Business Analytics vs. Data Science: Data-Driven Decision-Making in Business

Blue Apron predicts what meals customers will order on Super Bowl Sunday; Next Big Sound shows cutting-edge artists where to promote their music; Uber gets stranded customers smiling and back on the road again. More than ever, companies rely on business analytics to streamline processes, improve customer experience and spark organizational change.

Today, businesses large and small, from financial institutions to coffee houses to video-game manufacturers, collect massive amounts of data about sales, processes and more. Amid this deluge of data, however, professionals in business analytics and data science with the managerial savvy to leverage information to a company’s advantage are still in short supply. For this reason, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports employment in business analytics careers has surged and will continue to skyrocket by as much as 26% between 2018 and 2028.

Individuals interested in harnessing complex data to help companies gain a competitive edge would do well to consider earning a master’s degree in the burgeoning field of business analytics, and it’s important that they understand business analytics vs. data science.

Defining Business Analytics vs. Data Science 

Making sense of huge sets of unstructured data is a key skill in today’s data-driven world. Data scientists are responsible for extracting data, manipulating it and generating predictions from it. In doing so, they must make informed decisions about which statistical tools and programming languages are the best choice for a given analysis.

What’s the distinction between business analytics and data science? Think of data science as an umbrella that covers a range of data professions, including business analysts. Business analytics, in short, is an important subset of data science.

Strategizing for Better Business Decisions

Both business analytics and data science use mathematics and statistics to extract meaningful insights from data. Professionals in these areas analyze information to find patterns, follow trends and make associations that reveal insights about human behavior.

However, one difference between professionals in business analytics vs. data science is that business analysts apply their insights specifically to help companies make better business decisions, while data science professionals are often dedicated solely to collecting and analyzing data. Put simply, business analytics is applied data science, with the goal of sustaining and growing a company and predicting its future success.

Explore Your Business Analytics Career Options

Some business analyst positions require only a bachelor’s degree to start. However, earning a Master of Science in Business Analytics (MSBA) prepares business analytics and data science professionals for advanced roles, broader job opportunities and higher salary potential. Consider the following career opportunities for MSBA graduates.

Market Research Analyst

Jen Jones, a well-educated, 42-year-old accountant in Chicago, is always on the go and always clutching a vanilla latte. She also fits the profile of Starbucks’ target audience. How do we know? Market research analysis. Market research answers questions such as “What do our customers want?” and “Who are our top competitors?”

Market research analysts use research data to monitor customer behavior. Consumer data has become more accessible through avenues such as social media and online surveys, but businesses looking to understand that data and act on it need the expertise of professionals in business analytics and data science. Today’s market research analysts evaluate floods of consumer data using software and statistical techniques, discovering trends that affect a company’s bottom line.

Duties: A market research analyst’s responsibilities include:

  • Tracking and predicting sales trends
  • Measuring the outcomes of marketing strategies
  • Applying statistical software to interpret customer behavior

Education: Many market research analysts hold bachelor’s degrees in statistics or math. However, a master’s degree, such as an MSBA, is typically necessary for a leadership role. Aspiring market research analysts would do well to take graduate-level courses in statistics and research methods.

Salaries: In 2019, according to the BLS, the median wage of a market research analyst was $63,000 per year. Market research analysts in the highest 10% earned more than $121,000 annually.

Job Outlook: The BLS predicts the number of professionals working in this field to increase by 20% from 2018 to 2028. Those with a master’s in business analytics will likely have a competitive edge in this growing job market. Individuals with expertise in business analytics and data science are prepared to excel as market research analysts.

Supply Chain Manager (Logistician)

A supply chain is the series of steps that bring a product from the factory or warehouse to the customer’s doorstep. These steps are not straightforward, as they involve an intricate series of interrelated processes — a shortage of warehouse staff, for example, can affect product delivery time and, in turn, trigger a drop in customer satisfaction and sales.

Supply chain managers, or logisticians, coordinate a business’s supply chain from start to finish. They apply software systems to plan and track product movement through the pipeline, and they work with logistical software programs to manage inventory and procurement. Professionals with a master’s degree in a field such as business analytics or data science are prepared to excel in this complex role.

Duties: A supply chain manager’s responsibilities include:

  • Managing the product life cycle from design to delivery
  • Allocating materials and supplies
  • Reviewing logistics to improve efficiency

Education: It’s possible to work as a supply chain manager with only a bachelor’s degree or certification. However, professionals with advanced knowledge of management and statistical software offered by a master’s in business analytics are likely to gain a competitive edge in this field.

Salaries: In 2018, the median annual wage for supply chain managers was $74,600, according to the BLS, which estimates salaries for the highest 10% to be $120,000 and higher.

Job Outlook: The BLS predicts supply chain manager (logistician) jobs will grow by 5% between 2018 through 2028. Need will likely be driven by increasing demand for transporting goods in a global economy. Candidates who have expertise in logistical software typically have a competitive edge.

Operations Research Analyst

Operations research analysts use advanced mathematical and analytical techniques in the areas of business analytics and data science. They help companies solve problems and make better decisions about everything from a supermarket’s prices to a ride-hailing service’s efficiency.

Operations research analysts use complex software to solve business problems. They employ statistical software to simulate events, breaking problems down and testing the effects of different scenarios. For example, suppose a commercial airline wants to determine optimal ticket pricing. Operations research analysts consider the connecting cities, fuel volume, number of passengers, pilot schedules, fuel prices and other factors to arrive at a recommended ticket price.

Duties: An operations research analyst’s responsibilities include:

  • Gathering information and insights from team members to solve problems
  • Applying statistical analysis, simulations, predictive modeling or other methods to interpret data and develop practical business solutions
  • Advising managers on various strategies for addressing problems

Education: A bachelor’s degree alone qualifies professionals for an entry-level position in operations research analysis. But according to the BLS, employers may prefer to hire candidates with master’s degrees. Continuing education in the field is crucial to keep up with developments in software tools and analytical methods.

Salaries: In 2018, the median salary for an operations research analyst was $83,000 annually, according to the BLS. Individuals in the highest 10 percent earned at least $136,000 per year.

Job Outlook: The BLS predicts job openings for operations research analysts will grow 26% from 2018 to 2028. Candidates who have at least a master’s degree in operations research, management analytics or a related area such as business analytics will likely have a competitive edge. Candidates with management experience and strong analytical skills in the areas of business analytics and data science will be in high demand, according to the BLS.

Benefit From a Master’s in Business Analytics From the University of Maryland

As career opportunities in business analytics and data science continue to grow, candidates with master’s degrees in business analytics are well equipped to play a vital role in helping businesses succeed. Discover how an online master’s in business analytics can prepare you to excel in this growing field.

Graduates of the Online Master of Science in Business Analytics at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business develop competencies in Python, R and SQL. They select coursework in key areas, such as quantitative modeling, data mining and infrastructure management. Prepare to strategize better business decisions, communicate data-driven strategy, and employ cutting-edge analytical tools and skills as a graduate of the Maryland SmithUniversity of Maryland’s Online MSBA.


Recommended Readings 

Is Business Analytics a Good Career?

Learn Why a Master’s in Business Analytics Is Worth It

Master’s in Business Analytics Salary: Enhance Your Earning Potential



Blue Apron Engineering, “Forecasting Demand at Blue Apron”

Codeup, “Data Science vs. Data Analytics: What’s the Difference?”

Forbes, “30 Data Analytics Careers That Aren’t Data Scientists”

Houston Chronicle, “Who Is Starbucks’ Target Audience?”

ICAS, “10 Companies That Are Using Big Data”LinkedIn, “LinkedIn’s Most Promising Jobs of 2019”

University of Maryland, Online Master’s in Business Analytics Degree

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Logisticians

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Market Research Analysts

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Operations Research Analysts