What Is a Business Analyst?
A Business Analyst aggregates information from all corners of a business operation and devises solutions to current business and economic difficulties. They are sometimes known as Management Analysts/Consultants or Management Systems Analysts. They sit somewhere between the Information Technology department and upper management, analyzing a firm's data and overall business operations.
Given their high importance and diverse skills set, Business Analysts are among the highest paid professionals in the Business Operations group, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The top 10% of Business Analysts earn an average of $150,200 and also work the most weekly hours in that occupation group.
Business Career Paths
Steps to Becoming a Business Analyst
If you want to pursue a Business Analyst career, you will first need a top-notch education that trains you in core business skills. Your education should cover items such as communication, including business and technical writing. A background in systems engineering and/or the fundamentals of financial analysis would also be helpful. Specifically, you need to understand how to do a cost/benefit analysis, create a business model, and analyze statistics.
Step 1: Is this Career for You?
Step 2: Attain an Accredited Business Degree
Step 3: Information Technology – minor, major, or certificate?
Step 4: IIBA CBAP Certification
Step 1: Is this the Career for You?
Your first question when considering any potential career path is whether or not it's the right job for you. One way to make this determination is by reviewing the skills required in the field to assess whether you have those skills or have a natural aptitude in those areas. For starters, Business Analysts need to be well-versed in a wide range of business and technical skills. This is a job that requires a fair amount of multi-tasking, as you’ll likely take on multiple projects at a time and they will each progress at different speeds.
You will certainly need to a high level of analytical ability, intuition, and insight into business operations. This can be gained through education and experience, but you should know if you have a natural aptitude after a few courses, or by engaging mentors in matters related to business. Consider your aptitude and interest in the following areas:
- Information Technology
- Technical Writing and Business Communications
- Data Analysis
- Project Management
- Requirements Analysis
Step 2: Attain an Accredited Business Degree
To ensure that you land on the fast-track to a career in Business Analysis, you should make your first move that of attaining a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Though there are few specific programs that teach Business Analysis, you can gain the required skills as you progress towards a diploma. However, you must make sure that your program is fully accredited. Note that a business program may have a special accreditation that the rest of a university does not share. Here are the premier accrediting bodies that specialize in business programs:
- Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business
The AACSB is the oldest accrediting agency for business schools. Their standards highlight traditional measures of academics, such as research and faculty publications. This methodology is said to diminish the importance of pedagogy and student outcomes. Nonetheless, if you graduate from an AACSB program you should have little trouble with employment.
- Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs
Another top accreditation comes from the ACBSP. When they were founded in the 1980's, The ACBSP saw that business degrees, especially the MBA, were increasingly used as a professional credential and less as an academic pursuit. Thus, they focused their accreditation standards on pedagogy and student outcomes. Your education in an ACBSP-accredited institution is bound to be as excellent as it is student-focused.
Keep in mind that even two-year business programs can be accredited by one of the above agencies.
Step 3: Information Technology – Minor, Major, or Certificate?
To excel in the world of Business Analysis, you will certainly need knowledge of Business Information Systems. In fact, many Business Analysis professionals arise out of Information Technology departments as they are able to recognize the high-tech solutions necessary to surmount contemporary business problems. Ultimately, your career will need a rich understanding of both management and IT solutions to succeed.
On the other hand, you may wish to steep yourself in the fundamentals of business and management. That is, the core decision-making and analytical tools you gain from a background in business will serve you well throughout your career. Technology can be a moving target.
Thus, if you graduate with a minor in Information Technology, or a related field, employers will take note. Barring that, you can always return to school for a certificate that gives you the skills and knowledge necessary to remain competitive with your peers.
Step 4: IIBA CBAP Certification
Once you have established yourself as a Business Analyst, and have significant experience, you should seek certification from the International Institute of Business Analysis. As the premier association in the field, you should probably join their organization as soon as you can as well. They offer great opportunities for professional development that will keep you aligned with the best practices of your colleagues. Their CBAP certification, in particular may even be a fundamental qualification. To sit for the exam, you must have and submit:
- 7,500 documented hours practicing Business Analysis in the previous 10 years
- 900 of your hours need to reflect four out of six BABOK Guide knowledge areas
- Have 35 hours of professional development in the previous four years
- Two professional references
- Assent to follow the IIBA Code of Conduct
- Agree to Terms and Conditions of the IIBA
- Pass the exam
What Does a Business Analyst Do?
Business Analysts are trained to have many skills, but Requirements Management is paramount among them. This is a term often applied to project managers and it indicates a process whereby one identifies and addresses the specific needs of each key part or player in a process. This involves auditing and investigation, determining the budgetary needs of each player, designing an approach for solving problems, testing and refining the solutions, and finally allowing the new solutions and processes to function autonomously.
Depending on what stage of the process you're in, you could spend your day meeting with workers or department heads, analyzing data related to your project, or writing proposals and/or reports. This work is most often done in an office setting, but these days you might find that employers provide ways to work remotely. If you are working as a consultant, it's more likely that you will spend time working from a remote location.
Skills to Acquire
- Technical Writing Skills – you must be able to communicate your needs to IT professionals and various colleagues of all levels. Therefore, clear written communication skills are vital. Then, you will need to prepare technical documents to upper management which demonstrate progress and your final conclusions.
- Systems Engineering – To achieve optimal rapport, you must be conversant in the core concepts involved in systems engineering.
- Create Cost/Benefit Analyses – You need to determine whether your solutions will make good business sense.
- Leadership – You must be able to motivate your team and instill confidence in them that your approaches are valid and effective.
- Synthesize and Analyze a Range of Information from Diverse Sources – Business Analysis is an interdisciplinary field that asks you to coalesce information from all corners of an organization.
- Communication Skills – You will need to translate business goals across a range of occupations – managers, IT professionals, and even entry level employees.
- Interview Skills – In order to gather a full picture of what a business needs, you will often need to elicit information from a range of workers.
- Auditing Skills – You will need the ability to find inefficiencies and errors within a system.
- Database Skills – This includes query scripts and macro creation.
While many Business Analysis professionals will go the standard route through an undergraduate business program, certifications, and an MBA, this is not the only valid approach to a successful career. In fact, you could even start out with an Associate's degree in, say, Accounting with a focus on Information Technology – or vice versa. Once you have your foot in the door of a great corporation, you can begin to show your worth in your specific job and then ask to take on new projects.
It will be helpful if you can identify a problem and formulate a plan for solving it. Use your technical writing skills to create a comprehensive proposal and approach your manager or whomever is most appropriate in your firm. Your proposal should demonstrate strong leadership and high confidence.
Once you have established yourself as an effective Business Analyst in your firm, make sure you document your time and all the Business Analysis skills you used along the way. When you have 7,500 hours, inclusive of 600 in four out of six BABOK Guide knowledge areas, you can consider sitting for the Certified Business Analysis Professional™ (CBAP®) exam from the IIBA.
Business Analyst Career & Salary
Where Might You Work?
Many Business Analysts are considered consultants. Many new Business Analysts start out as consultants, so if you land a job for a consultancy, you might have a home office close to your home, but you will seek out clients across the nation and world. Thus, you will likely travel for a great deal of your working time. Some Business Analysts travel as far as Australia, Japan, and Sweden. Along the way, you will be exposed to a wide array of business models, problems, and solutions. This is a great way to determine your next career move.
One next step could be to work as a government contractor. While in many ways you will still be considered a consultant, you will likely stay closer to home, or at least within the United States. There are many such consultants all over the greater Washington, D.C. area.
Still another possibility is to work for a single firm as an in-house analyst whose job is to keep constant tabs on the firm's operations. You'll seek out new ways to innovate, streamline, and even expand on the company's business practices. One top industry for Business Analysts is Healthcare, which is one of the fastest-growing industries in the nation. You could also look at emerging industries such as sustainable energy, high-technology, and emerging transportation companies.
Potential Career Paths
As a Business Analyst, you must have a wide range of talents and skills. Thus, people in your field come from a wide range of background and they even decide to narrow their focus to a more-specific occupation within the business world. After all, you must have a strong business and Information Technology background to succeed as a Business Analyst. Some affiliated jobs that you might consider include, but are certainly not limited to:
- IT Director
- Project Manager, Information Technology
- Program Manager, Information Technology
- Budget Analyst
- Financial Manager
- Cost Estimator
- Operations Research Analysts
Business Analyst Careers Salary
|Human Resources Manager||$56,400||$65,500||$72,700|
|Supply Chain Manager||$67,700||$83,200||$91,800|
|Public Relations Manager||$52,400||$67,700||$76,700|
|Content Marketing Manager||$58,900||$68,800||$82,200|
Your career as a Business Analyst is sure to be both challenging and exciting. You'll constantly learn new technologies and approaches to business. You must therefore develop your ability to think along multiple lines simultaneously. You’re sure to have a long and successful career.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the occupation is slated for 14% growth through 2026, adding a total 115,200 new jobs. They also show that you can expect a median salary of around $82,000 with the 90th percentile earning as much as $150k/year before collecting bonuses and other compensation.
If you continually learn and remain on top of new technologies and approaches to attaining maximum efficiency, you are sure to see your salary, responsibilities, and job prospects grow throughout the span of your career. After all, business is changing at a rapid pace these days and every firm needs to remain competitive. Your expertise will help them contain costs, enhance profits, and maintain growth projections even in difficult markets.
Given that your job will be at the forefront of all business changes, it will remain a highly competitive field. It will be imperative that you continue to develop your professional skills and knowledge throughout your career.
Find Business Analyst Jobs Near You
Advancing from Here
Business Analysts are sort of like the wizards of the business community. They are on top of the management end of an organization as well as the IT end. They foresee the trends and map the best course through both bull and bear markets. As a Business Analyst, you'll have a broad range of skills and knowledge that is virtually unmatched by your colleagues. While you may wish to remain in your field for the duration of your career, with enough experience, and a proven track record, you can consider a wide range of second-phase careers.
For instance, some Business Analysts settle down from a stint in consulting to take an Operations Manager position, while others pursue IT, still others may merit a CEO, CFO, or D.O. position. You could also move into Investment Banking or even start your very own business. After all, the founder of Sam Adams Brewery was once a top consultant.