Data Analyst Vs Business Analyst: Which One You Should Take?

Analyst roles are all the rage right now, thanks to the conversion of the industrial economy to a data economy. Anyone, despite the technicality of their educational background, can excel in this role. But, which one really matches your potential and your aspirations? The role of a data analyst or a business analyst? This article will help you answer that question.

Who is a data analyst?

Data analysts work directly with the data. They are the ones working in the darkroom and sorting through the company’s data to separate the important facts from the unimportant ones. They identify important business questions, apply statistical models and techniques, and also perform analysis to eke out crucial conclusions. They are also responsible for protecting the organization’s data.

Skills needed:

  • Fluency in at least one language like R, Python, SQL
  • High level of mathematical ability
  • Accuracy and attention to detail
  • A logical and methodological approach
  • Working in a high-pressure environment

Possible courses/ degrees:

  • A Bachelor’s degree in finance, marketing, computer science, mathematics, or economics
  • Masters in business analytics or data science (not necessary to get this straight out of college)
  • Specialized coding, statistics, machine learning, and Excel courses to refine your skills

Who is a business analyst?

A business analyst is a person who is concerned with using technological means to solve business problems and drive business growth. Apart from having basic technological knowledge, these people are excellent at drafting strategies, identifying business opportunities, and communicating with a variety of people.

Skills needed:

  • Good verbal and written communication skills
  • Excellent presentation skills
  • Ability to manage and inspire/ encourage people
  • Negotiation and persuasion skills
  • Decision-making skills

Possible courses/ degrees:

  • Bachelor’s in accounting, information systems, or computer science
  • Masters in business analytics, information management, and business administration (if the job requirement states so)
  • Additional certifications- like those from the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA).

The difference between the two is captured succinctly by Martin Schedlbauer, associate clinical professor and director of Northeastern University’s information and data science programs. He said: “In the simplest terms, data is a means to the end for business analysts, while data is the end for data analysts.”

Knowing that, let’s get to the crucial part:

How to decide

Assess your skills

Which courses and degrees do you have under your belt right now? 

Business analysts usually have business-focused degrees that keep their eyes on the goal of generating and growing a business. They use data to optimize business operations and might or (mostly) might not know programming languages. 

Data analysts, on the other hand, are technically fluent and have studied one of the STEM courses with a background in science, engineering, IT, maths, physics, or statistics.

Assess your interests

Despite your skills and background, which field are you attracted to?

Do you want to be the tech genius behind the scenes who mines all the gold that the company then uses? Or do you want to be front-and-center, making using of the mined gold to drive business growth?

Business analysts carry out qualitative tasks like research, organization, problem-solving, and managing. More often than not, they have good communication skills- both verbal and written since they have to explain a lot of things to a variety of people.

Data analysts, on the other hand, are able communicators with a computer. Their main task would be number crunching and spending time doing statistics and programming. They aren’t as good at managing and running a business as business analysts but have a deep and thorough knowledge of their industry.

Consider the path you want your career to take

Apart from the ‘analysts’ in the designation, both data analysts and business analysts differ in their future career path including growth opportunities and salaries.

Here, data analysts score gold because due to the deep and specialized knowledge required for their work, they have a high earning potential. It easily reaches up to a six-figure amount. They also have more options for their career path. With advanced knowledge and degree, they can easily transition into a developer or data science role. If they do not desire that transition, then they can just work better with databases by becoming more fluent in R and Python.

Business analysts do not enjoy similar wide horizons. They have a cap on their salary package simply because the role does not require any form of specialized or deep knowledge. Additional certifications and degrees are required to change gears.

Finally, both roles will require hard work and commitment. If you are willing to promise those, then you should be good to go, irrespective of which one you choose. Learn how upGrad transformed more than 200 careers with Data Science PG Diploma by IIIT-B.

Rohit Sharma

Rohit Sharma is the Program Director for the UpGrad-IIIT Bangalore, PG Diploma Data Analytics Program.
Rohit Sharma

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