Career Spotlight: Data Specialist

Data flows endlessly in this complex digital age, weaving through our personal and professional lives in a river of binary code. In this era of information abundance, data has linked our world, shaping industries, influencing decisions, and guiding us into the future. Amid the bits and bytes is the data specialist, who digests and interprets data so that organizations worldwide can benefit from its possibilities.

What Is a Data Specialist?

A data specialist’s primary role is interpreting large amounts of intricate data into digestible pieces and presenting their findings clearly and concisely. They use various tools—including data mining, data modeling, and machine learning—to collect and analyze information to visualize, interpret, and report findings. Their main goal is to help an organization make informed decisions about its business model.

What Does a Data Specialist Do?

A data specialist performs various tasks for managing, analyzing, interpreting, and visualizing data. Their work is important in supporting organizational objectives across various industries and domains. Some common tasks include:

  • Designing and implementing data systems and management tools
  • Installing, updating, and managing databases
  • Monitoring, evaluating, and resolving programming problems
  • Writing and debugging code to support data processing and analysis
  • Interpreting data and translating it into usable applications
  • Ensuring data security and regulation compliance
  • Assessing databases for weaknesses
  • Upgrading systems or proposing new designs
  • Performing data entry
  • Keeping up to date with industry upgrades and improvements
  • Supporting application design by collaborating with technical teams
  • Providing technical support to employees

Data Specialists vs. Data Scientists vs. Data Analysts

A data specialist is one of many professionals who work with data. Data scientists and analysts also play a role in interpreting and organizing digital information. Although their roles can often overlap, their work predominantly varies. Here are the key differences between a data specialist, a data scientist, and a data analyst:

Data Specialist

A data specialist uses data analysis to interpret data. Their responsibilities vary depending on their specialization, such as data engineering or database management. They focus on identifying and solving issues with complete accuracy. They use languages and tools like Python, SAS, and SQL to carry out their jobs.

Científico de datos

A data scientist uses data to uncover patterns, trends, and correlations that can be used to create predictive models and optimize processes. They focus on selecting appropriate models and algorithms, designing experiments, and interpreting results. Their backgrounds usually lie in statistics, mathematics, and computer science, and they use programming languages like Python, SQL, and R.

Analista de datos

A data analyst collects, processes, and analyzes data that can help inform business decisions. They clean and organize data, create reports and dashboards, and communicate findings to stakeholders. They possess strong skills in data manipulation, statistical analysis, and data visualization, and they use software like Excel, Jupyter Notebook, and Tableau.

Career Progression for Data Specialists

Many technical roads can lead you to a career as a data specialist. Likewise, your road after becoming a data specialist is paved with many higher career opportunities. Data assistants and ETL developers lead to jobs like data process specialist, SQL administrator, and data management specialist. You can land a job as a data specialist after working in these roles for a few years. After cementing your place as a seasoned data specialist, you can move into roles as a systems analyst, data administrator, or assistant manager and eventually work your way into management-level positions as a business owner or project manager.

How Much Does a Data Specialist Make

According to Zippia, data specialist salaries range between $40,000 and $116,0000 per year, though the average annual salary is $68,326. This breaks down to an hourly rate of $32.85. This is the salary of someone midcareer; data specialist salaries depend on education, experience, and location.

Perspectivas de carrera

Zippia reports that data specialist positions are in high demand. The projected growth rate of this job is 9% from 2018-2028, with about 10,500 jobs expected to emerge over the next decade. Data specialist salaries have increased 14% over the past half-decade, which is a good incentive for those looking to enter this field.

How to Become a Data Specialist

To become a data specialist, you must possess the appropriate education, skills, and experience. This includes obtaining a bachelor’s degree in computer sciences, statistics, math, economics, or a relevant field and pursuing specialized training in programming languages like R and Python through certifications or extra courses.
You may also benefit from obtaining a master’s or other advanced analytics or computer science degree, though employers do not usually require this. It would help if you also considered gaining real-life practice through internships and entry-level positions so you can apply your skills and knowledge and gain practical experience.

Skills You Need for a Career as a Data Specialist

Just as you need the right education to become a data specialist, you must also possess the right skills to succeed. Being an effective communicator and problem solver are top skills employers list when seeking potential candidates, but other key skills you should have in your repertoire include the following:

  • Data analysis. Data specialists need to be able to use data analysis to identify data patterns, enhance process flow, and perform audits. They should also be adept at identifying customer behavior, developing organizational strategy, and providing decision support for an organization.
  • Data entry. This position requires a person to be skilled in using data entry to input and manage data, organize and manage information, create reports, ensure data accuracy, and monitor data for errors.
  • Data management. Data specialists must be well versed in gathering, organizing, and maintaining data from various sources to use it in multiple projects and processes and consult with stakeholders.
  • Data visualization. You’ll need this skill to present data to stakeholders and clients in clear and concise formats. Data specialists should be able to easily use software like Tableau and R to produce interactive data visuals.
  • Project management. Planning, organizing, and overseeing project completion can also be a substantial part of the job. Data specialists should be able to use time management and various policies and recommendations to ensure that a project is completed successfully, on time, and within budget.

Degree Requirements to Be a Data Specialist

You’ll likely need a bachelor’s degree in computer science , statistics, or a related field to pursue a career as a data specialist. You may choose to start, though, by first working toward an associate degree with a focus in computers and/or technology, which can provide you with a broad professional and technical foundation in the various functional components you’ll need as a data specialist.

Pursuing a degree incrementally, especially online or in an asynchronous format, may be a more attractive option for adults already in the workforce who may not be able to commit to a traditional four-year bachelor’s degree path. Whether you start with your associate or opt to pursue a bachelor’s from the get-go, the goal is to earn a Bachelor of Science in a relevant field, such as a BS in Information Technology.

Data Specialist Certifications

Though not required by employers, pursuing further certification to enhance your skills and knowledge can further your growth as a data specialist. Certifications are optional for entry-level employment, but they can help you stand out if you’re looking to progress in your career. The CompTIA IT Fundamentals certification is a beneficial program for professionals in various industries requiring an extensive understanding of IT.

Data-related fields are growing rapidly, and as they do so, more professionals will be needed to keep up with the complex collection of evolving digital information. Data specialists are critical in making sense of the modern world and helping others see the clear picture that can form in that mighty river of ones and zeros.