If you’re reading this, it’s probably because you want to know about the most in-demand, data-centric jobs. Fortunately for you, business analysts and data analysts are both in demand and bring in high salaries.

Business analysts and data analysts have several overlapping responsibilities, so their roles may appear interchangeable. But they have certain key differences. Let’s take a closer look at the similarities and differences between the two areas.  
What is Business Analysis?

Business analysis is a process of understanding the scope, objectives, and complexities of business projects. It involves reconciling conflicting expectations between stakeholders and driving the momentum of projects forward, all by employing data analysis techniques.

So what do business analysts actually do? These professionals are mainly concerned with analyzing business processes, stakeholder engagement, business agility and assessing the implications of data. They see each of these domains through a business lens, and are constantly searching for the answers to questions such as:

To answer each of these questions, business analysts have to leverage the work of data science teams. This is because business analysts focus more on the business side rather than the data science itself in any particular process of an organization.

Business analysts also have to support continuous improvement and assess new requirements as they emerge to ensure their projects continue to enhance and support the overall business. They are continually updating their techniques, approaches, and courses of action to keep pace with an ever-changing business environment.


What is Data Analysis?

Data analysis is the process of gaining insights from data, finding meaning in the numbers, and then turning those meaningful numbers into success stories. A data-backed analysis is vital for making informed business decisions.

A data analyst inspects, filters, cleans, and models data so that the most useful information can be delivered. Data analysts are mainly concerned with creating data reports, data visualization, assigning numerical values to various business functions, and bringing out the insights the data is hiding. This data is usually required by various other teams whose job is to find problem areas and areas for improvement based on the data analysis.

Data analysis is very similar to business analysis, but less focused on day-to-day business challenges.

Key Skills for Business Analysts

Business analysts have a background in data analysis techniques, but are heavily focused on the business side of things. So they need strong communication and leadership skills. They should be creative enough to balance out various factors around the problem while they are recommending business solutions.

To be able to contribute to the development of products, services, and processes, business analysts have to assemble a host of resources, and access them for process efficiency. In doing so, they’re faced with diverse challenges and often tremendous pressure. They have to deliver value under tight deadlines. This kind of work requires strong problem-solving ability, transferable skills, and confidence.

A smart business analyst should know how to take on difficult deals with ease. They need the negotiation skills and persuasiveness to come out of a deal in a strong position. So if you’re interested in being a business analyst, you should start working on your persuasiveness and negotiation skills.

Key Skills for Data Analysts

Data analysts are required to monitor revenue streams. In order to do this, they have to make use of complex calculation applications and get the numbers nailed down. Like business analysts, data analysts clean large amounts of data to extract fact-based insights. They need intellectual know-how, a knack for statistical analysis, and application expertise.

Some data analysts are also required to help management make strategic decisions. So it’s worth having a strong operational mindset and good familiarity with probabilities. As a data analyst, you should be able to outline your key insights using user-friendly dashboards. You’ll need to create clearly written reports so that your hard work achieves the impact it deserves.

Whether it’s programming, strategic decision-making or statistical data, as a data analyst, you cannot afford to miss crucial data sources. This calls for attention to detail and visualization skills, along with proficiency in data mining. After all, other than technical expertise, these are the most vital components of your work.

How to Become a Business Analyst

A business analyst is likely to have a background in the business world. However, some business analysts may have similar backgrounds to that of a data analyst, so it comes down to what you choose to specialize in.

If you’re interested in becoming a business analyst, you should consider enrolling in an undergraduate degree or certification in accounting, economics, business management, or administration. The degree you choose should equip you with a problem-solving and analytical skill set.  

How to Become a Data Analyst

Both data analysts and business analysts will typically have a math and programming background (such as SQL, Python and C++). This means you should consider enrolling in a degree in computer science, data science, mathematics, or a similar field. You may also benefit from a mentorship with a seasoned data analyst—this will help you gain a hands-on understanding of algorithms and data science tools like SAS, MATLAB, BigML, R Programming, and Tableau.

Although the demand for data analysts is accelerating, data science courses still aren’t as common as mathematics courses in colleges and universities. So it’s safe to assume that most data analysts and data scientists don’t have specialized degrees in data science.

If you’re a business analyst, you can transition into a data analyst career if you have a strong technical background and you can build up the requisite skills over time. It’s common for people to transition from the data analysis field to the business analysis field, and vice versa during their career. It depends on which aspect of the job they find more enjoyable or they tend to perform better at. So, a business analyst who likes programming and the data aspects of the business may decide to transition into being a data analyst.

Start Learning

Hopefully now you have a better understanding of the differences between the roles of a business analyst and a data analyst. If you decide that an analyst role is your ideal pathway into tech, you can fast-track your entry into the field with a full-time, online data analytics course, regardless of your previous experience. If you need to keep working while you learn, try a part-time data analytics bootcamp.

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