This article originally appeared on Business Insider.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Elijah Butler, a 24-year-old data analyst from Kentucky. During the pandemic, he turned to technology, seeking higher pay and a better work-life balance many young adults In recent years. He provided Insider documentation proving his income. This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.
Growing up, I cycled 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 college majoring in engineering, but quickly discovered it wasn’t for me.
After the first year, I changed my major to business economics and went to business college, where I was introduced to the world of data. That led me to my way out of school, doing fraud analysis for a bank. Overall it’s a good job – I’m grateful for my time there, but it wasn’t for me.
To begin with, I found the work repetitive and uninspiring. It’s the problem many people have with “stable” jobs, and I couldn’t quite find the balance I wanted between stability and stimulation. I worked at that company for less than a year.
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 that seemed like the best way to do it.
As I describe in a recent TikTok videowhere I share tips on how to enter the field, a data analyst analyzes raw data to “draw conclusions, and this can be used to answer questions, influence business strategy, or whatever else your organization asks of you.”
Moving into a career in data analytics has changed my life
It wasn’t expensive for me to become a data analyst — and it changed my life. A career in data analytics has allowed my wife and me to start traveling a lot more, which is our true passion in life: this year we’re going to Florida, Wyoming, and hopefully somewhere out west, which we wouldn’t have done managed on my bank fraud analysis salary. We have also managed to pay off the small amount of debt we have.
When I was hired for my current position as a data analyst, I received an almost 40% salary increase compared to my job as a fraud analyst, as well as an incredible 401,000 match and paid leave policy. I currently work as a data and reporting professional at health insurance company Humana.
The beauty of a job in data analytics is that it is a skill that is transferable between all kinds of companies.
I love my job. I especially like that I can solve problems and be creative.
For example, when I write code to extract data from a database – one of my typical assignments – I get to act like an engineer, often using 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 particular pride in this part of the job, where I choose company-specific color schemes to make the reports look visually appealing, for example.
Like any profession, it has its good days and bad days, but I’m happy to be paid well for this kind of work.
How I became a data analyst – and how you can do the same
I promote data analytics as a field for my TikTok viewers because it’s a great way to become financially mobile while doing easier work than they could find elsewhere.
When I entered the field, I was surprised how many people were able to break into technology through data analytics, without needing a college degree. While I loved college and think it’s a good thing, it’s way too expensive. Someone willing to put in the work to teach themselves the technical skills should be able to land a technical job if they can perform the job requirements with or without a degree, and data analytics is perfect for that.
I recommend the field because you can work from home while earning an above average salary, and I generally find it rewarding work. While I say anyone can break into the field, it certainly isn’t easy.
It takes a lot of perseverance to learn the skills required for the job, and it takes patience and determination to land interviews and your first job offer. Landing your first job is challenging in most areas.
But for those willing to put in the work to improve their lives, the roadmap exists and works; it did for me.
You can pay tens of thousands of dollars for a college degree, or a similar amount for a data analytics boot camp, but if you have the willpower, you can enter the field for free or nearly free.
I used Khan Academies free SQL course, for example, one of the most important tools for data analysis. I have also used YouTube videos from Alex the analystwhich creates tutorials on the main tools analysts use: namely Tableau, Excel and Power BI.
I’m not against paid boot camps and courses in general, especially those who thrive on structured learning. But it’s definitely not necessary, making it a great field for those looking for a better work life and stronger finances.
It’s a field where I work from home, make more money and talk to zero clients. In other words, I’m living my best life.