Despite an ever-increasing number of specializations within the Big Data space, there’s still an overwhelming need for traditional database analysts. Much of the current hiring is for junior and mid-range positions, so candidates can expect salaries anywhere from $50,000 to $70,000 for starters.
According to Janine Davis, principal at Fetch Recruiting, “Database analysts have to straddle both hemispheres of their brains.” If you’re currently seeking work in the field, you may want to exercise your brain’s left hemisphere by engaging in all things SQL, and expand your right hemisphere by illuminating your interpersonal communication connectors.
Critical thinking, math skills and a commitment to details constitute the basic skill set necessary for the technical end of the database-analyst field, but true success involves using all these skills in concert to collect, organize, analyze, interpret and then transform the data found inside of an organization.
Whether your analysis goal is simple (collect customer-credit ratings) or complex (chart trends over an extended period of time), you can generally take these three steps in order to extrapolate that data:
Query by SQL: Some form of SQL will likely serve as your main tool, suggests Rob Byron, a partner in WinterWyman’s IT search group: “You want to be somewhat of a SQL guru and be able to write certain queries.”
As a baseline, he added, database analysts must at least have the ability to write detailed specifications for the data they want, which an engineer can subsequently retrieve.
ETLs Manipulate the Information: Database analysts transform, mold and bend the data found inside of an organization into new information. As a result, another essential skill is the ability to easily move and manipulate data. Tools such as SQL server’s SSIS and Oracle’s Data Integrator (ODI), as well as SAP Data Services and SAS Data Management, can help you accomplish this.
Interpret and Report Data: Once you’ve queried and manipulated the data, you’ll need to deliver a report. Know your reporting tools. Byron thinks a lot of analysts can get away with using Excel as a data-dump; for those who want more advanced platforms, however, there’s Tableau, Spotfire, Crystal Reports, SQL Server Reporting Services, SAS and more.
Don’t Forget Soft Skills: “The right hemisphere [of the brain] provides the special sauce that takes the bits and bytes and turns it into actionable information to drive a business,” Davis said, adding that a great database analyst “needs to understand what makes a business tick, and in turn what data will contribute to the best ticking possible.”
Byron also noted that, if you look at job descriptions for database analysts, most mention a business-facing role, which means meeting with users “and understanding what their pain is.” That means a need for good verbal and written-communication skills. While speaking with non-technical people about data, it’s imperative that an analyst knows the audience, and translates any professional jargon into plain English.
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