Data Analyst vs Big Data Expert - What's the difference?

Data Analyst vs Big Data Expert


Data Analysts are in huge demand, as are Big Data experts. Yet confusion surrounds the factors differentiating the two fields. Are they the same job with two differing job titles? Or, are they completely different roles?

Defining the Roles

Data Analysis is all about extracting insights from raw data. Data Analytics professionals are typically tasked with a question, or set of questions, that need answering. By analysing data to extract insights, Data Analysts are able to influence businesses’ decision-making and wider business goals.

Big Data lacks this defined structure. It refers to massive amounts of data, which is without any form of structure, is accessible from various sources and is found in various formats. Big Data is used to guide strategic business decisions and wider business decisions. Professionals working in this field can be referred to as Big Data Analysts, Big Data Experts, or Big Data Specialists, among other titles.

The Dividing Differences

Working with different data formats and towards different goals is the main divider of the roles. The role of a Data Analyst has a narrow scope compared with a Big Data specialist, as they are working towards a specific goal and use data to support this goal. Data Analysts do not have to sift through mass amounts of unstructured data.

Big Data experts deal with data on a scale far beyond that of a Data Analyst. With these huge data amounts, professionals must filter and organise on a mass scale to then extract any useful information. This information will be presented in inharmonious forms, further complicating the job.

Whilst both require a passion for ‘data’ and number crunching, Data Analysts have a greater need for programming knowledge, machine learning skills, interpersonal skills and data visualisation skills. Big Data professionals on the other hand need creativity on top of this programming language expertise. Computer science know-how and business skills are also demanded of Big Data Specialists.

The day-to-day of these roles looks quite different. For Big Data Professionals, their days involve examining system bottlenecks, creating systems for the processing of large-scale data and the architecture of extremely stable distribution systems. For Data Analysts, their days consist of compiling and cleaning data, extracting insights and then using data visualisation and reporting tools to share these insights with the wider organisation.

Big Data professionals can expect a significantly higher salary than Data Analysts. For Big Data specialists an annual average salary of £67,500 can be expected in the United Kingdom and $107,865 in the United States. Data Analysts can expect an average salary of £26,410 in the United Kingdom and $70,825 in the United States. Many Big Data professionals begin their career working as a Data Analyst, which explains the salary contrast. In fact, working in Data Analytics is the favoured entry pathway for many roles in ‘data’. 

Career Growth

With the amount of available data exponentially growing, professionals working in both Data Analytics and Big Data can anticipate job growth at an equal level. So, no matter if a career in Big Data or Data Analytics appeals most, data professionals can feel secure working in an industry that is only continuing to grow.

Considering a career in Data Analysis or Big Data? Begin your data job search here


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