Business Analyst vs. Data Analyst: Which Career Is Right For You?

Business analysts and data analysts are often mistaken for one another, as they share many similar responsibilities. While both positions focus on working with data to gain actionable insights, there are significant differences between them. Understanding these differences can help you determine if working as a business analyst vs. data analyst is right for you. Regardless of the career path you choose, both positions offer strong hiring opportunities, excellent compensation and highly dynamic and exciting work environments.

This guide will discuss some of the similarities and differences between business analysts and data analysts, go over the day-to-day job responsibilities of each role, showcase the paths you can take to start a career in either position and the job opportunities available for each.

What’s the Difference Between Data Analytics and Business Analytics?

Some people use business analytics and data analytics to refer to the same field, but there are significant differences between the two areas.

Data analytics refers to the process of analyzing large amounts of data to make predictions and gain actionable insights. This is a very math-heavy role that involves complicated statistical calculations. Data analysts focus on reaching conclusions from data, so they need a strong background in mathematics to excel in this role.

Business analytics involves using data and statistical analysis to understand a business’s performance and recommend future actions and initiatives. Business analytics is similar to data analytics in that it focuses on using data to drive decision-making, but it focuses more specifically on business drivers and how to improve a company’s efficiency and processes. Having a solid understanding of math and business concepts is critical for this role.

In contrast with business analysts, data analytics professionals are more focused on data, programming and statistical analysis. They’re concerned with efficiently analyzing data and making recommendations based on their analyses, while business analysts are more focused on the practical changes resulting from the data analysis findings.

Another critical difference is the level of communication needed for success in each role. Professional business analysts might work with multiple departments to implement required business changes, while data analysts often work independently to generate insights and reports.

If you’re interested in learning more about data analytics, Berkeley Data Analytics Boot Camp provides the training needed to qualify for data analyst or business analyst roles. This boot camp will teach you specialized skills that can help you get started in data analysis, covering topics including Excel, Python, machine learning, SQL, forecasting and the fundamentals of statistics for data analysis.

Business Analytics vs. Data Analytics Education Requirements

Both professions require knowledge of data analysis skills, and as data becomes more significant in modern business, these skills are becoming more critical. Getting started as a data analyst or a business analyst also requires a strong understanding of data, statistics and mathematics. There are many ways to pick up these skills; this section will dive deeper into the educational options available to you.

One great way to get started as a business analyst is through a boot camp. Boot camps are intensive programs designed to help learners get started in a new field in a shorter amount of time than a traditional degree. Berkeley Data Analytics Boot Camp teaches fundamental skills for success in data and business analyst positions.

Although business analytics is complicated, independent learning can help you get started. If you’re interested in learning more about statistics and data analytics, Berkeley offers free online courses through edX; the Introduction to Statistics track can help you get started with robust statistical analysis methods and give you an idea of what data analytics entails. Getting started with online resources can help you see if the field is right for you without having to make a large time or monetary commitment.

Continuing education and certifications are vital components of working as a business analyst. Many certifications require some amount of professional experience before you’re able to complete them. For example, the Entry Certificate in Business Analysis (ECBA) is an entry-level certificate from the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA). As you gain more experience as a business analyst, you’ll have access to more certifications from the IIBA.

When getting started as a data analyst, a boot camp can help you get up to speed quickly. Boot camps provide dedicated courses from experienced professionals, giving you the space to learn with hands-on projects. Berkeley Data Analytics Boot Camp lets students learn data analytics concepts part-time in an engaging online environment — helping the program better fit into your schedule.

If you’re curious about working as a data analyst, but aren’t ready to spend a lot of time or money, other independent study options are available. For instance, you can start by reading books and researching various data analytics concepts. There are many data analytics books you can read to help you get started in the field.

Just like the field of business analytics, many data analytics certifications can showcase an employee’s skills and knowledge of the field. One example is the CompTIA Data+ certification — an entry-level certification focused on showcasing an individual’s data analysis abilities. Keeping up on best practices and maintaining your skill level is an essential tool for any data analytics professional.

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Business Analyst vs. Data Analyst Responsibilities

Business and data analysts work extensively with data, but the main difference between the two careers lies in what they do with the data. Generally, business analysts use data to help organizations make better business and operations decisions. They’re concerned with applying their conclusions and how data-driven decisions can better the business. In contrast, data analysts focus more entirely on gathering and analyzing the data itself. Their findings and reports help others determine what to do with that information.

What Does a Business Analyst Do?

Business analysts are responsible for analyzing data and making data-driven decisions to improve a business’s processes.

Business analysts focus on analyzing business-related data to make strategic decisions. This could include analyzing a process’s cost, efficiency or other important business-related metrics. This data is often used to generate reports or recommendations that will be presented to key stakeholders within the organization.

One of a business analysts’s most important tasks is communicating their findings. This can include 1-on-1 meetings, group meetings or presentations about recommendations or ideas generated from analyzing data. Business analysts might communicate with peers, supervisors or executives to help them understand how changes or new initiatives will impact the business.

Business analysts focus on finding ways to improve a business’s efficiency and functionality. They use data to understand what kinds of projects will enhance the business. After determining what types of projects will help the company, some business analysts focus on managing these projects, monitoring their performance and ensuring the completion of deliverables.

Working as a business analyst requires a strong understanding of business fundamentals and processes, as well as a solid mathematical foundation. One important trait for any business analyst is a love of learning — best practices in business change quickly, so continuing education is critical for any business analyst to keep up-to-date.

What Does a Data Analyst Do?

A data analyst is responsible for gathering and interpreting data to solve problems for an organization. There are many responsibilities involved with this position.

To analyze data, a data analyst must have data to examine in the first place. Once data has been collected, it’s usually referred to as “raw data.” The specifics of this data can differ depending on the field — it can include words, numbers, images or other pieces of information.

Simply having data doesn’t mean it’s useful. Often, data must be “cleaned” before it can be processed. Cleaning data involves removing duplicates, incorrect data or errors. Eliminating these issues helps data analysts minimize inaccuracies in their output.

One of the most important responsibilities for every data analyst is data analysis itself. This involves mathematical processes and algorithms focused on identifying and interpreting patterns found in data with the help of statistical analysis. As a result, most data analysts have a background in coding that can be used to write complex algorithms.

Once data has been collected and analyzed, recommendations are generated based on the findings. These reports typically focus on showing trends, patterns and predictions based on data analysis. However, they may not include recommendations for changes that should be made to business processes.

A graphic that highlights some of the differences in the roles of business analysts versus data analysts.

Working as a data analyst requires a strong set of data-focused skills. If you’re interested in learning more, our blog post on 8 must-have data analyst skills can help you determine if a career in data analysis is right for you.

Business Analyst vs. Data Analyst Job Outlook

Overall, job prospects are strong for both data analysts and business analysts, as companies are taking in more data than ever before and looking to apply insights based on that data. In this section, we’ll dive into the job outlook for both positions and what you can expect upon entering the job market.

Job outlook data for business analysts is auspicious, and the field is likely to grow in the future. According to Burning Glass, job opportunities in the field remain poised to grow by 5.9 percent in the next decade.

Job prospects for data analysts are very strong and predicted to stay strong into the future. According to Burning Glass, the job outlook in this field is expected to grow by 12.3 percent in the next decade, which is significantly higher than the national average. This growth is connected to the development of technology more broadly — as businesses generate more and more types of data, professionals will need to be available to analyze that data and make recommendations based on it. This will make data analysts very employable and hireable for years to come.

Data Analyst vs. Business Analyst FAQs

Learning about the differences between a data analyst and a business analyst can introduce more questions. We want to answer any lingering concerns you may have about the two fields in the section below.

An image listing out the FAQs many people have about business analysts and data analysts.

Moving between these two career tracks is possible, depending on your background and what you learn on the job. Getting started as either a business analyst or data analyst is often based on your professional experience or your interest in the position. Someone with more of a business or finance-focused background may find it easier to get started as a business analyst, while someone with more of an analytical, math-focused background could enjoy working as a data analyst.

Both professions have strong career prospects. Neither role is necessarily better, but it depends on what you want to do professionally. Your skill set or interests could make you a better fit for one position over the other, so consider asking yourself a few questions to narrow your focus. Do you obsess over numbers and statistics? Working as a data analyst might be a good match for you. Are you interested in solving problems and applying data to situations? You might enjoy working as a business analyst.

Many business analysts and data analysts have bachelor’s or master’s degrees; however, having a degree isn’t a strict requirement. Most colleges and universities don’t offer a data analytics degree, so some employees use related degrees like math or engineering to get started. Other analysts get started through self-guided learning and freelance projects to gain professional experience. You can also get started by completing a data analytics boot camp to gain valuable, hands-on experience online.

Data and business analytics professionals need robust analytical thinking and problem-solving skills. Motivation and working independently are also important, as many analyst positions require a high degree of individual contribution to projects. Data visualization skills are highly sought-after, as they allow analysts to present their findings visually to key stakeholders or upper management. In terms of soft skills, communication and presentation skills can also be valuable; knowing how to find data-backed trends is essential, but so is being able to communicate findings to others.

With both industries sporting a promising job outlook, business and data analysis stand as great potential career paths. Both industries currently enjoy high employment numbers in professional, technical and scientific services industries, as well as the finance and insurance industries.

Should You Become a Business Analyst or Data Analyst?

After going over everything in this guide, it might feel difficult to decide if either business analytics or data analytics is the right choice. Know that either choice will provide a dynamic, engaging career with strong potential for upward mobility.

Working in business analytics or data analytics is a great career path with solid job prospects and upward mobility. Both fields have high growth potential, allowing employees to start a lifelong career working with data. Regardless of your choice, gaining data analytics skills is crucial for success. Start your data analyst or business analyst career with Berkeley Data Analytics Boot Camp.

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