own. Some skills you’ll want to study and learn include Python, R, data visualization, Statistics, and SQL. You might consider starting with a Python tutorial

2. Try Out Data Analytics Projects

It’s time to apply your knowledge with hands-on projects. After gathering some technical skills, you might consider one of the following 10 Best Online Data Analytics Courses, or a data analyst certification. Make sure the course or certification you choose allows you to design data projects and present your findings. 

Another way to work on projects is to seek out free datasets, such as from public repositories, to make your own interpretations to practice with. 

3. Create a Portfolio

Once you have the experience of a few projects under your belt, you can put them together into a portfolio. Your portfolio is a demonstration of your abilities that employers will want to see before hiring you into a data analyst role. 

GitHub is a great place to start showcasing your work. You can check out other professional portfolios for ideas, and even broaden your network and find job opportunities. 

4. Apply for Internships and Jobs

Tidy up your resume and polish your portfolio to apply for entry-level data analyst positions. You might consider reaching out to the network that you’ve built through your projects, courses, and self-study. Job boards like Indeed are also great places to find potential work opportunities. 

The time it takes to become a data analyst is up to you. It can take anywhere from a few months to a few years, depending on your level of commitment, hours per week, educational path, and networking capabilities. 


Salary and Job Outlook after Becoming a Data Analyst

Are data analysts in demand? They sure are — data analysts share a promising job outlook. The market is expected to grow by at least 20% in the next 10 years, and data analyst salaries range anywhere between $65,000 - $86,000 in the US. The salary range covers various types of data analysts, and certain types can expect an even more positive job outlook. 

For example, market research analysts have a predicted job growth of 22%, operations research analysts 25%, and statisticians 33%. 


Wondering how to get into data analytics? There are many ways to get there. 

The answer to how to become a data analyst isn’t the same for everyone. You might go the degree route for more structure, or opt for self-study and networking to save on costs and time commitment. 

Looking to expand your data analytics knowledge and qualifications? Check out these data analyst certifications!

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Harshita Srivastava

Harshita Srivastava

Harshita is a graduate from Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. She is a technical writer and a blogger. An entrepreneurship and machine learning enthusiast, who loves reading and is a huge fan of Air Crash Investigation! View all posts by the Author

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priya sri
priya sri

There is obviously a lot to know about this. I think you made some good points in Features also. Keep working, great job!
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Abhinav 360
Abhinav 360 10 Points

I was just browsing through the internet looking for some information and came across your blog. I am impressed by the information that you have on this blog. It shows how well you understand this subject. Bookmarked this page, will come back for more.

Abhinav 360
Abhinav 360 10 Points

Really nice and interesting post. I was looking for this kind of information and enjoyed reading this one. Keep posting. Thanks for sharing.


where can I find internships?

joyce adekugbe
joyce adekugbe

where can I find internship oppeotunities

Maha ab
Maha ab

Thank u so much, this is really helpful for me... very clear organized points.


thank you for a useful information.. it really helpful to me


Thanks. Paul From Uganda. Its a distinctive and clear guide


I'm been working in Business Intelligence for 14 years using SQL, Brio, Hyperion Designer, Looker, Denodo and Birst. Any suggestions for how I might transition into Data Science? I've taken two Tableau courses on Coursera and I'm taking a Tableau A to Z course on Udemy. I plan on taking a Python A to Z course on Udemy next. Thanks. Jim

Barbara J Guster
Barbara J Guster

Hello, my question is will Human Service bachelor degree's on professional studies get accepted as readily as a bachelor's degree in marketing?
Now if continuing education is the key; what do you suggest?

Barbara Guster

Adedeji Hammed Adewale
Adedeji Hammed Adewale

I have experience but I still need it. So, me know how it is going to be.


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