The world now runs on data, and data scientists make nearly six figures on average1. Gaining a data analytics certification helps students and job seekers gain a competitive edge in their employment search. While there’s no single official data analytics certification, students can take advantage of several well-known and well-respected options.
What Is a Data Analytics Certification?
A data analytics certification showcases student mastery of critical skills in the field of analytics. Certification remains necessary because data science has changed traditional education and job-seeking. Students often enter the field with a combination of self-taught skills and formal education. Certifications help employers understand what skills potential candidates possess.
Students can teach themselves the skills for data analytics and take the exam they want, or take a course-exam combination. Data analytics does not have one single path to certification, leaving the field open for a variety of students and even mid-career job changers.
Data analytics certifications measure a variety of skills, including:
- Data ingestion
- Data analytics
- Data visualization
- Applying data analytics to business needs
- Selecting appropriate analysis and visualization
- Statistical models
Depending on the mastery level of the certificate, students may also test for artificial intelligence (AI) training in machine or deep learning. These certifications include practical activities based on problem-solving skills. It’s less like the SAT and more like an audition in developing a program or tool for a business or research organization.
To prepare, test takers need experience developing solutions. Students receive this training through coursework, internships, entering hackathons, or through personal project development in an online portfolio like GitHub.
How Can I Use a Data Analytics Certification?
People can use a data analytics certification to break into the field of data science with a thriving career. Data analytics is a hot career field1. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts faster than average career growth for data analytics at 22% from 2020 to 20302.
Data analytics fits into a variety of roles in IT departments, companies, and research organizations, including:
Data Analyst Average Annual Salary: $61,841
Data analysts make over $60,000 per year3 on average with added incentives, such as complementary certifications like Python or R certifications, bringing the salary closer to $90,000 per year for the highest-paid analysts3.
Analysts clean and organize data and work with storage solutions to make data retrieval easier. Analysts also frequently work with other positions such as data scientists, data engineers, or AI engineers to provide the data stream necessary to power these data-driven initiatives.
Database Administrator Average Annual Salary: $73,163
Database administrators make over $70,000 per year or more4 with other certifications and go one step further to create, troubleshoot, and monitor complex data storage. As data becomes more complex, organizations need knowledgeable database administrators that understand structured, semi-structured, and unstructured data storage methods.
Database administrators also handle data acquisition and transition when a company acquires another one. They can smooth the change from a legacy system to a new system. In some cases, they also build new solutions to handle unique data storage challenges.
Data Scientist Average Annual Salary: $96,551
Data scientists make close to six figures a year on average, depending on their location and skills5. A data analytics certificate provides a strong foundation for tackling more complex data questions and building the data pipelines organizations need for insight.
Data scientists sometimes continue on to graduate studies in the field but can also remain self-taught. They need knowledge of the complex math involved in computer algorithms and programming knowledge to round out their skillset.
Business Intelligence Analyst Average Annual Salary: $69,781
Business analysts command a salary of just under $70,000 per year6 but may earn more with other skills and certifications. They focus on analytics from a business value perspective and offer insight to decision-makers within the company.
Where business analysts of the past used forecasting based on older, historical data, analysts now read data in real-time. They remain vital to the growth and development of a company and can help future-proof operations in the event of a disruption.
Data Analytics Certifications
Job seekers do not need to have certification to gain employment, but it helps. Some well-respected choices include the following entry-level, intermediate, and advanced choices.
Associate Certified Analytics Professional: Entry-level
An aCPA credential7 focuses on seven domains of the analytics process: data, methodology selection, business problem framing, analytics problem framing, model building, deployment, and lifecycle management.
Students do not need practical experience or work experience to sit for the exam. Potential test takers can study using resources from the test site or pursue data analytics courses beforehand.
Certification of Professional Achievement in Data Sciences: Entry-level
A non-degree program developed by Columbia University8, this certification option requires 12 credits minimum. Students take four required modules: Algorithms for Data Science, Probability and Statistics for Data Science, Machine Learning for Data Science, and Exploratory Data Analysis and Visualization.
The certification requires an existing undergraduate degree in any field. Potential students must also demonstrate prior introductory coursework in quantitative methods and computer programming.
Certified Analytics Professional: Technology neutral
The CAP exam showcases mastery of the end-to-end analytics process9. It does not skew towards a particular vendor or technology. Students test common analytics skills such as model building, model lifecycle management, and framing business and analytics problems.
Students can prepare from the list of resources available at registration. Once completed, the certification requires adherence to the CAP code of ethics.
Cloudera Data Platform Generalist Certification: Platform-specific
Cloudera offers enterprise data cloud solutions. Because their product remains so common in company data use, the organization provides its own certification exam10. The test verifies proficiency in data analytics through the Cloudera platform.
The exam covers a test taker’s knowledge of Cloudera in a variety of roles, including system architect, data scientist, and data analyst. Cloudera also offers a training course in the platform for review before the exam.
EMC Proven Professional Data Scientist Associate: Real-world Data Science
The EMCDSA exam11 tests the user’s ability to participate in a data science project using big data. The exam covers a variety of roles and tasks, including deploying the data analytics life cycle, reframing a business challenge as an analytics challenge, and selecting visualizations.
A significant portion of the test requires choosing the right tools for analytics pipelines, visualizations, and models. The other part tests the application of those decisions. Together, it measures how well a candidate can handle real-world business challenges on a data science team.
IBM Data Science Professional Certificate: Comprehensive, Entry-level Exam
A big name in technology, IBM offers this beginner-friendly analytics certificate12. Topics include Python databases, methodologies, data visualization, SQL, data analytics, and machine learning. Students complete nine courses over the course of three months with an average of 12 hours of work per week.
Students complete coursework and quizzes to receive a certificate when they meet all the requirements. The certification requires only the subscription fee for the student’s chosen platform to access and happens remotely.
Microsoft Certified Data Analyst Associate: Microsoft-focused exam
Another technology-specific exam from a tech giant, Microsoft’s certification test13 subject matter expertise in its suite of tools. The test includes Power BI sections, building scalable models, and data cleaning.
Microsoft offers free training online for the exam, but students may also choose a paid instructor-led course. Users will understand advanced analytic capabilities, but the exam is entry-level-friendly.
Data Analytics Concentrations
Data analytics does not possess many areas of concentration, but students can choose to specialize in a certain type of database, programming language, or data tool. Examples include:
- Python programming language
- R programming language
- Relational databases
- Data warehouses/Data lakes
- Microsoft Azure
Specializing in specific tools or languages could help students gain employment with companies that use those tools.
How Long Does It Take to Earn a Data Analytics Certification
Data analytics certifications stemming from coursework typically take one semester of work or about three months. Cloudera, Columbia, and Intel all offer coursework that students can complete in this short time.
Other exams such as CAP or the EMCDSA require only the exam. The exam takes just a few hours, and successful completion depends on a student’s mastery of skills. Different skills could take different amounts of time to master.
Discover More About Data Certifications
What is data analytics?
Data analytics looks at captured data to find patterns and insights. It drives business and research decisions for companies and organizations and supports data science and AI work.
What is the data analytics certification application process?
Most certifications require only that the student register and pay for access, whether that access includes a course or just the exam.
Are data analytics certification scholarships available?
Scholarships remain uncommon for non-degree certifications, but students can look for employer sponsorship or payment plans to offset costs.
Is a data analytics certification worth it?
The BLS predicts exponential growth faster than other industries1. A certification can help students gain employment in this field.
Does location matter? Is online an option for data analytics certifications?
Many exams and courses happen online. Students should not need to uproot or relocate just for certification.
Are big data online courses or big data certifications available?
Current best practices in data analytics include big data concepts. Students can find multiple online choices.
 Bureau of Labor Statistics (2020). Occupational Employment and Wages: Data Scientists and Mathematical Science Occupations. https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes152098.htm
 Bureau of Labor Statistics (2020). Occupational Outlook Handbook: Computer and Information Research Scientists. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-and-information-research-scientists.htm#tab-1
 PayScale (2021). Average Data Analyst Salary. https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Data_Analyst/Salary
 PayScale (2021) Average Database Administrator (DBA) Salary. https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Database_Administrator_(DBA)/Salary
 PayScale (2021) Average Data Scientist Salary. https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Data_Scientist/Salary
 PayScale (2021) Average Business Intelligence Analyst Salary. https://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Business_Intelligence_(BI)_Analyst/Salary
 Certified Analytics Professional (n.d.). Associate Certified Analytics Professional. https://www.certifiedanalytics.org/acap
 Columbia University Data Science Institute (n.d.). Certification of Professional Achievement in Data Sciences. https://datascience.columbia.edu/education/programs/certification-of-professional-achievement-in-data-sciences/
 Certified Analytics Professional (n.d.) Certified Analytics Professional. https://www.certifiedanalytics.org/cap
 Cloudera (n.d.). CDP Generalist Exam (CDP-0011) Guide. https://www.cloudera.com/about/training/cdp-certification/cdp-generalist-exam-cdp-0011.html
 Dell Technologies (n.d). Data Science Associate: Data Science V2. https://education.dellemc.com/content/emc/en-us/home/certification-overview/find-exam/Data-Science-Associate.html
 IBM (n.d.) Badge Description: Data Science Professional Certificate. https://www.ibm.com/training/badge/fb3af6d8-2402-4acb-b852-7a0c5034c976
 Microsoft (n.d.). Microsoft Certified: Data Analyst Associate. https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/learn/certifications/data-analyst-associate/