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Data Analyst vs Business Analyst: What Are The Differences?

What are the main differences between a data analyst vs business analyst? Read all about them in this complete guide.
Dec 2023  · 8 min read

So you're curious about the different data careers and have stumbled upon a few different titles, like data analysts and business analysts.

You may be wondering, "What's the difference between these roles?".

Well, their differences are quite distinct, but they also have some similarities. In this blog post, we'll cover their differences, an overview of both roles and the skills needed for each role.

Let's start with the main difference.

Data Analyst vs Business Analyst: Key Differences

The main difference between a data analyst and a business analyst lies in their primary focus. Data analysts are responsible for analyzing complex datasets to identify patterns and trends, while business analysts focus on understanding business needs and providing strategic recommendations using data.

Business Analyst vs Data Analyst: Roles and Responsibilities

To help you get a better idea of what each job entails, let's have a look at their roles and responsibilities:

Data analyst role

Data analysts are known to work with large data sets to identify patterns and trends, which can be used to inform business decisions. They use statistical tools, techniques, and programming languages like SQL and Python to collect, clean, transform, and analyze data.

Some common responsibilities of a data analyst include:

  • Collecting data from various sources
  • Cleaning and organizing large dataset
  • Manipulating data for Exploratory Data Analysis
  • Performing statistical analysis and data mining
  • Creating visualizations and reports to present findings
  • Identifying patterns and trends in datasets

With our Data Analyst with Python career track, you can learn more about these roles and responsibilities and begin your journey toward entering the profession.

Business Analyst Role

Business analysts focus on understanding business objectives, gathering requirements, and providing strategic recommendations for improving processes, products, or services. They use analytical skills to interpret data and provide insights that inform decision-making.

Some common responsibilities of a business analyst include:

  • Identifying and defining business needs
  • Gathering, analyzing, and interpreting data
  • Evaluating current processes and identifying areas for improvement
  • Developing solutions to business problems
  • Creating reports and visualizations to communicate insight

Want to explore a career as a business analyst? Our webinar on How to Become a Business Analyst provides a good overview of the role. You can also explore our full guide on what business analytics actually is.

Similarities Between Data Analysts and Business Analysts

While their primary focus may be different, there is an overlap in some of the skills both roles require.

Both data analysts and business analysts need to have strong analytical skills, be proficient in SQL and other programming languages, and be able to interpret data and provide insights.

Additionally, both roles also require excellent communication skills as they need to communicate their findings to stakeholders who may not have a background in data analysis. They also need to be able to work with cross-functional teams and collaborate effectively

Our course on Data Communication Concepts covers the soft skills needed for both roles, as does our SQL Fundamentals skill track.

Key Skills for Data Analysts and Business Analysts

Now that we've covered the roles and responsibilities let's take a look at some key skills needed for both data analysts and business analysts, including some resources to help you get started:

Key skills for data analysts

As data analysts tend to be more technical, some of their key skills will be more on data analytics tools or visualization software.

Key skills for business analysts

  • Strong communication skills - Data Communication Concepts course
  • SQL querying of company databases - SQL Fundamentals skill track
  • Ability to interpret data and provide insights
  • Critical thinking and problem-solving skills
  • Process improvement and project management skills
  • Business acumen and understanding of industry trends

Salary Comparison: Data Analysts vs Business Analysts

Next, let's have a look at a commonly asked question: how much does a data analyst or business analyst make? We’ve got full guides on data analyst salaries and business analyst salaries, but you can find the top-line info below:

According to Glassdoor, the average salary for a data analyst in the US is around $82,000 per year, while the average salary for a business analyst is around $93,043 per year.

data analyst vs business analyst salaries

However, these numbers can vary depending on experience level, industry, and location. Data analysts and business analysts with more experience and specialized skills may earn higher salaries.

Entry-level data analysts earn an average salary of around $57,880 per year, while entry-level business analysts earn around $74,000 per year.

Do take note that the job title naming convention is less likely to change for a business analyst than a data analyst.

For example, data analysts typically have either a tier-based system (Data Analyst I, Data Analyst II, and so on) or a Junior/Senior system. Business Analysts tend to just keep their job title unchanged.

Overview of Data Analytics vs Business Analytics

Since both of the roles sit within two different parallel fields within data, we'll also share with you some differences between these two categories: data analytics and business analytics.

Data analytics

Data analytics focuses solely on analyzing data to identify patterns and trends, using tools and techniques such as statistical analysis, data mining, and machine learning. The goal is to gather insights from the data that can inform decision-making.

Business analytics

Business analytics is more focused on using data analysis to drive business decisions and improve processes or products. It involves gathering and analyzing data to identify opportunities for business growth, cost reduction, or process optimization

Our course on Business Process Analytics in R is a good place to start.

Which Career Path is For You?

Before deciding which career path to pursue, you should try to find out your strengths to see which matches you better.

If you enjoy working with large datasets, have a strong analytical mindset, and are interested in identifying patterns and trends, then becoming a data analyst may be the right fit for you.

On the other hand, if you're more inclined towards understanding business needs through managing business stakeholders and providing strategic recommendations, then a career as a business analyst may be the better fit.

How to Start a Career in Both Roles

You're now probably wondering—how can I get started?

Here are some action steps you can take to start a career in both these fields:

1. Develop your data cleaning skills

For both roles, it's essential to have a strong foundation in technical data analysis skills like:

  • SQL
  • Excel
  • Statistical analysis

To get started, you can consider our Skills Tracks like SQL Fundamentals, Excel Fundamentals, and Statistics Fundamentals with R.

These are a great way to start without worrying about any technical set-up, as all the coding environments have been set up for you in the DataCamp learning environment in your browser.

2. Learn programming languages

Next, you can progress to learning a programming language for more flexibility in your data analysis work. Some popular options include:

  • Python
  • R

Python is one of the most popular languages used in data analytics. Learning it will give you an advantage in the job market.

Our Cheat Sheet on using Python for Data Science using Pandas

Looking for somewhere to start learning Python? Our Introduction to Python course is a great place to start.

The R programming language is popular among scientific research and healthcare data analysis communities and is well-suited for statistical analysis.

3. Gain experience with data visualization

data visualization experience

Familiarize yourself with popular tools such as:

  • Tableau
  • Power BI
  • Amazon QuickSight
  • Google Looker Studio

Learning these tools will help you analyze and visualize data. DataCamp also offers interactive courses for Tableau Fundamentals and Power BI Fundamentals to get you started without having to download any of their desktop apps.

4. Build your communication and presentation skills

As mentioned earlier, both roles require effective communication to present findings and collaborate with stakeholders. You'll need to master how to present well using a range of different tools and to a variety of professionals throughout an organization.

To learn how to do this well, try practicing a presentation about data insights from a data project you've done and sharing it with someone who can provide feedback.

5. Pursue a certification

While not always necessary, obtaining certifications can help you with a structured approach.

Learning without guidance or direction can be overwhelming, so it is always a good idea to start with the resources that experts have created.

Our Professional Data Analyst Certification

Some of the commonly pursued certifications in data analytics and business analytics are:

  • DataCamp Data Analyst Certification (Associate/Professional)
  • Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP)
  • Microsoft Certified: Power BI Data Analyst Associate
  • Google Data Analytics Professional Certificate

You can also explore our separate guide on business analyst certifications to find a relevant qualification.

6. Network and gain experience

To really stand out in the job market, it's essential to gain practical experience through internships or part-time work. You should also work on data analytics projects to start building a portfolio of work you can show to prospective employers.

You can also network and attend data analytics conferences or events (virtual ones included) to learn from industry experts and make valuable connections.

You might also want to check out common business analyst interview questions to make sure you have all the basics down.

Final Thoughts

The two roles of data analyst and business analyst are closely related but have distinct differences in their focuses.

Here's a summary of what we covered:

  • Data analysts use technical skills to analyze data and draw insights
  • Business analysts focus on understanding business needs and providing strategic recommendations
  • To start a career in either role, you'll need to develop both technical and soft skills, gain practical experience, and pursue certifications.

To get started in either of these fields, it's important to have the right guidance and resources. If you're interested in a career as a data analyst, DataCamp offers an Associate Data Analyst Certification that covers all the basic tools and skills used on the job.

For a career as a business analyst, check out our SQL for Business Analysts career track, as well as our Data Analysis in Excel course.

Photo of Austin Chia
Austin Chia

I'm Austin, a blogger and tech writer with years of experience both as a data scientist and a data analyst in healthcare. Starting my tech journey with a background in biology, I now help others make the same transition through my tech blog. My passion for technology has led me to my writing contributions to dozens of SaaS companies, inspiring others and sharing my experiences.


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