This article originally appeared on Business Insider.
This essay is based on a conversation with Elijah Butler, a 24-year-old data analyst from Kentucky. During the pandemic, he transitioned into the tech industry in search of higher wages and a better work-life balance many young adults in recent years. He submitted documents to insiders showing his income. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Growing up, I played through many potential career aspirations.
At first I wanted to be a meteorologist. Eventually I changed my mind and decided to become a mechanical engineer. I actually started out majoring in engineering, but quickly realized that wasn’t the right thing for me.
After the freshman year, I switched to business administration and attended business school, where I was introduced to the world of data. This led me to do a fraud analysis for a bank after school. Overall it’s a good job – I’m grateful for the time there, but it wasn’t for me.
On the one hand, I found it to be repetitive and uninspiring work. That’s the problem a lot of people with “stable” jobs have, and I couldn’t quite find the balance between stability and stimulation that I wanted. I worked for this company for less than a year.
Two years ago – when I was 22 – I finally learned what someone with the title “Data Analyst” does while I was still at my first job. I wanted to get into tech and that seemed like the best route for me.
As I describe in a recent TikTok VideoIn giving tips on how to get into the field, a data analyst analyzes raw data to “draw conclusions, and these can be used to answer questions, influence business strategy, or anything else your business asks of you,” be used.
Switching to a career in data analysis has changed my life
It didn’t cost me too much to become a data analyst – and it changed my life. A career in data analysis has allowed my wife and I to travel a lot more, which is our true passion in life: This year we are traveling to Florida, Wyoming and hopefully somewhere out west, which we wouldn’t have my salary for managed the analysis of bank fraud. We have also managed to pay off the small debts we have.
When I was hired for my current position as a data analyst, I received a nearly 40% pay rise compared to my fraud analyst job, as well as an incredible 401k match and paid time off policies. I currently work as a data and reporting specialist at Humana, a health insurance company.
The great thing about a data analytics job is that it’s a skill that’s transferrable to all types of businesses.
I love my job. What I like most is that I can solve problems and be creative.
For example, when I write code to extract data from a database—one of my typical tasks—I act as an engineer and often use a trial-and-error approach until I complete a specific task.
Creating reports allows me to exercise the creative part of my brain and use data to tell a story in the form of charts, graphs and text. This is part of my work that I take special pride in, for example choosing company-specific color schemes to make the reports look visually appealing.
Like any job, it has its good days and bad days, but I’m happy to be paid well for this type of work.
How I became a data analyst – and how you can do the same
I’m promoting data analysis as a specialty to my TikTok viewers because it’s a great way to become financially mobile while doing easier work than they might find elsewhere.
When I first got into the industry, I was amazed at how many people could get into tech through data analytics without needing a college degree. While I loved college and think it’s a good thing, it’s way overpriced. Someone willing to learn the technical skills on their own should be able to get a technical job if they can meet the job requirements with or without a degree, and data analysis is perfect for that.
I recommend the area because you can work from home and earn a better than average salary and I find it generally rewarding work. Although I say that anyone can enter this field, it is by no means easy.
It takes a lot of perseverance to acquire the skills needed for the job, and it takes patience and determination when trying to get interviews and your first job offer. Finding your first job is a challenge in most areas.
But for those willing to commit to making their lives better, there is a roadmap that works. For me it worked.
You can pay tens of thousands of dollars for a college degree or equivalent for a data analysis boot camp, but if you have the willpower, you can get into the field for free, or almost free.
I used Khan Academy free SQL course, for example one of the most important tools for data analysis. I also used YouTube videos from Alex the Analystwho created tutorials on the main tools analysts use: namely Tableau, Excel and Power BI.
I have nothing against paid bootcamps and classes in general, especially for those who enjoy structured learning. But it is by no means necessary, making it a great career field for people looking for a better work life and better 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.