Business Analyst or Data Analyst: Which Career Fits You Best in 2024?

There is often confusion about the differences between business analysts and data analysts.


  • Are professionals within the field of data science.
  • Delve into data in search of answers
  • Titles are used interchangeably, depending on the organization.

In reality, however, the two are very different. This article discusses those differences in greater depth, explaining the respective responsibilities, backgrounds, and qualifications expected of each.

Do Business Analysts and Data Analysts Have Different Roles?

Yes, they do! Business analysts and data analysts have distinct roles within a company.

Business analysts are like the strategic thinkers of the business world. They use data to help shape the overall business strategy. 

On the other hand, data analysts are more like detectives. They dive deep into data to find valuable insights that can be used to make informed decisions.

So, while business analysts focus on the big picture, data analysts are all about the details. Both roles are important and complement each other in helping businesses thrive.

What Exactly Does A Business Analyst Do? 

Well, they’re like the translators of the business world, taking all that collected data and figuring out what it means for the company.

Should they put more money into one project or switch up their whole strategy? It’s up to the business analyst to help answer these big questions.

To do this job well, you need to be good at digging into data and finding the juicy bits of information. But it’s not just about numbers; you also need to understand how businesses work and what they need.

Being able to talk to people and convince them that your ideas are solid is key. And let’s not forget about being a great project manager to make sure those ideas actually happen in the real world.

What Does a Data Analyst Do?

Think of data analysts as detectives of the data world. They dig through heaps of information to uncover hidden insights and then turn those insights into easy-to-understand reports and visuals. 

In data science teams, they’re like the storytellers, giving meaning and context to all those numbers.

Unlike business analysts, data analysts often work more independently, diving deep into complex data sets to find trends in big data. 

While they do need to have good presentation skills to share their findings, their main focus is on analyzing data and uncovering valuable insights.

Education and Requirements

Many organizations seek business and data analysts who hold at least a bachelor’s degree, but a degree of any kind is by no means necessary to work in these fields. What matters to hiring managers even more than the degree you hold is the set of skills you bring to the job.

What Are the Requirements for Becoming a Business Analyst?

To kickstart a career as a business analyst, having a bachelor’s or master’s degree in computer science, statistics, business administration, economics, finance, or a related field is beneficial. 

However, an alternative route involves attending a data analytics bootcamp and engaging in self-study, which has proven effective for many aspiring business analysts.

Typically, business analysts need to possess a range of skills, including:

  • Proficiency in data research and analysis
  • A mindset geared towards quantitative and analytical thinking
  • Demonstrated proficiency in SAP (preferably SAP-R3/BI)
  • Strong skills in Microsoft Excel, Word, and PowerPoint
  • Proficiency in SQL
  • Experience with Tableau
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Competence in project management

What Are the Requirements To Become a Data Analyst?

Data analysts are more numbers-oriented than business analysts. They typically have an undergraduate degree in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) category or with programming, computer modeling, data analytics, machine learning, data visualization, or predictive analytics experience. 

An advanced degree is an added bonus but is not required. However, some of the common skills requirements of data analysts include:

  • A blend of analytical skills, intellectual curiosity, and reporting acumen
  • SQL/CQL, R, and Python experience
  • Advanced Excel and Microsoft Office skills
  • A strong understanding of data mining techniques
  • Solid familiarity with emerging technologies, including: MapReduce, Spark, large-scale data frameworks, machine learning
  • Ability to juggle multiple projects at once
  • Strong written and verbal communication skills
  • Familiarity with agile development methodology


The salaries of business analysts and data analysts can vary greatly depending on the city, industry, and organization they work for. Below are the average base salaries of both professions in the United States.

What Does a Business Analyst Earn?

Business analysts in the United States have an average salary of around $78,000, according to Glassdoor, although this number is often higher depending on the analyst’s experience and whether they receive additional compensation in the form of bonuses or stock grants.

What Does a Data Analyst Earn?

Data analysts in the United States have an average salary of around $84,000, although this can increase exponentially if an analyst takes on a managerial role. Bonuses and stock grants can also lead to much higher earnings for data analysts.

Career Pathways

What’s a Typical Career Path for a Business Analyst?

Many business analysts begin their careers by earning a degree in business administration or a related field. Whether they attend a traditional college program or an online bootcamp, the goal is to gain the necessary education to enter the field.

After completing their education, aspiring business analysts often start in entry-level positions such as quality assurance engineering, IT support, or junior business analyst roles.

These roles provide valuable exposure to different aspects of a business, helping them understand organizational needs, decision-making processes, and how data can be used to improve efficiency.

To advance in their careers, business analysts often pursue additional training to stay current with evolving technologies and best practices. Many choose to earn certifications or enhance their technical skills through online data analytics bootcamps.

What’s a Typical Career Path for a Data Analyst?

Data analysts typically earn a bachelor’s degree in data science, computer science, statistics, applied mathematics, or a related field. However, their paths into the field can vary significantly.

Some data analysts begin their careers with internships or entry-level positions such as junior data analysts. Others transition into data analysis from roles such as financial analysts, systems administrators, or quality assurance engineers. 

These roles provide opportunities to work with data, participate in data-centric projects, and build a portfolio, all of which are valuable for advancing in the field.

Business Analyst vs. Data Analyst: Which Is Best for You?

Both business and data analysis require critical thinking and a knack for problem-solving, but your interests and skills might make one role a better fit for you.

Consider Being a Business Analyst if

You’re a big-picture thinker who excels at communication. Business analysts focus on improving the overall business, so being business-minded is crucial. 

You’ll need to understand how data relates to business strategy and effectively communicate your findings to stakeholders, even those without technical backgrounds.

Consider Being a Data Analyst if

You enjoy diving deep into data to find answers. Data analysts work with math and statistics to make complex numbers and stats understandable and actionable. 

If you’re skilled at presenting findings clearly to different teams, a career as a data analyst might be right for you.