(BPT) - Career opportunities in technology continue to expand exponentially: the computer and information technology field is expected to grow 12 percent, adding nearly half a million new jobs by 2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s Occupational Outlook Handbook. What’s more, the median wage for people in the field is nearly $50,000 higher than the median for all occupations.
If you’re considering a career in IT, but aren’t sure common jobs like coding or systems maintenance are for you, data analytics is a growth niche that may be worth a look, industry watchers say. In an industry that’s booming across all disciplines, anticipated demand for data analysts has inspired leading universities like Western Governors University (WGU) to offer new bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in the field.
What is data analytics?
You’ve probably heard the term “big data” — it’s the next big thing in IT. From social media and public records, to mobile phone apps that track spending habits, companies have more sources of consumer information than ever before. The sheer volume of information constitutes “big data,” and in the competitive business world, companies can gain an edge by using that information to better market their products to consumers.
Data analytics helps companies manage big data and analyze it, so they can better target different audiences, differentiate their messages and product offerings, calibrate their market, and formulate sales and financial strategies. Companies that don’t know how to analyze their data risk losing valuable time, money, market share, and customer loyalty.
Using a variety of tools, techniques and strategies, data analysts help companies interpret their big data and find value in the information they gather every day from myriad sources.
Opportunities in data analytics
Because big data has become so pervasive, virtually every company needs a data analyst, from retail stores to the service industry, heavy industry to finance. A professional with a data analyst degree might work on marketing strategy, marketing management, financial analysis, digital marketing, SEO management, customer experience management, marketing automation, web analytics management, capital and asset planning, property management, and human resources strategy and analysis.
Marketing in particular offers many opportunities for people with degrees in data analytics. Finance, and capital and equipment management have also historically been data-intensive.
Becoming a data analyst
If you already have an interest in information technology, a career in data analytics may be for you if you also:
* Enjoy problem-solving. Data analysis is like solving a complex puzzle you create yourself from the pieces provided by a number of different sources.
* Thrive on challenge.
* Excel at understanding both macro and micro patterns.
* Have good math skills. “Crunching numbers” is very much a part of the data analyst’s job, and strong math skills can help you better manage and understand the volumes of data you’ll deal with every day.
* Have strong communication skills. As a data analyst, you’ll need to be able to effectively explain complex concepts and data-derived insights in layman’s terms to executives with varying levels of technical knowledge.
To pursue a career in data analytics, you’ll also need a degree. The field is growing at such a rapid pace that WGU, a non-profit, online competency-based university with more than 77,000 students nationwide, recently launched bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in data analytics.
The bachelor’s program prepares students to establish, secure and maintain data environments, and teach them the skills needed to analyze the data to identify patterns, explain phenomena, and predict trends. The master’s program teaches experienced professionals more in-depth skills for data management and analysis, including data mining, manipulation, interpretation, programming and communication/visualization. Visit www.wgu.edu to learn more.