Senior Data Analyst Career Profile

Today, data scientists and data analysts are some of the most sought-after professionals around the globe. Organizations 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.

With data being such a central component to almost all business operations in the 21st century, organizations have gone beyond needing just a single data analyst or scientist on board. Now, they require entire departments dedicated to collecting, analyzing, processing and sharing data.

By combining relevant education and professional experience, you can pursue a senior-level leadership role on a data analysis team, with the increased responsibilities — and salary — that come along with it. Here, we’ll walk through what it takes to become a senior data analyst, like educational requirements and necessary experience. We’ll also dive into some salary information and get you set up with some resources to blaze your own trail toward leadership in the data analysis world.

What is a Senior Data Analyst?

Companies need dedicated senior-level data analysts to lead and direct their teams, make strategic decisions and effectively serve as project managers. In addition, senior data analysts also act as the data team’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 role in this. PayScale indicates 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 data analytics team. This means making all of those confusing numbers, percentages and other key performance indicators digestible for non data-minded individuals.

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.

While data analysts are integral across many industries, these are some of the most popular and in-demand fields for senior data analyst jobs right now:

  • Marketing
  • Finance
  • Entertainment
  • Health care

Businesswoman analyzing statistics on laptop screen.

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. As CIO noted, 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.

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 data visualizations or present 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: For example, larger organizations with many more projects running simultaneously will naturally call for more delegation.

Data analysts produce many types of data visualizations, ranging from static reports to real-time interactive dashboards, to offer the rest of the organization valuable insights. CIO explained that 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 and select the most impactful new projects to tackle.

Senior Data Analyst Salary
While virtually all data analytics professionals earn a good living, senior data analysts start to top out the scale in terms of salary. According to Glassdoor, the average base salary for senior data analysts is $83,341, coming in just below a data analyst manager at an average salary of $95,272. There is even more room for salary growth as a senior data analyst, though, with some top earners making over $114,000 per year.

In PayScale’s report on the highest-paying companies for senior data analyst positions, health care and finance stood out as promising industries. Working with the highly regulated data associated with banks and care providers is a demanding, but rewarding, subset of data analysis.

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 positions. Taking entry-level opportunities in the data analysis department at an organization 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.

Lead data scientist at Looker, Hillary Green-Howard, lead data scientist at the analytics software development firm Looker, 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. Green-Howard also 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. Gaining advanced degrees may allow professionals to increase their income potential and qualify for promotions.

What Graduate-Level Courses Prepare You for Work as a Senior Data Analyst?

When you’re building your educational background to prepare for a career in data analytics, turn to a program that offers relevant material.

The online Master of Science in Management Information Systems from the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Collat School of Business offers courses such as Database Management, Business Intelligence Strategy and IT Project Management. These classes can help you prepare to lead a data management and analysis team.

Further, the Business Analytics concentration allows you to dive deeper into these concepts, with advanced courses in data science, analytics, visualization and more — putting you in position to bring an expert perspective to any corporate analytics initiative.

The ability to analyze data has never been more consequential. Experts in data modeling are a valuable group of professionals, providing the direction companies need in their efforts to improve business decisions. You can build the necessary base skills by taking MS MIS courses on your own schedule, while working in the industry full-time.


Recommended Readings:

Master’s in information systems careers

What is a master’s in information systems salary?



PayScale – Average Senior Data Analyst Salary

Glassdoor – Senior Data Analyst Salaries

CIO – What is a data analyst? A key role for data-driven business decisions

Data Science Weekly – You Can Be A Data Analyst Without Doing Heavy Math