Should I Be a Data Analyst? A Comprehensive Guide to Help You Decide

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Written By Billy Chan

A UK-based senior data analyst with a journalism background. Passionate about teaching others how to become data analysts.

Hello, data aficionados! 🚀 “Should I be a data analyst?” – Sound familiar? Yep, I’ve been there. I’m Billy Chan, once a journalist with a flair for stories, but guess what? Numbers told tales too, and I was hooked! From journalism to jaw-dropping datasets, if I could ace it, so can you!

Contemplating the data-driven leap? Dive in as I simplify the what, why, and hows of becoming a data analyst. Let’s unravel the key considerations, and yes, sidestep those sneaky pitfalls on this transformative journey.

Should I Be a Data Analyst – But What is Data Analysis?

Ever wondered what we, data analysts, really do behind those screens? No, it’s not just brewing coffee and scratching our heads! Let’s break it down.

  • At its core, data analysis is all about diving deep into vast oceans of data to unearth golden trends and insights. Imagine being an explorer in the wild, but instead of forests and mountains, you’ve got datasets. Cool, right?
  • We’re like the modern-day wizards who predict the future. Using these datasets, we make educated predictions that help steer businesses in the right direction.
  • And our pièce de résistance? Creating captivating visual presentations that make even the most complex data digestible for everyone, from interns to CEOs.

Today’s world? It’s digital, it’s fast, and it’s data-driven. And guess who’s right at the center of it? Bingo! Data analysts. In this age where every click and every like holds value, the importance of data analysis is monumental. It’s the bridge between raw data and meaningful insights that fuel business strategies.

Traits of a Successful Data Analyst

Before we dive into whether the data analyst path beckons you, let’s first decipher what makes a data analyst truly shine.

  1. Attention to Detail: Remember misplacing a comma in a text and changing its entire meaning? In data analysis, one overlooked detail could mean misinterpreting significant results. For instance, a tiny decimal point error once caused a company to overestimate their revenue by a million dollars!

  2. Love for Patterns: Ever noticed how your pet cat always seems to nap in the sunniest spot at precisely 2 PM? Spotting such trends is what we do! As a data analyst, you might discern that website visits spike every Friday evening. Capitalizing on that could be a game-changer for marketing strategies.

  3. Problem-Solving Prowess: Consider this: your favorite puzzle game isn’t loading, so you tweak some settings here and there, and voila! Similarly, when a dataset isn’t making sense, you might adjust your approach, perhaps normalize the data differently, and suddenly the insights shine through.

  4. Research Inclination: Remember playing detective as a kid, hunting for your lost toy? In the same vein, digging deep into data, sometimes the gold nuggets aren’t on the surface. A prime example is to find out the correlation between weather patterns and sales – rainy days impact sales in physical stores but boost raincoat and umbrella purchases!

  5. Collaborative Spirit & Presentation Skills: Imagine being on a trip and persuading your group to visit a hidden gem of a cafe you discovered. In data, it’s about unveiling insights and conveying them compellingly to your team. My breakthrough moment? Convincing our high-level management with clear visuals that we needed to pivot our strategy based on newfound data insights.

Benefits of Becoming a Data Analyst

Before plunging into the analytical ocean, it’s wise to first survey the waters and check out the perks. So, let’s explore what’s in store for aspiring data analysts.

  1. Stepping Stones to Success: Clear Career Growth Opportunities
    Let me paint a picture: In the realm of data analysis, there’s a structured ladder awaiting your climb. While you might kick off as a fledgling data analyst, with dedication and expertise, you can swiftly rise up the ranks. It’s quite common to hear of analysts progressing to senior roles within a span of one or two years – yours truly included! I celebrated my upgrade from a data analyst to a senior in just a year. Plus, as an analyst, you’re not confined to the backdrop; you’ll often be influencing high-level decisions, ensuring you’re always in the spotlight.
  1. Show Me the Money: Competitive Salary Potential
    Dreaming of a plump paycheck? Let’s talk numbers. Stateside in the US, a data analyst can expect an average annual paycheck of $67,000. Over here in the UK, where I’ve set up camp, the average earning dances around £34,000 annually. Though it’s not all about the pennies and pounds, a cushy compensation surely makes the journey sweeter!

  2. A World of Choices: Diverse Industries Needing Data Analysts
    Whether you’re a fan of fashion, a tech geek, or have a soft spot for healthcare, the magic of data analysis is needed everywhere. Imagine tweaking a marketing strategy for a hip fashion brand or predicting the next big tech trend. The world, quite literally, becomes your playground.

  3. Eureka Moments: The Joy of Extracting Insights from Data
    Remember the thrill of finding Waldo in those crowded illustrations? Or how about the delight of solving a tricky riddle? That’s the joy data analysts experience regularly! Unveiling patterns, predicting trends, and solving business conundrums with data is both art and science. And trust me, the “Aha!” moments never get old.

Challenges in the Data Analyst Profession

Every profession has its share of hurdles, and data analysis is no exception.

  • The Constant Hustle of Upskilling:
    Think of this profession like a treadmill that’s always set on incline – it keeps you on your toes! The data realm evolves continually, and what was top-notch last year might just be ‘old news’ today. 

  • The Daunting World of Massive Datasets:
    Ever tried finding a needle in a haystack? Multiply that by a hundred! Handling colossal datasets can sometimes feel like you’re searching for that one golden needle in a haystack… of needles.

  • Accuracy: The Analyst’s True North:
    With great data comes great responsibility. The weight of ensuring accurate conclusions can be hefty. A minor oversight can cascade into monumental misinterpretations. No pressure, right?

  • Billy’s Personal Roadblocks (and Conquests!):
    Confession time! I, too, had my moments of doubt and struggle. During my early days, I grappled with imposter syndrome and faced the colossal task of sifting through unstructured data. My antidote? Continuous learning, and a sprinkle of perseverance. No joke, I spent over 300 hours honing my SQL, Python and Tableau skills in my first year as a data analyst.

  • Maths: The Unsung Hero of Data Analysis:
    If you thought you could bid adieu to numbers post-school, think again! Being cozy with math and boasting a robust statistical foundation isn’t just an asset; it’s a prerequisite as you work with big datasets.

  • Dancing with Data:
    Beyond the glamour of insights and ‘Eureka!’ moments, there’s the daily grind. This includes managing, reformatting, scrubbing clean, and analyzing mounds of data. Think of it as the backstage prep that makes the front-stage performance shine.

But remember, every challenge is just an opportunity in disguise. Sure, the path has its thorns, but the roses? Totally worth it.

Who Shouldn’t Become a Data Analyst?

Let’s shift gears for a moment. After painting quite the rosy picture about the world of data analytics, it’s only fair we chat about when this career path might not be your cup of tea. Pour yourself a mug of realism, and let’s dive in:

  • I’ve Seen Ads; Data Analysis is Easy!”:
    Ever stumbled upon those flashy course ads promising you’ll transform into a data wizard in just a few months? 🧙‍♂️ Hold your horses! As much as I champion learning and making career switches, know this: becoming a proficient data analyst isn’t a walk in the park. It’s more like a rewarding marathon, requiring dedication and oodles of hard work.

  • Number Phobia? Think Twice:
    If the sight of numbers sends shivers down your spine, you might want to reconsider. While you don’t need to be the next Pythagoras, an affection (or at least a tolerance) for numbers is crucial. After all, numbers are the bread and butter here.

  • Excel – A Love it or Loathe it Tool:
    Good ol’ Excel! It’s the data playground many of us started in. If fiddling with spreadsheets and Excel functions feels like watching paint dry, then, spoiler alert: data analysis might not be your jam. If you’re not vibing with Excel, the intricate world of data might also feel out of tune.

  • The “Grass is Greener” Syndrome:
    Seeking refuge in data analytics just to escape a mundane job? A word of caution: don’t view data analysis as merely an “easy way out.” Like any profession, it demands passion and commitment. Just hopping over the fence won’t guarantee greener pastures.

In essence, before diving into the deep waters of data, it’s crucial to test the temperature. Remember, every career has its allure, but it’s the passion and dedication that turn a job into a vocation.

The Path to Becoming a Data Analyst

Let me guide you through my own trajectory, which may offer some insights (and perhaps a dash of motivation) for your path.

  • Unconventional Backgrounds Can Open Doors:
    If someone had told my journalism-major self that I’d one day be dissecting data, I’d have chuckled over my notebook! Yet, here I stand as evidence that non-linear paths can lead to unexpected yet thrilling outcomes. My pivot point? The Google Data Analytics Professional Certificate. If you’re on the fence about it or wondering if it’s worth the investment, check out my comprehensive guide here. It’s the litmus test to ascertain if you’re cut out for the analytical world.

  • The Lifelong Learning Gig:
    Embracing the world of data meant committing to an ever-evolving educational journey. My hours? Well, they were generously spent on Coursera and LinkedIn Learning, sharpening my skills in SQL, Tableau, Python, Statistics, and product management, given my role in product analytics. The terrain of data is boundless and continuously shifting, ensuring that every day is a new learning adventure.

  • Building A Robust Portfolio:
    Mastering skills is one thing; showcasing them is another ball game. Initiate with personal projects, explore Kaggle challenges, or extend a helping hand to non-profits. Remember, experiences not only mould you but also sprinkle some zesty tales to share during casual chats (or those pivotal job interviews!).

  • Storytelling with Numbers:
    Channeling my inner journalist, this element truly resonated. Data isn’t merely about number crunching. It’s about crafting those digits into riveting tales, transforming cold hard stats into narratives that engage and inspire. In the end, what’s data if it doesn’t narrate a tale?

To delve even deeper into the world of data analytics and get a thorough understanding, I’d recommend checking out another one of my pieces: How to Become a Data Analyst? Trust me, it’s packed with gold!

Opportunities to Explore Before Making the Decision

  • Dabble with Online Courses:
    Remember my first waltz with data? It began online! Platforms like Coursera and LinkedIn Learning offer a buffet of courses. Test the waters, see if the rhythm of numbers and patterns gets your foot tapping. Sometimes, an intro course can offer a surprising amount of clarity.

  • Internal Company Placements & Mentorships:
    Ah, my golden ticket! Before I embraced the full-fledged role of a data analyst, I took a placement internally within my previous company. This stint offered insights without the daunting plunge into a new job environment. If you’re already employed, explore if your organization provides similar opportunities. Parallelly, seeking mentorship can also be enlightening. Conversations, shadowing, or even just observing can offer you a live sneak-peek into the life of a data analyst.

  • Internships & Part-time Engagements:
    The saying goes, “Experience is the best teacher,” and rightly so. Securing an internship or a part-time position can offer you a playground to apply learned concepts and witness real-world data scenarios. Plus, it adds a glimmering touch to your resume!

If you’re anything like me, these exploratory stages will not only provide clarity but also strengthen your decision, whichever direction it might lean. And hey, every step you take brings you closer to understanding if the world of data is your jam or not!


Alright, after diving deep into the vast sea of data analysis, let’s circle back to our starting point, the golden query: “Should I be a data analyst?” Feels like we’ve been on a mini-journey, right?

Reflection Time: 
Think about the landmarks we’ve passed – the required skills, challenges, paths, opportunities, and more. It’s essential not just to consider the technicalities but also to gauge your personal interest, resilience, and the flame of commitment. Want a little secret? Numbers don’t lie, but they absolutely love someone who’s genuinely curious about their story!

On a Personal Note: 
Every day, I wake up knowing that I’m about to unveil another layer of data mysteries. The satisfaction? Immense! The challenges? They only make the wins sweeter. For me, being a data analyst isn’t just a job title; it’s the bridge between seemingly complex numbers and impactful, real-world solutions.

So, as you stand at this crossroads, remember – choosing a career is like investing in stocks. You analyze, predict, take a risk, and hope for good returns. But most importantly, go where your passion leads. If numbers and patterns excite you, well, the world of data analysis eagerly awaits!

Quick Tip: If you’re craving more insights or perhaps a deeper dive, check out my comprehensive guide on becoming a data analyst. I promise, it’s like having a coffee chat with me, minus the coffee!

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