Job Search

Principal Analyst vs. Lead Analyst: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

A career in business analysis can be both challenging and rewarding. Two common roles in this field are that of a principal analyst and a lead analyst. Though these positions share some similarities, there are several key differences between them.

In this article, we discuss the differences between a principal analyst and a lead analyst, and we provide additional business analyst roles you may be interested in pursuing.

What is a Principal Analyst?

A Principal Analyst is a senior-level position within a company or organization that typically reports directly to a Vice President or other high-ranking executive. Principal Analysts are responsible for overseeing and leading a team of analysts in conducting research, gathering data and performing analysis to support strategic decision-making within the company. They develop and implement analytical methods and processes, and they also train and mentor junior analysts. Principal Analysts present their findings and recommendations to executive leadership, and they may also be involved in developing and implementing company-wide policies and procedures.

What is a Lead Analyst?

Lead Analysts are responsible for providing analysis and recommendations to senior management on a variety of strategic initiatives. They develop and maintain analytical models to support decision-making and lead the analysis of key business drivers. Lead Analysts also prepare presentations for executive management and board meetings. They work closely with other departments to ensure that data is accurate and timely. Lead Analysts typically have a bachelor’s degree in business, economics, mathematics or a related field. They should also have strong analytical and communication skills.

Principal Analyst vs. Lead Analyst

Here are the main differences between a principal analyst and a lead analyst.

Job Duties

Principals typically have more responsibility and authority than analysts. Analysts often report directly to the principal, but principals may also report directly to the CEO or another senior executive. Principals usually manage a team of analysts and other data scientists, researchers and engineers. They develop strategies for the department and make decisions about which projects to pursue.

Lead analysts have more authority over the day-to-day operations of the team than regular analysts. They may oversee scheduling and make sure everyone completes their work on time. Lead analysts may also mentor junior members of the team and offer feedback on performance.

Job Requirements

Principal analysts and lead analysts typically need a bachelor’s degree in business administration, economics or another related field. Some employers prefer candidates to have a master’s degree as well, but it is not required for entry-level positions. Additionally, many principal analysts and lead analysts pursue certifications through the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) or the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) program. These organizations offer training programs that teach professionals how to use financial software and other tools they might need on the job.

Work Environment

Both principal and lead analysts work in an office environment. They may travel to meet with clients or attend conferences, but they spend most of their time working on projects at the office. Principal analysts often manage a team of analysts, so they also have managerial responsibilities that require them to oversee employees’ work. Lead analysts typically don’t have managerial duties because they’re not usually in charge of other analysts.


Both analysts and leads need to have excellent problem-solving skills. They will be tasked with taking data and information and turning it into insights that can help inform decision-making. This process often requires them to identify patterns, relationships and trends.

Analyst roles also require excellent communication skills. They need to be able to explain their findings to those who may not have the same level of expertise in the subject matter. They also need to be able to clearly articulate the implications of their findings and make recommendations based on their analysis.

Lead analyst roles tend to require additional leadership skills. They may be responsible for managing a team of analysts and ensuring that everyone is working effectively towards common goals. They may also be required to present findings to upper management or clients. As such, they need to be able to confidently speak in front of groups and answer questions about their work.


The average salary for a principal analyst is $117,336 per year, while the average salary for a lead analyst is $101,152 per year. The average salary for both positions may vary depending on the size of the company, the location of the job and the level of experience the analyst has prior to pursuing either position.


Master Electrician vs. Electrical Contractor: What Are the Differences?

Back to Job Search

Lawyer vs. Detective: What Are the Differences?