Data analyst jobs generally require candidates to possess proven abilities in mathematics, computer science and analysis. Data analysts are frequently required to handle vast amounts of data which enter or exit business intelligence systems or ‘data warehouses’.

The latter, which are also known as relational data management systems or RDMS, are data systems tailored to the needs of each individual organisation. They include systems such as the SQL (Structured Query Language) Server 2008, mySQL, Oracle 11i and Salesforce, as well as newer technologies such as Big Data analytics and Hadoop.

A competent data analyst must be familiar with all of them and be capable of using the information derived from them to help senior and executive-level personnel in an organisation to make informed decisions. 

Generally, university graduates with knowledge of statistical methods and data analysis software such as SPSS tend to be favoured by hirers. Familiarity with Excel, Gloucester, and Swindon is also desirable.

Candidates must be capable of intensive research and possess robust problem solving skills, along with a strong familiarity with data warehousing, data mining and data mapping.

In addition to analysing data accurately, data analysts must also be capable of presenting their findings clearly and accessibly in the form of reports and spoken communications with senior colleagues. Presentation skills are therefore key requirements for the role.

The data analyst job in detail: day to day activities

Data collection from literally hundreds of different sources forms a major part of a data analyst’s daily work. The analyst must then use his or her initiative to interpret the raw data and identify any patterns in it, interpretations which might be included in a presentation or report.

To begin analysing data, data analysts must be able to render it visible. Compiling Excel spreadsheets and using Visual Basic for Applications will constitute another routine part of the work, as will coding and re-coding data contained within various databases to identify patterns.

Writing clear reports for various members of a company at different levels of seniority is a core part of a data analyst’s routine work, in which the findings of the data analysis must be presented in an accessible and unambiguous way, often with the use of graphic features such as graphs. Taking part in meetings and presentations to convey the findings is also a regular feature of data analyst jobs.

Variations in the role

At entry level, junior data analyst jobs require candidates who can search for relevant data, generate enough material for analysis and prepare flowcharts and graphs for presentation to colleagues.

Senior data analysts will be expected to communicate and consult with clients directly and will be responsible for compiling and presenting final reports.

Data analysis project managers command the highest salaries and preside over the whole process of project organisation, selecting which methodologies to use, auditing all reports and ensuring that all client requirements are fulfilled.

Growth potential

Data analysts possess specialised skills which are increasingly in demand on an international basis. Prospects for career progression are usually excellent, with average incomes for junior to mid-level data analysts being in the region of £23,000 while senior analysts can command salaries well in excess of £57,000.