This article originally appeared on Business Insider.
This article is reportedly based on a conversation with Elijah Butler, a 24-year-old data analyst from Kentucky. He turned to tech during the pandemic in pursuit of higher salaries and a better work-life balance, like many young adults over the past few years. Provide the Insider with documentation showing their income. This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.
Growing up, I went through a lot of potential career aspirations.
First, I wanted to be a meteorologist. In the end, I changed my mind and decided to become a mechanical engineer. I actually started an undergraduate major in engineering, but soon found out that it wasn’t for me.
After the first year, I changed my major to Business Economics and entered Business School, where I was introduced to the world of data. It led me on my way out of school, doing fraud analysis for a bank. It’s a good job, overall – I’m grateful for my time there, but it just wasn’t for me.
For one thing, I found it repetitive and uninspiring work. It’s the problem a lot of people with “sedentary” jobs have, and I just couldn’t strike the balance I wanted between stability and motivation. I worked for less than a year in that company.
Two years ago—when I was 22—I finally learned what someone with the title “data analyst” did, while I was still working that first job. I wanted to break into technology, and this seemed like the best way for me to do it.
As I describe in a recent video on TikTok, where I share tips on how to break into the field, a data analyst analyzes raw data in order to “come to conclusions, and this can be used to answer questions, influence business strategy, or whatever else your organization asks of you.” .
Switching to a job in data analytics changed my life
It wasn’t expensive for me to become a data analyst – and it changed my life. A career in data analytics allowed my wife and I to start traveling a lot, which is our true passion in life: This year, we’re going to Florida, Wyoming, and hopefully somewhere out West, which we otherwise wouldn’t have managed on my salary analyzing bank fraud. We have also been able to pay off the small amount of debt that we had.
When I was hired for my current position as a data analyst, I received a salary increase of nearly 40% compared to when I was a fraud analyst, plus incredible 401k matching policies and paid vacation. I am currently working as a data and reporting professional at Humana, a health insurance company.
The great thing about a job in data analysis is that it is a skill that can be transferred between all types of companies.
I love my job. Mostly, I like to solve problems and be creative.
For example, when writing code to extract data from a database—one of my typical tasks—as an engineer, I often use a trial-and-error approach until I complete a certain task.
When creating reports, I exercise the creative part of my brain, using data to tell a story in the form of charts, graphs, and text. I take great pride in this part of the job, for example, in choosing the company’s color schemes to make the reports look visually appealing.
Like any profession, it has its good days and bad days, but I’m glad I get paid well for this kind of work.
How you became a data analyst – and how you can do the same
I promote data analytics as an area for my TikTok viewers because it’s a great way to become financially mobile while doing easier work than they might find anywhere else.
Upon entering this field, I was surprised to see how many people have been able to break into technology through data analytics, without the need for a college degree. While I loved college and thought it was a good thing, it was very expensive. A person who wants to do work to teach themselves technical skills should be able to get a tech job if they can perform the requirements of the job with or without a degree, and data analytics is ideal for that.
I recommend this field because you can work from home while earning an above average salary, and I find it to be a rewarding job overall. However, while I say anyone can break into the field, it is by no means easy.
It takes a great deal of persistence to learn the skills required for the job, and it takes patience and determination when trying to land interviews and that first job offer. Landing your first job in most fields is challenging.
But for those willing to work to improve their lives, the roadmap is there and it works; You did it for me.
You can pay tens of thousands of dollars for an associate degree, or a similar amount for a data analytics bootcamp, but if you have the willpower, you can break into the field for free, or almost for free.
I used Khan Academy’s free SQL course, for example, which is one of the main tools for data analysis. I also used YouTube videos from Alex the Analyst, who produces tutorials on the main tools analysts use: namely Tableau, Excel, and Power BI.
I’m not against paid bootcamps and courses in general, especially for those who thrive on structured learning. But it is by no means essential, which makes it a great field for people looking for a better work life and stronger finances.
It’s an area where I can work from home, make more money, and talk to zero clients. In other words, I’m living my best life.