I’m often asked what skills an analyst needs if they are interested in starting a career in analytics. While that answer will vary based on the specific application or industry of interest, there are some general skills that apply to pretty much everyone.

These aren’t in priority order – because they are ALL important. I list them here numerically, but these labels could have just as easily been colors, shapes or other non-ordinal variable.

First – Statistics. You have to have the chops to do the job, and most analytics positions require a decent understanding of statistical concepts and statistical tools.

The statistical tools required vary from role to role, but understanding the basics of measurement, measures of central tendency, tests of significance, and an understanding of correlation and regression are all basics to get started. Also, beyond knowing how to run the tests, you should also understand what the test answers mean. For instance, if p=.04, what does that mean when you say the result is significant?

Second – Coding, most analysts these days (I’m writing this in 2021) are required to do some coding. Your programming experience doesn’t have to be in the language that you will be using on the job, although that certainly helps. For instance, I’ve seen analysts who are very successful in R, who started off in Python. My recommendation is to dive into any opportunity to practice your coding.

If possible though, I recommend building your skills in R. This language is in demand, and is very transferable. Also, whatever level of programming skill you have when you start a job, you should expect that skill to double or triple during your first couple of years on the job.

Third – Writing. Few analysts like to write about their findings, and that is a problem. I’ve seen analysts who’ll spend a week massaging their data to create a P value, only to sound like a third-grader when they go to report their findings. Don’t be that person!

Technical writing is different from creative writing. However, the skills required to develop a theme, deliver a consistent and clear message, and present those findings in an honest and non leading way, are critical.

My advice is to embrace any opportunity you have to improve your writing, grammar, vocabulary, or punctuation.

Here are a couple of bonus items I’ll throw in beyond the above three:

Bonus 1 – knowing what industry you are interested in. In my company, most of our work is related to strategy, so we touch a lot of industries. That appeals to many people, but not everyone. A lot of people prefer to specialize in a single interest.

So, if you are interested in healthcare, manufacturing, sports, education, or other area there are benefits to finding a company that also focuses on that industry.

Similarly, if you have knowledge or experience about this industry, be sure to bring that out in an interview. This knowledge can come from personal work you’ve done, internships, or other experiences. Any way you can show additional experience in your industry of interest is a bonus.

Bonus 2 – natural inquisitiveness. This is a profession where we spend most of our time trying to answer questions, test theories, solve problems, etc. I’ve seen some people who just like the math. In my experience, those people make decent but not great analysts. If you want to be very good in your role, you need to enjoy your work, it helps to be curious about life, or at least the main area of your profession.

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