Data Analyst vs. Business Analyst - What’s the Difference?

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Thanks to the rise of smartphones and the Internet, data is more abundant than ever. This information is changing the way we live and work and has become hugely important in business. In 2017, The Economist Magazine went as far as declaring that “the world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data”, and over the past few years organisations have scrambled to use data more effectively as they seek competitive advantage. 

Data is important in a number of different ways. It enables better informed decisions and brings opportunities to light that might otherwise have remained hidden. And instead of stumbling in the dark, businesses can become more strategic in their approach when they have access to good data, which also helps them identify what they do well and which areas are ripe for improvement. 

Data science is a growth area that has led to many exciting employment opportunities in a wide range of different industries. The two roles that appear mostly commonly in recruitment adverts are Data Analyst and Business Analyst. They might sound similar, but there are quite a few differences between these two positions. 

What does a Data Analyst do?

A Data Analyst collects reliable information based on the needs and goals of their employer. Once this data has been gathered, they then set about interpreting it, looking for patterns and trends. After extraction and analysis, analysts present this data to relevant business functions who can then decide how best to use it. Additionally, they often create reports (written and visual) on their results for internal circulation. Because Data Analysts work hands-on harvesting information from databases, they usually have proficiency in computer programming languages like Python or R for example.

What does a Business Analyst do?

A Business Analyst uses data to make recommendations that address business needs and remove costly inefficiencies. They usually work as part of the IT department and spend a significant amount of time reviewing structures, teams and processes. The data that they work with informs the solutions they devise to improve business operations. Because their work is more concerned with the application of data, rather than collecting it, they don’t need to have the same technical proficiency as a Data Analyst, although these skills can be advantageous, especially in more senior roles. 

In a world of big data, intelligent insight is more important than ever. If you’re considering a career in data science, becoming a Data or Business Analyst offers rewarding and lucrative work with many positions to choose from. Although the two roles sound similar, there are fundamental differences, and your choice of career path will depend on your aptitude, qualifications and skill set.

To summarise, a Data Analyst works at the coalface so to speak, gathering information directly from sources such as databases. This information is then collated and analysed before being presented to others. A Business Analyst works somewhat differently. Instead of gathering and interrogating data to pass on to different departments, they use data to reach their own conclusions and make recommendations accordingly. 



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