The Data Behind the Career: How to Become a Data Processor

Get Program Details
. When are you looking to enroll?
When are you looking to enroll?

In the current age of analytics, data accumulation has become faster and more complex than we could ever have imagined. To be competitive in this new frontier, companies must be able to capture, process, and analyze data at lightning-quick rates.

For a company and its employees to use that data, it must first be translated from its raw form into usable information and readable formats in what is known as data processing.

Data processors are typically entry-level employees who capture, transfer, organize, and analyze data for a company.

To become a data processor, certain skills and experience are necessary, both of which you can develop with a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field. Those who enter the computer and information industry in this in-demand, entry-level position may find themselves on a fulfilling career path toward more data management possibilities.

A data processor works on a laptop.

What Is a Data Processor?

Data processors, working either as a third-party processor or part of a company or organization, provide administrative support for organizing, transferring, processing, and storing data. A data processor’s specific duties may vary depending on the industry in which they work.

Data processors must follow the set of specific instructions provided by a data controller. A data controller is a company, organization, or individual who makes the decision to collect certain datasets. Data controllers also formulate the purpose for collecting the data and how the data will be processed and used. Then, the data controller gives the data processor access to the data, and the data processor performs the actual processing. Data processor is an entry-level position that can eventually lead to a data controller role.

Industries in Need of Data Processors

One industry where demand for data processors is particularly high is healthcare. Data processors are needed to capture and process the daily influx of new and evolving personal and clinical data, such as patient information, insurance plan details, and diagnosis codes. They also need to manage and keep secure the database of patient records in which this information is stored.

Demand for data processors will continue to surge in industries that increasingly rely on analytics and the collecting and storing of data to better inform their strategic planning and decision-making. These include:

  • Finance
  • Insurance
  • Banking
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Education
  • Transportation
  • Logistics
  • Manufacturing
  • Retail
  • Advertising and marketing
  • Any industry in which a company must track the selling and storing of large inventories

Data Processor Job Description

The majority of a data processor’s work will be done on a computer, so a strong technological background and familiarity with software programs such as Microsoft Office and programming languages such as SQL (Standard Query Language) may be necessary. Data processors may also need to be competent in other programming languages — such as Python or R — and ETL (extract, transfer, load) tools, especially to advance to data analyst or data engineer positions.
Additionally, data processors must rely on excellent typing skills and a keen attention to detail to input data quickly and accurately. For example, data processors at payroll companies must ensure that they correctly enter employees’ personal data into the system so employees are paid on time and their personal data remains secure.

Data processors also maintain and update files and records. This may mean managing and preparing records for an audit or keeping employee, customer, or patient records up to date with address changes, new telephone numbers, and other pertinent information. In higher education, this may entail keeping track of student enrollment, attendance, and withdrawals.

Data processors may also need to possess apt analytical capabilities and effective communication skills to create and present detailed reports — such as properly formatted graphs, charts, or documents — on how a company uses its data.

Data Types and Privacy Laws

Depending on the industry, a data processor may interact with a variety of data, including financial data, stock data, inventory data, etc. Perhaps the most commonly processed is personal data. Data privacy laws govern how personal data is collected, used, transmitted, and securely stored. Because a data processor can only interact with personal data according to the data controller’s instructions, data processors need to receive the proper training to be familiar with the data privacy laws governing the industry and region in which they work.

On May 25, 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) became the most significant enforceable data privacy law to date. The GDPR provides legal protection to residents of any of the European Union’s 28 member countries.

While the United States does not have a single, comprehensive law like the GDPR, federal laws do exist to protect personal data collected in various sectors, including:

  • Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
  • Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA), which regulates the capture and use of personal data collected by banks and other financial institutions
  • Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), which governs the use of individual credit data

Process to Becoming a Data Processor

Data processor may be an entry-level position, but the work they do is important. It helps companies more efficiently predict and prioritize outcomes; provide responses to user inquiries; and define, improve, and nurture relationships with customers. Upward career mobility is also possible with an effective skill set, educational experience, and professional certification.

Education

A strong background in computers and data management is a solid start to breaking into the thriving field of data processing. Earning a bachelor’s degree in computer science will afford you opportunities to take on more responsibility, earn a higher salary, and climb the ladder to management roles or specialist positions involved in designing and developing systems and databases. If you’re interested in diving into a data processing career, an online Bachelor of Science in Computer Science can offer you the background and experience you need.

Professional Certification

Certification isn’t required for a career in data processing. However, it can increase your authority and help distinguish you from other candidates by demonstrating that you are ambitious and knowledgeable.

The Institute for Certification of Computing Professionals offers the Certified Data Professional — Data Management (CDP-DM) credential, which is broad enough to certify the increasing number of specializations within business, data, and computing professions. The CDP-DM requires renewal every three years, but you don’t need to wait until you have professional experience in the field to begin working toward the certification.

Data Processor Salary

According to PayScale, the median annual salary for data processors was approximately $37,000 as of October 2021, in a salary range of between $29,000 and $57,000. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the median annual salary for data entry keyers was $34,440 as of May 2020.

Job Outlook for Data Processors

Although the BLS doesn’t separately monitor statistics for data processors, between 2020 and 2030, it reports that jobs in the computer and technology industries are expected to grow 13%. This is faster than the projected growth of the labor market as a whole and could translate to as many as 667,600 new jobs during the next decade.

Input Yourself into an Rewarding Career as a Data Processor

If you’re interested in a career that provides both job stability and the potential for upward mobility, becoming a data processor might be the right path.

Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Science in Computer Science incorporates a modular design that scaffolds your education in manageable, incremental steps. Find out more about how the program uses industry-relevant projects to help you develop the technical, analytical, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills necessary to succeed in this fast-paced, forward-focused field.

Recommended Reading

Guide for Women in Computer Science: History, Roles, and Resources

Modern Tech Careers: Software Engineer vs. Data Scientist

Understanding the Differences: Data Science vs. Computer Science

Sources

Digital Guardian, “Data Controller vs. Data Processor: What’s the Difference?”

Institute for Certification of Computing Professionals, Data Science

Osano, “Data Privacy Laws: What You Need to Know in 2021”

PayScale, Average Data Processor Hourly Pay

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Computer and Information Technology Occupations

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Data Entry Keyers

WSI, “Responsibilities of a Controller, Processor & Data Protection Officer”

Zippia, What Does a Data Processor Do?

ZipRecruiter, What Is a Data Processor and How to Become One