Statistical Analysis and Data Analysis: What's the Difference?

A statistician crunching numbers for her organization
A statistician crunching numbers for her organization

The current job market is fueled by the effective use, interpretation, and application of data. As a result, professionals working as either a statistical analyst or data analyst are well-positioned to become strategic leaders in various industries. Professionals in both fields assure that big data is accessible to organizations, governments, and general populations, but each role serves a distinct function. 

Although statistical analysis and data analysis bear several similarities, the primary difference between a statistical analyst and a data analyst is their unique approach to using data analytics tools and processes. Let’s examine the core differences between statistical analysis vs. data analysis and discover anticipated jobs, salaries, and career outlooks in 2022 and beyond.


What is Statistical Analysis?

Statistics is a field of applied mathematics that involves collecting, describing, analyzing, and dividing findings from quantitative data. The theories used in statistical analysis involve the application of mathematics, including differential and integral calculus, linear algebra, and probability theory. 

Statistical analysts are responsible for drawing accurate conclusions about large groups and events using identifiable patterns and other measurable characteristics of small samples. These small samples represent a fraction of a larger group and aim to tell a big picture story about the happenings within given populations and events.

There are two major branches of statistical analysis are descriptive statistics and inferential statistics, including:

  • Descriptive statistics: Describes the properties of sample and population data
  • Inferential statistics: Uses properties drawn from descriptive statistics to test hypotheses and make conclusions

For example, the World Health Organization (WHO) uses statistical analysis to develop international statistical reports on topics such as climate change patterns, mental health, health systems financing, road safety, violence prevention, and more. Statistical analysts employed by the WHO develop comprehensive documents that summarize findings for public consumption. In 2021, the WHO released the report, World Health Statistics: Monitoring Health for Sustainable Development Goals report and examined global population health trends. These detailed reports use descriptive and inferential statistics to describe what is happening and what is likely to happen in the future, based on available population data. 


What is Data Analysis?

Data analysis is the science of analyzing raw data to translate quantitative figures into meaningful patterns and conclusions. Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), and automation help data analysts translate big data into readable information used by organizations spanning every industry. 

Data analysts gather, sort, clean, and study data sets to help solve problems. Data analysts work across various industries, including business, finance, criminal justice, science, healthcare, and government.

Data Analysts use four primary types of data analysis to interpret raw and indexed data, including:

  • Descriptive analytics: Analytics that describe what has happened over a given period
  • Diagnostic analytics: Analytics that focus on why something happened
  • Predictive analytics: Analytics that predict what is likely to happen in the future
  • Prescriptive analytics: Analytics that suggest a course of action

For example, Tesla uses data analytics to create detailed driver profiles that remember each driver’s preference for seat position, steering wheel, mirror location, suspension, braking, radio presets, and driving style. In this case, Tesla is documenting driver information using descriptive analytics to optimize each car’s settings with prescriptive analytics. As a data-driven organization, Tesla demonstrates how data analytics can personalize products and services to deliver optimal customer experiences. 


Statistical Analysis vs. Data Analysis: Jobs, Salaries, and Outlook

The field of statistical analysis vs. data analysis reflects similarities, differences, and areas of overlap regarding educational background, job opportunities, salary range, and job outlook. For example, roles in both fields are in high demand; the big data analytics market is positioned to reach $103 billion by 2023. 

North America’s big data and business analytics market is soaring to new heights. An increase in the adoption of big data analytics software, cloud platforms, and new technologies also spurs the need for desirable data analyst jobs. However, research shows that the lack of a skilled workforce will impede growth. Organizations need experts in data analysis and statistics to occupy emerging positions. 

Additionally, 95% of businesses state that they need to better manage unstructured data, and this skill gap is a significant problem for their business. A statistical analyst and a data analyst can help solve this problem by upskilling in relevant degrees and entering roles that enable these businesses to leverage their data collection efforts and build data-driven strategies with better outcomes. 

Using data analysis software


Statistical Analyst Jobs

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the top employers of mathematicians and statisticians are the federal government and scientific research and development companies. In addition, mathematicians and statisticians often work in teams with engineers, scientists, and other specialists.

With an MS in Applied Statistics, professionals can enter jobs in statistics or analytics, including roles as data analysts and data scientists. Popular career paths for those in the field of statistics include:

  • Actuarial analyst
  • Actuary
  • Civil Service fast streamer
  • Data analyst
  • Data scientist
  • Financial risk analyst
  • Investment analyst
  • Market researcher
  • Operational researcher
  • Statistician


Statistical Analyst Job Responsibilities

A statistical analyst excels in mathematics and employs logical reasoning, decision-making, and analytic skills to succeed in their daily role. The average statistician is responsible for deciding what data they need and how to collect it, designing experiments, collecting data, analyzing and interpreting data, and reporting their findings to outside teams, leaders, and stakeholders. 


Statistical Analyst Salary

The typical statistician can earn a high salary due to the overwhelming demand for statistics and analytics skills in the job market. According to the U.S. BLS, statisticians earn a median salary of $93,290 per year. However, the industry that a statistical analyst chooses to work in greatly impacts salary opportunities. In addition, geographical location, skills, and experience also influence salary opportunities. 


Statistical Analyst Job Outlook

Jobs in statistical analysis will continue to grow over the next ten years. Roles as mathematicians and statisticians will see a 33% job outlook between 2020 and 2030, a growth rate that is much faster than the national average. 


Data Analyst Jobs

Data analysts work in various environments, from universities and government agencies to tech startups and Fortune 500 companies. The typical data analytics career moves from Analyst I to Analyst II, Senior Analyst, Data Scientist, and eventually, Chief Technology Officer. However, there are numerous related jobs that data analysts can occupy without following this career path. 

Professionals who are working in data analytics gain an entryway to diversified career opportunities. Prevalent career paths for those in the field of data analytics include:

  • Data analyst
  • Data scientist
  • Machine learning engineer
  • Business intelligence analyst
  • Logistics analyst
  • Data architect
  • Business systems analyst
  • Marketing analyst


Data Analyst Job Responsibilities

The roles and responsibilities of a data analyst are similar to those of a statistical analyst. A data analyst also gathers and organizes information, draws conclusions, and shares insights with internal and external teams. However, unlike a statistical analyst, a data analyst is less concerned with examining samples from populous data and more focused on providing prescriptive business insights for organizational strategies. 


Data Analyst Salary

In the United States, data analysts earn a median salary of $79,616. However, this salary can range anywhere from $69,946 to $88,877, depending on years of experience, company, and job location.


Data Analyst Job Outlook

With the mass collection and consumption of big data and many organizations’ increasing reliance on data insights, jobs in data analytics are surging. Data analyst jobs will see 20% growth through 2028, which is much faster than the national average. 

Industries such as healthcare and information technology continue to grow and require data analysts, data engineers, data scientists, and other professionals in statistics and analytics to turn raw data into helpful business acuities.


Statistical Analysis vs. Data Analysis: Start Your Future at Michigan Tech

Statistical analysis and data analysis require a thorough foundation in mathematics and statistics. As a result, professionals working as a statistician or data analysts have experience in similar coursework and educational programs. 

The Master of Science in Applied Statistics online degree program at Michigan Technological University can prepare you for a career path in statistics and/or data analytics. In addition, Michigan Tech prepares you to:

  • Develop specialized quantitative skills to meet the rising demand for data experts
  • Explore the application of advanced statistical methods like predictive modeling, statistical data mining, model diagnostics, and forecasting
  • Gain confidence and familiarity with industry-standard software including R, SAS, S-Plus, and Python
  • Enter leadership roles with business and communication skills

A woman using the soft skills she gained at MTU to present her findings to the board


Is Michigan Tech the Right Fit For You?

Michigan Tech allows you to set yourself apart by building specialized, quantitative skills to meet the growing demand for statistics and data professionals with this math-driven statistics degree. Michigan Tech’s courses are also designed to accommodate working professionals and feature flexible program features, including:

  • 100 percent online; ideal for busy professionals
  • Three start dates per year
  • Accelerated format – 7-week courses
  • 30 credit hours; 10 courses
  • Earn a Graduate Certificate in Applied Statistics along the way
  • National Graduate Service Reduced Tuition Rate available to Military, AmeriCorps, and PeaceCorps personnel

Are you interested in entering the exciting field of statistics and data analytics? Schedule a time to talk with an Enrollment Advisor.