Are you the kind of person who enjoys solving puzzles or digging into a mystery? Do you also enjoy working with numbers and on computers? Do you think you would be able to explain the story of your discovery to others through charts and graphs? If this sounds like it’s something you are comfortable doing, then have you thought about becoming a data analyst?

Data analytics is the hot new topic in the 21st century. Everywhere data is being collected, for medicine, big business, politics and social media. Masses of data is drawn from various sources of information to drive different goals. It could be used to target certain people for advertising, or it could be used to ensure that enough people within a community have been vaccinated to create herd immunity. Of course, AI (artificial intelligence) can do some of the work, but skilled people are needed to make sense of the data for it to be used in the best, most targeted way possible. This is a critical skill in South Africa and there is no shortage of work in this field. It’s a well-paid career choice so, if you like the sound of it, this might just be the career you have been looking for!

What is a Data Analyst?
As a data analyst, you take raw data and try to make some sense out of it. You will have to understand what your organisation needs to know from the data and then analyse the data to see what you find out. Once you’ve made some sense of the data, you will need to be able to communicate that information to others in the team. This usually requires a visual format, such as graphs and charts, as this is the quickest way for others to understand the data.

Your work will include prediction. You’ll use your data to show what the future trends will be in a business, and you’ll predict how customers will behave. In other words, you’ll analyse the data, see what the current trends are, make sure the customers’ needs are met but also predict what they might want in the future. This isn’t guess-work, though. It’s based firmly on the analytics of the data. Because this job is so fundamental to the growth and development of an organisation, you will contribute towards the big decisions that are make in the field that you’re working in.

There are so many fields of work that you can choose to go into if you become a data analyst. You could work for government, in the banking field or areas as diverse as healthcare, IT, marketing or retail.

What do you need to study in order to become a data analyst?
Should you want to do an undergraduate degree in Data Science, you will need a Grade 12 NSC certificate with at least 60% for Maths and English. You can also become a data analyst after you’ve studied a degree in Maths, Finance, Physics, Economics or Computer Science. After that, you will do a one-year honours course to transition to a Data Analyst.

You can also become a data analysis if you move over from another similar area of expertise such as a software engineer, business intelligence engineer, or a statistician. You can also do short-courses, online courses and MOOCs (Massive Open Online Learning Courses) to become a data analyst. The entry requirements for each of these differ.

Where can you study to become a Data Analyst?
University of the Witwatersrand
University of Cape Town
University of Stellenbosch
University of Pretoria
University of the Western Cape
Explore Data Science Academy: ore

There are other institutions that offer short courses, but you need to make sure that they are either accredited by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) or are recognised in your field. There are some bursaries available in this field, most notably from Shoprite.

This is an exciting career opportunity. The scope of your opportunities as a data analyst is huge. As you continue in your career, you’ll need to keep fine-tuning your skills to keep up with the changing environment,t but you will also have the chance to have a significant impact on the field in which your work. As you become involved in more complicated modelling, you’ll influence business decisions based on the predications you’ve made from the data. As a data analysist you will be at the forefront of the new trends and you’ll certainly have a long future in this career.

If numbers are your thing, then this could be the career for you!


Tell us: What do you think of this career?