What Is the Difference Between Business Analytics and Data Science?

The fields of business analytics and data science share the goal of using large amounts of data to understand information and solve problems. The most significant differences between them are the level of technical knowledge required by practitioners and how that knowledge is used.

Syracuse University offers master’s programs online in both fields: a Master of Science in Business Analytics taught by faculty in the Martin J. Whitman School of Management, and a Master of Science in Applied Data Science taught by faculty in both the Whitman School and the School of Information Studies.

Through the Master’s in Business Analytics, students develop their abilities to interpret data and guide their organizations in making more evidence-based, actionable business decisions. The Master’s in Data Science helps students gain insight from complex data and apply analytical and technical skills to execute data-driven decisions.

Learning Outcomes of Each Program

In both programs, students will learn how to gather and analyze data. The difference lies in how this analysis is applied. Data science students delve much deeper into the data, focusing on organizing data, gleaning insight from the information, and explaining what it means to others. Comparatively, business analytics students develop a basic understanding of the data, derive insights, and use those insights to make decisions that drive positive business outcomes.

Learning OutcomesWhich Program?
Collect and organize data.Both
Query the data via technical analytical packages through a knowledge of scripting.Data Science
Identify patterns in data via visualization, statistical analysis, and data analytics.Both
Develop actionable insight based on data.Both
Develop strategies based on data.Business Analytics
Communicate data analytics and findings to people across a broad range of industries.Both
Develop a plan of action to implement business decisions derived from the analyses.Business Analytics
Synthesize and understand data science ethics and privacy.Data Science
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Courses and Curriculum Structure

Students in both the Master’s in Data Science and the Master’s in Business Analytics are required to take core courses and analytics application courses, with some courses overlapping the two programs. However, the business analytics program allows greater flexibility for students with different career goals, requiring fewer technology-focused courses and offering a wide variety of electives in both technical and business topics. The data science program requires several courses in more technical topics and only offers electives that focus on technology and analysis.

Business Analytics Curriculum

The Business Analytics curriculum is driven more by the student’s goals.

  • Core courses: Students must take two core analytics courses and four courses that apply analytics to essential business areas.
  • Elective courses: Students choose six in-depth electives from the Schools of Management and Information Studies. These include technical courses such as data warehousing and data analytics as well as business courses such as strategic brand management and finance.

Data Science Curriculum

The Data Science course sequence is much more focused on the how-to of data science.

  • Core courses: There are six required core courses in analytical topics, including data mining and big data analytics. Students must then choose one or two courses in applying analytics to business-related fields.
  • Elective courses: Students also must select four or five elective options, which include technical topics such as text mining and natural language processing.

Career Outcomes

The choice between Business Analytics and DataScience ultimately comes down to a student’s post-graduation career goals. Below are examples of career options for graduates of each program.

The Data Scientist

Many students in the Master’s in Data Science program choose to pursue roles in fields such as engineering and IT. They may be employed as data scientists/engineers, statistical programmers, or database administrators. In these more technical roles, professionals manage large amounts of data, create visualizations, and design and deploy algorithms that support decision-making tools.

Possible job responsibilities:

  • Find opportunities in data sets by mining data and writing algorithms to support decision-making processes.
  • Create an analysis foundation that can help others solve business problems.
  • Manage large data sets by using methods such as linear discriminant analysis and multilinear regression selection.
  • Design and structure databases.

The Business Analyst

In general, students in the Master’s in Business Analytics program desire greater business experience and specialized knowledge to lead their team or organization. They may work as business analysts or analytics managers, or they may need analytics knowledge to advance in marketing or accounting teams. In these roles, professionals extract data to explain trends, predict future performance, determine best approaches, and explain solutions to stakeholders.

Possible job responsibilities:

  • Spark change by turning data analysis into tangible resources for decision making.
  • Define business problems and translate statistical analysis into business intelligence that improves performance.
  • Interpret and visualize raw data to make it digestible and accessible for business users.
  • Integrate and suggest solutions that use data modeling.
  • Define and align database requirements.


Both programs require 36 credits and can be completed in as few as 18 months. GRE or GMAT scores are required for both programs, but students with sufficient professional experience may be eligible for a waiver. In addition, GMAT waivers are available for Business Analytics applicants if they have at least one year of professional work experience and an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or above, an undergraduate degree in select fields, or a master’s in any field.

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For more details about Syracuse University’s online M.S. in Business Analytics and how it can help advance your career, request information today.