How to Become a Business Intelligence Analyst – A Complete Career Guide
As the data collected by businesses grows more and more vast and complex, it becomes that much more important for companies to utilize that data effectively. This “untidy data” can become difficult to even navigate, let alone slice, dice, and refine in order to gain real insights. That’s where a business intelligence analyst comes in.
Business intelligence analysts help a company put the data it already collects to use in order to increase the company’s efficiency and maximize profits. They comb through large amounts of data by querying databases effectively, and then produce reports and identify trends to generate actionable business insights. Business intelligence analysts must have a range of data analytics skills that serve them well in the world of big data, especially data analysis, as well as keen business understanding that is crucial in a field that hinges so heavily on soft skills like teamwork and polished communication skills in both the written and verbal realms.
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What is a Business Intelligence Analyst?
Business intelligence analysts are a necessary part of making the extensive amount of data now available to companies useful. Business intelligence analysts straddle the worlds of business and information technology, having a firm grasp of each, and are able to mine and analyze data to recommend growth strategies for a company.
Once a business intelligence analyst makes recommendations for technological advances in a company, they are often needed to lead seminars for colleagues, including training managers to implement and monitor these new systems.
What does a Business Intelligence Analyst do?
In the data science workforce of today, the business intelligence analyst evaluates both the data of the company itself as well as data from competitors and others in the industry, in order to discover ways to improve their own company’s market position. Good business intelligence analysts will look into their company’s systems, procedures, and functions, and find areas in which the company can increase efficiency and profit margins.
Business intelligence analysts also must consider new ways in which a company can develop new policies regarding data collection and data analysis methodologies, including ensuring integrity of data use. Business intelligence analysts may also be charged with hiring other data specialists at times, such as data architects.
Five Steps to Launching a Successful Business Intelligence Analyst Career:
Step 1: Earn your Undergraduate Degree
Undergraduates should look for degrees in information systems, computer science, data science, business administration, engineering, economics, or a related field that gives you insight into business processes and organizational operations. You’ll need to understand as much as you can about data before entering the profession, so look for classes in data architecture, database design, data mining, data visualization, and so on. You’ll also want to have strong Excel and SQL skills before graduating.
Step 2: Complete an Internship and Gain Entry-level Work Experience
Business intelligence analysts are expected to have work experience before entering the job, unless able to supplement that experience with something like a Master’s in Business Administration, which may suffice for some employers. One good way to begin your training is to get an internship in the financial industry, which will give you the opportunity to learn about the inner workings of a business.
After you graduate, consider a job as a data analyst, business analyst, or a data report writer. Look for chances in these jobs to query SQL, model and analyze data, and define and manage the scope of projects. All of these experiences will give you vital contacts in the industry, as well as a better sense of the end-to-end process of the kind of projects that a business intelligence analyst completes on a regular basis.
Step 3: Get a Professional Certification
The best professional certification for business intelligence analysts is Microsoft Certified: Data Analyst Associate. This certification proves that you have the skills necessary to design and use SQL to deliver data-based solutions. The exam includes querying and administering SQL databases, implementing a data warehouse and data models, and designing business solutions.
Another option is TDWI’s Certified Business Intelligence Professional, which you can test for and receive at the levels of either “practitioner” or “mastery.” You’ll need at least 2 years of relevant work experience to register for this exam. You may also want to get a certification in specific computer languages, like SAS.
Step 4: Become a Business Intelligence Analyst
Typically, a business intelligence analyst is not an entry-level role, although you may find having already earned an MBA (more on that below) can substitute for some years on the ground in the eyes of certain employers according to Indeed. Once you have developed the necessary skills, gained work experience, and gotten certified professionally, you can apply for business intelligence analyst positions. You will be required to have an average of about 4 or 5 years of work experience, though some roles require up to 8 years of work experience. You will also likely need 1 or 2 years of supervisory experience within an organization, as business intelligence analysts are often project managers and can sometimes have hiring responsibilities.
Step 5: Pursue an Advanced Degree
A master’s degree in business administration (MBA) is preferred for this role, though master’s are generally not required if a candidate has sufficient work experience and professional certifications. You can also get a master’s in information technology, or a master’s in the industry you want to specialize in.
Business Intelligence Analyst Job Description
- Meet with clients to identify needs and concerns
- Conduct information-gathering interviews and obtain feedback from clients and customers
- Collect data and extract data from warehouses for reporting, using querying techniques
- Analyze current data with software applications
- Create summary reports of a company’s current standings
- Present recommendations to senior management about ways in increase efficiency
- Oversee implementation of technological initiatives
- Develop new analytical models and techniques for a company to standardize data collection
Skills Needed to Become a Business Intelligence Analyst
- Excellent communication and presentation skills in order to share recommendations often based on highly technical data with colleagues in an approachable, easily digestible way
- Superior leadership abilities, as well as ability to brainstorm and collaborate with team members on a data science project
- Creative problem-solving skills and critical thinking
- Ability to work within a diverse, global workforce that is oriented around customer satisfaction, particularly as many business intelligence analysts are asked to work directly with clients
- Database design and data architecture
- Data mining and analytics
- Data security and privacy
- Data visualization, including tools such as Tableau and Qlik
- Handle all variants of SQL
- Proficient in ETL (extract, transform, load)
- Understand which situations need Hadoop, R, and SAS and use these effectively
Business Intelligence Analyst Salary
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) categorizes business intelligence analysts as operations research analysts. As of May 2021, the BLS reports that the median annual salary for business intelligence analysts under this general classification is $82,360. This can vary based on location.
For instance, the BLS says the mean salary for a business analyst in California is $99,220. However, professionals in Virginia have a mean salary of $117,480. But even though California has a lower mean salary overall, the San Jose metropolitan area hosts a mean salary of $164,730, the highest in the country as of May 2021. Depending on the area and business, skills in data warehousing, data modeling, and data mining may increase an analyst’s salary potential.
Business intelligence analysts often move into higher-level jobs within 10 years, including roles such as analytics manager, business intelligence manager, business intelligence architect, and analytics manager.
Business Intelligence Analyst job outlook
The job market for business intelligence analysts is expected to grow by 23% from 2021 to 2031 according to the BLS’s operations research analyst page. They are required in many different fields, from healthcare to education to finance to law enforcement. Organizations in all of these fields and more are looking for ways to compete and stand out, and business intelligence analysts can provide necessary insights using data to create these advantages. Thus, they are highly sought-after individuals. Provided you have the right skills, experience, and interest in solving problems you will be able to set yourself apart in this competitive yet thriving job market.
Gain the skills and necessary degree to pursue your career as a business intelligence analyst. Explore choosing a Master’s in Business Analytics, including Business Intelligence and online business intelligence program options, or What is the Difference Between Business Intelligence and Data Science and take the next step in your journey. Your future as a business intelligence analyst awaits you!
2021 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and employment figures for operations research analysts reflect national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed January 2023.