How To Become a database analyst (ROLES, REQUIREMENTS, SALARY & faq)

database analyst interprets data at terminal

What is a data analyst?

At the root of all well-informed decisions is data. Database analysts play a critical role in gathering and understanding data to help create more efficient and ideal everyday experiences. Speaking broadly, database—or data—analysts get to use their curiosity and problem-solving skills to make sense of human behaviors, and can pinpoint trends and outliers  in real-time. 

In cybersecurity, data analysts are responsible for tracking everyday network activity and can spot any suspicious activity before it grows into a larger threat. They have the incredibly and increasingly important job of keeping sensitive information out of the wrong hands

What does a data analyst do?

A data analyst is responsible for gathering and making sense of data, and sharing their findings with the appropriate stakeholders. Data analysts are also responsible for maintaining data—meaning they are often tasked with setting up data collection methods and checking in on them at regular intervals.

Some of their tasks may include:

  • Maintain data storage
  • Gather, analyze and organize statistical data
  • Interpret information based on data in the database
  • Access database design
  • Make data useable for others
  • Automate information retrieval
  • Prepare data reports for business use

Data analysts work across a broad range of industries, including but not limited to: healthcare, finance, retail, manufacturing and even entertainment (think Netflix or Hulu).  

How to become a data analyst in five steps

Earn a 4-year degree.

data analystics student studying for degree

Most data analyst jobs require a traditional four-year degree. However, your degree doesn't necessarily have to be in a mathematical field. For example, if you earned a four-year degree in a humanities or social science discipline, you don't necessarily have to go back and earn another degree. 
If you do not yet have a bachelor's degree and are wanting to go into data analytics, the most relevant majors of study would be mathematics, statistics, computer science and data analytics. 

Hone your technical skills.

database analyst looks over data on two desktop monitors

To earn your first entry-level data analyst role, you'll need to ensure your technical skills are up to par. The skills you should focus on sharpening include but are not limited to: 

• Learning Python, R, and SQL
• Data visualization
• Data cleaning
• Statistical analysis 

Depending on your personal skill level in these areas, gaining comfort and familiarity with technical skills can take anywhere from a few months to a year. 

Get a certification (optional).

hands typing on laptop with data analysis on screen

Earning a certification is not required, but can be helpful—especially if your four-year degree was not in a math or science subject. A certification can demonstrate your proficiency in the technical skills mentioned in step two. 
A data analytics certification can take anywhere from three months to two years to earn, depending on the program and your personal pacing. 

Build a portfolio.

woman works on database analysis portfolio

Once you feel comfortable with the technical aspects of database analytics, you'll be ready to put together a portfolio. Companies and hiring managers want to see how you've applied your skills to real-world datasets so that they know you have the right capabilities for the role. 
Anyone can build a portfolio, even without on-the-job experience. One way to do so is to use public-facing data sets (government institutions are a great place to look, for example) to practice your visualization, coding and analysis skills.  
Similar to honing your skill set, building a portfolio can take as long as you need it to take in order for you to feel satisfied. This step could take anywhere from weeks to months. 

Apply for entry-level data analyst jobs.

team of database analysts present data to team members

The last step to becoming a data analyst is to apply for your first job. You can start applying for full-time roles or internships, depending on your personal circumstances. 
The length of the hiring process for a database analyst role can vary, but usually takes two months at minimum. The length of your job hunt will likely range from three to nine months, depending on your educational background, portfolio, interview skills and the current job market. 

Education and skills required to become a database analyst

There is no one specific type of degree you need to become a data analyst. If you're planning to attend a traditional four-year university, you can earn a bachelor's degree in data analytics or a related field, like computer science, mathematics, or information systems. 

You don't need to have a master's degree to become a data analyst, but employers may see this as a nice-to-have. For higher-level data analyst roles or for data scientist roles, however, a master's degree may be required. 

If you've already earned a bachelor's degree in a different field, or don't plan to attend a four-year program, you can attend a data analytics bootcamp or certification instead. These programs can be valuable because they:

  • Help you practice your hard and soft skill sets in a data analytics context
  • Give you projects to work on, which you can then use for your portfolio
  • Introduce you to mentors and help you build contacts with people in the industry

In addition to holding a degree and/or certification, a data analyst should, ideally, have the following technical skills

  • SQL
  • Data visualization tools
  • Statistical programming languages
  • Machine learning

Soft skills, such as critical thinking, attention to detail, problem-solving and being a clear communicator, are also important for succeeding in any data analyst role. 

Certifications for Data Analysts

Earning a data analyst certification is a great way to showcase your expertise to employers—even if you already have a degree in a related field. 

Some examples of popular data analyst certifications include:

Certified Analytics Professional (CAP): This is a trusted certification that involves taking and passing a 100-question multiple choice exam on fluency with data concepts.

Microsoft Certified Power BI: This certification will demonstrate your ability to write data expressions with Power BI, checking data quality and mitigate security risks. 

CDP Data Generalist: Cloudera offers a certification for their platform that involves passing a 40 question exam on machine learning, SQL, database development, dashboard building and more. 

There is no one best certification to earn. Some demonstrate general knowledge and expertise, while others show your proficiency with your specific tool. Earning a more general certification, like the CAP, is a great place to start. Once you have a better idea of the types of tools you'll be using on the job, pursuing more platform-specific certifications will help advance your career.  

Data analyst career paths and levels

As with many careers, there are different levels of data analysts (entry, mid-level and senior), each with their own set of responsibilities. 

Entry-level data analysts: "Do a lot of data hunting and cleaning. For example, a website might store 'events' in a database, and a low-level data analyst will need to come up with naming conventions to better organize this data," explains Andrea Popova, Product Growth Analyst at Meta.  Analysts at this level are responsible for building reports and dashboards.

Mid and Senior level data analysts: Depending on the company, these analysts may be responsible for the same things that entry-level analysts are, but those at this level are also expected to make recommendations for improvements based on data. They may also instruct entry-level analysts to build specific dashboards. 

In addition to different levels of analysts, there are also different types and specialties within the field, Here are a few examples. 

Business analyst:
Uses data to help businesses improve both their products and operations.
Financial analyst:
Uses data to help clients and businesses make better investments or other financial decisions. 
Marketing analyst:
Uses data to make adjustments and recommendations to a company's marketing strategy. 
AI analyst:
Works to automate data analysis processes. 

Database analyst salary

The demand for data analysts is quite high. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that this field is projected to grow 35.2% over the next decade—which is a much faster rate than most other careers

According to the BLS, the median salary for data analysts is $103,500 per year. You can take a look at the highest and lowest 10% of median annual salaries nationally and by state here:

Data Scientists

National data

Median Salary: $103,500

Projected job growth: 35.2%

10th Percentile: $58,510

25th Percentile: $77,140

75th Percentile: $136,600

90th Percentile: $174,790

Projected job growth: 35.2%

State data

State Median Salary Bottom 10% Top 10%
Alabama $85,870 $52,260 $138,450
Alaska $100,040 $62,130 $160,310
Arizona $102,770 $61,970 $157,390
California $126,810 $63,920 $230,780
Colorado $103,200 $62,140 $165,930
Connecticut $105,700 $52,310 $167,760
Delaware $132,300 $94,530 $170,450
District of Columbia $97,660 $58,130 $178,370
Florida $100,520 $52,900 $139,670
Georgia $100,400 $61,210 $160,110
Hawaii $112,330 $40,860 $158,170
Idaho $96,490 $62,830 $127,020
Illinois $103,730 $58,980 $167,760
Indiana $75,970 $45,650 $112,150
Iowa $94,860 $50,980 $134,040
Kansas $88,860 $81,140 $124,780
Kentucky $81,990 $52,890 $126,190
Louisiana $65,410 $52,010 $90,660
Maine $95,700 $64,140 $138,940
Maryland $117,730 $67,860 $166,940
Massachusetts $106,070 $71,220 $176,260
Michigan $85,470 $54,600 $131,480
Minnesota $106,920 $77,090 $157,390
Mississippi $56,950 $30,980 $106,040
Missouri $78,780 $47,150 $125,940
Montana $75,200 $50,230 $104,370
Nebraska $84,490 $57,680 $119,070
Nevada $82,110 $59,990 $173,580
New Hampshire $77,620 $49,490 $136,480
New Jersey $129,210 $74,920 $186,640
New Mexico $78,790 $43,040 $132,060
New York $124,030 $60,540 $207,710
North Carolina $121,970 $65,560 $172,770
North Dakota $91,050 $63,740 $133,190
Ohio $88,950 $48,380 $135,490
Oklahoma $79,720 $51,610 $143,000
Oregon $102,530 $60,100 $174,790
Pennsylvania $91,330 $51,530 $136,010
Rhode Island $109,240 $79,840 $168,290
South Carolina $99,370 $61,390 $145,000
South Dakota $108,310 $70,780 $138,300
Tennessee $94,690 $64,830 $167,390
Texas $99,350 $47,010 $164,210
Utah $81,250 $48,740 $134,700
Vermont N/A N/A N/A
Virginia $132,400 $73,910 $197,810
Washington $135,850 $66,300 $208,380
West Virginia $67,010 $57,540 $96,280
Wisconsin $95,410 $33,820 $131,120
Wyoming $139,970 $68,490 $150,510

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2022 median salary; projected job growth through 2032. Actual salaries vary depending on location, level of education, years of experience, work environment, and other factors. Salaries may differ even more for those who are self-employed or work part time.

The top-paying metropolitan areas for data analysts, according to the BLS, are:

Metro Area Median Annual Salary
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA $172,110
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA $140,560
Olympia-Tumwater, WA $137,750
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA $137,680
Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC $134,190
Trenton, NJ $131,660
New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA $130,070
Spokane-Spokane Valley, WA $128,450
Durham-Chapel Hill, NC $124,960
Asheville, NC $124,890

And cities/metro areas with the highest number of data analysts, which indicates the highest levels of potential employment, include:

Metropolitan Areas Employment
New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA 13,860
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA 8,890
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA 7,160
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV 6,720
Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI 5,100
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX 5,040
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA 4,940
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA 4,480
Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD 3,680
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA 3,610

Finally, you can compare median annual salaries to similar careers, according to the BLS:

Career Median Annual Salary
Actuaries $113,990
Computer and Information Research Scientists $136,620
Economists $113,940
Market Research Analysts and Marketing Specialists $68,230
Software Quality Assurance Analysts and Testers $99,620

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

How can I become a database analyst with no experience? 

You can become a data analyst with any degree or level of experience, so long as you have the skills necessary to succeed in the role. You can demonstrate that you have the right skills by earning a relevant degree, attending a  bootcamp or earning a data analytics certification. 
Build a professional portfolio website to demonstrate your past projects and market yourself. A portfolio is key to showing that you can do the work that's asked of you even if you haven't had a full-time job in the field yet. 

Do data analysts need to know how to code?

Data analysts should know how to code, but they don't need to code at an advanced level. Some of the most common programming languages used by data analysts are Python, R, and SQL. 

Will data analysis be replaced by AI?

AI will change the way data analysts currently do their jobs, but it is unlikely to completely replace them. While AI can generate data and analyze it to a certain degree, it cannot draw conclusions from data in the same way a human can. 

Can data analysts work from home?

Yes, data analysts can work from home, provided they have a working computer and stable Internet connection.

What is the difference between a data analyst and a data scientist?

A data scientist is considered to be a more advanced role than a data analyst. While it's true that data scientists may analyze data just as a data analyst would, they are also responsible for using their programming skills to come up with new ways of collecting, quantifying and predicting data.

What is the difference between a data analyst and a data engineer?

A data analyst looks for trends within a set of data, whereas a data engineer builds tools to help make data more accessible and understandable. 

What is the difference between a data analyst and a business analyst?

A business analyst is a type of data analyst. A business analyst uses data analysis to help businesses improve their products, services, and operations.

What are some common mistakes made by data analysts?

"Two common mistakes in data analytics stem from either being too flippant or too desiring of perfection," says Popova. "The same data can tell many different stories and most metrics can be very easily misinterpreted. It's up to the data analyst to make sure there is a fair degree of precision and over-communication to avoid this."
"On the other hand, data can sometimes be messy, incomplete or not statistically sound. You may have to deploy an 80/20 approach where 'done is better than perfect.' You can block yourself with the idea of perfection or you can move forward with a metric that will work for the task at hand."

Taking the first step

Data analysts are in demand and the field is growing despite AI. Data analytics is a challenging, insightful and fulfilling career path that rewards those who are curious and inquisitive. 

To become a data analyst, you can earn a four year degree in any field, so long as you can show that you can visualize and analyze large, complex sets of data. Kick off your career by using the Find Schools widget on this page to find trusted universities, colleges and bootcamps that offer data analytics programs

Published: July 25, 2023

emily polner

Written and reported by:

Emily Polner

Contributing Writer

andrea popova

With professional insights from:

Andrea Popova

Product Growth Analyst, Meta

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