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What Is an Environmental Analyst? (And a Business Analyst Comparison)

September 9, 2021

Environmental and business analysts both have important responsibilities that involve conducting research and consulting with agencies to offer advice. Although both roles require working with data and making recommendations, starting a career as an environmental or business analyst requires different educational backgrounds, skills and daily responsibilities. Learning about the differences between these careers can help you decide which one is the best fit for you. In this article, we define what an environmental analyst is, what a business analyst is and compare the similarities and differences between these two careers to help you choose between them.

What is an environmental analyst?

An environmental analyst is a scientist who specializes in studying the environment and the factors that affect it. For example, they may study climate change, the effects of pollution, alternative energy sources, agriculture, ecology and conservation. They often evaluate the impact of environmental factors on human health and well-being. Based on their analyses of the complex variables affecting the environment, these scientists write reports and give presentations to business executives and policymakers regarding environmental issues.

For example, a business owner may hire a team of environmental analysts to predict how building a new housing complex might impact the local ecosystem. The team consults with the developer and their project team to assess their plans, determine the potential environmental impact of the project and recommend methods to minimize harm to the ecosystem. Another type of environmental analyst may work for a government agency, conducting research, advising policymakers and educating the public about environmental issues.

Related: 15 Environmental Health Policy Jobs for You To Explore

What is a business analyst?

A business analyst is a professional who consults with business leaders to recommend solutions to business problems. They help organizations streamline their workflows to improve their efficiency and productivity, establish goals for their business and work toward those goals. Business analysts collect data about the business's current performance, consult with leaders to help them define goals and produce detailed reports documenting their analyses and recommendations. They have an essential role in helping businesses improve their performance so they can grow and meet their production and financial goals.

Related: How To Become a Business Analyst in 3 Steps: Business Analyst Career Guide

Environmental analyst vs. business analyst

Although environmental and business analysts both work in research and consultation, there are many differences between these professions. Here are some key comparisons between environmental and business analysts:

Education requirements

While most environmental and business analysts need a college degree to work, they often complete their education in different fields of study. Environmental analysts typically earn a degree in environmental science, ecology, biology or a related field in the natural sciences. Though environmental analysts can work in some entry-level research positions with a bachelor's degree, many pursue a master's degree or higher to qualify for more advanced positions. For example, having a master's in environmental science can qualify you for a lead researcher position, while a doctorate qualifies you to conduct independent research.

To become a business analyst, having a bachelor's degree in business, finance or computer science can provide you with the foundation needed to start your career. Having some computer knowledge or programming proficiency is helpful for business analysts who work with an organization's IT department. After earning your bachelor's, it's important to gain relevant field experience. Many business analysts have worked in the industry for many years and are experts in business consultation. You can also consider earning a master's in business or business administration to advance your career.

Responsibilities

As analysts, environmental and business analysts have responsibilities that involve conducting research, producing reports, predicting outcomes based on collected data and consulting with agencies to provide advice. However, professionals in these positions have different daily responsibilities. Some of the key duties for environmental analysts include:

  • Collecting, analyzing and interpreting environmental data
  • Designing research experiments to collect information
  • Working in laboratories or conducting fieldwork
  • Using specialized equipment to collect and test samples, such as water and soil samples
  • Consulting with business leaders to minimize the environmental impacts of development projects
  • Collaborating with government agencies to design policies that protect environmental well-being
  • Educating the general public on environmental issues

By comparison, some of the key responsibilities of business analysts include:

  • Meeting with business leaders to understand their goals or help them define achievable objectives
  • Analyzing current business processes, determining their effectiveness and identifying areas for improvement
  • Crafting detailed analytical reports and recommending multiple solutions that improve business processes
  • Designing systems to improve workplace productivity and efficiency while reducing expenses
  • Implementing new systems to benefit business production and profitability
  • Assessing the effectiveness of newly implemented systems and adjust them to ensure they meet business standards and goals

Related: 18 Consulting Titles With Job Descriptions and Average Salaries

Skills

Environmental and business analysts need some similar and some different skills to excel in their careers. Examples of skills that both analysts use include:

  • Communication: Professionals in both roles need good communication skills to work well with others, present their findings effectively and negotiate potential solutions with business leaders and policymakers. Additionally, they need strong writing skills to produce detailed reports of their findings and recommendations.

  • Data analysis: Environmental and business analysts need the ability to work well with numbers. They design studies to collect data on behalf of a client or agency and then process those numbers to gain insight, forecast trends and make recommendations.

  • Technical proficiency: Analysts in both professions use technical proficiency to work with computer software that analyzes data and models trends. Business analysts may have additional proficiencies in IT software that they can recommend for businesses, while environmental analysts need certain skills to work with specialized equipment.

  • Critical thinking: Critical thinking is the ability to find solutions to problems based on the information. Analysts need critical thinking skills to design effective research studies, evaluate the data they collect and propose solutions that meet their client's established goals.

However, these professionals also need specialized skills within their specific job roles. For example, environmental analysts have expert knowledge on environmental issues and research methods used specifically in the natural sciences. Unlike business analysts, they may have skills and knowledge related to conducting field research or working in laboratory settings. Business analysts have expertise in issues that businesses face. They're knowledgeable about the financial aspects of business and how to structure a company to increase productivity and efficiency. Business analysts apply their skills to improve workplaces, while environmental analysts work to reduce the impact of human influences on the environment.

Related: Business Analyst Skills: Definition and Examples

Work environment

The typical work environment can also differ for environmental and business analysts. Most business analysts work in office settings. They may own private consulting firms or work as part of a business's internal team. Business analysts typically work standard business hours and may work 40 or more hours a week, depending on the needs of their business. They often spend most of their workday using a computer and meeting with other members of the business's research team. In some cases, they may travel to meet with clients, such as those who work for independent firms.

Environmental analysts can work in various settings depending on their area of specialty. While many work in offices, others can work in laboratories or do fieldwork that involves traveling to specific ecological sites. Most environmental analysts work full-time with standard business hours, but those conducting fieldwork may have different hours depending on the type of research they're performing. When working in laboratories or in the field, environmental analysts may spend many hours of their workday on their feet, navigating challenging terrain or following safety protocols.

Average salary

The average salary for environmental and business analysts differs. For environmental analysts, the average salary is $56,561 per year, while business analysts make an average of $74,091 per year. However, the average salary can vary by your geographic location, setting of employment, level of education and degree of experience. For example, an environmental analyst with a doctorate who owns an independent consulting firm may earn a higher average salary than one working as a research associate for a government agency. Additionally, many business analyst jobs are senior-level positions that require many years of industry experience to earn.

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