The Difference Between a Senior Engineer & a Senior Business Analyst

by Debra Kraft

Senior engineers and senior business analysts are members of information technology departments. As senior members of the department, both professionals provide leadership for co-workers in their fields. Senior engineers oversee infrastructure technology including networks, computers, data centers and voice services. Senior business analysts are focused on documenting and improving business processes in support of application development.

Senior Engineer

Senior engineers lead teams of junior and mid-level engineers who design, implement, monitor and trouble-shoot voice and video networks, servers and data centers. Senior engineers also investigate technology products on the market to determine which would provide the most value to meet the needs of IT's business customers. Operationally, senior engineers focus on improving the performance and capacity of networks to meet the evolving needs of the company, making sure business processes aren't negatively impacted by preventable network failures.

Senior Business Analyst

While the senior engineer focuses on technology, the senior business analyst focuses on the business processes that rely on that technology. A senior business analyst leads teams of analysts who spend the majority of their time meeting with business users to learn how data flows within and between business processes. The business analysis process defines a company's data requirements. The process results in documented specifications that are used by application developers in designing or configuring databases and software.

Skills Differences

A senior engineer works directly with technology and has the ability to program, design and troubleshoot. The role for senior business analysts is indirect -- they don't touch the equipment. Business analysts help define what software applications and configurations are needed to run a company's business processes. The senior engineer must then make sure the IT department has the right infrastructure equipment in place to run those applications effectively.

Leadership Differences

Both senior roles involve leading, mentoring and coaching junior and mid-level professionals. For a senior business analyst, mentoring and coaching focuses on process modeling documentation techniques and communication skills to make sure the needs of the business user are fully captured. A senior engineer is more concerned about fostering stronger technology skills in his team members.

Educational Requirements and Job Outlook

Hiring companies generally expect both professionals to hold bachelor's degrees. A senior engineer's degree should be in computer sciences or electrical engineering. A senior business analyst might have a liberal arts or business degree instead, but should also have training in writing computer programs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for computer engineers in 2010 was $98,810, while the median pay for business analysts was 77,740.

About the Author

A careers content writer, Debra Kraft is a former English teacher whose 25-plus year corporate career includes training and mentoring. She holds a senior management position with a global automotive supplier and is a senior member of the American Society for Quality. Her areas of expertise include quality auditing, corporate compliance, Lean, ERP and IT business analysis.

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