What Is Data Analytics? Key Concepts, Skills, and Careers

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Learn about data analytics, how it's used, common skills, and careers that implement analytical concepts.

[Featured image] Two coworkers sit at a desk and analyse data on a computer screen. On the wall behind them is a large screen presenting more data sequences.

Data analytics is data collection, transformation, and organisation to conclude, make predictions, and drive informed decision-making. 

Data analytics is often confused with data analysis. While these are related terms, they aren’t the same. Data analysis is a subcategory of data analytics that extracts meaning from data. Data analytics, as a whole,  includes processes beyond analysis, including data science (using data to theorise and forecast) and data engineering (building data systems).

How data analytics is used

Data is everywhere, and people use it daily, whether they realise it or not. Daily tasks such as measuring coffee beans to make your morning cup, checking the weather report before deciding what to wear, or tracking your steps throughout the day with a fitness tracker can all be forms of analysing and using data.

Data analytics is important across many industries, as many business leaders use data to make informed decisions. A sneaker manufacturer might look at sales data to determine which designs to continue and which to retire, or a healthcare administrator may look at inventory data to assess the medical supplies they should order. At Coursera, we may look at enrollment data to determine what courses to add to our offerings.

Organisations that use data to drive business strategies often find that they are more confident, proactive, and financially savvy.

Data analytics: Key concepts

There are four key types of data analytics: descriptive, diagnostic, predictive, and prescriptive.  These four types of data analytics can help an organisation make data-driven decisions. At a glance, each of them tells us the following: 

  • Descriptive analytics tell us what happened.

  • Diagnostic analytics tell us why something happened.

  • Predictive analytics tell us what will likely happen in the future.

  • Prescriptive analytics tell us how to act.

People who work with data analytics will typically explore each of these four areas using the data analysis process, which includes identifying the question, collecting raw data, cleaning data, analysing data, and interpreting the results.

Data analytics skills

Data analytics requires a wide range of skills to be performed effectively. According to search and enrollment data among Coursera’s community of 87 million global learners, these are the top in-demand data science skills as of December 2021:

  • Structured Query Language (SQL), a programming language commonly used for databases

  • Statistical programming languages, such as R and Python, commonly used to create advanced data analysis programs

  • Machine learning, a branch of artificial intelligence that involves using algorithms to spot data patterns

  • Probability and statistics to better analyse and interpret data trends

  • Data management, or the practices around collecting, organising, and storing data

  • Statistical visualisation, or the ability to use charts and graphs to tell a story with data

  • Econometrics, or the ability to use data trends to create mathematical models that forecast future trends based

While careers in data analytics require a certain amount of technical knowledge, approaching the above skills methodically—for example, by learning a little bit each day or learning from your mistakes—can help lead to mastery, and it’s never too late to get started. 

Data analytics careers

Typically, data analytics professionals make higher-than-average salaries and are in high demand within the labour market. According to Forbes India, the field of data analytics is complex and still evolving, resulting in fewer skilled professionals than are needed [1]. Data analysts earn ₹8,56,000/year with additional cash compensation averaging ₹1,56,000 [2]. According to the India Brand Equity Foundation, the Indian Data Analytics industry will be worth $118.7 billion by 2026 [3].

Entry-level careers in data analytics include roles such as:

  • Junior data analyst

  • Associate data analyst

  • Junior data scientist

As you gain more experience in the field, you may qualify for mid- to upper-level roles like:

  • Data analyst

  • Data scientist

  • Data architect

  • Data engineer

  • Business analyst

  • Marketing analyst

Click the links above to learn more about each career path, including what the roles entail, average salary, and job growth.

Continue learning.

Consider the Google Data Analytics Professional Certificate if you want to keep learning about data analytics. This series of eight courses is designed to get you job-ready for an entry-level position in data analytics in approximately six months. You’ll learn key skills like data cleaning and visualisation and get hands-on experience with common data analytics tools through video instruction and an applied learning project. 

Article sources


Forbes India. "Is Data Analytics a Good Career Option, https://www.forbesindia.com/article/brand-connect/is-data-analytics-a-good-career-option/60677/1." Accessed March 19, 2024.

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