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In the field of analytics, you can choose—but choose wisely! Explore the standard differences between data analytics & business analytics and learn about real-world trends. Use our table to compare the roles & responsibilities of data analysts vs. business analysts with analytics expertise. Or follow these 3 practical steps to make an informed decision about your career.
What’s the Difference?
Think applied statistics + storytelling. Data analytics is a field that focuses on collecting, analyzing, and transforming data in order to make well-informed decisions. Broadly speaking, data analysts:
- Mine data from a vast range of historical & real-time sources
- Analyze these data sets using specialized techniques & technologies
- Interrogate their findings to test theories, discover patterns & trends, make predictions, recommend strategies, and generate practical insights
- Employ data visualization tools to communicate their discoveries to technical & non-technical audiences
- Can choose to advance their careers by becoming Data Scientists
Thanks to the explosion of big data in the 21st century, data analytics is now applicable to almost any subject or industry. If you’d like to learn more about analytics tools & methods, you can find definitions for common analytics terms in our industry glossary.
Think data + the bottom line. Business analytics is a field that focuses on using analytics methods & applications to address specific corporate challenges. Generally speaking, business analysts who have serious analytics expertise:
- Strive to improve core business functions & performances within their company or industry
- Make data-driven decisions about optimizing processes, refining operations & supply chains, running campaigns, implementing IT systems, reducing costs, and/or developing products & services
- Often serve as a liaison between technical teams (e.g. data analysts, software developers, programmers, data scientists, etc.) and non-technical teams (e.g. clients, management, etc.)
- Can choose to specialize in fields that combine technical & business knowledge (e.g. Management Information Systems, Operations Management, Econometrics, etc.)
Business analysts who work in analytics roles deploy many of the same techniques & tools as data analysts, including data mining, predictive modeling, and visualizations. However, they may end up assuming more of a “project manager” role within a company.
Data Analyst vs. Business Analyst with Analytics Expertise
|DATA ANALYST||BUSINESS ANALYST WITH ANALYTICS EXPERTISE|
|Responsibilities||Use technical skills & critical thinking to provide data-based insights
Collect, clean & analyze data from a wide variety of diverse sources
Identify unique patterns & trends
Make accurate predictions
Communicate findings through reports & data visualizations
|Solve unique organizational problems using analytics & Business Intelligence (BI)
Identify relevant data sources that apply to the project at hand
Improve business decisions, processes, products & campaigns
Liaison with multiple stakeholders
Support projects with documentation
|Starter Skill Sets||Data mining
Extensive knowledge of analytics methods, techniques & tools
Programming skills in Python, R, and SQL
Confidence with SAS
Proficiency in data visualization software (e.g. Tableau, Power BI, etc.)
Extensive skills in data analytics processes & tools
In-depth knowledge of an industry
Proficiency in business analysis concepts (e.g. SWOT, Agile, etc.)
|Starter Job Titles||Junior Data Analyst
Junior Data Scientist
Business Systems Analyst
Business Intelligence (BI) Analyst
||BS in Data Analytics
BS in Data Science
|BS in Business Analytics
BS in Data Analytics with a Business Minor
|Good Choice For…||Intrepid hunters of data
Lovers of applied statistics
“Big Picture” thinkers
|Business data geeks
Which Do I Choose?
Data Analyst vs. Business Analyst
Out in the real world, the line between data analysts and business analysts with analytics expertise can be fairly nebulous!
- It’s easy enough to find data analysts who are obsessed with solving specific business problems and business analysts who are technical experts in sophisticated analytics tools & technologies.
- In some cases, business analysts with analytics expertise are simply data analysts who have moved into a more senior project management position.
What’s more, analytics is evolving at a dizzying pace. Businesses are now using data from previously unheard of sources. Machine Learning is redefining roles. Automation and AI are making it easier than ever for non-technical users to get in on the game. Tomorrow is not going to look like today.
3 Practical Steps to Take
If you are new to the field of analytics and would like some help in making a decision:
- Learn About Career Pathways: Explore our guides to a bachelor’s degree in data analytics and a bachelor’s degree in business analytics. In addition to learning more about what will be covered in coursework, you can skim through sections on typical career paths, job titles, and day-to-day responsibilities.
- Network with Analytics Experts: Talk to professionals who are currently working in analytics. We’ve put together a list of useful industry organizations to get you started. See if you can attend any in-person or virtual events. Reach out to members in your geographic area and ask them for a coffee. Explain that you’re looking for advice as a newcomer.
- Research Job Descriptions: Read current job descriptions for data analysts & business analysts with analytics expertise on Indeed, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, SimplyHired, and job boards. You’ll know exactly what employers want from candidates. Field research is an underappreciated skill in career planning.
Employer > Job Title
Remember, too, that each business, industry, or sector is going to have their own approach to analytics. For instance:
- Entertainment companies might be hiring analytics professionals who know how to sell their movie in international markets.
- Credit card companies could be looking for analytics experts who are able to identify fraudulent patterns.
- Insurance companies often want analytics employees who are able to assess multivariate risks (e.g. climate change, human behavior, automated technologies, etc.).
But they may be advertising these positions under all kinds of job titles, including “data analyst,” “business analyst,” “financial analyst,” and more. When push comes to shove, the focus on your work will depend on the unique needs of your employer. The company can matter much more than the title.