How to become a business data analyst

Saint Vincent students in data analytics lab learning business data analytics skills

What does a career in business data analytics look like? The truth is, there is not one size fits all. But, the skills that business data analysts develop can lead to a fulfilling and impactful career.

Data analysts both gather and interpret data to help companies make important business decisions.  This requires people who simultaneously understand complex statistics and have the business acumen to utilize this data in a way that helps the company. 

Business Data Analyst Career Growth

Because it’s such a relatively new and growing field, where to start and how to become a business data analyst isn’t a path set in stone. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects growth for similar careers – Operations Research Analyst (25%), Market Research Analysts (22%), and Management Analysts (22%) – at significantly faster than the national average for all careers (8%). With no short supply of jobs available, the question becomes what skills to develop for success in securing one. 

Skills for Business Data Analytics

Building the necessary skills means developing an understanding of statistics and data languages as well as programming and software skills used in these areas, plus a strong development of business and communication skills. A bachelor’s degree in business data analytics at Saint Vincent contains courses in finance, management, marketing, and organizational behavior and other business classes, as well as mathematics, programming, and data science courses, such as Calculus, Introduction to Python (a programming language used in data science fields), Methods of Data Science and Analytics, Data Mining, among many others.

Data Skills

Building your data skills can happen through a combination of coursework and practical experience using real data sets. Coursera recommends playing with real data that’s already out there, such as climate data from the National Centers for Environmental Information or get out of this atmosphere with NASA open data. Projects in your data classes will help you perform analyses of data sets like these, as well as real-world business data applications, such as marketing, sales, or financial forecast data.

Programming Skills

Programs like Python are crucial to know and understand. According to a data science instructor with General Assembly, nearly 75% of data scientist jobs required that the applicant know Python. Another common programming language is R, which appeared in 55% of data scientist job postings in the same experiment. Looking through the required skills for the many job openings for careers in business data analytics will help determine other common skillsets to pursue. 

Business and Communication Skills

In addition to programming and data skills, understanding business-centered issues and solutions is crucial to a successful career as a business data analyst. At the top of career website Indeed’s most relevant, useful skills for business data analysts include person-centered skills, such as collaboration, writing, critical thinking, public speaking, and communication skills. “Data analysts must communicate with a variety of stakeholders during the course of their work, including other data analysts, IT representatives and colleagues not directly related to data or technology.” Thus, understanding the language of both data experts and business individuals who do not understand the language of data, and being able to communicate effectively with both will help a business data analyst stand out. Data analytics often involves various experts coming together, so being able to cross different areas of expertise and understand the complex issues each one faces can make a huge difference. 

Business data analysts might help the WNBA find its next franchise location or figure out how to build sustainability amidst current supply chain struggles and their solutions. It’s important to take the time to think about the broad range of business areas out there – whether you’re interested in the business of sports and entertainment, in consumer goods, real estate, healthcare, technology, and so much more. Whether you want to help start-ups make their first decisions or help century-old companies become more competitive in the 21st century. Within various businesses, you might want to specialize in marketing analytics, sales, human resources, finance, or something else. Focusing on these can help you build your skillsets and sharpen your focus. Internships always serve as great opportunities to try different fields and areas of business data analytics to not only make important connections and learn a lot, but to also decide which areas in the field are right for you.

Becoming a business data analyst requires flexibility and creativity in understanding that there is no one specific job title in an excitingly ever-evolving industry. One data engineering manager for a freight brokerage put it well: there aren’t clear boundaries across data-related roles in our industry. Thus, the more you dive into understanding both the business roles and the technological ones, the better equipped you will be to take on any business data analytics challenge.