As data-generating habits have increased among humans over the last decade, so has a desire to use this information to help make complex business decisions. Over time, corporations have come to rely on these insights to better understand their consumers, target specific audiences with their marketing, refine their product release dates, and much more.
However, a lot has to happen to the raw data we generate before it can be used to help inform business decisions. As with any data analysis, a data scientist must first mine through gathered information, determine what is most relevant, and clean it up, so it’s easier to understand. An analyst must then work to draw conclusions based on that formulated data.
Learn More: Data Science vs. Analytics: A Breakdown
In a business environment, however, there’s another integral step required in the data analysis process: A business analyst must take the information gathered and apply it directly to the needs of the organization they work for to strategically solve business problems.
Read on to learn more about what a business analyst does, explore top career options for those in the industry, and uncover how you can best set yourself up for a successful career in this field.
What is Business Analytics?
Business analytics sits at the crux of business strategy and technical data analysis. It involves taking a data set and interpreting it with a very specific purpose in mind, whether that be to solve a problem for an organization or help inform a company’s future business decisions.
“In business analytics, the problem being solved is just as important as the data itself,” says Kwong Chan, an Academic Specialist in Marketing at the D’Amore-McKim School of Business and Executive Director of Northeastern’s DATA Initiative.
This is the key difference between work in this field compared to data science. “Data science can just be about curiosity or looking at information,” he continues, “But [business analytics] is about making an impact using information and data.”
What are the key responsibilities of a business analyst?
A business analyst’s responsibilities can vary depending on the company they work with or the number of years they’ve spent in the field. At the core of their work, however, all business analysts share a set of common duties that straddle the line between management and analysis.
Most commonly, these professionals communicate complex conclusions drawn from data to leadership. This work often includes indicating common patterns or trends, proposing solutions to existing problems, and providing consistent evaluations and recommendations based on gathered insights.
Business analysts in mid- or senior-level roles must also effectively lead teams made up of both technical and non-technical contributors. For example, a team working under a business analyst might include “marketing managers, digital content managers, data scientists, client-facing people, and more,” Chan says.
This diversity in team members requires business analysts to know how to “speak the language” of not just those who understand data, but every member of the group. In doing so, they will be able to better guide conversations about how to use data to impact the various functions of an organization.
Read More: What Does a Business Analyst Do?
Mid- to senior-level business analysts must also be able to “identify if there’s a talent gap,” Chan says. They must understand the intricacies of every role on their team and be able to recognize and communicate exactly what skills an ideal new candidate must have to fulfill that need.
Having a broad understanding of their team’s needs is crucial for business analysts building an efficient cohort that can effectively contribute to a business’s goals.
Prepare for a Successful Career in Business Analytics
Learn how an advanced degree can set you up for success in this rapidly growing field.
5 Top Business Analytics Careers
There are many common business analytics careers for professionals at various points in their careers. Entry-level business analysts, for example, may pursue titles such as Operations Research Analyst, Computer Systems Analyst, Information Security Analyst, Business Data Analyst, and more.
Business analysts who are already established in the field and are hoping to advance their careers have an entirely different set of roles to consider. Below, we outline five of the most common mid- to senior-level business analyst positions, their responsibilities, and their average annual salaries.
Senior Data Analyst
Average Salary: $100,739 per year
Key Responsibilities: Senior data analysts gather, organize, and communicate data to strategic business partners. Individuals in these roles may also oversee a small team, develop a reporting system based on data insights, and provide maintenance and support to data systems as needed.
Average Salary: $109,188 per year
Key Responsibilities: Analytics managers set the standard for data collection strategies within their teams and oversee performance metrics, risk potential, and other key aspects of data collection. Other duties include applying statistical analysis to data sets, extracting information, and developing end-user reports that effectively communicate findings.
Project Manager (Data/Analysis)
Average Salary: $109,762 per year
Key Responsibilities: Project managers specializing in data or analysis have similar responsibilities to general project managers. These individuals oversee data-specific projects from conception to conclusion, keeping various team members on track to meet deadlines and complete deliverables.
Principal Data Analyst
Average Salary: $117,321 per year
Key Responsibilities: Principal data analysts often take on a leadership role within a larger data team in an organization. They may design complex data systems, develop an intricate understanding of an organization’s business needs, and use both to help strategically guide their organization in reaching its unique goals.
Average Salary: $150,000 per year
Key Responsibilities: Analytics directors supervise entire teams of business analysts, guiding their processes and cumulating their various data-based conclusions into actionable strategies for business partners. These professionals also often layer market research on top of data-driven insights and collaborate with leadership to identify and meet company-specific needs.
How to Find the Right Business Analytics Role For You
Despite the breadth of opportunities available to business analysts, navigating the job search can be difficult, often due to the fact that the rapidly growing field has left many organizations not yet familiar enough with their data needs to know exactly what they’re looking for when it comes to analytics, Chan says.
As a result, aspiring business analysts need to approach their search more broadly. If the listing has the words “analytics,” “data” or “management” in the title, for example, Chan explains that the role will likely still align with a business analyst’s training. Similarly, “don’t be discouraged from applying if the expected requirements seem too onerous in terms of data science skill sets, because really that’s not necessarily what they want,” he says. Instead, feel confident in applying for roles that list at least one or two of your technical abilities, and then spend some time in the interview obtaining a better understanding of what they’re looking for to ensure you’re a good fit.
Business Analytics Career Outlook
The increased use of data in business—and in almost every industry—has led to an ongoing, positive career outlook for those with an analytics background. However, evolutions in data practices as recently as this year have led to a larger-than-ever demand for those with both data and strategy skills.
Chan explains that one driving factor in this data evolution is the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to remain socially distant and safe from the virus, many have shifted to working, shopping, and socializing exclusively online. This has led to humans “generating way more information than we used to…and at a much faster rate,” he says.
This shift in the quantity of available information and the speed at which it’s generated is opening exciting doors for organizations hoping to strategically apply data insights to their business models.
For instance, many corporations are taking the application of this new data to the next level by trying to integrate the information gathered from various data streams and using it to inform a single strategy. “We can tie these things together now and really close the loop on the insights that we couldn’t get before,” Chan says.
As a result of these developing practices, there is a larger need than ever for professionals with both the training required to handle these massive amounts of data and the strategy skills needed to use that data to inform decisions.
“There’s definitely a lack in supply of people who have at least one or two years of experience solving business problems and who can easily slot into a team and speak the [technical] language,” Chan says. “We’re having trouble filling those positions in the industry.”
This growing demand has resulted in more opportunities than ever for those who are looking to break into or advance in the business analytics field.
Prepare to land one of these coveted business analytics roles by pursuing a master’s in business analytics degree. Top programs like Northeastern’s provide training in both technical skills and strategy, as well as unparalleled opportunities for hands-on learning that can help you stand out from other candidates in the field.
Thinking about taking the next step? Read about the 5 Steps to Advancing your Business Analytics Career, then explore Northeastern’s program page to learn more about how a master’s in business analytics can help you get ahead.