What Is the Difference Between Data Science and Business Analytics?

When it comes to making decisions that decide the future of a company, quality data is vital. Collecting and analyzing data provides important insight about a market, industry trends, customer behavior, and other information that can drive business strategy.

Both data science and business analytics involve the use of data to solve problems and make decisions, but there are some key differences in the methods, scope, and applications of each field.

Some of the most basic skills every information systems professional needs to succeed include problem solving, management, computer programming, and security awareness. There are specific skills needed to gain a career as a data scientist, and business analysts also have certain proficiencies that help them thrive.

What Is Business Analytics?

Business analytics refers to the practice of the methodical exploration of a company’s data to aid in decision-making and improve overall business strategy. This is achieved through a combination of data collection, data mining, statistical analysis, and predictive modeling.

The overall aim of business analytics is to provide actionable insights and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of a business. The practice of business analytics can be applied within a wide range of industries. From managing clinical information systems in health care to tracking busy hours at fast-food restaurants, business analytics are essential just about everywhere.

What Does a Business Analyst Do?

While a data scientist focuses on the initial stages of assessing raw data, a business analyst takes the data and further analyzes it to help a business improve its overall processes, software, and other products and services. Business analytics is used for tactical decisions compared to the more strategic overview provided by data science.

Business analysts often work closely with various stakeholders within an organization to understand the needs of the business. When they gather and analyze data, they search for trends and patterns that indicate areas for improvement.

The role of a business analyst can be broad and varied depending on the specific role and the needs of the organization. However, the main responsibilities of the role involve using data to help a business improve its operations, strategy, and decision-making.

Business Analyst Skills and Education

For business analysts, it’s important to have a firm grasp on statistical analysis and data visualization. Business analysts often work with Excel, SQL, and specific business intelligence tools, rather than the more complex platforms that are often used in data science.

A bachelor’s degree in business administration, finance, economics, statistics, or a related field is often a minimum requirement for a business analyst role. Depending on the nature of the specific role, a company may also look for degrees in IT or computer science. A master’s degree, in Master of Science in Management Information Systems, can be an asset for more senior roles.

Business Analyst Salary

While the average salary of a business analyst is less than that of a data scientist, these professionals can still expect to earn a competitive wage. A business analyst can make an average of $72,638 a year, with the upper 10% making around $100,000, and the lowest 10% earning about $50,000.

A career in business analytics shows great opportunity for the years to come. The BLS reports that the job outlook for management analysts is anticipated to grow 11% between 2021 and 2031.

What Is Data Science?

In its simplest form, data science can be defined as a variety of methods for analyzing and interpreting large and complex sets of data. It’s a broad field that requires technical skills like computer programming, predictive modeling, and statistical analysis.

Data science takes advantage of emerging technologies, which means its processes are always changing. For example, artificial intelligence uses scientific methods, algorithms, and systems to make it easier to collect and process data in a more streamlined and efficient way.

What Does a Data Scientist Do?

A data scientist is responsible for evaluating raw data to develop well-informed decisions. These individuals source, manage, and analyze critical data via computer programs to identify patterns that can relay actionable information to important stakeholders in a business.

Software plays a key role in the career of a data scientist because of the complexity of information — understanding how to leverage algorithms allows data scientists to properly analyze large, complex sets of data and draw useful conclusions from it.

Beyond analyzing the data, some responsibilities of data scientists include preparing data for analysis through a process called scrubbing. This removes errors or extraneous information from the data and makes it easier to evaluate.

Data Scientist Skills and Education

The field of data science requires several technical skills. Programming and statistical modeling are among the most important of these skills. However, they also need to be able to analyze and interpret complex data sets. This involves using software to visualize data and present findings in a clear manner.

Data scientists often hold advanced degrees. A Bachelor of Science in Information Systems or a related field — like computer science, mathematics, or statistics — is often a requirement. However, many data scientists hold a master’s degree or even a Ph.D.

Data Scientist Salary

Those interested in a career as a data scientist can expect a high wage — according to PayScale, the average salary for this role is $99,148, and that figure has the potential to rise to nearly $137,000 per year for those with considerable work experience.

According to the BLS, data scientist roles are projected to grow by 36% from 2021 to 2031. This means opportunities in the field should increase significantly in the years to come.

Key Differences Between Data Science and Business Analytics

Data scientists are often tasked with formulating questions and finding innovative uses for data. This can include developing and implementing complex algorithms and models. Data scientists deal with uncertainty, and use data to find potential solutions to problems that may have yet to be defined.

Business analysts often work with clearly defined problems, and use data to provide insights that can help a business improve efficiency, reduce costs, or increase company revenue.

The line between the roles can sometimes be blurry. The rapidly developing and expanding fields mean that specific job requirements and descriptions can vary greatly between companies and industries. The size, industry and data maturity of a company will often dictate which skills are needed most.



Forbes, “The Age of Analytics and the Importance of Quality Data”

Forbes, “Just When A Data Scientist Has It All Figured Out, The Rules Change”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Working with big data”

Payscale, “Average Data Scientist Salary”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Data Scientists”

Payscale, “Average Business Analyst, IT Salary”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Management Analysts”