Most of us have a general idea of what data analytics can do for an organization or industry. Using tools available to you featuring current artificial intelligence technology or just manually digging into trends, common traits of subjects and historical events, data analysts (who also test hypotheses on the data) or data miners can provide a great service to the business intelligence or government service industry. Online behavior of consumers is what makes the headlines – both good and bad, but that is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the subject.

Areas of analytics that could affect anything from predicting insider threats to revealing why a DoD project failed to how to speed up logistics for the manufacturer or warfighter are constantly being explored for improvement of function. For you baseball fans, data analysts have figured out to almost incorporate anything in their algorithms such as where to position your team when a certain player bats (“the shift”) against a certain type of pitcher (“high velocity”) and recently, how a player performs in certain weather so as to decide whether you should trade for him, bench him in Chicago in April, or change his position in the batting order in July.

What Does it Take to get into the Data Analyst Field?

Figuring which data is relevant is the challenge for the analyst. Understanding the complexity of how to program the AI to capture all of that information and spitting it out in understandable form is the challenge for the scientist. So, what does it take to get into the field? As to the data analyst field, a consensus of job requirements observations are:

  • BA/BS Degree in Business Analytics, Computer Science, Math, Stats, Economics, or Social Science Research is often required. Some companies ignore the degree requirements in their job posting, opting for experience instead. Other groups aren’t picky about what type of four year degree, only that it is required.
  • Experience or understanding with SQL (database language), Python and Microsoft Products is preferred. Almost all had SQL listed.
  • Previous work experience (this varies greatly amongst hiring agencies)/
  • There does not seem to be a large demand for data analytics certifications, however, you could check on substituting some certifications in exchange for experience. Some of the options range from independent professional organization sponsored (Associate Certified Analytics Professional, aCAP) to proprietary (Dell, IBM, Microsoft, and Google) to specific certification companies (Cloudera). In addition, several universities offer certificate programs in Data Analytics – some even in specialized fields such as healthcare.

Data Analytics Jobs Are in Demand

Multiple government agencies, including those with three letters, are in need of data analysts, most certainly with security clearances. And a large number of these data analytics positions can be done remotely – depending on whose your employer, as well as team dynamics. And since the term data analyst gets confused a lot with systems analyst, data scientist, and business intelligence analyst, make sure you look at the job description before you apply for something that is not really, what you thought it was.

The field of data analytics can be a rewarding job for those curious minds who are interested in how business strategies are formed and the science behind them.  It is also a great field for those who have the ability to critically think through relevant and irrelevant problems sets using existing tools as your input mechanism.

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Joe Jabara, JD, is the Director, of the Hub, For Cyber Education and Awareness, Wichita State University. He also serves as an adjunct faculty at two other universities teaching Intelligence and Cyber Law. Prior to his current job, he served 30 years in the Air Force, Air Force Reserve, and Kansas Air National Guard. His last ten years were spent in command/leadership positions, the bulk of which were at the 184th Intelligence Wing as Vice Commander.