The demand for skilled data specialists continues to grow. By 2025, the data market is estimated to be worth $229.4 billion. Data specialists are the life force behind any company that uses data. From global tech companies to pharmaceutical industries, data specialists contribute their expertise in practically every valuable sector.
A data specialist possesses and deploys the necessary skills to gather raw data and convert it into a more accessible and cohesive format for clients. Their tasks include designing databases to help clients access and use databases and data storage systems. They examine and ensure the authenticity of data, transform it into a more straightforward format, build data reports, and become the technical support system of the clients.
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A data specialist also tackles any dependencies of errors in the data alongside managing high-priority projects. A data specialist can either be a consultant or a full-time employee at government agencies, IT firms, and pharmaceutical industries. Attention to detail, enhanced listening skills, and efficient problem-solving skills can equip you to pursue and succeed in this career. Anyone passionate about data can become a data specialist (with or without a college degree). This career option is estimated to grow by 9% between 2018 and 2028.
What does the data specialist career trajectory look like? What is its education roadmap? Where do data specialist jobs stand on the financial front? What do data specialists do, and how exactly can you become one? From educational resources to job opportunities – read on to decode everything there is to know about becoming a data specialist.
Most mid-level and high-level data specialist jobs require individuals to have a certain experience. If you’re equipped with the right skills or certifications, there is a high possibility of landing an entry-level data job – with just a high school diploma – if you’re equipped with the right skills or certifications (more about that later).
What is a Data Specialist?
The role of a data specialist demands the knowledge of an extensive skillset. There is never an end to learning anything; especially in the case of data, learning or upgrading your skillset can be priceless for your career. Here’s a quick dive at some of the essential skills required in the field:
- Data analysis: Data analysis involves defining goals, gathering data, polishing raw data, analyzing it, and finally interpreting the results before it reaches the decision-makers.
- Procedures: They provide an organized roadmap for the team to perform their duties.
- Data entry: This involves adding data to the company’s system. In most cases, individuals performing the task must verify the authenticity of the entered data.
- Data management: It essentially involves collecting and securely storing the data.
- Data collection: This involves analyzing and collecting important information valuable for statistical analysis.
- Customer service: Customer service includes assisting the customer by answering questions, resolving issues, and offering good service.
- R: R is a statistical computing language that programmers use for data analysis.
- ETL: ETL stands for Extract, Transform, Load. It helps specialists move data from diverse sources into a single data warehouse.
- SAS: SAS or Statistical Analysis System helps specialists run complex queries and analytics associated with data analytics and predictive analytics.
- Database: A comprehensive collection of information and data, databases store large amounts of data alongside saving a lot of time.
Taking the conventional bachelor’s degree path comes with hefty financial requirements and a 4-year time commitment which may not be viable for many individuals. However, with a vast array of bootcamps and certifications on the horizon, anyone can kick start their career in a short span of time.
Data Specialist Degree
When considering the data specialist career path, it’s important to factor in the educational qualifications you may need.
A bachelor’s degree is the most common—56 percent of data specialists acquire it. The next most common degree is the associate degree with 20 percent, followed by the master’s degree with 9 percent. Careers in tech are constantly evolving to become more accessible than ever, and a data specialist career path is no different.
Many learners opt for online degrees to kickstart their data specialist careers. Universities like Pennsylvania State University, Boston University, Syracuse University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Southern Methodist University, and Villanova University— to name a few—offer some of the best online data analyst degrees.
Although many data specialists have a college degree, individuals can still have a successful career in this field with only a high school degree or GED. Experience in other jobs is another way to become a data specialist.
Many data specialists come with previous work experiences in roles such as administrative assistants, customer service representatives, cashiers, and more.
A great way of adding value to your current work experience is through online and offline certifications and bootcamps. By constantly upgrading your skills, you can expand your scope to become a data specialist without a degree.
Bootcamps and certifications, in this case, are a great pathway for your career to take off. Bootcamps can typically take between 12-20 weeks to cover a comprehensive course and come with three flexible options: in-person, online, and hybrid. Certifications in this field can boost your chances of winning the job. The hottest certifications for data specialists currently include:
- Certified Billing and Coding Specialist (CBCS)
- Certified Coding Specialist (CCS)
- Certified Management Accountant (CMA)
- Geographic Information Systems Professional (GISP)
- Certified Instrumentation Specialist (CIS)
- Microsoft Office Specialist: Expert (Office 365 and Office 2019)
- Microsoft Office Specialist Master Certification (MOS)
- Certified Information Technology Professional (CITP)
What Job Responsibilities Do Data Specialists Have?
The role of a data specialist comes down to helping clients/employers add value to their company. The common tools in a specialist’s arsenal include:
Data forms the pillars of just about any company. It can be incredibly vast and complex to understand. Data specialists use advanced software to pierce this complex data and transform it into an organized and legible structure. For the most part, companies carve out growth strategies based on their data. To ensure absolute accuracy with data, companies rely on skilled data specialists. On a regular day, you’ll find a data specialist applying their expertise for:
- Gathering data and making it more accessible and understandable.
- Analyzing the data using computer software.
- Keeping track of trends and patterns within the data.
- Creating insightful reports through data analysis
- Collaborating with other departments to review specific data
- Organizing and maintaining the databases
According to the employment site Glassdoor, a data specialist in the United States makes $62,588 annually with additional pay of about $17,144. The average annual pay, on the other hand, is $45,444. Other job titles related to data specialist (along with their salaries) include:
- Data entry specialist: a median annual salary of $52,396
- Data analyst: a median annual salary of $75,861
- Research data specialist: a median annual salary of $68,169
Salaries also vary based on the companies and your experience. They can range from $51,000 (or below) to $135,014 (or above). Tech companies are the biggest employers of data specialists. Another large job pool comes from the healthcare industry. Data specialists are also irreplaceable assets for the retail industry since they help companies track customer shopping data. Here are the top employers to explore in the data playground:
- McKinsey & Company Inc – $153,168
- Google – $135,014
- Meta – $127,575
- AT&T – $113,564
- Salesforce – $109,953
- Qwest – $109,305
Starting a new job as a data specialist doesn’t have to interfere with your personal or current work life. With the scope of work-from-home now booming in the tech industry, many companies are hiring individuals for remote work. A few of the best companies for remote data specialist jobs include:
- Stanley Black & Decker
- Southern California Edison
What the Future Looks Like For Data Specialists
The demand for skilled data specialists is at an all-time high. Acquiring a job as a data specialist can further open up many career doors for you. So, what’s next after you become a data specialist? Depending upon your experience, certifications, and overall progress, you can gradually march into new career paths like:
- Data analysts
- Data scientist
- Management (like analytics manager, director of analytics, or chief data officer)
- Data analyst consultant
With endless online, offline, part-time, and full-time options to pursue your passion for data – the sky is the limit for data specialists. While the career path looks enthralling, it demands dedication and consistency. With the endless resources and opportunities at your fingertips, the only question that matters at the moment is: Are you ready to get started?