There’s often some confusion when comparing the roles of business analyst vs. data analyst. They both work with numbers, and in some companies, the roles are even interchangeable. So what’s the difference? The key difference is what they do with data.

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Martin Schedlbauer, associate clinical professor and director of Northeastern University’s information and data sciences programs, says, “In the simplest terms, data is a means to the end for business analysts, while data is the end for data analysts.”

To elaborate:

Business analysts are more concerned with the business implications of the data and the actions that should result. Should the company invest more in one project over another? Business analysts will leverage the work of data science teams to communicate an answer.

Data analysts sift through data and provide reports and visualizations to explain what insights the data is hiding. Typically they then turn this data over to other teams whose job it is to take this data and act accordingly.

Now that we’ve identified the key differences between a business analyst and a data scientist, we’ll dig a bit deeper and answer these questions:  

  • Business analyst vs. data analyst: what degree do they need?
  • Business analyst vs. data analyst: what do they actually do?
  • Business analyst vs. data analyst: what is the average salary?

Business Analyst vs. Data Analyst: What They Do

What Does a Business Analyst Do?

what a business analyst does

Source | Modern Analyst

The International Institute of Business Analysis defines a business analyst as “an agent of change.” They enable “change in an enterprise by defining needs and recommending solutions that deliver value to stakeholders.” Business analyst Luka Skracic put it this way: “When a business needs to solve a current or future problem, it’s a business analyst’s job to help facilitate a solution.”

So, what do they do all day? Skaric goes on to say that “one of the reasons it’s so difficult to explain exactly what a business analyst does is because we never perform just the one task.” He lists a few of the things business analysts might do during a typical day:

  • Analyze business needs
  • Define a business case
  • Elicit information from stakeholders
  • Model requirements
  • Validate solutions
  • Project management
  • Project development
  • Quality testing

A business analyst might review data about work habits, talk to coworkers about technological challenges, and find ways to address those challenges. They typically (but not always) work closely with IT teams. In general, they work more collaboratively than data analysts.

What Does a Data Analyst Do?

what does a data analyst do

Source | Shumpeioe.info

Data analysts turn numbers into stories. They spend the majority of their time looking at data and creating reports that show what insights are hiding in the data. While they present their findings to different teams, they tend to work more in silo than their business analyst counterparts.

On any given day, a data analyst might:

  • Perform data entry
  • Scrub data
  • Produce and maintain dashboards for different departments
  • Create both internal and client-facing reports

Business Analyst vs. Data Analyst: Role Requirements

What Are the Requirements for a Business Analyst?

Most business analysts have an undergraduate degree in a business-focused field such as business administration, finance, or economics. To get a better idea of the job requirements required for a business analyst, we looked at open job postings on Glassdoor. The most common requirements are as follows:

  • Data research and analysis
  • Quantitative mindset and analytic capabilities
  • Be able to self-serve, investigate, and get the data
  • Proven SAP skills (proficiency in SAP-R3/BI preferred)
  • Strong Microsoft Excel, Word, and PowerPoint skills
  • SQL proficiency
  • Tableau experience preferred
  • Strong written and verbal communication skills
  • Project management

What Are the Requirements for a Data Analyst?

Data analysts are more numbers-oriented than business analysts. They typically have an undergraduate degree in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) category or with programming, computer modeling, or predictive analytics experience. An advanced degree is an added bonus, but is not required. To get an understanding of the role requirements for a data analyst, we looked at job postings on Glassdoor.

At their core, most required:

  • A blend of analytical skills, intellectual curiosity, and reporting acumen
  • SQL/CQL, R, and Python experience
  • Advanced Excel and Microsoft Office skills
  • A strong understanding of data mining techniques
  • Solid familiarity with emerging technologies, including: MapReduce, Spark, large-scale data frameworks, machine learning
  • Ability to juggle multiple projects at once
  • Strong written and verbal communication skills
  • Familiarity with agile development methodology

 

Business Analyst vs. Data Analyst: Role Responsibilities

What Are the Role Responsibilities of a Business Analyst?

The responsibilities of a business analyst vary depending on the industry, but at their core require analyzing data and using that data to inform important strategic decisions that improve the overall revenue or efficiency of a business.

To get a better understanding of what else a business analyst does, we went back to those Glassdoor job postings. Most required that business analysts:

  • Analyze large amounts of complex data to provide the business with fact-based insights
  • Present recommendations on process improvements that address business needs or resolve impediments
  • Influence, gather, define, and document complex business requirements and processes
  • Work with internal teams and third parties to escalate and resolve any issues detected in revenue streams
  • Perform analysis to evaluate broader trends within a company’s revenue streams
  • Identify problematic areas with the data and research to determine the best course of action to correct the data

To further illustrate the variance among data analytics vs. business analytics, we looked at job openings from different fields:

A job posting for a San Francisco-based business analyst at Ebates describes the position as:

business analyst job posting

(The salary range is estimated by Glassdoor to be $66,000 – $107,000.)

A job posting for a Chicago-based business analyst at Uber describes the position as:

Chicago business analyst role

(The salary range is estimated by Glassdoor to be $76,000 – $122,000.)

A job posting for a New Jersey-based business analyst at American Express describes the position as:

New Jersey job posting

(The salary range is estimated by Glassdoor to be $53,000 – $88,000.)

What Are the Role Responsibilities of a Data Analyst?

Like any job, the responsibilities of a data analyst differ based on the industry, but the core responsibilities are analyzing and interpreting data. To find out more about the responsibilities of a data analyst, we looked at job postings on Glassdoor. At their core, most include:

  • Conduct consumer data research and analytics
  • Work with customer-centric algorithm models and tailor them to each customer as required
  • Extract actionable insights from large databases
  • Perform recurring and ad hoc quantitative analysis to support day-to-day decision making
  • Support reporting and analytics, such as KPIs, financial reports, and creating and improving dashboards
  • Help translate data into visualizations, metrics, and goals
  • Write SQL queries to extract data from the data warehouse

To further illustrate, please see below for a few jobs postings for data analysts from different industries and different locations:

A job posting for a New York City-based data analyst at Lyft describes the position as:

Lyft job posting

(The salary range is estimated by Glassdoor to be $116,000 – $153,000.)

A job posting for a San Francisco-based data analyst at Glu describes the position as:

GLU job posting

(The salary range is estimated by Glassdoor to be $72,000 – $97,000.)

A job posting for a Chicago-based data analyst at Wyzant describes the position as:

Wyzant job posting

(The salary range is estimated by Glassdoor to be $85,000 – $112,000.)

Business Analyst vs. Data Analyst: How Much Do They Earn?

There is a slight discrepancy in salary for a data analyst vs. business analyst, with the data analyst being on the higher end.

How Much Does a Business Analyst Make?

More and more, companies are seeing the benefit of having an in-house business analyst and as such, the industry is anticipated to grow at a rate of 19 percent over the next 10 years. If you have a degree in business and enjoying using data to highlight areas of improvement for companies, you may want to consider a career as a business analyst. The salary isn’t too shabby either. According to Glassdoor, the average salary for a business analyst is about $78,000.

business analyst salaries

How Much Does a Data Analyst Make?

Data analysts, much like business analysts, are in high demand. PWC estimated that there will be 2.7 million job postings for data analyst (and data science) roles by 2020. Salaries for data analyst positions tend to be slightly higher than business analysts. According to Glassdoor, they average around $84,000.

data analyst salaries

Final Thoughts

We hope this helps clear up the difference between business analyst and data analyst. If you’re wondering, “which is better, data analyst or business analyst?” we really can’t tell you. That’s up to you to decide. But we hope this information helps guide you down the right path.

To summarize the questions we posed at the beginning:

  • Business analyst vs. data analyst: what degree do they need?
    • An advanced degree is not required for either. Both data analyst and business analyst positions encourage STEM degrees, however.
  • Business analyst vs. data analyst: what do they actually do?
    • A business analyst uses data to improve the performance of a company. A data analyst, on the other hand, analyzes data for a variety of reasons, whether it be to analyze customer trends, seasonal buying shifts, or something else.
  • Business analyst vs. data analyst: which has a higher average salary?
    • A data analyst has a higher average salary.

Overall, a data analyst and a business analyst have many parallels and require an analytical mind, proficiency in Excel, and strong communication skills. They differ in that a data analyst typically has a more mathematical or statistical mindset, while a business analyst has more of a business mindset.

Many business analysts came from roles in software development or project management, while data analysts came from roles in accounting, healthcare information management, database administration, or computer science. Data analysts tend to spend more time collecting and sifting through data, while business analysts tend to have more interaction with other team members.

If you prefer working in a silo, you may be better suited as a data analyst. If you prefer working more closely with other teams, perhaps a career as a business analyst would better suit you. Either way, you’ll be part of a fast-growing and financially secure field.

Looking to prepare for data analytics roles? Check out Springboard’s Introduction to Data Science course. You can learn how to make data-driven business decisions with our Business Analytics course.