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

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Learn how data analysts and business analysts work with data to drive better business decisions and determine which might be a better career fit for you.

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Data analysts and business analysts help drive data-driven decision-making in their organisations. Data analysts work more closely with the data itself, whilst business analysts are more involved in addressing business needs and recommending solutions. Both are highly sought-after roles and are typically well-compensated.

In this article, we’ll look closely at what makes each role unique and why you might pursue either as a career.

Business analytics vs. data analytics

Business analysts and data analysts have similar roles, and some companies use the terms interchangeably even though they are separate and distinct positions. And whilst both types of analysts use data to improve business decisions, they do so in different ways. 

What do data analysts do?

Data analysts gather, clean, analyse, visualise, and present existing data to help inform business decisions. An effective data analyst uses data to answer questions and empower decision-makers to plot the best course of action. Typical tasks for a data analyst might include:

  • Working with business leaders and stakeholders to define a problem or business need

  • Identifying and sourcing data 

  • Cleaning and preparing data for analysis

  • Analysing data for patterns and trends

  • Visualising data to make it easier to understand

  • Presenting data in such a way that it tells a compelling story

What do business analysts do?

Business analysts help identify problems, opportunities, and solutions for their organisations. They do this by:

  • Evaluating a company’s current functions and IT structures

  • Reviewing processes and interviewing team members to identify areas for improvement

  • Presenting findings and recommendations to management and other key stakeholders

  • Creating visuals and financial models to support business decisions

  • Training and coaching staff in new systems

What is a Business Intelligence (BI) Analyst? 

BI analysts are a hybrid between business and data analysts. They use analysis, modelling, and visualisation of industry trends and the competitive landscape to help businesses cut losses and increase profits.


Educational background

Many business analyst roles require at least a bachelor’s degree, and some companies prefer candidates with a postgraduate degree. Relevant degrees include a Bachelor of Business Administration, Bachelor of Business Management, Master of Business Administration, and Diploma in Business Administration. Also, it is possible to switch from a career as a software developer or industry professional to a role as a business analyst, as many of the skills transfer to the role.

Data analysts tend to have a more substantial STEM background, with training in business information systems, computer science, information management, maths, or statistics. Many companies look for data analyst candidates with a data science or data analysis degree. Common degrees include a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, Bachelor of Science in Statistics, Master of Science in Data Science, and Master of Science in Business Analytics.

Skills: Business vs. data analyst

Data analytics and business analytics each involve a slightly different skill set. Whilst both occupations work with data, they do so in different ways. Here’s a look at some common skills for each.

Data analystBusiness analyst
Data analysisNeeds analysis
Knowledge of data structuresKnowledge of business structures
SQL and statistical programmingMicrosoft Visio and software design tools

The two roles also share several skills. Whichever path you choose, you can set yourself up for success by being a good:

  • Oral and written communicator

  • Problem solver

  • Critical thinker

  • Organiser

  • Collaborator


The in-demand skills involved in data and business analysis often draw high salaries. According to Glassdoor, business analysts in India earn an average base pay of ₹8,50,000, whilst the national average salary for a data analyst is ₹7,00,000[1, 2].

Read more: How Much Do Data Analysts Make? 2023 Salary Guide

Get started with Coursera

If you’re considering a career as a data analyst, start building a foundation of job-ready skills with the Google Data Analytics Professional Certificate on Coursera. You can complete the programme online in six months or less. You'll have opportunities to deepen your understanding of the processes used by data analysts, learn how to clean and organise data, and discover ways to present data findings.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Article sources


Glassdoor. “Business Analyst Salaries in India,,5_IN115_KO6,22.htm?clickSource=searchBtn.” Accessed March 17, 2023.

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