Careers in Business Analytics: Necessary Skills, Education and Experience

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A business analyst reviews data on a computer.

As the big data market expands, so do opportunities for careers in business analytics. According to a 2019 report from the International Data Corporation (IDC), revenue from big data and business analytics solutions is expected to see double-digit annual growth through 2022. Revenue has already reached $189 billion in 2019 — a 12% increase from 2018.

Companies invest in business analytics technologies and talent to monitor these large quantities of data, mining them for business insights. As NewVantage Partners found in a 2017 report, enterprises use big data to reduce costs and find opportunities for innovation. The need for business analysts will only increase as new technologies, such as data collection, artificial intelligence and predictive analytics, emerge.

Skills in business analytics can be applied across a range of careers, including data scientist, statistician and operations research analyst. Aspiring and current professionals need to obtain skills in business analytics, education and experience to succeed in these roles. They can accomplish this by pursuing an advanced degree such as the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business Online Master of Science in Business Analytics.

Careers in Business Analytics

The need for big data analysis has created various types of careers, each requiring unique skills and responsibilities. Depending on their role, professionals with business analytics skills may work with data from market trends, internal operations or consumer behaviors. Forbes reported that in 2018, two of the most in-demand jobs in tech and data were data scientist and data analytics manager.

Here’s a closer look at four essential careers in business analytics.

Data Scientist

Data scientists analyze and test datasets to better understand a business and inform future strategies, such as marketing campaigns and product launches. They also use data to predict market trends, consumer behaviors and business opportunities, leveraging this information to help business decision-makers to determine the direction of their companies. This involves creating a Structured Query Language (SQL) data infrastructure and incorporating technologies for data automation and personalization.

Prospective data scientists must have skills in data modeling, problem-solving and organization. They should also have strong communication skills for relaying their findings and strategies to department executives, such as those in marketing, product and sales.

Data scientists can work in a range of industries, including banking, manufacturing and professional services, as reported by IDC. A data scientist in banking, for example, may collect data from a new cryptocurrency exchange platform to determine how it’s used among specific demographics. Meanwhile, a data scientist in manufacturing may analyze performance metrics from a production machine to optimize its output and decrease defects.

Data scientists earn a median annual salary of $96,000, according to October 2019 data from PayScale. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the number of jobs for database administrators to increase by 9% from 2018 to 2028, faster than the projected average for all professions.


Statisticians use mathematical theories and techniques to analyze data and to solve problems, such as budgeting and product design issues. They may gather data from online platforms, software systems and surveys to unearth patterns and trends, then use these findings to create new statistical models that predict future trends in a specific business area.

Statisticians should have strong mathematical, analytical and reporting skills. They should know how to use statistical software to collect data and create predictive models.

According to the BLS, government, health care and research organizations commonly employ statisticians. The BLS also found that statisticians earned a median annual salary of $87,780 in 2018. The BLS projects the number of jobs in this field to increase by 31% from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the projected national average.

Operations Research Analyst

Operations research analysts use data and mathematical techniques to identify problem areas and solutions within an organization. These may include wage and inventory changes, for example, which can affect the bottom line. Operations research analysts collect data from employees, customers and internal systems to better understand how an organization functions and to solve relevant problems. They may also work with managers and executives to strategize courses of action and to report findings.

Competencies in organization, problem-solving and statistical software are crucial to the role. Operations research analysts should be prepared to work in many areas of a business, including supply chain management, sales and production.

Operations research analysts often work in business and health care industries, according to the BLS. The BLS also reports that professionals in this role earned a median annual salary of $83,390 in 2018 and projects the number of jobs in this field to increase by 26% from 2018 to 2028.

Market Research Analyst

Market research analysts examine market data to better understand buying trends and consumer behaviors. They may collect data from customers and competitors through surveys, polls and focus groups, using this data to help companies to make more informed decisions about creating and distributing their products.

Market research analysts should be skilled in data analysis, statistical techniques and communication. They should be able to conduct interviews with customers, stakeholders and employees, and break down complex data into comprehensive visual and written reports.

These analysts are needed across industries in both new organizations and legacy companies looking to pivot their brands. According to the BLS, market research analysts earned a median annual salary of $63,120 in 2018, and it projects the number of jobs in this field to increase by 20% from 2018 to 2028.

Education for a Career in Business Analytics

The range of careers in business analytics is expansive, but common educational requirements apply across job roles. Future professionals need a bachelor’s degree, ideally in a business- or data-related field. A master’s degree, however, can help them acquire advanced, in-depth knowledge of business analytics. Current and prospective analysts can also use a master’s program to pursue higher salaries, get more competitive jobs and stand out from the pack.

Earning the Smith Online Master of Science in Business Analytics can provide students with advanced data science skills and techniques, preparing them for various jobs in diverse fields.

The core courses in the program, like Database Management Systems, introduce students to the fundamental concepts of database management technology and alternative techniques for delivering data through web-based interfaces. In advanced courses like Data Processing and Analysis in Python, students learn to use the Python programming language to analyze data and create simulation models. Students can also take application courses to learn advanced business analytics skills for specific industries. The Health Informatics and Information Technologies course, for example, arms students with knowledge of health informatics systems and strategies, including electronic health records, cybersecurity and cloud computing.

According to PayScale, skills taught in these courses, such as data modeling, infrastructure development and programming languages, can contribute to data scientists and analysts earning higher salaries.

Build a Career in Business Analytics

The Maryland Smith Online Master of Science in Business Analytics provides students with the knowledge and skills they need to excel in business analytics. Accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International, this program consists of 100 percent online coursework and supports a network of more than 66,000 alumni across the world. With application courses offered in health care operations management, advanced marketing analytics and business leadership, students can also customize the program to meet their interests and career goals.


Recommended Readings

How to Become a Statistician

What Is It Like to Be a Data Analyst?

What Is Predictive Analytics and Why Is It Important?



Forbes, “10 Charts That Will Change Your Perspective of Big Data’s Growth”

Forbes, “Big Data Analytics Adoption Soared in the Enterprise in 2018”

Forbes, “The 6 Top Data Jobs in 2018”

Harvard Business Review, “What Data Scientists Really Do, According to 35 Data Scientists”

International Data Corporation, IDC Forecasts Revenues for Big Data and Business Analytics Solutions Will Reach $189.1 Billion This Year with Double-Digit Annual Growth Through 2022

MarketWatch, Business Analytics Market 2018 Upcoming Trends, Global Size, Industry Segments and Growth by Forecast to 2023

NewVantage Partners, Big Data Executive Survey 2017

PayScale, Average Data Scientist Salary SAS, Big Data

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Database Administrators

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

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Mathematicians and Statisticians

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