Big Data, Big Jobs

No one can deny the overwhelming amount of data at any arts organization’s fingertips. According to a study from EMC, the digital universe will grow from 4.4 trillion gigabytes to 44 trillion between 2013 and 2020. With this exponential growth, organizations can now collect more data then ever. So what is a company to do with so much data? The answer is resoundingly clear: analyze it. For this reason, it is no wonder that Harvard Business Review has named a job in the data field as the “sexiest job of the 21st century.” As data jobs are the new must-have for a company, growth in this field is exploding. McKinsey Global Institute predicts that in the next three years, 1.5 million data analysts and managers will be in needed. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists these careers as one of the fastest growing occupations in all sectors. So from a data analyst to a business analyst to an application analyst to a data scientist, who is who? And with overlapping skills, how can a nonprofit arts organization figure out the difference? 

Data Scientist Job Trends from Indeed

Data Scientist Job Trends from Indeed

All of these jobs have a core similarity: access to data. Data cannot speak on its own, but rather it requires someone with strong technical and communication skills to interpret it. The following breakdown lends some insight to the different ways organizations employ workers to collect, analyze and make decisions based on data. Though these descriptions provide a good starting point for understanding this diverse field, it is important to note that specific duties can differ between positions at various companies.

A data analyst’s core motivators are gathering, interpreting, and analyzing data. Think of them as the gatekeepers. They use their advanced database knowledge to mine for relevant data that compares specific results to that of goals or competitors. For example, a data analyst could gather data information on customers and compare the demographics over a period of time or with that of a competitor’s.

Much like a data analyst, a business analyst extracts and analyzes data, but within the organization. This can break down into four categories of employment: software, consultancy, functional, and educational. Basically, a business analyst can use data to evaluate organizational efficiency and achieve higher productivity. Furthermore, a business analyst can use their skills to address departmental needs for systems. Their role here lies in recommending and testing new systems and (in cases where they have coding skills) designing.

An application analyst’s name is true to their job description. These jobs range from analyzing computer applications to software packages. An application analyst’s value is in their ability to visualize the entirety of intricate processes, while maintaining a clear map of steps along the way. An application analyst might train employees to use new programs, in addition to creating, reporting, and maintaining the applications of the business.

The data scientist is the newest addition to the family. This job is the center of discussion recently as it combines skill sets in a unique way. A data scientist uses data much like that of the data analyst, but with a focus on behavior. By working with behavior data, the patterns of the past can give indications about behavior of the future. While a data scientist cannot predict the future, they can use their skills to understand the customer and what they respond to. As focus switches from the business to the customer, this is an invaluable skill that can increase sales with targeted actions.

Not only do skill sets and positions change across companies, but positions also develop organically in order to best serve the needs of companies. Given the various skills in analyzing data and unique needs of different organizations, there is surely some sort of data analyst who can align with an organization’s goals. Thanks to this emerging class of professions, any organization can turn big data into useful strategies.


References and Further Reading

Become a Data AnalystUdacity, last accessed Nov. 2015.

The Business Analyst Job Description- 4 Things a BA actually does,” What is a Business Analyst?  Last modified August 2013.

How to Become an Applications Analyst,” Academic Invest, last accessed November 2015.

Holtz, Dave. “8 Skills You Need to be a Data Scientist,” Udacity (Nov. 7, 2014).

Caserta, Joe. “Data Scientists to Wipe Out Business Analysts,” Wired. Accessed November 2015.

Davoren, Julie. “The Differences Between a Business Analyst & a Data AnalystHouston Chronicle, last accessed Nov 2015.

Richard Rivera and Adam Haverson. “Data Scientist vs Data AnalystCaptech (July 23, 2014).

Schmidt, Kevin. “Data Engineer vs Data Scientist vs Business Analyst,” Medium (Mar 22nd, 2015). Accessed November 2015.

Thibodeau, Patrick. “IT Jobs Will Grow 22% through 2020, says U.S. Computer World (March 29th, 2012).