Data Analyst vs Business Analyst: What are the Differences?

April 3, 2024

Data Analyst vs Business Analyst What are the Differences

Do you want a career in data? Or do you want to hire a data expert for your business? Either way, in the age of big data, you will often see the discussion of business analyst vs data analyst happening.

There is a lot of confusion surrounding these two job titles, and many people use them interchangeably. However, they are distinct roles with different responsibilities, skills, among others.

In this article, we will explore the key differences between data analysts and business analysts, so you can understand which role would best suit your interests and skills.

Business Analysts vs Data Analysts: Factors that Differentiate Them

What sets a data analyst apart from a business analyst? It all boils down to their core objectives.

Data analysts dive into complex datasets, playing detective to uncover patterns and trends. On the other hand, business analysts are strategists who understand business processes and use data to craft recommendations that drive your business forward.

Let’s see some key factors that separate these two professions:

Education and Requirements

Countless organizations are on the hunt for skilled business and data analysts, and while having at least a bachelor’s degree is often preferred, it’s definitely not a must-have to break into these fields.

However, if you are still a student meditating on their major, you should know that data analysts and business analysts usually come from different academic backgrounds.

Business Analyst

A career path in business analytics usually starts with a degree in finance, economics, business administration or accounting. These majors teach students the fundamentals of business operations and management, as well as financial analysis techniques.

Interestingly, combining a data analytics boot camp with some DIY learning can really empower aspiring business analysts, giving them the skills they need to kickstart their careers.

Having an MBA (Master of Business Administration) is also highly valued in this field. Some organizations may require additional certifications such as Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP) or Project Management Professional (PMP).

Data Analyst

For data analytics, it’s usually best if you’ve got a background in computer science, math, stats, or engineering.

Basically, if you’re into STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) or have experience with programming, computer modeling, data analytics, machine learning, data visualization, or predictive analytics, you’re on the right track.

Having an advanced degree in data science is a nice bonus but isn’t necessary. Getting certifications like the Certified Analytics Professional (CAP) can also boost your odds of landing a data analyst job.

Roles and Responsibilities

Even though data analysts and business analysts both deal with data, the type and scope of their work are different.

Business analyst role

Business analysts focus on figuring out what a business wants to achieve, collecting the needed info, and offering smart suggestions to make things like processes, products, or services better. They’re pretty good at using their analytical skills to make sense of data and offer insights that help in making decisions.

Business analyst responsibilities include:

  • Identify business needs
  • Gather and analyze data
  • Evaluate and improve processes
  • Develop business solutions
  • Create reports and visuals for insights

Data analyst role

Data analysts dive into big bunches of data to spot patterns and trends that help companies make data-driven decisions. They’re all about using stats tools, techniques, and coding languages like SQL and Python to gather, tidy up, twist, and sift through data.

Data analyst responsibilities include:

  • Gathering data from different sources
  • Cleaning and organizing big datasets
  • Conducting statistical analysis and data mining
  • Manipulate data for exploratory data analysis
  • Creating visuals and reports for findings
  • Spotting patterns and trends in data

Skills Needed

Data analysts and business analysts are both analytical, detail-oriented problem solvers. However, the type of analysis they do demands different sets of skills.

Data analyst skills:

Both data analysts and business analysts are sharp, detail-obsessed problem solvers, each equipped with a unique set of skills tailored to their specific type of analysis.

  • Advanced Microsoft Excel skills
  • SQL knowledge for querying databases
  • Programming languages such as R or Python
  • Experience with data visualization tools like Tableau or Power BI
  • Utilizing data mining techniques and statistical analysis

Business analyst skills:

Business analysts, on the other hand, need to have a strong understanding of business processes and operations. Their skills are more focused on business objectives and communication.

  • Diving into company databases with SQL queries
  • Turning data into actionable insights
  • Thinking critically and solving problems like a pro
  • Upgrading processes and managing projects smoothly
  • Getting the business side of things and keeping up with industry trends

Salary Range

Next up, let’s dive into a question everyone’s curious about: how much do data analysts or business analysts actually earn?

The market demand for both professions has been growing steadily, so it’s not surprising that these roles offer competitive salaries. However, the salary range may vary depending on factors like location, experience, and skills.

Business analyst salary

Glassdoor says that, on average, a business analyst makes about $98,082 a year in the US, with the average salary sitting at $83,383 annually.

Expectedly, this figure goes down when you take on the role of a junior business analyst. Glassdoor shows that an entry-level business analyst’s salary is around $90,000 per year, while senior business analysts are typically offered $120,000 per year.

Data analyst salary

Likewise, according to Glassdoor, data analysts in the US make an average of $89,554 a year, with an average salary of $75,794.

Entry-level data analysts earn around $65,000 annually, while senior data analysts can command salaries of up to $113,000.

Data analysts usually go by a tier system (Data Analyst I, Data Analyst II, etc.) or a Junior/Senior setup. Business Analysts, on the other hand, often stick with their original job title.

How to Choose Between a Career as a Data Analyst and a Business Analyst?

Now that we’ve discussed the roles, responsibilities, skills, and salary range for both data analysts and business analysts, it’s time to answer the question: how do you choose between a career as a data analyst or a business analyst?

Let’s take a look at some factors to consider when making this decision.

Data Analysis

  • If you’re really good at stats, playing around with data, and machine learning, becoming a data analyst could be your thing.
  • Data analysts tend to be tech-savvy and are pros at solving problems with data.

Business Analysis

  • If digging into business processes, figuring out what’s needed, and making things run smoother sounds like your jam, you might really like being a business analyst.
  • Business analysts tend to have solid communication and organizational skills.

Hybrid Roles

  • Some companies may offer hybrid roles that combine elements of both data and business analytics. If you have skills in both areas, this could be a great option for you.

Whichever path you choose, remember that a career in data or business analysis requires continuous learning and development. Stay curious, keep up with big data technologies, and continue developing your skills to stay ahead in the game.

Business Analyst vs Data Analyst: Similarities You Should Know

There is a reason why people are often confused between a business analyst and a data analyst. The roles have many overlaps. Let’s take a look at some of the similarities between these two roles:

Soft Skills

Both roles require excellent communication and problem-solving skills. As data analysts need to communicate findings and insights to non-technical stakeholders, they must be able to articulate complex information in a simple manner. Similarly, business analysts work closely with various teams and departments to gather requirements and provide solutions. Hence, strong communication skills are essential for both roles.

Data-Driven Decision Making

Both business analysts and data analysts rely on data to inform decision-making. While a data analyst may focus more on analyzing data itself, a business analyst may put more emphasis on using data to improve processes and make strategic recommendations. Both roles require a strong understanding of how to gather, clean, and interpret data to inform decisions.

Technical Skills

While business analysts may not need to have advanced technical skills in coding or programming, they should be familiar with tools such as SQL for querying databases. Similarly, data analysts should also have knowledge of business intelligence tools for visualization and reporting purposes.

How to Start Your Career in Data or Business Analysis

Both data analysts and business analysts are in high demand, making it an excellent time to start a career path in either field.

Here are some steps you can take to begin your journey:

1. Level up your data cleaning skills

If you’re diving into roles that need you to crunch numbers and spit out insights, you gotta have your basics down pat. Think:

  • SQL
  • Excel
  • Crunching numbers with statistical analysis

2. Get into programming languages

Next up, why not dive into learning a programming language to kick your data analysis skills up a notch? Check out some cool options:

  • Python
  • R

Python is a big deal in the data analytics world. Getting the hang of it can really boost your job prospects.

Thinking about where to start with Python? Online courses, tutorials, bootcamps, and workshops are all great places to begin.

R programming language is a hit, especially in scientific research and healthcare data analysis. It’s awesome for crunching numbers and stats.

3. Train in data visualization

Visualizing data is super important when it comes to communicating insights and findings to non-technical stakeholders. Tools like:

  • Tableau
  • Power BI
  • Datawrapper

These can help you create visually appealing and easy-to-understand charts and graphs.

4. Go after a certification

Getting certifications isn’t always a must, but it can definitely give you a more structured way to learn. Diving into learning without any guidance can be pretty overwhelming, so starting with resources from the pros is a smart move.

The most sought out certs for data analytics and business analytics are:

  • Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP)
  • Microsoft Certified: Power BI Data Analyst Associate
  • Google Data Analytics Professional Certificate

5. Network and get some experience

To really make a splash in the job market, it’s super important to get some hands-on experience through internships or part-time gigs. Plus, diving into data analytics projects to build a cool portfolio is a smart move to impress future employers.

Don’t forget to network and hit up data analytics conferences or events (yup, the online ones also count) to pick up tips from the pros and make some useful connections.

Also, it might be a good idea to peek at some common business analyst interview questions just to make sure you’ve got the basics nailed.

business analyst

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About the author: Andrea Jacinto - Content Writer

A content writer with a strong SEO background, Andrea has been working with digital marketers from different fields to create optimized articles which are informative, digestible, and fun to read. Now, she's writing for StarTechUP to deliver the latest developments in tech to readers around the world. View on Linkedin