Research Analyst vs. Data Scientist: Comparing Two Analytical Careers

Information is used to make high-level decisions in industries that rely on large amounts of data, such as finance, healthcare, and education. Companies in these industries need highly skilled data professionals who understand not just how to work with and analyze the information but also how to program storage software and hardware systems that are cost-effective and efficient for the storage, transfer, and protection of important data.

Those with advanced data degrees often pursue careers as research analysts and data scientists. These professionals can play a crucial role in a company’s future, using their in-depth knowledge of programming languages, hardware, and software to drive progress. Securing one of these careers takes years of education, during which time students develop skills in problem-solving and analysis. Continue reading to learn more about research analysts and data scientists, as well as the experience required to step into such roles.

Research analysts reviewing data

Research Analyst Overview

A company is considering spending a good amount of its capital on an investment property, but management needs to be sure it’s making the right decision. For this task, the company might turn to a research analyst — a data specialist who investigates the potential investment, assessing the value and risk. The analyst provides a formal recommendation for how the company should invest its money. Research analysts can be “buy-side” or “sell-side,” working for companies that have money to invest or those that are selling their assets.

Research Analyst Salaries and Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not have a specific category for research analysts. However, it reports the median annual salary for market research analysts is $63,125. Operations research analysts, another related position, earn a median income of $83,390 per year. The BLS reports there were 68,190 market research analysts working in the United States as of May 2018 and projects the market will grow 20% between 2018 and 2028, adding 139,200 new jobs. Operations research analyst jobs are expected to grow at an even faster rate of 26% during the same time frame.

Data Scientist Overview

Data scientists are experts who know how to organize, analyze, and present large data sets. They share their research with executives, who may not understand how to manage and read such information. Data scientists work in industries such as finance, shipping, healthcare, and education. They perform detailed analysis on the data sets they manage but may also help with cyber security, maintenance, and system improvement. Data scientists need to have in-depth knowledge of major programming languages, including Python, SQL, and NoSQL.

Data Scientist Salaries and Job Outlook

The BLS indicates the median annual salary for computer and information research scientists, including data scientists, is $118,370. The highest-paying field, according to the BLS, is software publishers, where employees make a median annual pay of $140,220. Computer and information research scientists working for colleges and universities have the lowest median annual income ($82,660). The BLS projects the job market for these professionals will grow 16% between 2018 and 2028, adding 5,200 jobs to a current pool of 31,700.

Similarities Between Research Analysts and Data Scientists

Research analysts and data scientists come from similar educational backgrounds. Typically, professionals in both careers need an advanced degree in data science, such as Maryville University’s Master’s in Data Science. The curriculum covers programming languages (R, Python, and SQL), forecasting principles, big data analytics, data mining, data analysis and visualization, and more. Both career paths involve working in office settings, where executives who make big-picture decisions turn to them to inform their choices through the power of data analysis.

Differences Between Research Analysts and Data Scientists

Though research analysts and data scientists have similar backgrounds and need similar computer and programming skills, there are quite a few differences between them. The subject of research, the extent to which they focus on sales, and the certifications they might pursue set the two fields apart.

Research Focus

When data scientists conduct research, it’s typically geared toward understanding and fixing computing issues. Data scientists study programs, networks, and hardware to put together the best possible systems and help others on staff to solve technical problems. They focus on developing algorithms that can increase computing speed and integrating hardware that can allow for faster data transfer.

Research analysts focus not on data transfer and storage methods but on economic forecasts. Instead of computer systems, they examine entire companies, markets, and commodities. Their research answers important questions on the investment, sale, or holding of stocks, bonds, or properties.

Selling Point

Data scientists aren’t typically directly involved in sales or acquisitions. Instead, their primary concern is improving products or services. They may help businesses increase sales but only as a byproduct of their work.

Research analysts often work as “sell-side” analysts. In these positions, they research their companies’ performance, products, services, or related markets. They then present findings to potential investors, who may choose to support their companies.

Certifications and Regulations

Data scientists can choose from a variety of certifications, none of which are required to gain employment, though all demonstrate a proficiency in desirable skills. They may earn certifications in artificial intelligence and deep learning, data analytics, or general data science from a reputable organization.

Research analysts are also not required to have any specific certifications, though they may choose to earn one, such as the International Institute for Procurement & Market Research’s Certified Research Analyst certificate. Generally, certifications for research analysts emphasize market research, as opposed to the systems and network-driven certifications earned by data scientists.

Research Analyst vs. Data Scientist: Which Is Right for You?

Big data is here, and it will likely continue driving the growth of industries throughout the nation. Careers as research analysts and data scientists are potentially profitable, in demand, and attainable with the right degree. Find out more about how Maryville University’s online Master’s in Data Science can help you step into one of these challenging and exciting careers.

Recommended Readings
Building Skills for the Future of Machine Learning

The Future of Artificial Intelligence in Work and Everyday Life

The Future of Data Science and Important Skills for Data Scientists

CIO, “15 Top Data Science Certifications That Will Pay Off”

CIO, “What Is a Data Scientist? A Key Data Analytics Role and a Lucrative Career”

The Guardian, “So What Does a Research Analyst Do, Exactly?”

Houston Chronicle, “Careers As a Research Analyst”

Investopedia, Research Analyst

Maryville University, Data Scientist Jobs for Master’s Graduates

Maryville University, Master of Science in Data Science

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Computer and Information Research Scientists

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Market Research Analysts

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Operations Research Analysts

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