Business Intelligence vs. Business Analytics: Comparing Big Data Careers

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A front view of analysts looking at a screen with graphic details of data reports.

Professionals pursuing a career in data science may be interested to learn that the need for qualified, experienced analysts is higher than ever. According to a 2021 Burtch Works survey reported by Forbes, 73% of analytics and data scientist teams planned to hire in the first half of 2021, while 81% planned to hire in the second half of the year. The reason for this projected growth is simple: Our economy is gathering larger and larger volumes of structured and unstructured data.

This includes information on everything from customers’ buying trends to when manufacturing equipment is likely to experience failure. When this type of data is analyzed and utilized properly, not only can it help drive corporate decision-making, it also can help put a business at the forefront of its industry.

Businesses that know how to harness the power of this data have found they can use this information to their advantage: to develop smarter marketing campaigns, upsell similar products to consumers, and determine more accurate preventive maintenance schedules for large-scale equipment.

Specifically, savvy businesses are turning to business intelligence and business analytics professionals to help them develop these forward-thinking strategies. Those considering earning an advanced degree, such as a Master of Business Analytics, should be aware of the differences that exist between business intelligence and business analytics, two intriguing and increasingly essential roles in data science.

Business Intelligence vs. Analytics

When it comes to business intelligence vs. analytics, the differences are subtle but significant.

Business intelligence roles concentrate on analyzing data to find and identify patterns and trends in elements associated with a business, such as consumer behavior or reactions to specific cultural or social events. This can help businesses devise strategies that align with attitudes in the current market.

Professionals working in business analytics also mine data to identify patterns. However, they extrapolate the data in an effort to find out why the trends and patterns occurred. This deeper context can lay the groundwork for tools like predictive analytics to project future trends and patterns. This could enable a business to anticipate shifts in consumer spending, which can then allow it to evolve its business practices to stay in step with customers’ changing behaviors instead of merely reacting to them.

Both types of data analysis, when used in tandem, can enable an organization to build cohesive business strategies that target customers and clients in the present as they prepare for the future. This can keep the business relevant in its industry regardless of which direction the industry or its potential customers head.

Data Analytics Skills

Those who are assessing business intelligence vs. business analytics careers are likely to find that pursuing a Master of Business Analytics degree can help them reach either goal.

These programs help students develop advanced data analytics skills that can help them to identify and transform data into meaningful insights. These competencies, when honed at an advanced level, can help individuals achieve success in numerous industries.

1. Analytical Skills

The ability to turn insights gleaned from extracted data into fully actionable items is the cornerstone of a successful analytics career. This involves developing a thorough understanding of the various tools, methodologies, and techniques used along the data analysis process, from understanding the data source to knowing what the data means.

2. Critical Thinking Skills

Critical thinking is crucial to analyzing data correctly. An individual must be able to think through the potential uses for a particular data set to determine how the data’s analysis should be handled. If this doesn’t occur and the data analysis is applied incorrectly, the results could hamper a company’s strategies.

3. Problem-Solving Skills

Appropriately applying data insights to a company’s business strategy may be met with several unique challenges. Individuals must be able to develop strategies that work past these challenges without compromising the data’s integrity.

4. Communication Skills

Once data has been analyzed and interpreted, its results must be accurately shared with others, including people outside of the data analysis field. Having strong written, verbal, and presentation skills can result in communication that is clear and concise and leaves no room for ambiguity or misinterpretation.

Business Intelligence Careers

Those who are considering business intelligence vs. business analytics careers should know the available job options in each field. Business intelligence professionals often work as analysts, consultants, and project managers. Common job titles include chief information officer, business intelligence developer, and market intelligence manager.

Individuals with jobs in business intelligence work with teams in an organization to prioritize and manage the collection, review, and deployment of data. This data is vital to analyzing the company’s market performance or external trends that may affect it.

The earning potential for business intelligence careers is considerable. According to PayScale, chief data officers (sometimes referred to as chief information officers) have a median annual salary of around $167,300, although the top 10% of earners take home in excess of $255,000 as of September 2021. PayScale also reports that the median annual salary of business intelligence developers is approximately $81,300, with the top 10% of earners making in excess of $112,000 as of September 2021.

Business Analytics Careers

Professionals in business analytics may work in any of a number of roles, including positions relating to business analysis, financial analysis, market research analysis, and operations research analysis.

Those in business analytics roles study a company’s data for insights to drive business planning. They gain knowledge from historical data and develop reports and recommend new methods based on statistical and predictive analysis.

Data suggests the earning potential for business analytics careers is significant. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that in 2020, the median annual salaries for two top business analytics career choices — financial analyst and market research analyst — were $83,660 and $65,810, respectively. For financial analysts, the top 10% of earners made more than $159,560, while for market research analysts, the top 10% made more than $127,410.

An Exciting Career in Data Science Awaits

Earning potential, job opportunities, and career advancement opportunities for data scientists are projected to maintain their upward trajectory for the foreseeable future. As a result, professionals who are passionate about problem-solving — and who are skilled at analytics, data mapping, and identifying patterns — may find they’re well suited for jobs in this field.

Business intelligence vs. business analytics is a common comparison for those interested in a data science career. Although the choice of which career to pursue will be largely personal, those who earn a master’s degree in business analytics are likely to find they’re well prepared for both. Learn more about how the Online Master of Business Analytics program at Ohio University can help you pursue a career in analytics, intelligence, and data science.

Recommended Readings

Understanding the Future of Business: What Is Business Analytics

The Future of Business Analytics: Trends in Data and Business Intelligence

Business Analytics vs. Data Science: Comparing Popular Tools and Languages


CIO, “What Is a Business Analyst? A Key Role for Business-IT Efficiency”

Datapine, “What Is The Difference Between Business Intelligence and Analytics?”

Forbes, “Salaries and Job Opportunities for Data Scientists Continue to Rise”

O-Net OnLine, Business Intelligence Analysts

PayScale, Average Business Intelligence (BI) Developer Salary

PayScale, Average Chief Information Officer (CIO) Salary

Robert Half, Business Intelligence Analyst Job Description Guide

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Financial Analysts

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Market Research Analysts

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Working with Big Data”

World Economic Forum, “The Value of Data”