Data Analyst vs. Business Analyst: Which role is right for you

Data Analyst vs. Business Analyst: Which role is right for you

business and data analysts working

We live in an "Age of Analytics", marked by increased investment in intelligent and intuitive technologies, automation, Big Data, and the rapid skilling of professionals with the analytical skills needed to visualize and interpret large data sets. In 2021, artificial intelligence, data visualization, cloud technology, and new analytics practices became significant trends disrupting business processes. As digital transformation accelerates, these trends show no sign of slowing down. 

Organizations everywhere seek data analysts who can understand and organize datasets and business analysts who can apply data patterns as business insights. It's no longer enough to use data to predict challenges — professionals must learn how to use data to prescribe the best path forward for leaders and businesses at large.

What is a business analyst? What is a data analyst? Which role is right for you? Discover the answers to these questions and more as we examine the salary, job outlook, and education needed to work as a business analyst vs. a data analyst in the current Canadian job market.

Overview: Data Analyst Vs. Business Analyst 

business analyst

Data analysts and business analysts both work with data to identify patterns and draw conclusions, but the way they use datasets varies. The essential difference is that a data analyst starts with raw data and ends with structured data. In contrast, a business analyst's role begins with structured data and ends with actionable business insights. Learn more about the distinct roles, responsibilities, and skills involved in each job. 

What is a Data Analyst?

A data analyst is responsible for collecting and examining raw data and visualizing data into patterns, challenges, and opportunities. Data analysts leverage Big Data and innovative technologies to ensure the data is high-quality and their findings are unbiased and statistically significant. Data analysts are often skilled at math, statistics, computer science, and related subjects. 

Roles and responsibilities of a data analyst: 

  • Mining data and ensuring data is high-quality for analysis
  • Maintaining data systems and databases
  • Turning raw data into patterns and trends
  • Creating reports and visualizing data
  • Presenting findings to organizational leaders and team members

Hard skills for data analysts:

  • Data mining
  • Predictive analytics
  • Machine learning
  • Big Data analytics
  • Text mining

Data Analyst Salary in Canada

The national average salary for a Data Analyst is $67,376 per year in Canada, and data analysts with years of experience can earn up to $88,295 per year.

Data Analyst Job Outlook

Canadians will see 18,000 emerging data analysts job openings through 2028 and only 16,700 new job seekers, resulting in a labour shortage. This means that Canadian businesses require skilled professionals to meet the evolving needs of the workforce. The job outlook is good for data analysts in British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and Saskatchewan.

What is a Business Analyst?

A business analyst uses the patterns and trends produced by data analysts to make informed business decisions to optimize efficiency, internal processes, strategies, costs, and more. Business analysts strive to consistently improve their organization by communicating ways data can be leveraged to drive real-world change, from improving organizational change management and hiring strategies to personalizing marketing efforts.

Roles and responsibilities of a business analyst: 

  • Examining and optimizing business processes related to efficiency and cost
  • Presenting business analytics insights to stakeholders and organizational leaders
  • Make recommendations to improve organizational procedures, marketing initiatives, business strategy, budgeting, and more. 

Hard skills for business analysts:

  • Prescriptive analytics
  • Business strategy
  • Cost analysis
  • Operations research
  • Business management

Business Analyst Salary in Canada

The national average salary for a Business Analyst is $70,013 per year in Canada. With numerous years of experience, Business Analysts can earn up to $97,000 per year. 

Business Analyst Job Outlook 

The job outlook for business analysts in Canada is positive. According to Job Bank, there will be approximately 14,800 new job openings through 2028 for business analysts. The job outlook is incredibly positive in Ontario.

Can a Data Analyst become a Business Analyst?

Yes, although data analysts and business analysts have varying roles and responsibilities, the skills needed to succeed in a career in analytics intersect in various areas. A data analyst interested in becoming a business analyst must build the foundational knowledge required to apply data patterns in a business context. 

A Master’s in Business Analytics offers courses such as "Big Data for Decision Making" or "Effective Management Consultancy" that teach students how to apply data-mining methods to solve real-world problems and explore challenges in the context of today's business and consulting industry. An online MBA can also help data analysts better grasp the business management world and better understand how data relates to organizational outcomes.

Gender Ratio: Business Analyst Vs. Data Analyst

data analyst

In 2020, BCG released the thought-provoking article, "What's Keeping Women Out of Data Science?" addressing the lack of diversity in data science and related science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers. The report acknowledges that only 15% of data science professionals today are women. Many women feel deterred by the career's gender disparity, a lack of understanding surrounding career options, and a highly competitive workforce.

According to Payscale, the gender ratio for business analysts in Canada is 56.1% male and 43% female. The gap widens when looking at the gender ratio for data analysts in Canada, which is occupied by 58.6% male and 40.6% female professionals. Much work needs to be done to not only hire more women in data science and STEM roles but to promote female leadership and empowerment in the data analytics and business analytics space. The equal representation will encourage better business outcomes for everyone.

How Do You Decide Which Role Is Right For You?

If you're deciding between a career in business analytics or a career in data analytics, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I want to work with raw data or structured data? 
  • Am I more comfortable with predictive analysis or prescriptive analysis?
  • Do I enjoy interpreting and visualizing data, or do I prefer applying data insights to organizational challenges?
  • Do I like working independently or communicating my findings with team members and stakeholders?

Professionals who are interested in how businesses operate and optimize procedures may be better equipped to pursue a Master’s in Business Analytics and apply their analytical skills to a business management setting. 

Success Story: Sonia Chang Earns a Master’s in Business Analytics

Sonia Chang is a Senior Paid Media Specialist from Canada who graduated from Aston's Master’s in Business Analytics program. After working in digital marketing for over seven years, Sonia decided to further her education in Canada by pursuing the MSc Business Analytics online. 

The coursework transmitted real-world skills to prepare Sonia for the modern workforce. "I've learned several different hard skills like programming languages, several software languages for the steps of the data analysis process, from mining to presenting the data, and the process of effective management consulting," Sonia says. "The soft skills would be how to better organize my time, the most effective way for me to learn, and how to communicate utilizing different platforms."

Sonia successfully used Aston's MSc in Business Analytics program to build a portfolio, acquire advanced business analytics skills, and create essential networking connections with classmates and teachers worldwide. The courses and skills Sonia learned at Aston ultimately allowed her to move into a data analyst position.

Pursue an Online Masters in Business Analytics at Aston University

Does working as a business analyst sound like the right career path for you? Aston University's Master’s in Business Analytics is built for aspiring business analysts and relevant to multiple industries, including accounting and finance, human resources, business and administration, information technology, marketing, advertising and sales. The university's ties to the global business community create networking opportunities for students worldwide and welcome graduates into alumni exceeding 100,000 peers. 

Aston University's online MSc Business Analytics is a highly ranked graduate program; ranked 10th in the UK among data analytics programs by Eduniversal, ranked 25th in the UK for students experience, in the top 100 in the World for Business and Management studies, and top 80th in the world for employability. The Guardian even awarded Aston University "University of the Year" in 2020 for delivering an outstanding student experience.

Aston's online format also makes it possible for working professionals to earn their education from the comfort of their homes. With essential skills in hand, MSc Business Analytics graduates are ready to enter the international business market with confidence. 

Learn more about Aston University's Online Master’s in Business Analytics.