Can a Data Analyst Become a Project Manager?


Both data analysts and project managers are responsible for studying the efficiency within an aspect of a company. Both of these positions also offer a decent salary, even for entry-level employees. But since they have different responsibilities and require distinct skillset, you might wonder whether a data analyst can become a project manager if he or she wants to.

A data analyst can become a project manager. A data analyst collects, analyzes, and interprets data, while a project manager ensures that projects get completed successfully. So, you would be transitioning from working with data sets to managing different teams and tasks.

It’s essential to clearly differentiate the roles and responsibilities of these posts to find out what suits you best. In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about data analyst and project manager positions, including the responsibilities it entails and the skills and qualifications needed for the job.

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The Role of a Data Analyst

A data analyst gathers and interprets data to turn it into meaningful information. As a data analyst, you’re supposed to analyze information and reach conclusions that provide ways to improve a business. Organizations in almost all industries can benefit from data analysts’ work, from retail stores to healthcare. 

Data analysts work with large amounts of information all the time. Here’s what a data analysis project involves step-by-step:

  1. A data analysis project starts by determining their clients’ needs. Do they want a dashboard? Do they require a report? Or do they want you to analyze a product?
  2. The next step is to create a plan of action. The data analyst determines where the information is coming from, where they’ll be putting it, etc. It can often be a data analyst’s job to communicate it to the team.
  3. Collecting the data is the next step. It can come from APIs, flat files, database backups, or various other data sources.
  4. The collected data is then cleaned to make it more usable. Data is always messy, so cleaning and organizing it is a crucial step.
  5. Finally, the data analyst creates reports and visualizations. These findings are supposed to solve the defined problem.

Responsibilities

The project overview discussed above reveals some of the duties of a data analyst. But the exact responsibilities depend on the industry or your data analytics specialty. Usually, though, the responsibilities of a data analyst include:

  • Working with management, IT teams, or data scientists to determine company goals
  • Mining data from primary and secondary sources and reorganizing it to be easily readable by a human or a machine
  • Analyzing and interpreting data sets using statistical tools and technique
  • Discovering trends or patterns and identifying opportunities for improvement
  • Preparing reports of their findings that effectively communicate the insights using relevant data
  • Communicating the steps of the data analysis process to stakeholders

Skills Required

Data analysts need to possess a combination of leadership and technical skills. Here are some of the things you should know to become a data analyst:

  • Knowledge of languages such as Python, SQL, R, and SAS
  • Advanced knowledge of spreadsheet tools like MS Excel or Google Sheets
  • Analytics skills to analyze and convert large data sets into insights
  • Strong communication skills to communicate their findings to the relevant members of the business
  • Mathematical skills to correctly process large amounts of numerical data

Qualifications

Most of the time, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree to land a job as a data analyst. Your degree should preferably be in computer science, statistics, mathematics, economics, or finance. Some senior positions may also require a master’s degree. It doesn’t happen as often, but I’ve seen some data analyst positions that require masters.

The Role of a Project Manager

A project manager handles all the project tasks and is responsible for its scope, resources, and success or failure. If you’re working as a project manager, you’re supposed to provide much-needed direction to ensure that each team member knows what’s expected at every phase of the project.

Project managers take care of many things as they play a lead role in planning, executing, monitoring, and closing projects. Here are the four phases of the project management life cycle:

  1. Initiation – In this phase, the project manager builds a document called the Project Charter. It contains all the information about the project like business case, goals, stakeholders, deliverables, feasibility, risks, etc.
  2. Planning – The project manager creates a complete plan that includes finance, resources, execution, and acceptance. This project blueprint helps the team manage time, quality, and cost-related problems. 
  3. Execution – This is the ‘work’ part of the project. In this phase, the project manager leads the team, and they develop and complete the deliverables. 
  4. Closure – The project manager hands over all deliverables to relevant stakeholders, frees all the resources, ensures everything is complete and notifies everybody of the project conclusion.

Responsibilities

A project manager handles all things related to projects. They usually also have to act as a leader to win the team’s trust and guide them to complete the project. Here are some of the responsibilities of a project manager:

  • Defining a project’s scope and figuring out the available resources
  • Distributing test cases and testing different plans
  • Building a communication plan to convey everything to relevant stakeholders and team members
  • Coordinating and scheduling meetings and controlling time management
  • Ensuring customer satisfaction and keeping the clients up-to-date with the project’s progress
  • Analyzing and managing project risks and feasibility
  • Storing and managing reports and necessary documentation

Skills required

As we’ve discussed, this position requires both management and leadership skills. Apart from these, here are some of the skills you should have to become a project manager:

  • Negotiation skills for resolving conflicts by finding win-win situations for everybody
  • Risk management skills to eliminate any surprises and make sure the project progresses smoothly
  • Cost management skills to get the most out of the limited budget
  • Critical thinking skills to make rational and objective decisions
  • Familiarity with the latest technical software

Qualifications

The minimum qualification to become a project manager is a bachelor’s degree in business, computer science, or a related field. Many organizations prefer someone with a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. Apart from that, it’s all about how efficiently you can manage tasks and communicate with team members.

From Data Analyst to Project Manager

Although a data analyst and project manager may work together to benefit their organization, there isn’t much overlap between these positions concerning their responsibilities. A data analyst works with and interprets data, while a project manager implements the tasks assigned within their department.

If a data analyst wants to become a project manager, they can do so. Between these two, you’ll need to choose the job that’s best for you. Your choice depends on who you are and what you like. If you enjoy talking to people and getting creative, project management is for you. On the contrary, if you love logic and math, becoming a data analyst will better suit you.

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  • Roadmap To Becoming a Data Scientist: If you have decided to become a data science professional but not fully sure how to get started: read my article – 6 Proven Ways To Becoming a Data Scientist. In this article, I share my findings from interviewing 100+ data science professionals at top companies (including – Google, Meta, Amazon, etc.) and give you a full roadmap to becoming a data scientist.

Conclusion

Project managers and data analysts contribute differently to the organization. Project managers handle teams and make sure that projects achieve their intended goals within the given timeframe. They focus on the successful completion of tasks assigned within their department. On the other hand, data analysts work with large amounts of data and convert information into insights. They effectively solve problems and help the organization improve.

If you’re working as a data analyst and want to switch to a career in project management, expect to use more of your right brain (creativity) instead of your left brain (logic).

BEFORE YOU GO: Don’t forget to check out my latest article – 6 Proven Steps To Becoming a Data Scientist [Complete Guide]. We interviewed 100+ data science professionals (data scientists, hiring managers, recruiters – you name it) and created this comprehensive guide to help you land that perfect data science job.

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  2. The 5 phases of the project management life cycle. (2019, December 12). ProjectManager.com. https://www.projectmanager.com/training/what-is-the-project-management-life-cycle
  3. Alexander, M. (n.d.). What is a project manager? The lead role for project success. CIO. https://www.cio.com/article/3224865/what-is-a-project-manager-the-lead-role-for-project-success.html
  4. Business Analyst Vs. Project Manager. (2020, June). Study.com. https://study.com/articles/business_analyst_vs_project_manager.html
  5. Data analyst job description and duties | Robert half. (2020, July 29). Australia’s leading recruitment agency | Robert Half®. https://www.roberthalf.com.au/employers/it-technology/data-analyst-jobs
  6. How to become a data analyst in 2020. (2015, May 27). Master’s in Data Science. https://www.mastersindatascience.org/careers/data-analyst/
  7. What does a data analyst do: Responsibilities, skills, and salary. (2020, August 20). Northeastern University Graduate Programs. https://www.northeastern.edu/graduate/blog/what-does-a-data-analyst-do/
  8. What does a project manager do? (2019, November 21). Northeastern University Graduate Programs. https://www.northeastern.edu/graduate/blog/project-manager-responsibilities/

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Daisy

Daisy is the founder of DataScienceNerd.com. Passionate for the field of Data Science, she shares her learnings and experiences in this domain, with the hope to help other Data Science enthusiasts in their path down this incredible discipline.

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