Data Modeler: Decipherer of Data

Today’s data-driven businesses need experts to help them access and transform raw data into information that management can interpret and use for decision making. According to Dave Kaplan, branch manager for Robert Half Technology in Charlotte, N.C., data modelers are “lynchpins” in the process of gathering, analyzing and organizing data so it can be easily understood by nontechnical users.

Kaplan explains that the data modeler — who is part traditional data analyst, part business analyst and part problem-solving guru — is needed not only to help the organization determine what type of data is required for a particular business process or objective, but also to figure out from where and how the data can be sourced, and the best way to present that information.

Data modeler salary increasing in 2014

The translation of business requirements and objectives into data models is crucial for growing businesses, which means skilled data modelers are in demand. Robert Half Technology’s 2014 Salary Guide reports that the average starting data modeler salary in the United States* is expected to increase 5.8 percent this year, with numbers ranging from $97,250 to $134,250. (Use the Robert Half Technology Salary Calculator to find specific salary information for your city.)

What it takes to be a data modeler

Employers look for relevant data management experience when assessing candidates for data modeler jobs. A data modeler also should possess the following skills, attributes and experience:

  • Excellent data analysis and problem-solving skills
  • A bachelor’s degree in computer science, IT or mathematics
  • Familiarity with data modeling tools and methodologies
  • Knowledge of database system applications, stored procedures and data warehousing

As a data modeler, your main objective is to convert a mass of information into proper computer coding and translate that information into a form that is ultimately useful in realizing business goals. For example, you may be tasked with reducing the redundancy of data within a database or improving the way information moves from one system to another. Data modelers also should be able to understand different operating lines in the business and identify the best way to help those functions meet their goals through better access to relevant data. Analyzing organizational data requirements and creating logical and physical models and workflows based on that data are key job requirements. Because data modelers need to interact directly with a wide range of functions in the business, communication skills and the ability to work as part of a team are essential. In the data modeler role, you’ll be in charge of interviewing key project stakeholders and later documenting your findings, as well as making detailed recommendations based on internal and external client needs. You’ll also work side-by-side with developers, database administrators and reporting teams to ensure consistency between standard reporting and reporting that’s not already pre-defined in a production environment. Likewise, you’ll be addressing data quality issues with clients and management.

Aspiring data modelers: show your love for numbers

When it comes to making an impression with a potential employer, the more exposure you have to different data modeling tools — such as the CA ERwin Data Modeler or the IBM InfoSphere Data Architect — and methodologies — like View Integration or top-down logical data models — the better, according to Kaplan. “Don’t be shy about your love of numbers,” he says. “Showing off your background in mathematics and related technical experience is always a plus.”

Look to Robert Half Technology's latest Salary Guide for job descriptions and starting salaries for a wide range of IT jobs — including data modeler. Explore the Robert Half Technology Tech Blog to learn about hiring trends and skills requirements for other data-focused professions, like data architect and  data warehouse analyst. *The starting data modeler salary in Canada is projected to increase 5.6 percent in 2014, ranging from $85,750 to $116,750. Figures are in Canadian dollars.