Business Analytics vs. Information Systems: What’s the Difference?

If you’re interested in all the ways digital technology can advance modern business — and your career — you may be considering a master’s degree in business analytics or information systems. If so, you may be wondering: What’s the difference between these areas of specialization?

While both business analytics and information systems are integral to how businesses operate, the specialty areas serve different purposes and require different skill sets. If you’re interested in graduate-level expertise in business analytics or information systems, understanding their differences can help you choose the right educational and career paths.

What Is Business Analytics?

Business analytics involves applying data analysis techniques, such as statistical methods, predictive modeling, and data visualization, to understand trends, forecast outcomes, and optimize business processes.

In a business analytics-focused job, you’ll interpret data to derive actionable insights that inform strategic business decisions, improve marketing strategies, optimize supply chains, and enhance customer experiences.

What’s a Business Analytics Degree?

Because businesses use analytics to glean insights from data and apply those insights to solve problems, academic instruction in this area typically emphasizes data management, statistical analysis, data visualization, and business strategy. Quality business analytics programs will emphasize hands-on experience with analytical tools and real-world data projects.

Business analytics degrees are available at the bachelor’s, master’s, and certificate levels. Advanced degrees can open doors to higher-level positions and specialized roles. Prerequisites often include a background in mathematics, statistics, or computer science.

Prerequisites for UC’s online Master’s in Business Analytics:

  • Three semesters (or four quarters) of college-level calculus through multivariate calculus.
  • One course in linear algebra or matrix methods.
  • Basic computing knowledge and willingness to learn procedural programming languages like R, Python, SAS, or MATLAB.
  • Candidates for a master’s degree in business analytics often a background in mathematics and computer science. For more details, see UC’s prerequisites for the online Master’s in Business Analytics degree.

What Is Information Systems?

Information Systems (IS) support company operations and business decision-making by ensuring an organization’s technological infrastructure is robust and efficient. IS professionals design, implement, and manage the systems that collect, store, and process data.

Roles in IS include database management, systems analysis, network infrastructure, and tech-related project management.

What Is an Information Systems Degree?

Because information systems focuses on the technological and managerial aspects of business infrastructure, academic programs in this area typically offer courses in systems development, network design, data modeling, ERP, and project management.

Information systems specializations in areas like IT Management and Big Data Management/Business Intelligence are common. The University of Cincinnati’s Carl H. Lindner College of Business offers a renowned online Master of Science in Information Systems (MSIS) program, featuring courses in Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Business Intelligence, Database Design and Modeling, and Project Management.

Information systems degrees are available at the associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels.

Prerequisites for UC’s online Master’s in Information Systems:

Candidates for an information systems master’s degree often have a background in information technology or computer science, but UC has had successful students from a diverse range of professional and educational backgrounds, from music to Spanish. A passion for the field and demonstrated interest can help get you in the door. For more details, see UC’s prerequisites for the online master’s in information systems degree.

What’s the Difference Between Business Analytics and Information Systems?

Business analytics involves using data to guide business decisions and enhance processes, while information systems are responsible for managing and optimizing an organization’s technological infrastructure.

Essentially, business analytics and information systems differ in their focus, methodologies, and applications, requiring distinct skill sets for each role.

Skills Required

Business analytics demands skills for generating operational insights, making strategic decisions, and measuring business performance. Proficiency with tools for statistical analysis, data mining, machine learning, and data visualization is essential. Additionally, knowledge of programming languages like R and Python is often required.

Business analytics also requires strong analytical and communication skills.

  • Analytical skills: Strong analytical and critical thinking skills to interpret data and derive actionable insights
  • Communication skills: Ability to present complex data insights clearly and concisely to stakeholders

Because information systems involves automating business processes, managing large volumes of data, and integrating diverse business systems, knowledge of database management, systems design, network administration, and programming can be helpful when pursuing a degree in this field. Familiarity with tools like Structured Query Language (SQL) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems is crucial.

Information systems also requires strong managerial and problem-solving skills:

  • Managerial skills: Project management, strategic planning, and leadership skills to manage IT projects and teams
  • Problem-solving skills: Ability to identify and solve complex IT problems, often involving multiple stakeholders and technical challenges

Real-World Examples

Here are some examples to illustrate how business analytics and information systems are applied:

Applications of Business Analytics
  • Operational insights: Improve day-to-day operations by providing insights into business processes.
  • Strategic decision-making: Support long-term planning and strategy formulation by predicting future trends.
  • Performance measurement: Track and measure business performance against predetermined goals.
Applications of Information Systems
  • Business process automation: Streamline business processes with technology.
  • Data management: Ensure data is accurately collected, stored, secured, and retrieved for business use.
  • System integration: Integrate business functions and processes with up-to-date, cohesive information technology systems.

A master’s degree in business analytics prepares you for roles such as data analyst, business analyst, data scientist, and analytics consultant. A master’s degree in IS prepares you for roles like systems analyst, information manager, database administrator, and systems consultant.

Career Opportunities

Both business analytics and IS offer a wide range of career opportunities with solid demand and competitive salaries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for computer and IS managers is expected to grow faster than average.

Generally, a business analytics degree prepares you for roles such as data analyst, business analyst, data scientist, and analytics consultant. On the other hand, an IS degree prepares you for roles like systems analyst, information manager, database administrator, and systems consultant.

Earning either master’s degree will allow you to develop marketable skills that are in demand, opening doors to multiple highly rewarding career opportunities.

Business Analytics and Information Systems Trends to Know

Trends in business analytics and IS are driven by rapidly evolving technological advancements and the growing importance of data in decision-making processes.

Current trends in business analytics and IS include:

  • Augmented analytics – Automating data preparation, insight discovery, and reporting with AI and natural language processing makes data analysis more accessible to non-technical users.
  • Predictive and prescriptive analytics – Tools that forecast future trends and prescribe actions based on data insights help businesses optimize their strategies and operations.
  • Zero trust security models – Zero Trust Architecture (ZTA) emphasizes continuous verification and the “never trust, always verify” principle to secure sensitive data and resources.
  • Edge computing – Edge computing enables data processing closer to the data source, reducing latency and improving real-time decision-making capabilities.

Your choice between a Master’s in Business Analytics or Information Systems hinges on your interests, skills, and long-term career goals.

How to Choose the Right Path for You

A master’s degree in business analytics or information systems can prepare you for various roles, though they may lead to different career paths. Business analytics uses data to inform business decisions and improve processes, whereas information systems concentrate on managing and optimizing technological infrastructure. Choosing between them depends on your interests and career goals.

If you have a passion for using data to drive business decisions and enjoy working with numbers and statistical models, a business analytics degree may be the right fit for you. If, on the other hand, you are interested in the technological infrastructure that supports business operations and enjoy managing IT projects and systems, then an information systems degree could be the better choice for you.

Here are some questions to consider when choosing a master’s degree program. (If your answer is affirmative, the note in parentheses indicates the right fit for you.)

  1. Do I enjoy working with data, statistics, and predictive models? (BA)
  2. Am I more interested in technology or systems management? (IS)
  3. Do I have strong analytical and quantitative skills? (BA)
  4. Do I have a solid understanding of technology and systems, or do I want to develop these skills? (IS)
  5. Do I want to learn programming languages (like SQL) and systems design? (IS)
  6. Do I want to work in roles such as data analyst, business analyst, or data scientist? (BA)
  7. Am I aiming for positions like systems analyst or Management consultant? (IS)
  8. Do I want to work in industries that heavily rely on data-driven decision-making? (BA)
  9. Am I interested in industries and market sectors that require systems management? (IS)

Transform Your Career with a Master’s Degree

With a master’s degree in business analytics or information systems, you can pursue a wide variety of career roles. You’ll be employable in growing sectors that include healthcare, finance, government, and technology.

By positioning yourself for career advancement, leadership, and specialized roles with a master’s degree, you’re securing your future.

Learn More About How UC’s Online Lindner College of Business Programs Super-Charge Your Career

UC’s Carl H. Lindner College of Business offers a variety of fully online programs, including the MS in Information Systems (MSIS) and the MS in Business Analytics.

Lindner College students are highly sought after by employers, with a 95% job placement rate upon graduation. EdUniversal ranks our online MSIS program among its top 15, while our online MS in Business Analytics is ranked #14 by U.S. News & World Report and #3 by Fortune Magazine. The Carl H. Lindner College of Business also holds AACSB accreditation, a mark of excellence achieved by fewer than one-third of U.S. business schools and only 15% of business schools worldwide.

If you’re ready to take the next step to see if UC is right for you and your career goals, contact an Enrollment Services Advisor.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why study information systems and business analytics?

Studying information systems and business analytics equips you with the skills you need to analyze business data, manage information systems, and improve operational efficiencies. These skills prepare you for in-demand career roles in business and technology by enhancing your ability to drive data-driven decision-making and optimize business processes.

Can I be a business analyst with an information systems degree?

Yes, you can become a business analyst with an information systems degree if you also possess the necessary technical and analytical skills. If you’re interested in this career path, consider pursuing an information systems degree along with a Data Analytics Graduate Certificate from UC. This combination allows you to transition into our MSIS program, providing you with dual expertise in both information systems and data analytics. This integrated approach enhances your qualifications and prepares you for versatile roles in the field.

Is business analytics related to information systems?

Yes, business analytics and information systems are related fields, but they focus on different aspects of an organization’s data and technology. Business analytics involves using data analysis and statistical methods to inform business decisions and improve processes. It focuses on interpreting data to drive strategic decisions.

Information systems, on the other hand, play a crucial role in managing and optimizing an organization’s technological infrastructure. This includes designing, implementing, and maintaining systems that collect, store, and analyze data, thereby significantly enhancing organizational efficiency.

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