Data Analyst vs Research Analyst vs Financial Analyst - What's the Difference?

Analyst job types comparison


The term ‘analyst’ is rarely a job title seen alone. Whether financial, data, research, quantitative, digital or even risk, the analytics scope is seemingly unending.

Below expands on three of these analytics titles, exploring what Data, Research and Financial Analytics entail and how each of these roles are distinct.


Data Analyst

Arguably the most well-known within the analytics family, those working in Data Analysis are tasked with deriving insights from data. At a very basic level, it is a Data Analyst’s job to solve a question, or set of questions, using raw data. Data Analysts need both technical and analytical acumen along with a strong mathematical foundation.

Those working in Data Analytics typically have a degree in Data Science, Statistics, Mathematics or Science.


Research Analyst

A Research Analyst, also known as a Securities Analyst or Investment Analyst, is an analytics role that looks at a company’s assets and securities from an investigative perspective. Their investigative reports are either used in-house or compiled for clients. Working with an operations focus, Research Analysts often conclude reporting with a recommendation to either buy, sell or hold.

Research Analysts can find work in a variety of fields but are most typically employed by banks, hedge funds or insurance businesses, but any business requiring their data analysed to identify trends, provide a valuation, guide investment decisions, predict future business environments or the value of an asset may require a Research Analyst.

Working in research analysis typically requires a Master’s degree in Finance and various certifications by a number of regulatory boards, especially if working in the United States. Jobs in Market Research Analytics are considered a subset of Research Analytics.


Financial Analyst

Financial Analytics is considered one of the most popular career pathways within the Financial Sector. It is the job of a Financial Analyst to guide business decisions and give recommendations based on a combined economic understanding and business valuation. Considered backstage experts, there are two main focuses for a Financial Analyst; examining investments and market outcomes. 

From an analytical perspective, the data-driven nature of the financial industry means Financial Analysts must have a comprehensive understanding of the financial market and wider economic market.

The job of a Financial Analyst can vary greatly from one company to the next, however a degree in either Business, Finance or Economics is required across the board. Certifications are also beneficial, specifically the Charted Financial Analyst (CFA) certification.


Clearly these three roles work to deliver completely different outcomes while sitting within overlapping sectors. Whilst Data Analytics is typically sector neutral, Financial Analysts and Research Analysts generally work in the financial sector, however they are not limited solely to this sector. And, where the scope of a Research Analyst is narrow and involves investigative analysis, a Financial Analyst comparatively works with a broader outlook to provide more business-wide investment recommendations. Financial Analytics is also more specialised in comparison to Data Analytics and Research Analytics.

Careers in Data Analytics and Research Analytics are more data centric with a greater focus on mathematics to answers questions using historical data. Finally, Financial Analysts earn the highest average salary of the three roles, even at entry level, and have the greatest progression opportunities in comparison to Research Analysts and Data Analysts.


Despite the differences, these three analytics roles have almost guaranteed growth with the anticipated need far outweighing available skilled analysts. This demand is a promising indicator for opportunity growth and salary increases, and makes now an opportune time to enter the analytics field whether considering a career as a Data, Research or Financial Analyst.


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