Companies are becoming more adept at analyzing large amounts of structured and unstructured data, using data analytics and business intelligence programs to gain a competitive advantage. Of course, as organizations have made these processes more common and central to their operations, they have gone beyond needing a single data analyst ― now they require entire departments dedicated to data analysis.
If you are interested in a data management and analysis career path, this expansion of departments has brought an exciting opportunity. By combining relevant education and professional experience, you can pursue a senior-level leadership role on a data analysis team, with the salary and responsibility increases that come along. But what does it take to become a senior data analyst?
What is a senior data analyst?
Companies building departments dedicated to data analytics and related tasks need reliable professionals to lead and direct those teams, making strategic decisions and serving as project managers. This is where senior data analysts come in, while also acting as the data science division’s connection to the rest of the company.
Turning large quantities of raw information into comprehensible reports is the crux of data analysis work, and senior data analysts take an especially active hand in this work. PayScale indicated that a senior data analyst must be able to accurately report the department’s findings in a way that will be understood outside of the analytics team.
A combination of strong technological knowledge and interpersonal skills will prove essential for an aspiring senior data analyst. The ability to provide direction and instruction to junior-level employees is separate from hard technical understanding of data warehouses, database systems, and analytics tools, but a great analysis leader will possess both kinds of knowledge.
What does a senior data analyst do day to day?
Day-to-day life in the data analysis department is based on undertaking projects to improve business decisions. CIO magazine indicated that being a data analyst is different from working as a data scientist. Data analysis is primarily concerned with using information in ways that will impact the organization’s current trajectory. Data science happens on a longer timeline, assisting in operations such as new project development.
Data analysts produce numerous data visualization types, from static reports to real-time dashboards, giving the rest of the organization valuable insights based on the latest data. CIO explained data analysts often have to find which opportunities exist for new and valuable analysis projects. Senior data analysts, as the leaders of the department, will naturally spearhead efforts to work with other teams and select the most impactful new projects to tackle.
On a given day, a senior data analyst may start a new project, lead the collection and cleansing of data, oversee the creation of reports and dashboards, or promote findings to upper management. The balance between hands-on data collection and analysis and mentorship of junior employees will differ based on the size of a company ― larger organizations with many more projects running simultaneously will naturally call for more delegation.
How much does a senior data analyst make?
The salary associated with a senior data analyst role reflects the time and expertise needed to reach such a position. Glassdoor places the average base salary for senior data analysts at $78,204. PayScale’s projection of median pay is similar but slightly higher at $80,320. PayScale added that the top 10% of senior data analysts make six figures, earning over $107,000 annually.
Relocating to a hotspot for technology companies may represent another way to boost your senior data analyst earning potential. PayScale named tech industry hub San Francisco as the most competitive location for senior data analyst pay, at 32% above the all-cities industry average. Seattle followed at 10% higher than the norm.
In PayScale’s report on the highest-paying companies for senior data analyst positions, the health care and financial sectors stood out as promising destinations. Working with the highly regulated data associated with banks and care providers is a demanding but rewarding subset of data analysis in such specific fields.
Senior data analyst positions are among the highest-paying roles in their field, outside of hard data science. Glassdoor noted that senior data analysts make more per year than research data scientists, digital analysts, senior analysts, and statisticians.
How do you become a senior data analyst?
Due to the leadership nature of a senior data analyst role, your path to this position will involve several years of experience in related jobs, proving you have the hard technical skills associated with modern analytics. Taking entry-level opportunities in the data analysis department and then adding to your knowledge through graduate-level degree programs is one way to combine a relevant work history with up-to-date insights on the state of data analysis.
Looker lead data scientist Hillary Green-Howard explained to CIO that the exact mix of skills needed to become a data analyst for the first time is eclectic. Statistical analysis is an essential prerequisite, as is proficiency with SQL. She stated the ideal analyst candidate will combine practical experience with training and an academic background in either a master’s degree program or an analysis bootcamp.
Indeed, a master’s degree may be a pivotal part of a data analyst resume if you’re planning to work your way up to a senior role. PayScale noted more companies are requiring master’s-level education for their senior data analysts. In a competitive job market, the difference between a bachelor’s and master’s degree can matter greatly in the eyes of hiring managers.
What graduate-level courses prepare you for work as a senior data analyst?
When you’re building your educational background and seeking a place on the senior data analyst career path, you can turn to a program such as the online Master of Science in Management Information Systems from the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Collat School of Business.
Courses such as Database Management, Business Intelligence Strategy, and IT Project Management can prepare you to lead a data management and analysis team. The Business Analytics concentration allows you to look deeper into these concepts, with advanced courses in data science, analytics, visualization and more positioning you to bring an expert perspective to any corporate analytics initiative. Students learn from faculty members with deep connections in IT operations, discovering the current state of data-driven decision-making in the corporate world.
The ability to analyze data has never been more consequential. Experts in data modeling and people management are a valuable group of professionals, providing the direction companies need in their efforts to improve business decisions. You can build the necessary base of skills by taking MSMIS courses on your own schedule while working in the industry full time. This is one way to begin a promising career path that may lead to a senior data analyst role.
To learn more about how to begin this process, visit the online MSMIS program page.