Data Specialist Job Description
Data Specialists transfer information on paper into electronic data systems. They generally oversee the entire conversion process, working closely with clients to ensure that this data is accurate and accessible. A Data Specialist must research data sources to verify validity of this information. Data Specialists might also be responsible for designing databases for specific client use and training clients in the use of data storage and retrieval systems, databases and software.
Data Specialists are employed primarily in corporate IT departments, but might also work for consulting companies, government agencies or in the healthcare industry. The projected job growth rate for those who administer databases, such as Data Specialists, is 11 percent through 2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The employment rate for database administrators who also design systems is expected to be 26 percent over the same period. The increasing use of third-party firms for data processing and cloud computing services is believed to be the main factor in these projected job growth statistics.
Data Specialist Duties and Responsibilities
Several tasks fall to Data Specialists as they assemble, research and verify data to be stored on specifically designed databases or data storage systems. We analyzed several job postings for Data Specialists and found that most employers are listing the following duties and responsibilities for this position.
Analyze and Verify Data
Data Specialists typically begin any data conversion process by conducting a thorough data analysis of a client’s information. They will research data sources and make any corrections to existing data as needed to ensure accuracy of the information being recorded.
Create a Digital Conversion Program
A Data Specialist will often analyze a client’s existing systems and create a program suitable for that specific system. In some cases, a Data Specialist may design a database or software program needed to convert data.
Data Specialists must consistently provide reports regarding the progress of a conversion program to clients. They must present reports covering workflow and workflow disruptions, exceptions, costs and analysis results.
Provide Technical Support and Assistance
Once a conversion project is complete, a Data Specialist usually trains a client in the use of the database or software system. Data Specialists also maintain databases and answer any questions users might have regarding the system.
Data Specialist Skills
To successfully perform all required duties, a Data Specialist must have strong analytical, problem solving and verbal and written communication skills. They should be detail-oriented individuals who can consistently meet deadlines and work well within a team environment. Strong planning, organizational and critical thinking skills are also beneficial for those working in this field. A Data Specialist should be familiar with project management processes such as budgeting and scheduling. In addition to these skills, potential employers of Data Specialists might prefer candidates with the following abilities:
- Analyzing data details and accuracy – ensuring that the data being converted is viable and accurate is a major responsibility of Data Specialists
- Evaluating existing databases and systems – a Data Specialist must verify that a client’s system is able to integrate and store data being converted
- Overseeing data mapping processes – managing the entire data conversion process is one of the main tasks of a Data Specialist
- Creating custom solutions – Data Specialists should be prepared to customize databases and software to meet client data storage needs
Data Specialist Q & A
To gain more insight into being a Data Specialist, we spoke with Amanda Spencer, an analyst manager at Aquila Insight. Spencer spoke at length about challenges, skills and rewards of working in this position. Our Q & A sessions with Spencer appears below.
What are some of the core duties performed by a Data Specialist?
In a nutshell, a Data Specialist needs to leverage data for business benefit and provide actionable insight. In reality this means understanding the data landscape, so what is and what isn’t available, selecting the best tools to interrogate the data, and through manipulation and analysis, recognize the trends and patterns seen in order to deliver insight that answers business questions. Depending on the clients (if agency based) or the brand you’re working for (if client side), a Data Specialist could be looking at numerous different data sources and handling millions of data records per day.
What challenges does a Data Specialist face?
There are a number of challenges that can crop up on a daily basis. Most common is dealing with poor quality data and understanding the limitations this could have on any analysis. Not having the right tools, systems or skills for the job means you’ll have to upskill, recruit or make further business recommendations to overcome this. Other challenges include staying on top of the latest methods and technology – which is no mean feat in an ever-evolving industry, and there’s being able to effectively translate data, math and statistics in to a language that everyone can comprehend; and proving hypotheses wrong. For example, your digital stakeholders may believe that people are returning to their website every other day, whereas your analysis proves bounce rates are high and people in fact visit once a month, so not everyone will want to hear the answer!
What skills do Data Specialists use most?
Coding is the obvious answer – querying and statistical languages enable Data Specialists to really dig in to the data. Numeracy skills are also key. Eyeballing numbers and statistics and being able to relate findings to a real-world problem is not always an easy task. Translating them into something actionable and positive that a business can use, will be something you will deal with often.
What should someone consider before becoming a Data Specialist?
The need to understand where most of their time will be spent. The majority of time will often be around ensuring data is fit for purpose. You’ll also spend more time in Excel than you would have thought, so enjoying crunching vast amounts of data in to tables and charts is definitely essential.
What type of person is successful in this job?
A Data Specialist needs to have an eye for detail, good communication skills, and be very thorough. They have to be flexible, methodical and be able to think of alternative routes to problem solving, so they can take a solution to their client. They also need to have personality as – depending on the company – you could be client-facing and conversing with people at all levels of the business. You also need to be quite results-driven and passionate about what you do day-to-day.
What do you find to be the most rewarding about being a Data Specialist?
I work with a lot of well-known brands, so it’s great to see how my insights can change their approach and activity on a particular part of their business or broader campaign. It could range from changing store layouts in national retail outlets, to developing a new drug to fight dementia or even product recommendations and offers on your favorite website. Every number, statistic and insight can help to drive a business forward and it’s great to be part of making it happen.
Data Specialist Salary
The national average annual salary for Data Specialists is $43,576, according to online sources. The highest wages are reported from areas such as Raleigh-Durham, NC ($55,000) and Austin, TX ($44,000). Payscale.com reports that salaries for Data Specialists can be higher than the national average in New York, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Chicago and Charlotte, NC.
Data Specialist Education Requirements
Education requirements for Data Specialists vary depending on the employer. Some ask only that job candidates possess a high school diploma, while others require an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in information technology, business or related fields. In many cases, a degree could be necessary for advanced positions in the field.
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