How to become a business analyst – complete career guide
A business analyst is in charge of understanding a business’s changing needs, and providing technological solutions to improve its processes and systems. Thus, a business analyst is often thought of as the link between the business and IT departments.
This guide provides the steps necessary to becoming a business analyst, detailed job information, as well as the job prospects and average salary projections.
The three steps to launching a business analyst career
Step 1: Get an undergraduate degree in business administration, finance, or accounting
Beyond your bachelor’s degree in business, you’ll want to learn some computer programming. Different business analyst roles require different levels of technical proficiency, but the more computer skills you have, the better you’ll look as a candidate. The Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK) reference book is a key resource to begin understanding the tasks and techniques of a business analyst.
Step 2: Gain work experience
You can gain experience in a volunteer role with a small company first, or take advantage of summer internship opportunities. If you are already working with a company in a different role, offer to work on the kind of projects that business analysts undertake. There are many transferable skills to working as a business analyst, and the role of a business analyst is wide-ranging. Individuals can enter the field either with knowledge of a specific business domain, such as workflow, billing, or customer relations, or with knowledge in an industry, such as finance, telecommunications, or government. Once you are hired as an entry-level business analyst, make sure to gain experience across many different types of projects; later, you can specialize in the domain or industry you are particularly interested in.
Step 3: Earn a Master’s degree or obtain an advanced certificate
Many universities offer master’s degrees and graduate certificates in business analytics, which generally include courses in business data analytics, operations research, project management, database analytics, and predictive analytics. For those with advanced knowledge of business analytics, the International Institute of Business Analysis offers a professional certificate called the Certified Business Analysis Professional.
What is a Business Analyst?
Business analysts work within an organization to evaluate current systems and develop strategic plans. This requires deep knowledge of both the specific business and industry trends and conventions. A key aspect of the business analyst role is communicating plans between internal departments and external stakeholders.
The role of the business analyst is to introduce change in an organization. Change might include avoidance of costs, identifying new opportunities, realizing and creating new benefits, and so on.
Business analysts develop or update computer systems to solve business needs. The business analyst provides requirements to the IT department to produce this new technological system, and supports the testing and implementation of the system.
What does a Business Analyst do?
A business analyst scrutinizes sets of data looking for ways to increase efficiency in an organization. In this way, the business analyst often acts as a liaison between different departments in a company, finding ways to streamline processes throughout the organization. The business analyst must be able to communicate well with these different groups in the organization, sometimes acting as a diplomat, and presenting solutions in ways that colleagues and stakeholders will understand.
Business analysts engage in 4 main types of analysis:
- Strategic planning—identifying changing needs of a company
- Business model analysis—defining policies and market approaches
- Process design—standardizing workflows
- Systems analysis—interpretation of requirements for the IT department
Business Analysts might deliver many different types of solutions, including new business plans, data models, flowcharts, or strategic plans.
Business Analyst job description
Though there are many different aspects to the job, business analysts generally follow a pattern of research-gathering, presenting solutions, and then implementing these solutions in the form of new or adapted technology. In this process, a business analyst will be required to:
- Communicate with colleagues to understand the needs of the business
- Work with stakeholders to understand the service or product provided
- Conduct surveys, workshops, and tests
- Analyze and model data to produce conclusions
- Create suggestions and solutions for strategic and operational changes
- Consider opportunities and risks of these suggestions
- Invent systems or processes necessary to implement these changes, or alter existing ones
- Communicate with senior management about introducing recommendations to the business
- Write reports to present to stakeholders
- Support staff as solutions are implemented
- Evaluate impact of changes made
Skills needed to become a Business Analyst
Business analysts need to have a combination of hard and soft skills. These include:
- Communication skills: Business analysts must work in groups, collect information from and present it to wide-ranging stakeholders in the company, translate and negotiate between parties, and communicate solutions in an accessible way. Business analysts must have strong written and spoken skills, and feel confident in a leadership position to gain approval for plans from superiors in the company.
- Business knowledge and critical thinking: Business analysts must understand many facets of the company for whom they are working. They must be able to understand the roles of different individuals and departments, and how these departments interact and depend on each other. They must also understand the single organization in a broader context of the entire industry. This business knowledge will then allow them to successfully analyze data points and build strategic plans for the future.
- Technical skills: Business analysts may use a wide range of technical programs, including programs in diagramming, data crunching, wireframing, management of requirements, and for presentation of results. More and more, business analysts are increasing their technical proficiency with knowledge of computer programming, big data mining techniques, database management, and systems engineering.
Business analysts salary
According to Payscale.com, “a Business Analyst earns an average salary of $58,805 per year.” Business analysts can expect salary increases for the first 5-10 years, but additional experience does not have a large effect on salary. The majority of business analysts work in the position for just 1-4 years, and almost all move on to more advanced positions within 20 years. Promotions include positions such as project manager or senior business analyst.
Business analyst job outlook
Historically, companies began to convert paper-based processes into automated, electronic processes in the 1970s and 1980s with the advent of computers. Business analysts entered the scene in the 1980s and 1990s to pair new technology with business acumen. However, technology is continuing to change this role. Recent advances in big data mean that many projects that used to require a business analyst’s insights are no longer necessary. Instead, data scientists are able to mine big data to understand customer behavior and identify system inefficiencies, for example.
Thus, business analysts must continue to modify their roles and stay abreast of technological advances to stay relevant. Many business analysts have merged into data scientists themselves, and/or are finding ways to combine big data analysis with the kind of critical thinking only able to be done by a human—for now.