Data analysts are in extremely high demand right now. The pipeline of rich stores of data available to companies is more fruitful than ever, outpacing the rate of recruitment of quality data workers to analyze that data.

But, you may be asking, what does that recruitment actually look like? In other words, what are the trends in data hiring, and how do they affect you? What skills do you need to brush up on, beyond the basics, to catch the eye of recruiters?

Hiring trends in data and what the mean for you

Unlike web developer hiring trends, which differ markedly between tech legacy companies (like IBM or HP) and tech leaders (like Google or Facebook), data science is such a new field that there are no major job requirement differences in these two types of organizations. Across the board, companies are in dire need of smart, capable data-literate professionals with the skills to analyze the reams of data at hand and draw actionable insights to steer the company forward.

That said, depending primarily on size, some organizations may have greater need for data generalists (who can analyze data, as well as guide the organization), while others will be looking instead for data specialists (who have expert knowledge in a skill subset). The preference of the company in question will be clear both in the job posting and from conversations with the recruiter or hiring manager. Either way, having a solid foundation in the following skills will set you up for success as a job seeker in the realm of data.

What’s in Demand

A data analyst is typically an entry-level position on a company’s data team. The two main buckets of responsibility are:

  • Finding, retrieving, wrangling, and delivering insights from data collected from the company’s products or systems
  • Uncovering and reporting on meaningful insights from that data

Ultra-hireable data analysts are comfortable with a combo of analytical (mathematics, statistics, programming) and communication (presentation and data visualization) skills. In addition, recruiters are looking for data aces who can couple a systematic approach to problem solving with a high attention to detail, and who also possess the ability to apply those skills in the specific context of their company’s business.

Data insights are useless without the foundational knowledge of the business to which the data belongs.

That context could be anything, from real estate to health care, from finance to biotech. A seriously wide range of industries is hiring data professionals. Take a look at the top 20 industries hiring those with data expertise right now:

Chart via Forbes

What It Means for You

Let’s get specific. Armed with the knowledge of what data hiring managers are looking for right now, and what types of companies are hiring, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the particular qualifications typically called for (in order of importance):

  • Strong problem-solving, math, statistics, and quantitative reasoning skills
  • Experience writing software to extract and analyze data using a programming language like Python or R
  • Ability to analyze real data sets in order to solve practical problems and present the results
  • Outstanding communication skills, specifically the ability to present complex data, in the right business context, in a clear manner
  • Hands-on experience with Pandas, NumPy, SciPy, scikit-learn, or related data analysis tools
  • Ability to wrangle very large (i.e., too big to fit into one Excel spreadsheet), disparate, unstructured, and messy data sets
  • Knowledge of machine-learning and data-mining techniques
  • Experience building interactive visualizations with D3.js or other data tools

Here’s a glance, according to data from WANTED Analytics, at the top 10 most in-demand data skills:

Chart via Forbes

Lena Vayn, head of talent at Soldsie, summed up the major in-demand skill for data professionals as the ability to understand the company’s data and then translate that understanding so others can optimize their work: “Companies are looking for data analysts who will be able to build internal tools that can surface critical data across the company, making it digestible and consumable for everyone else needing that data.”

Got all that? If you’re overwhelmed, just take a minute to consider the big picture. The requirements to get hired as a data analyst are a tall order, but the rewards are huge. Think: serious job security, a cushy salary, and plenty of growth opportunities.

What’s Next

Speaking of growth, hiring in the data industry shows no signs of slowing down. Between 2010 and 2020, data scientist hiring is projected to increase by 18.7%, according to VentureBeat.

In terms of how to situate yourself for continued success in the job landscape as the industry evolves, concentrate on developing a “business brain” in addition to those hard data skills. Data insights are useless without the foundational knowledge of the business to which the data belongs. As you gain experience in any given field in which you’re putting your data skills to the test, be it finance or manufacturing or retail, keep your eyes and ears open to absorb as much institutional knowledge as possible.

Moreover, as Peter Sondergaard, global head of research at Gartner, said in a statement, the most valued data analysts of tomorrow will be able not only to derive insights from existing data sets, but also to tell the quantitative future: “Dark data is the data being collected, but going unused despite its value. Leading organizations of the future will be distinguished by the quality of their predictive algorithms. This is the CIO challenge, and opportunity.”

The Bottom Line

Depending on the size of the company to which you’re applying, it may be more strategic to be a generalist who can provide directional insights from the data, or it may be better to be a specialist who can dial in on just a handful of the qualifications listed above. Regardless, by immersing yourself in the full range of skills required in a stellar data analyst, you’ll be incredibly well-prepared for all the data analyst needs for the great majority of companies out there.