The Top Reasons Career Growth is Confusing for Data Analysts

Hi, everyone! I’m kicking off a new series here on Medium on the obstacles data analysts at technology companies may encounter with career growth. The data analyst job role is newer than other job roles in tech. Many analysts in this industry are in entry- or mid-level roles. I wanted to think more about what obstacles the field as a whole will need to address as these analysts mature in their positions.

Here are the top reasons why data analyst career growth is confusing as I currently see it:

  1. It is a somewhat new job role
  2. There is no single definition or name for a data analyst
  3. Data analysis will happen even without data analyst teams
  4. Data analysts think data science skills and projects are needed for impact and promotion
  5. Certain data analyst skills may be needed for a particular project … but then not needed again for years
  6. The analytical complexity of mid-level analyst work resembles that of senior analysts
  7. Impact is limited by how data-driven stakeholders are
  8. There are currently few success stories of data analysts rising to company leadership

Each post in this series will discuss a different reason from the list above. To kick things off, let’s discuss how new this role actually is:

#1: It is a somewhat new job role

Unlike other quantitative or semi-quantitative fields like actuarial science, investment banking, or management consulting, the data analyst role has only existed for about a decade. As you can see in the chart above, the steady increase in “data analyst” queries began around 2011. (Other search terms like “product analyst” or “data scientist” have a similar trajectory on Google Trends).

How long will it take for people to consider the data analyst a mature, defined job role? A 2017 survey of data scientists by CrowdFlower showed that 88% of respondents were either happy or very happy for their job, up from 67% in 2015. If we assume this trend has continued and that data analyst job satisfaction correlates with data scientists’, data analysts may already have a high level of job satisfaction. This feels like a strong sign of a defined job role with a great day-to-day experience.

But what about where analysts see their career 3–5+ years down the road? I think the field still has some wrinkles that need to be ironed out.

For example, the industry still has many job titles for data analyst work. This also makes career planning confusing! The next post in this series will discuss this point.

Feel free to follow me here or on Twitter at @zach_i_thomas to get notified about the next post. Let me know what you think!

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