What is business analytics?

What does business analytics mean?

Business analytics is the practice of employing data analytics to guide business decisions. Sounds simple enough, right?

Except, how is business analytics different from data analytics? What does a business analyst actually do? How does a person become a business analyst? Is the pay worth it?

By the end of this straightforward explanation, you’ll know what business analysts do, how much they make and how to pursue the career.

What does a business analyst do?

A business analyst’s top job assignments include:

  • Visualizing and presenting data – A business analyst has the skills and tools to collect and mine data and extrapolate it into easily understood charts or graphs. A business analyst excels at effectively conveying complex information to non-technical professionals.
  • Scenario modeling – A business analyst can model a what-if scenario. Employing predictive analytics, they can anticipate potential futures for an industry or individual company, allowing businesses to effectively prepare for the best and the worst.
  • Forecasting – By effectively tracking trends, an analyst accurately predicts the trajectory of a business’ or market’s performance.
  • Data-driven decision making – The most critical aspect of business analytics is its ability to improve business decisions through insights supported by sound data and analysis. Whether conducting a multivariate analysis or presenting to upper management, the business analyst’s ultimate goal is to ensure business decisions are informed by hard data rather than guesswork and intuition.

Like most professions, there’s no universal daily schedule all business analysts follow, but they do have a specific skill set. Business analysts analyze vast amounts of data and present it as easily digestible information to non-technical leadership to solve real-world problems.

Business analytics jobs

Business analytics jobs exist in every industry, and the names of possible positions extend well beyond “business analyst.” Below are a few examples of common titles:

  • Management analyst – A consultant who works with a company to improve an organization’s efficiency
  • Financial analyst – This position gathers, organizes and assesses a company’s financial data to guide business investments and advise on financial strategies.
  • Operation research analyst – Responsible for identifying and solving operation performance issues, an operation research analyst reviews and analyzes product and development data to assist sales and engineer departments.
  • Marketing research analyst – This position supports the marketing team by employing various analytics tools to gather and evaluate data regarding digital marketing campaigns.
  • Quantitative analytics consultant – Sometimes called a quant, this type of consultant specializes in risk management problems and advises on investment, pricing and other business decisions.

For more titles, visit UD’s B.S. in business analytics page.

Is the business analytics job market growing?

Career opportunities for business analysts are flourishing. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn’t record numbers for the exact title business analyst, but it does tracks roles that fall under the broader term of business analytics. All these careers are experiencing growth:

  • Management analyst – With an expected growth of 14%, this position optimizes an organization’s efficiency.
  • Financial analyst – Growing a rate of 6%, financial analysts use data to inform an organization’s financial decisions..
  • Operation research analyst – Increasing at an impressive 25%, operation research analytics employ business intelligence to help organizations operate more efficiently and cost effectively.
  • Market research analyst – Expanding by 22%, this job analyzes market data to predict potential sales of a product.

How business analytics differs from related fields

As Big Data’s influence on the global economy skyrockets, so does the need for specialized analytical tools and skills. The most common specializations include data science, information management and business analytics.

Business analytics vs. data analytics vs. data science

Business and data analytics have roots in data science, but data science is more closely related to computer science than business.

  • Data science combines predictive analytics, computer science and machine learning to develop new methods for applying and interpreting data. Unlike data and business analysts, a data scientist is more likely to design than use analytical tools and models.
  • Data analytics is a subdiscipline of data science, focusing on the practical application of data. Data analysts can model scenarios and predict trends but typically lack business training.
  • Business analytics combines business and data analytics. A business analyst excels at modeling and forecasting and must also interact with clientele and present findings to leadership.

Business analytics vs. information systems

Business analytics and information systems differ substantially, although you may encounter people who use the terms interchangeably.

  • Management information systems (MIS) practitioners generally work in IT-related fields. They integrate aspects of data science and business intelligence to create and maintain technology that improves business performance.
  • Business analysts rely on the information systems maintained by MIS experts but are more concerned with data interpretation than data integrity.

These fields are connected. Some universities even offer hybrid degrees, combining the most in-demand skills of both disciplines. For example, the University of Delaware boasts an M.S. in business analytics and information management. Students with a love of IT gain the business and analytical skills to advance towards leadership roles.

Business analytics vs. business intelligence

Many experts distinguish business analytics from business intelligence by defining it as future focused:

  • Business intelligence specialists maximize profits by utilizing analytics to improve current workflow, efficiency and logistics.
  • Business analytics is more transformative. Although business analysts can interpret current data, companies rely on them for predictive modeling and planning.

You will still encounter people who use the terms synonymously. Business intelligence is an older concept, and the age of a company may determine language usage.

Companies who were early adopters of business intelligence may use it as a blanket term for both concepts. The opposite is true for younger corporations. They are more likely to use business analytics as an umbrella term.

Rest assured, whether your interest lies in the here and now or the future of your industry, education and experience in business analytics should qualify you for business intelligence positions.

How much do business analysts make?

Burtch Works reports a median entry level salary of $75,000 for business analysts. For those with 4-8 years of experience, the salary jumped to $91,000.

Additionally, every business analytics occupation tracked by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics boasts an above average median salary:

  • Management analyst – $93,000 per year
  • Financial analyst – $81,410 per year
  • Operation research analyst – $82,360 per year
  • Market research analyst – $63,920 per year

These numbers are even higher for analysts with a graduate degree.

Is a graduate degree in business analytics worth it?

The median salary for an entry level position rises by $5,000 when the job candidate has a graduate degree, according to Burtch Works survey respondents. The median income increases by $14,000 with the addition of a graduate degree for those with 4-8 years of experience.

Examples of degrees that may bring these pay increases include UD’s MBA in Business Analytics and M.S. in Business Analytics and Information Systems.

Degrees in business analytics

You’ll need a specialized degree to work in business analytics, according to both the BLS and the Burtch Works survey.

Undergraduate degree in business analytics

The undergraduate degree for business analytics is a Bachelor’s of Science. Like most bachelor’s degrees, you should expect it to take four years to complete, assuming full-time enrollment. For an overview of typical course requirements, we suggest visiting the Lerner College’s undergraduate degree program website, which has the coursework conveniently organized by year.

Graduate degrees in business analytics

If you’re looking at graduate degrees, you generally have two options: an MBA in business analytics or a master’s of science in business analytics. Both degrees entail a working knowledge of statistics and could take two years to complete, assuming full-time course load.

MBA in business analytics

An MBA in business analytics focuses primarily on the business aspects of the career. Students will take the same core courses as other MBA students, expanding into analytics with their degree requirements. A good example of core courses and degree requirements can be found on the Lerner College MBA page.

Exposure to aspects of management not covered in a masters of science degree is one advantage of the MBA program. Graduates are familiar with subject areas leadership must understand, such as marketing and finance.

M.S. in business analytics

The M.S. degree concentrates on the mastery of technical skills. Focusing on data visualization and modeling, graduates leave with the ability to support and guide data-driven decision-making. UD’s M.S. in business analytics and information management serves as an excellent example of the types of courses a student may encounter.

Which analytics degree is right for you?

The MBA and the M.S. are both promising degrees. The right program for you is the one that leads you to the career you want.

If you prefer manipulating and organizing data and have little interest in familiarizing yourself with marketing or finance, an M.S. will lead to job prospects you’re more likely to enjoy. If you’re someone with a strong STEM background, looking to expand into a leadership role at your current company, an MBA may be more likely to achieve this goal.

If you are leaning towards an MBA, prioritize graduate programs that allow you to customize your business analytics degree. Analytics is rapidly expanding and specialized subdisciplines are constantly appearing. For example, some colleges now offer degrees in Human Resources Analytics.

If you know that you want to analyze data for a specific industry, like hospitality, specializing your MBA may ensure the longevity of your degree. Currently, there are no hospitality analytics MBAs available. But in five years, who knows? A specialized MBA demonstrates your expertise in both analytics and your chosen industry. Look for degree programs with majors and concentrations you can combine.

Is business analytics a STEM degree?

Both the M.S. and the MBA are STEM-designated degrees and international students qualify to apply for Optional Practical Training. According to the Burtch Works report, 4% of the job market is currently filled by analysts working under OPT or as F-1 students. This percentage is closer to 10% when looking at entry level positions alone. If you think OPT is right for you, select programs with strong career advisement.

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