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First things first: what IS data analysis?

In short, data analysis involves sorting through massive amounts of unstructured information and deriving key insights from it. These insights are enormously valuable for decision-making at companies of all sizes.

A quick note here: data analysis and data science are not the same. Although they belong to the same family, data science is typically more advanced (a lot more programming, creating new algorithms, building predictive models, etc.).

Here’s an overview of how data analysis is done:

  • Define the question or goal behind the analysis: what are you trying to discover?
  • Collect the right data to help answer this question.
  • Perform data cleaning/data wrangling to improve data quality and prepare it for analysis and interpretation–getting data into the right format, getting rid of unnecessary data, correcting spelling mistakes, etc.
  • Manipulate data using Excel or Google Sheets. This may include plotting the data out, creating pivot tables, and so on.
  • Analyze and interpret the data using statistical tools (i.e. finding correlations, trends, outliers, etc.).
  • Present this data in meaningful ways: graphs, visualizations, charts, tables, etc. Data analysts may report their findings to project managers, department heads, and senior-level business executives to help them make decisions and spot patterns and trends.

The great thing about data analysis is that it’s more of an entry-level role, meaning you can jump right in with basic knowledge after you sharpen a few key skills. (Of course, it certainly won’t hurt if you already have experience with coding, math, or statistics!)

Becoming a data analyst can also open the door to lucrative careers like data science and data engineering (just to name a few) as you gain more experience on the job.


To see why data analysis is a great career field to get into, it seems only right that we look at the data!

  • Job growth: The anticipated job growth for market research analysts (another term for data analysts) between 2014-2024 is 19%, based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s a significant amount of new positions being created.
  • Demand: According to Digital Learning Academy, creators of Introduction to Data Analysis and Statistics Using SQL, “There is a demand for people who can use data to perform reporting and analysis, thus helping businesses and organizations make important and critical decisions.”
  • Salary: Data analysts are paid well even if they don’t continue on to data science or engineering! How much do data analysts make? According to Payscale, entry-level data analysts will receive an annual salary between $40,000 – $77,000 (average of $56,000). Senior data analysts can bump that up as high as $109,000.
  • Competitive advantage: According to Ian Littlejohn, instructor of Complete Introduction to Business Data Analysis, “The ability to ask questions of your data is a powerful competitive advantage, resulting in new income streams, better decision making and improved productivity.”
  • Universal need: According to Symon He and Travis Chow, instructors of Intro to Data Analysis using EXCEL for Beginners, “Every business generates data. But [its value] depends on your ability to process, manipulate, and ultimately translate that data into useful insights.”


One really cool thing about gaining data analysis skills is that they don’t lock you into a single career. Sure, you could become a data analyst and stay there for decades if you love it–but there’s also freedom to pivot in other directions if you choose.

Businesses in nearly every industry use data to power decisions, gain a competitive advantage, boost sales, win new customers, improve internal operations, maximize profits, etc. This makes data analysis skills useful in many roles.

Here are some of the top jobs that involve data analysis.


First of all, let’s look a little more at actual data analyst roles.

What is a data analysis role? Data analysts retrieve and gather large volumes of data, organize it, and turn it into insights businesses can use to make better decisions and reach conclusions (they create charts, visual presentations, etc.). In short: they take worthless data and produce meaningful, actionable results.

For example, a data analyst might take an overwhelming amount of information collected from thousands of customer surveys (or look at past customer purchases, etc.), clean it up, and produce reports and visual representations of the data to pinpoint ways to improve the company’s product/increase revenues (whether it’s an app, luxury car manufacturer, supermarket, etc.)

Quick facts about data analysis as a career:

  • You can work in a wide variety of industries like healthcare, finance, marketing, fast food, retail IT, etc. Whatever you’re interested in!
  • Average salary: $65,470
  • Demand has exploded for data analysts because we’re creating more and more new data every day. For example, Google processes 40,000+ search queries every second on average (3.5M searches each day, 1.2 trillion searches per year). And this continues to climb!
  • Data Analyst ranked #38 in Glassdoor’s 50 Best Jobs in America, 2018


What do business analysts do? They identify meaningful patterns in data to drive business decisions, working closely with business VPs and senior managers. Their duties may involve predictions, optimizations, risk management, and so forth.

Quick facts about business analysis as a career:

A business analyst is mostly concerned with the day-to-day operations of a business and how to fine-tune business processes
Great if you’re interested in/have a background in business or finance
Less science/math based than the traditional data analyst role
Average salary: $70,170


What do product managers do? Product managers own and guide the success of products from conception to launch. Each stage requires data analytics! You must analyze the market for trends and problems to solve, leverage data to determine how to improve features, and figure out how to make the product even better in subsequent versions.

Quick facts about product management as a career:

  • All businesses have products (services count!). This opens up a ton of possibilities as far as what industry or type of company you can work in
  • Great for those coming from a customer-facing background as you can better understand users
  • Average salary: $108,978


What do digital marketers do? Digital marketers must understand consumer habits/motivations, detect changing trends, and track performance in order to improve ads, social media campaigns, and SEO strategies.

Quick facts about digital marketing as a career:

  • Successful digital marketers must rely on data! Whether it’s identifying user demographics, measuring clicks and conversions to determine campaign success, or sifting through historical data to choose high-performing strategies, data is important
  • Great hybrid role for someone coming from a content creation, advertising, or traditional marketing background
  • Average salary: $67,230

What do quantitative analysts do? Quantitative analysts (“quants”) are data analysis professionals who work in the financial industry, leveraging data and data models to manage risk, predict changes in the valuation of stock and bonds, and make data-driven investment decisions.

Quick facts about quantitative analysis as a career:

  • Great if you love math!
  • Perfect role for someone who can’t decide between tech and finance
  • Usually requires a master’s degree in a related field
  • Average salary: $94,051

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