The University of Massachusetts Amherst

6 Things You Should Know if You Want a Job in Data Analytics

Data Analytics featured image.
Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Graduating during a global pandemic may seem like a tough time to find a job, but there’s reason to be optimistic. Despite the COVID-19 crisis, fields like data analytics are experiencing job growth.

As businesses continue to adapt to remote work there is not only greater flexibility for careers that can be pursued online, but also demand for workers with the skills to streamline data-driven work effectively and efficiently. We’re not talking about troubleshooting Zoom calls and Wi-Fi connections —it’s about using data to convey a technical message in simple terms, affect policy, and serve under-resourced populations.

3 Must-Have Skills to Get a Data Analytics Job


Coding is one of those ubiquitous terms that seems to appear in almost every job listing and skill requirement. Coding is essentially the computer language used to develop apps, websites, and software. As with verbal languages, the more computer coding languages you can become fluent in, the better.

"When it comes to data, people can get caught up in the details of things. It makes a lot of difference when you can explain yourself well."

- Mary Ann Higgins ‘72, sociology

“People need this,” says Megan Willis-Jackson ‘16, a political science and environmental conservation alumna now pursuing a master’s in urban planning. “It’s not easy but it’s a straightforward way to get your career jump started.”

Some common computer coding languages include:

  • Java
  • Ruby
  • Python
  • HTML
  • C


It can be difficult to make the right impression with your data projects if they’re not properly presented. Data visualization and writing go hand-in-hand. Think of it like crafting a narrative. You want to tell a story with the data you’ve aggregated so that you can make meaning out of big data, digest information quickly, identify relationships and patterns, and determine future trends. 

“I wasn’t a data person,” said Mary Ann Higgins ‘72, sociology alumna. “Over the years, I saw my role as being helping people who do the data to understand the needs of people overseeing [welfare, early education care, and child welfare] programs... When it comes to data, people can get caught up in the details of things. It makes a lot of difference when you can explain yourself well.”


No, it’s not a technical skill but networking is important. Once you have a solid grasp of skills like coding and data visualization, you’ll want to make connections with potential employers.. This might seem tricky in a time where social distancing is paramount, but don’t hesitate to be proactive. Reach out to hiring managers, sell your expertise, quantify achievements, and don’t disqualify yourself from a position just because you think it’s out of reach.

“Networks and networking: build that as much as possible,” says Tenzin Thargay ‘18, political science and Chinese alumnus, who plans to work at the State Department when he graduates from his mater's program at Columbia University. “Don’t be nervous about reaching out to folks. You never know where those people can take you and what information they can give you.”

Related: SBS Alumni Provide Advice to Incoming M.S. DACSS Students


3 Data Analytics Career Paths that Will Surprise You

“Government is so thirsty for your talents. When I say government, I mean I want you all working for the public benefit.”

- Jane Wiseman

Public and private organizations alike use data analytics. From charitable foundations to multinational corporations and tech giants like Google and Facebook, there are a plethora of organizations that need your skills.


There are three major reasons Jane Wiseman, Innovations in Government Fellow at the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, CEO for the Institute for Excellence in Government, and Smith College alum, says you should pursue a profession in public service.

  1. Young people in government can get more responsibility than young people in corporations.
  2. You can make decisions, impact programs, and build things.
  3. Use data to save lives and affect people in positive ways.

“Government is so thirsty for your talents,” says Wiseman. “When I say government, I mean I want you all working for the public benefit.”

Non-Profit Organizations

Data analytics has a bright future in social good organizations, says Christine Chung ‘13, a social thought & political economy alumna. It’s not uncommon for non-profit organizations (NGOs) to employ staff with little tech experience. They need adept employees to pinpoint, analyze, interpret, and transmit data in meaningful ways in order to accomplish their missions. This means budgeting, fundraising, and generating leads. Imparting these skills on less tech-savvy coworkers is also a bonus.

“I use a lot of my background, my technical background, trying to scope the problem for [NGOs],” says Chung.

Business & Consulting

There’s a plethora of companies offering an array of products and services out there. For Stephen Powers ‘18, ‘19MPP, it's telematics and vehicular management auditing. He leverages his skills to manage state-operated vehicle fleet databases by aggregating data in real time. For Willis-Jackson, consulting has guided her through several companies and industries. Unsure of what exactly she wanted to do when she graduated. Willis-Jackson’s data analytics background empowered her to try her hand at industrial economics research, sustainable transportation, and design.

The Data Analytics and Computational Social Science (DACSS) program recently hosted its Diversity in Social Data Science Leadership Academy, a multi-day event featuring a mixture of alumni roundtables, invited speakers, and intensive skills development workshops for students interested in careers in data analytics and computational social science. Alumni roundtables focused on industry-wide trends in the use of data and in-demand skills in specific sectors and industries, such as marketing and communication, finance and insurance, retail and online sales, and public administration. Students also participated in intensive workshops to practice professional skills such as writing effective cover letters, interviewing, and contract negotiation for data science positions. Workshops were tailored to address specific issues faced by women and other underrepresented groups when pursuing careers in data science and other STEM fields.


The Master of Science degree in DACSS is an interdisciplinary degree program designed to train students to fill roles that require cutting edge data analysis, computational social science training, regular interaction with trained computer scientists and data science professionals. The DACSS program provides advanced data analytics training to students with social science backgrounds. Learn more about the DACSS program today and how you can apply for August 2021 admission.