How to Become a Certified Web Analyst: The Exam You Can't Study For

According to the DAA’s website, as of August 2020, there’s approximately 331 million people in the United States, but only 81 Certified Web Analysts; that means 0.000024% of the population is certified. Because there are requirements for education and years of experience, we can assume most individuals taking the test are 25 or older. According to the last census, about 64.6% of the population is 25 or older, so effectively about 0.0000379% of the potentially eligible population is certified. And if we adjust for individuals who have the required level of education and experience, well, then…


Have I made it obvious I am a data analyst? Often times, we’d see a percentage that small and think it must be quite insignificant (unless of course we are talking about a significance level, in which would indicate very high significance). When I see that number, I think it is incredible that I could be 1 of 81 in anything in the country. And yet, by becoming a Certified Web Analyst, that’s exactly what I was able to accomplish. 


I know as an adult, you might wonder why you’d ever subject yourself to taking another exam unless it was absolutely forced upon you. We are tested from kindergarten through college and beyond, and when you secure your degree, you might think you have officially conquered the dreaded exam for the last time. After endless nights of studying, memorizing pages of information, highlighting page after page of lecture hall notes, it’s a memory most of us would like to put behind us.


But what about an exam for which you can’t study? What if no level of memorization, note taking or study guides could prepare you? 


The CWA exam is just that. Let me explain.


The Who, What, and Why




In order to apply for the exam, you must meet either of these 2 requirements:


  • Earned high-school diploma with five years of digital business experience, three of which focused on the required core topics (we’ll get to that)
  • Earned four-year bachelor’s degree with three years of experience with the required core topics



The CWA exam is administered by the Digital Analytics Association (DAA).


As mentioned earlier, the exam has three core topics on applying business logic and problem-solving to digital experiences, which include:


  1. Analytics for Website Optimization
  2. Measuring Marketing/Campaign Success
  3. Building and Maintaining Analytical Business Culture

As put by the DAA in their Certification Handbook,


“There is no ‘best way’ to prepare for the exam…. Since we are primarily testing for analytical capability rather than knowledge recall, experience solving many different web analytics business problems is the best predictor of success on the exam. 


The certification exam is not primarily a knowledge test; it is an analytical capabilities test. So even if you have mastery of all the content areas in the Knowledge Required for Certification document you will still need strong problem-solving skills to pass the certification exam.”




The why is probably a bit different depending on the applicant. Perhaps you’ve been in a role at your current organization, but they don’t see your potential. Getting certified can be a great way to show your expertise.


In other scenarios, becoming certified can be a great way to make yourself stand out when you’re looking for a new career opportunity.


In my case, I made the decision to become certified because I wanted to pressure-test” the knowledge I’ve gained while working in the digital analytics space over the years. I’ve gotten the opportunity at Liquid to help clients in over a dozen industries with strategic and technical analytics initiatives.


But anyone working in the field of digital analytics can attest that, more than ever, there are a myriad of items you must keep your finger on the pulse of to stay up-to-date. The CWA certification is a great gauge of not only how much you understand the information needed to be a successful digital analyst, but also if you can apply the information to real-life scenarios.


While I can’t disclose actual content from the exam, imagine not being asked to define a specific success metric, but rather determine out of a set of valid success metrics which would best satisfy a stakeholder with a specific business question. At Liquid, we experience these scenarios every day. There is usually not one singular correct approach, but rather a customized solution that we can craft based on additional context around the stakeholder needs and business goals. The approach we recommend could be completely different, even working with clients in the same industry.


Practical application of digital analytics information is key to being an asset to your team or clients. It is crucial to not only be able to diagnose an issue, but also recommend a solution that is custom fit to the organization at hand.


So, why are there only 81 Certified Web Analysts in the United States (and just 155 worldwide)? Preparing for an exam in which you cannot study for is daunting. Long gone are the days where data analysts are just computer geeks sifting through spreadsheets and consuming rows of data. An analyst in 2020 is a crucial member of your digital business team, and requires the convergence of strategy, technology, and customer experience. It’s a challenging, ever-evolving role, but it sure does have its rewards. For me, becoming a Certified Web Analyst is certainly one of them.


To find more information about becoming certified, visit: