What skills do data analysts need?


In the age of big data, many technical fields are roaring. Data analytics is no exception.

Over the next decade, employment of data scientists and data analysts is expected to grow at a rate of 266%. That’s according to CompTIA’s State of the Tech Workforce report.

But despite this growth, having skilled workers to fill positions is a constant struggle for recruiters and employers. Like other careers in tech, data analysts must have a recognizable and provable skillset that reflects the needs of the industry. 

With AI revolutionizing many careers—and data-related fields being no exception—having the most in-demand skills is even more paramount. So, the question then arises of: What skills are most important to data analysts? Fortune has the answers you need.

What skills do data analysts need to succeed?

Data analysts use a variety of tools on a daily basis to be able to collect and organize data. Then they locate trends and use software to be able to visualize it. Data analysts are generally well-versed areas like statistics, mathematics, computer science, and economics.

“From a technical perspective, data analytics typically requires knowledge of basic data management, some statistics and data visualization techniques and technologies,” says Joel Shapiro, a clinical associate professor of managerial economics and decision sciences at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

Some of more specific tech-based skills they may use on a daily basis, or are at least familiar with, include:

  • Programming languages: SQL, Python, R, JavaScript, SAS
  • Data visualization tools: Tableau, Power Bi, Looker
  • Spreadsheet management: Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets

The good news: There are opportunities for data analysts to shine in a variety of industries. Fortune’s search for positions on job platforms like Dice and LinkedIn found open roles at companies such as Deloitte, TikTok, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Publix, and United Airlines. This just small list just shows the seemingly endless career avenues for data analysts. 

However, each job posting does differ, so the best strategy for prospective candidates may be to write down the qualifications and preferred skills for the jobs and companies that strike the most interest. That way education and career pathways can be catered toward dream roles.

Despite being whizes at computer software, data analysts also need to have soft skills to be effective in their roles. These skills may include:

  • Communication
  • Critical thinking
  • Teamwork
  • Curiosity
  • Desire to learn
  • Business acumen
  • Problem-solving mindset

Being an expert at communicating, thinking critically, and working as part of a team are important skills along with simply having curiosity and a desire to learn. Furthermore, having business acumen and a problem-solving mindset can be very beneficial. 

Where can you gain data analytics skills?

When researching data analyst jobs, keeping track of the educational requirements is important. Many companies, especially in the tech space, have shifted toward skills-based hiring approaches, so while some positions may not require a college degree, others might. 

Those wanting to gain skills in data analytics can follow many different pathways. Taking coursework in computer science, statistics, and mathematics departments is a great place to start. Some universities offer data analytics major or minor options for undergraduates, like Ohio State and Arizona State. Others, like Johns Hopkins and Georgia Tech have graduate-level opportunities.   

Many bootcamp companies, such as Springboard, General Assembly, and Ironhack, offer data analytics-specific opportunities. Several schools, in partnership with edX, also offer data analytic bootcamps. Some of the universities include Vanderbilt, UNC, and Michigan State. These opportunities may be a better idea for those who want a quicker, flexible, and/or cheaper way to a career in data analytics—and may be especially resourceful for someone looking for a career pivot.

What’s important to remember is that having an educational background that is solely data analytics focused is not absolutely essential, especially since many degrees, certifications, and other programs are inherently similar. Having the in-demand skills to prove your worth is what employers are going to value more and put you on a trajectory of success. 

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