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Business Analyst vs Data Analyst

What’s is the Difference Between Business Analyst and Data Analyst

In the 2022 U.S. News & World Report Best Jobs in America report, three of the top 10 business jobs were analytical in nature: market research analyst (#4), operations research analyst (#5), and management analyst (#6). The closely related numbers-based role of statistician came in at #3. On the overall 100 Best Jobs list, data scientist ranked #6 and statistician #8.

It’s clear that our increased reliance on data has created a demand for data-savvy professionals in corporations, government agencies, nonprofits, and even small businesses. Two roles employers increasingly express a need for include business analyst and data analyst.

Business analyst and data analyst positions have many similarities and, in fact, in some organizations, their roles and duties may overlap. Both professions use data sets to help tell a company’s story - or a chapter of that story - to make informed decisions.

Taking a closer look at these two analytical roles can help us discover the difference between business and data analyst careers.

What Does a Business Analyst Do?

The International Institute of Business Analysis defines business analysis as “the practice of enabling change in an organizational context by defining needs and recommending solutions that deliver value to stakeholders.”

When comparing these two roles, you could say the business analyst looks at the bigger picture of an organization’s financial and operational performance. Their goal might be to use internal data and other sources to help company leaders make strategic business decisions.

For example, a business analyst might look at a company’s processes and workflows to spot bottlenecks and other inefficiencies. Then, they might make a recommendation for a new project management software or to invest in a more powerful internal technology solution.

Education and Skills for a Business Analyst

A business or IT-related bachelor’s degree is often the minimum requirement for entry-level business analyst positions. For specialized or senior-level positions - or to manage other analysts - professional experience and, sometimes, advanced education is required. Additional education could come by way of a master’s degree, a business analytics graduate certificate, or other professional credentials.

Aside from formal education, employers will also look for a combination of hard and soft skills, including the ability to organize and interpret data and communicate those findings effectively to others within an organization. Additionally, strong Microsoft Excel skills are helpful in knowing your way around PowerPoint (or other data visualization and presentation tools).

Finally, since business analysts do look at the big picture, a holistic understanding of their organization and a deep familiarity with their industry are also indispensable to this role.

What Does a Data Analyst Do?

While business analysts use their data to make decisions, data analysts mostly focus on the data itself. According to data insights platform Talend, data analytics is “the process of gleaning insights from data that is extracted, transformed, and centralized to discover hidden patterns, relationships, trends, correlations, and anomalies, or to validate a theory or hypothesis.”

Data analysts collect, organize, manage, and examine various types of raw data for a variety of purposes, typically with the end goal of sharing meaningful insights from that data with the appropriate parties. To do this, they’ll use a range of tools and techniques to do their jobs, including data mining, machine learning, and predictive analytics.

You’ll find data analysts working in a range of departments within companies, from sales and marketing to human resources and logistics.

Education and Skills for a Data Analyst

A noted difference between business analysts and data analysts is often educational background. As with business analysts, most employers prefer to hire data analysts with at least a bachelor’s degree. However, rather than business or management, data analysts often studied math, data science, computer science, statistics, or a related field.

Beyond education, valuable skills for data analysts include programming experience, advanced Microsoft Excel knowledge, familiarity with machine learning and data mining, and an understanding of the industry’s emerging tools and technologies. Equally important is the ability to multitask, work in an agile environment, and communicate well orally and in writing.

Data Analyst Salary vs. Business Analyst Salary

Like in many career fields, job titles vary from company to company and industry to industry. Additionally, many other factors come into play regarding salaries, such as someone’s specific educational level and prior professional experience, as well as location, industry, and company size.

Business Analyst Salary & Demand

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) uses the term “management analysts” to track occupational data about business analysts. It also tracks other roles that could fall under the business analyst umbrella, such as “operations research analyst.”

According to the BLS, the median annual pay for management analysts in 2020 was $87,660, with an expected increase in demand of 14% through 2030. Additionally, the BLS breaks down business analyst salary information by a few top industries:

  • Professional, scientific, and technical services, $93,710
  • Management of companies and enterprises, $87,230
  • Finance and insurance, $86,690
  • Government, $83,500

The BLS reports that the median annual salary for operations research analysts in 2020 was $86,200, with an expected increase in demand of 25% through 2030, which is much faster than the average growth rate.

Data Analyst Salary & Demand 

The BLS doesn’t track occupational trends for the specific position of “data analyst.” However, it does share information for positions that fall into the broader category of “data scientists and other mathematical science occupations.” According to that report, the average annual salary for related roles is $98,230, with an expected growth rate of 31% by 2030.

Career websites, such as and Indeed, use their internal aggregate data to share insights for more specific positions. For example, reports in February 2022 that the base salary range for data analysts in the U.S. is $69,946 to $88,877.

What to Expect from an Online Business Analytics Certificate

In today’s data-driven world, opportunities for business analysts will only continue to grow. If you’re looking to move into this exciting field, an online graduate certificate program can be an ideal way to upskill. Completing a certificate is less of an investment - in time and money - than a master’s degree or earning a second bachelor’s degree. Plus, you’ll focus solely on courses relevant to your career path of interest.

Champlain College’s 100% online business analytics graduate certificate was designed with career mobility in mind. Led by practitioners in the field, the program includes industry-specific classes such as:

  • Fundamentals of Data Management
  • Analytic Techniques for Business Administration
  • Decision Making With Business Analytics Administration
  • Business Analytics Capstone

The graduate certificate program at Champlain includes a mix of theory and practical learning, meaning you’ll get hands-on experience with organizing and examining data, creating reporting tools, and presenting your findings in meaningful, digestible ways. And because it was also created with working professionals in mind, this completely online business analytics program allows you to learn whenever, wherever you want.

To learn more about earning a graduate certificate in business analytics from Champlain College Online, visit our program page.

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