Business Analyst vs. Data Scientist

Big data is at the forefront of discussions concerning business performance. While it isn’t a cure-all for a business’s woes, the proper use of analytics can help a company understand its customers’ needs and meet them efficiently. Business analysts and data scientists are both crucial to turning a company’s data into useful, actionable advice. These professions share similarities and differences, and individuals interested in a career in data should have a solid grasp of each before choosing to invest time and effort in one.

What Is a Business Analyst?

Business analysts use data to bridge the gap between information technology (IT) and business processes. Using data analytics, business analysts determine what a business needs and how to meet that need, using existing data to inform business decisions. Business analysts focus on increasing the efficiency of business processes, translating data into real-world applications.

Data analysts build models that allow a business to make data-informed decisions. They rely on the aid of IT and finance departments to balance functionality with cost. Using data as a starting point, a business analyst looks at the larger picture and determines where a company can improve. He or she then consults the finance department for funding and liaises with IT to implement changes as dictated by the data.

What Is a Data Scientist?

Data science isn’t a single monolithic field but instead has a number of subgroups, including data mining, database management and architecture, machine learning or cognitive computing development, and market-related analytics. Data scientists find trends in sets of data through data mining, statistical analysis, and retrieval processes. Companies that require data scientists range from businesses looking to optimize their SEO rankings to online flight agencies tracking hundreds of thousands of ticket prices at users’ request.

In recent years, data processing has moved from being under the purview of data scientists to being the responsibility of the systems and frameworks they create. The sheer quantity of data that companies now have to process has led data scientists to embrace automation and machine learning. Data scientists design tools to automate the tracking of trends and insights rather than manually processing data.

Business Analyst vs. Data Scientist: What Are the Similarities?

There are significant similarities in the work that business analysts and data scientists do.

  • Analytics and problem-solving are critical to both professions. Data scientists use logic to develop solutions that allow for the efficient processing of massive stores of data. Graduates of Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Science in Data Science can learn and use these skills. Business analysts use analytics and problem-solving to find solutions. Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Science in Mathematics offers a solid background in mathematics along with critical thinking to use that skill effectively.
  • Both professions require an understanding of IT. Data scientists need to know how systems work and understand the interactions between configurations to correctly develop systems that use available resources. Business analysts need to understand the capabilities of their operations. Both professions depend heavily on technology.
  • Big data plays a significant role in both fields. For example, business analysts use big data to track metrics important to the business to inform decision-making. Data scientists, on the other hand, use big data slightly differently. By using stores of data coming into a company, they develop a system that allows the technology to consume and process data to find patterns. Those patterns can then offer actionable insight to the business, translating the complex web of big data into something more understandable.

How Does a Business Analyst Differ from a Data Scientist?

Even though there are similarities between the professions, each discipline is unique. Looking at business analyst vs. data scientist roles uncovers the following differences:

  • Data scientists develop frameworks, while business analysts use those frameworks to process data. Data scientists are responsible for building and fine-tuning the same systems that business analysts use to draw their conclusions. Business analysts can use data to make assumptions about markets and trends but may not be able to break down the individual processing of each metric they track, which requires data scientists with advanced mathematical skills, such as those offered by the Maryville University online Bachelor of Science in Mathematics.
  • Business analysts are more in tune with a business’s big-picture goals, while data scientists focus on the design and functionality of data-gathering frameworks. Data scientists tend to use abstract methods for automating their processes, while business analysts think about the real-world applications of the results. Business analysts implement solutions that the algorithms suggest based on the data.
  • Data scientists’ jobs focus heavily on the processing of data through statistical methods. Business analysts assess processed data and communicate with IT and finance departments to see if the solution that the algorithm presents is affordable and feasible. Business analysts tend to have more interaction with people outside of their departments than data scientists.

What Is the Job Outlook for Each Profession?

Business analysts fall into the broad category of management analysts. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that the median annual salary for a management analyst in 2018 was $83,610, with the top 10% earning as much as $152,760. The BLS expects the field to grow by 14% between 2018 and 2028, which is faster than the projected average for all occupations (5%).

Data scientists are included in the BLS category of mathematicians and statisticians, who earned a median annual salary of $101,900 in 2018, with the top 10% making $160,550 annually. The BLS notes this field is growing at an even faster rate than business analysts, with a projected growth of 30% between 2018 and 2028.

Which Profession Is Right for You?

Choosing between these jobs requires a solid foundation in mathematics and data science. Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and online Bachelor of Science in Data Science can equip graduates to enter either field. Learn more about your path to a fulfilling career.

Recommended Readings:

How AI Advances Will Reshape the Future Workplace

The Future of Data Science and Important Skills for Data Scientists

The Future of Big Data in Business: Using Data Analytics to Provide Insight

Smartphone Apps and Permissions: Big Data and Mobile Data


CIO, “What Is a Business Analyst? A Key Role for Business-IT Efficiency”

Harvard Business Review, “What Data Scientists Really Do, According to 35 Data Scientists”

Maryville University, Bachelor of Science in Data Science

Maryville University, Bachelor of Science in Mathematics

Springboard, Business Analyst vs. Data Analyst

Techopedia, Data Scientist

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Management Analysts

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Mathematicians and Statisticians

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