There are many different job titles in the business world and many sound very similar and seem to run together. However, it’s important to understand there are major differences between them and that business analysts have their own unique function.
We have put together this guide to help answer core questions about pursuing a business analyst career. For example: How long does it take to become a business analyst? Let’s explore this and more, including concrete steps to take to become a business analyst.
What is a Business Analyst?
A business analyst is a business professional who works to bridge the gap between IT and management team members within a company. A business analyst analyzes a company’s internal processes to identify issues and create data-based solutions.
Business analysis is a developing field within the larger management and technology fields. It attracts professionals with backgrounds in both fields and allows people to develop professional expertise in project management, research, information systems, and more.
The day-to-day work of a business analyst is as varied as it is challenging. Because of the interdisciplinary nature of the work, you can be sure you will never get bored. This is especially true because of the project-based nature of business analytics.
Typically, you will be working to identify issues and solutions for specific projects and working on project timelines. When one project ends, another project presenting different topics and issues begins. This work will keep you on your toes.
What Does a Business Analyst Do?
By focusing on the procedures, systems, internal functions, and bigger-picture goals within an organization, a business analyst can propose innovative solutions to improve productivity, efficiency, and overall competitiveness.
Engage With Business Leaders and Customers
Business analysts work closely with business leaders and their customer base to identify room for growth or improvement. They are also able to find out what kind of customer pain points there are so that they can go about researching solutions.
By analyzing a business’s procedures and processes, business analysts can identify gaps in productivity and general inefficiencies in a business’s processes. They want to try to optimize the business so that it can maintain a competitive edge without losing sight of its big-picture goals.
Propose Data-Driven Solutions
Having identified those gaps, business analysts work closely with IT departments to develop information and data-driven solutions. Ultimately, business analysts almost serve as translators as they explain solutions, which often come in the form of technical and data-heavy jargon, to business leaders. Then, they help devise a plan to implement these solutions.
Essential Business Analyst Skills
Critical Thinking and Analytical Skills
Business analysts need to ask the right questions and know how to ask them. Once they have pinpointed where to look, they have to use critical thinking skills and analytical tools to identify business problems. They should also have strong project management skills to help them take on each individual business question.
Without strong research skills, business analysts will have a hard time gathering data to support solutions for a particular issue or gap within a business. Strong research skills allow them to propose insightful solutions.
Because business analysts are intermediaries between business leaders and IT professionals, they need to have a strong understanding of technical systems and technical language to communicate with IT professionals.
Business Analyst Salaries and Job Outlook
This is a solid professional role that promises a comfortable salary. According to the Bureau for Labor Statistics, an operations research analyst, another term for a business analyst, makes a mean annual salary of $84,810.
You can be confident that the job outlook is very promising for aspiring business analysts. The Bureau for Labor Statistics anticipates that job opportunities will grow by 26 percent by 2028. This is much much faster than average, meaning that businesses are hungry for operational consulting and that a business analyst position won’t be hard to come by.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Business Analyst?
Most business analysts have a bachelor’s degree and several years of work experience in IT, software engineering, business, or finance. Because a full-time bachelor’s degree program typically takes four years to complete, you need to study for at least four years to be qualified for entry-level positions.
Then, you may consider taking additional courses in business analytics, getting a master’s degree, and/or even pursuing an advanced professional certification.
How to Become a Business Analyst: A Step by Step Guide
There are several different pathways to landing a business analytics career. It is a common destination for career changers coming from related fields like computer science or finance.
It is also becoming increasingly common as an aspirational field for young students looking to merge their interests in business and technology. Below is a step-by-step guide for different pathways to becoming a business analyst.
Step 1: Get a Bachelor’s Degree
Most entry-level business analyst job opportunities will require a bachelor of arts degree. The most relevant degree types are business, finance, information systems, and computer science. There are also many other more specialized bachelor’s degree programs that will get you closer to the business analytics field.
If you get a more general degree in business or finance, be sure to supplement your coursework with computer science and other technical courses. The more technical knowledge you can demonstrate from the outset, the more likely you will be to get hired for entry-level business analyst positions
Step 2: Gain Work Experience
With a bachelor’s degree, you will have the minimum requirements to enter an entry-level job in business analytics. Gain work experience while doing what you can to learn all about different aspects of the field. Learn how to be a process analyst and a project manager, for example.
Step 3: Consider a Graduate Degree or Certificate
Some more advanced career opportunities in the field will have a preference for candidates who hold advanced degrees. Many institutions offer master of science programs in business analytics and information systems. You could also consider earning your master of business administration and specializing in analytics.
Step 4: Get a Professional Certification
Most ambitious professionals in the field will take the IIBA certification (International Institute of Business Analysis) exam, a rigorous exam that offers official professional certification. Though it is not required, it will give you a competitive edge down the line.
Should You Become a Business Analyst?
As businesses work to examine their processes in the new, uncharted context post-COVID-19, they will need analytical consultation on how to make changes that will optimize their goals. Business analysts will no doubt be in particularly high demand in the years to come, as the world settles into a new and different way of doing business.
FAQs About Becoming a Business Analyst
Start out by getting an undergraduate education in a related field. The most common fields are finance, business, computer science, and information systems. Then, gain entry-level work experience before pursuing a graduate degree and/or taking the International Institute of Business Certification exam.
A business analyst needs a bachelor’s degree and a strong technical foundation. This means aspiring business analysts with an undergraduate degree in something like finance or business should also take courses in computer science and information systems.
Though it is not required, entry-level business analysts may pursue certification after several years of professional experience. The International Institute of Business provides this kind of certification.
With no on-the-ground experience, you can become a business analyst by strengthening your educational background. If you already have an undergraduate degree, take post-baccalaureate courses or even online bootcamps that will strengthen your technical skills. Then, look into securing an entry-level position and working toward certification.
Definitely. Businesses always need to pivot and reexamine their processes to adapt to volatile situations. With the help of a business analyst, management and IT teams can collaborate to make sure they are asking the right questions, identifying the biggest deficiencies, and solving them with innovative, data-driven solutions.