What Does a Data Analyst Do?

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  1. What is data analysis?
  2. What does a Data Analyst do?
  3. Data Analyst vs Data Scientist: What’s the difference?
  4. Why is data analysis important?
  5. What skills do you need to become a Data Analyst?
  6. Demand and salary for Data Analyst jobs
  7. Future-proof your career with in-demand skills

In 2006, British Mathematician Clive Humby proclaimed “data is the new oil.” Less than two decades later, data is one of the essential commodities underpinning modern business—and the demand for it is still growing.

The global data analytics market(opens new window) is projected to grow from $30 billion in 2022 to $393 billion in 2032. This rapid growth will likely lead to increased demand for Data Analysts.

Several factors have contributed to the popularity of data analytics. Notably, the widespread adoption of smartphones and other technology has led to an exponential increase in the amount of data produced daily(opens new window). Many companies have recognized that they can use this information to make informed decisions and improve their performance.

Data Analysts play a central role in helping businesses leverage the power of data. They often earn six-figure salaries and can work remotely or in the office. However, there are several factors to consider before you decide to pursue this career. Below, we'll break down typical Data Analyst responsibilities, skills, salary, and more.

What is data analysis?

Data analysis uses statistical methods, computational algorithms, and other tools to explore and interpret data. Organizations use data analysis to answer questions and gain insights.

The process involves these basic steps:

  1. Identify relevant data sources
  2. Gather the data
  3. Clean the data by removing incorrect or duplicate data points
  4. Organize the data in a usable format
  5. Analyze the data with statistical methods
  6. Visualize the data to detect patterns and trends
  7. Interpret the findings
  8. Share the results with stakeholders

What does a Data Analyst do?

A Data Analyst uses statistics and software to interpret data and uncover underlying patterns. These findings help organizations make strategic decisions and identify opportunities for improvement.

Common responsibilities for Data Analysts include:

  1. Gather information from a broad range of sources, such as social media platforms and financial records
  2. Build and maintain databases
  3. Clean and process datasets
  4. Formulate research questions
  5. Detect and analyze patterns and trends in datasets
  6. Create data visualizations
  7. Collaborate cross-functionally to improve and share data insights
  8. Present findings to clients, executives, and other stakeholders

Data Analyst vs Data Scientist: What’s the difference?

Both Data Analysts and Data Scientists gather and interpret data. But they have distinct roles and responsibilities.

Data Analysts specialize in processing and interpreting structured data. They typically use data to answer specific questions and inform decision-makers. Say a hospital wants to determine why medication errors have increased. A Data Analyst could examine electronic health records and incident reports to pinpoint potential causes.

Data Scientists use advanced statistical methods to analyze structured and unstructured datasets. They may also build machine learning algorithms to collect and interpret information. These professionals often use predictive models to forecast the future. For instance, a Data Scientist could project future medication errors and suggest proactive solutions to avoid them.

You can land a job as a Data Analyst or Data Scientist without a college degree. But Data Scientists typically require more advanced knowledge and skills, including:

  1. Object-oriented programming languages, such as C++ and Java
  2. Machine learning and natural language processing
  3. Data wrangling and processing
  4. Data mining
  5. Database management systems, including SQL and NoSQL
  6. Cloud computing

Both roles have positive job outlooks, though Data Scientists will experience slightly higher demand. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of jobs for Operations Research Analysts(opens new window) (also known as Data Analysts) will increase by 23% between 2022 and 2032. On the other hand, the BLS projects that job openings for Data Scientists(opens new window) will grow by 35%

These careers also have different salary expectations. Based on thousands of job postings, ZipRecruiter reports that the average salary for Data Analysts(opens new window) in the United States is $83,000. By contrast, the average Data Scientist salary is $123,000.

Why is data analysis important?

Businesses in every industry use data analytics to gain meaningful insights and improve performance. Analysts leverage information from numerous sources, from customer surveys to machine sensors. This data allows companies to deepen their understanding of their clients, workflows, and overall performance.

Organizations use these insights to make data-driven decisions and accomplish their goals. They also study customer behavior to offer personalized marketing and services.

Data analytics has already revolutionized business operations in many industries. For example, the equipment manufacturer John Deere(opens new window) installed cameras and sensors on tractors to collect environmental data. This information helps farmers understand soil conditions and distinguish between crops and weeds while spraying pesticides. Additionally, John Deere uses the data to help farmers remotely troubleshoot malfunctioning machinery.

What skills do you need to become a Data Analyst?

You don’t need a college degree to pursue a career in data analytics. But employers will expect you to have the necessary soft and technical skills.

Math and Statistics

Data Analysts use statistics and math to interpret data and create predictive models. You should understand mathematical concepts, including calculus, linear algebra, and probability theory.

Additionally, you should master statistical techniques like regression analysis and hypothesis testing. You’ll use these methods to analyze data and understand the significance of your results.

Programming languages

Data Analysts need to know various programming languages, such as:

  1. SQL: Organize, manage, and query structured databases
  2. R: Create statistical models and data visualizations
  3. Python: Automate tasks, manipulate data, and clean datasets
  4. Scala: Process large batches of data and develop machine learning models

Data Visualization

Data visualization allows you to represent information in a graphic format. For instance, you can use a bar graph to compare sales revenue by month or a line graph to visualize trends in customer engagement. These graphics allow you to spot new trends and communicate your findings to stakeholders.

Microsoft BI and Tableau are two of the most popular data visualization platforms. These tools enable users to create interactive dashboards and accessible graphics.


Strong communication skills enable Data Analysts to share insights with clients, colleagues, and other stakeholders. You’ll need to know how to communicate complex technical ideas in an accessible manner. It’s also essential to have strong presentation skills to tell compelling stories about data.


People often picture Data Analysts as solitary number crunchers. While this can be an excellent career for introverts, these professionals frequently work in cross-functional teams to complete complex data projects. For example, you might collaborate with Product Managers to interpret user behavior and improve product features. Active listening and empathy can help you excel in team settings.

Demand and salary for Data Analyst jobs

According to ZipRecruiter, Data Analysts earn between $34,000 and $136,000 annually. Most salaries range from $62,500 to $97,000.

Many factors influence salary, including:

  1. Geographic location
  2. Certifications
  3. Work experience
  4. Skill set
  5. Company size
  6. Industry
  7. Negotiation skills

You may also increase your earning potential by using your data analytics skills to pursue roles with similar responsibilities and skill requirements. For instance, ZipRecruiter reports that the average Business Analyst salary is $99,000.

In addition, you could qualify for more specialized — and often lucrative — roles as you gain experience and expand your skills. Some Data Analysts develop advanced knowledge of database management systems and become Data Engineers. ZipRecruiter reports that these professionals earn an average salary of $130,000. You could also transition into a role as a Business Intelligence Developer, which pays $112,000 on average.

Future-proof your career with in-demand skills

Unlock a career in data with a Multiverse apprenticeship. Our 12-month Advanced Analytics program teaches you to create data-driven solutions to business problems. Our rigorous curriculum includes predictive analytics, machine learning, and other fundamental concepts.

You’ll also gain hands-on experience by completing a paid apprenticeship with a top company. This experiential learning allows you to build your professional network and practice applying your skills in the workforce.

Complete our quick apprenticeship application(opens new window) to get started. Our team will get in touch to help you land a role.

Team Multiverse

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