What does a Data Analyst do?

Data analysts handle a wide range of tasks involving the collection, organization, and interpretation of statistical data. The nature of the job varies slightly depending on the industry, as an analyst working for a hospital must focus on different things than someone working for a department store or a supermarket chain. People with this job, in any capacity, look for ways to assign numerical values to various business functions and are in charge of identifying efficiencies, problem areas, and potential improvements.

Information Gathering

Collecting, sorting, and studying various sets of data is one of the most important tasks for any data analyst. This can take many forms in different situations, but it is usually associated with assigning a fixed value to a process or function so that it can be evaluated and compared over time. For example, a grocery store may want an analyst to collect all of the hours that certain employees work, as well as profit margins for specific days, weeks, or even hours; an Internet company may want to see hard numbers on where customers come from, how much they spend on purchases, and whether deals like free shipping have any impact on overall profits.

People can use a variety of strategies to compile data, but there are usually three universal goals. The data must be regulated, normalized, and calibrated to the point where it can be taken out of context, used alone, or combined with other figures without losing its integrity. To get their numbers down, analysts typically use computer systems and complex calculation applications, but there is still a lot of intellectual know-how involved in making these systems work.

Interpretation and Extrapolation

After the data has been gathered, analysts are usually in charge of drawing some conclusions about what it means and training business executives on how to use it. Obtaining hard figures on sales figures for a given holiday season, for example, is useful in and of itself, but it is usually most useful when compared to figures from previous years or other seasons. These experts may also be called upon to assist business owners and leaders in deciphering what numerical differences mean when compared year to year or across departments. They are usually qualified to not only assign statistical values to things, but also to explain what those values mean.

Advisory Responsibilities and Projections

Analysts are sometimes tasked with actually advising project managers and leaders on how to change or improve certain data points over time. They are frequently the ones who have the best understanding of why the numbers are what they are, making them a valuable resource when considering changes. For example, a health clinic that wants to reduce patient wait times might hire an analyst to identify the main causes of delays, just as an advertising agency might use statistical data from previous campaigns to design and plan future slogans.

Tasks in Research and Writing

Writing and research are frequently combined with advisory responsibilities. Most analysts are comfortable writing summaries to go along with graphs and charts, but the job often requires additional writing tasks, such as drafting company memos, press releases, and formal reports. Analysts frequently work with database programmers and administrators to develop system modification recommendations as well as in-house instruction and training materials.

Troubleshooting and system expertise

The majority of the work analysts do is done with the assistance of computers and digitized statistical software programs, which necessitates a certain level of technical knowledge. The ability to adapt to changing technology and keep updates current and useful across multiple platforms is the first and most important part of the job, but it also requires program troubleshooting and system security measures, as well as the ability to adapt to changing technology and keep updates current and useful across multiple platforms.

Workplace Environments

Data analysis is required in almost every industry imaginable, at some level. Nonetheless, the fields of sales, marketing, and healthcare tend to have the most jobs available at any given time for these professionals. Most professionals work in groups to complete projects or solve problems as they arise. Much of the work is done on computers, and much of it can be done from home or a remote office, though this varies depending on the type of data being collected. Professionals can expect to work standard hours, though important projects or impending deadlines may necessitate overtime or weekend work.

Training is required.

For this type of work, a university education is almost always required. Most employers require data analysts to have a bachelor’s degree, preferably in statistics, computer science, or business administration, though other coursework may be acceptable if the candidate has significant experience working in a related field. Many of the highest-paid and most successful analysts have master’s or doctoral degrees, indicating greater expertise and, in most cases, higher pay.