What’s the Difference Between a Data Scientist and a Data Analyst?

A data scientist is experienced in the technologies and techniques to identify and gather complex data to enable informed decision making. A data analyst focuses on identifying meaningful and actionable insight based on data that has been gathered.

While the distinction between data scientists and data analysts is clear to those involved in the industry, the differences can be confusing for many people outside the profession.

Data scientists and data analysts are both essential roles in the modern business landscape. They are the highly skilled professionals gathering critical data and turning it into smart decision making for businesses and public bodies. That’s why the skills of these trained professionals are in such high demand.

Data Scientist vs Data Analyst

Understanding the difference between data science vs data analytics isn’t always easy. Both disciplines work with data, but they work with it in different ways. A data scientist understands how to nurture and gather the data, and a data analyst focuses on shaping it into something that decision-makers can understand and use.

Think about the difference between a farmer and a baker. The farmer grows wheat with the help of their extensive knowledge and experience, understanding important elements like soil, weather, and best seasons to grow. They use their experience of farming tools and equipment alongside industry knowledge to produce the best crop they can.

On the other hand, the baker takes the processed wheat in the form of flour and turns it into wonderful products such as bread that we all know and love!

That’s how a data scientist and a data analyst operate. The data scientist employs advanced techniques and tools to gather data, potentially using automated technologies such as machine learning or artificial intelligence. This includes what is known as ‘unstructured’ and ‘structured’ data, taking raw data from a wide range of sources and nurturing it through tools and programs to develop something valuable from it.

A big data analyst, on the other hand, operates with structured data that has already been gathered, cleaning and reorganising it, spotting trends and identifying patterns that could deliver value to their business or organisation.

Like the farmer, the data scientist also has the capability to ‘bake’ the data into something usable, but a data analyst is a specialist that focuses on this part of the value chain.

Big data? Big opportunity!

Did you know the amount of digital data created over the next five years will be greater than twice the amount of data created since the advent of digital storage? That’s huge!

It can be hard to get to grips with the current volume of data. One way to think about it is comparing just how far we’ve advanced.

The Apollo 11 mission that took humankind to the moon operated with just 32KB of hard disk memory. The average computer today has storage more than a million times greater! Now imagine billions of those computers connected up across the world, constantly generating data through both human actions and automated processes. That’s why we need trained specialists to sort through all this data.

With these great lakes of data swimming with potential insight, we need data professionals for a wide range of disciplines to fish for the valuable insight. That’s why different roles like data scientist and data analysts exist.

At Sunway University Online, our Master of Data Science programme aims to develop the confident data scientists of the future. The 100% online approach provides welcome flexibility to fit your lifestyle, providing access for students across Malaysia without the pressures of travel or accommodation difficulties. Making a master of data science accessible to as many professionals as possible is extremely important given the considerable demand for these roles.

Sunway University Online demonstrates its commitment to being one of the best universities for data science by designing a course that goes beyond just theory and leverages our real-world experience to teach you about useful applications of data science in practice.

Our experienced academic team have extensive experience working with partners in industry and government, leveraging the value of data science to optimise a wide range of benefits for business and society.

The difference between a data scientist and data analyst may sometimes seem confusing. The truth is they’re both extremely valuable parts of the modern Malaysian landscape. With a data science degree, you can add your value to that ecosystem, nurturing and harvesting data insight that delivers a truly powerful impact on our world.  

Want to find out more? Connect to Sunway University Online and unlock your world of data.