How to Become a Business Analyst in 2022

Why does a company lose money? Why are its costs rising, its workflow inefficient, and its product schedule perpetually behind? Just as critically, who can answer these questions?

Meet the business analyst, a professional who has become essential to modern business success. Business analysis blends a variety of technical, analytical, and problem-solving skills into an increasingly important discipline. Business analysts turn data into decisions, create solutions from obstacles, and drive growth for their organizations. By producing value, business analysts make themselves valuable. As a result, many professionals embark on the business analyst career path.

But how do you get there? The road to becoming a business analyst winds through many educational pursuits and careers, and not everyone follows the same course. Some people focus on becoming a business analyst; others happen into the role. Either way, those who pursue business analysis often find it challenging and rewarding.

Research projects the global big data and business analytics market to reach $448 billion by 2027, heralding a significant opportunity for business analysts. Newcomers to the field might wonder how to become a business analyst with no experience. To assist your career planning, we’ve compiled this guide. Here, we’ll address that plus a few other key questions — What do business analysts do? Is being a business analyst hard? — and tailor a strategy toward entering this impactful career.

What Is a Business Analyst?

In sports vernacular, utility players are those who play multiple positions skillfully. In some ways, business analysts are the utility players of commerce.

Business analysts use various technologies and strategies to make their organizations more efficient, more productive, and more profitable. They employ the discipline of business analysis, which applies research and data analysis to study how a company works and ways to improve those methods.

Business analysts are utility players because they possess various skills and apply them to myriad demands. They identify inefficiencies in product development, IT, staff management, and many other areas; and they work with team members in IT and finance, with stakeholders and clients, and with suppliers and vendors.

Business analysts are conduits between business and tech teams, translating and visualizing recommendations and solutions. They can also serve as data analysts, research analysts, systems analysts, business architects, or even product managers.

With this level of influence, business analysts are agents of change, according to the International Institute of Business Analysis. They identify and expedite change within an organization.

Business analysts have embedded themselves within successful organizations by creating better ways to track trends, analyze consumer habits, manage supply chains, and understand their markets. Ultimately, business analysts make businesses healthier.

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Four Steps to Become a Business Analyst

There is no direct route to becoming a business analyst, which isn’t a negative. Many business analysts found the career by chance or fortunate timing. Perhaps they worked in IT, finance, or software development and accepted projects with more business analysis responsibility. In other words, the job found them more than they found the job.

Others pursued the business analyst career path by studying finance or economics, perhaps getting an MBA, and learning the technical skills the job requires. Still, others approached the field from the tech side, studying data science or statistics and acquiring business knowledge along the way.

However you choose to become a business analyst, the following steps offer a picture of the process.

Step 1: Pursue an Education

Most business analysts went to college. According to CareerOneStop, 79 percent of analysts hold at least a bachelor’s degree, and 36 percent have a postgraduate degree. An MBA in business analytics is a popular resume point for business analysts.

It’s important to understand that the perfect undergraduate degree for an aspiring business analyst doesn’t exist. You can enter the field through economics, finance, or business administration. Since data is so integral to the job, degrees in data analysis, data science, and computer science also hold value. Even professionals with degrees in engineering or social science can be drawn toward business analysis.

Though college degrees are important, they aren’t required to become a business analyst. Another option is a boot camp. A data analysis boot camp, for instance, covers many of the tools and technologies business analysts should know. Their curricula include database programming languages such as SQL, data visualization software such as Tableau, and statistical modeling and forecasting techniques.

In a data analysis boot camp, learners complete projects using real-world data sets in professional environments. Upon completing the 24-week program, students carry a certificate and a new set of skills into the job market.

Step 2: Develop Your Business Analyst Skills

Business analysts juggle a combination of skills, from the technical to the high level. You’re likely to need some coding knowledge, particularly with databases and specific software proficiencies. You’ll also apply those reliable soft skills that every professional should cultivate.

Consider the following list to be a brief business analyst training lesson.

Technical Skills

According to IBM, business process modeling allows organizations “to understand and optimize workflows by creating data-driven visual representations of key business processes.” It’s a major component of business analysis.

In business process modeling, analysts employ data mining and visualization technologies to document workflows, identify problems, and automate processes. To perform these functions effectively, you’ll use technologies such as SQL, database programming languages, and specific modeling software.

Business analysts should be familiar with other statistical analysis technologies, such as the programming languages Python and R, as well as SAS software. Microsoft products — particularly Excel and PowerPoint — and Tableau are instrumental as well. These and other tools will be fundamental to your business analyst training.

Analytical Skills

To turn data into actionable insights, business analysts must analyze. They perform data analysis, statistical analysis, quantitative analysis, gap analysis, and risk assessment. Essentially, they have to make sense of data and determine how to act on it. That requires an ability to research, compile and interpret data, and draw conclusions from the findings.

Business Skills

Business analysts can benefit from becoming subject matter experts within their organizations. They should know their company’s product line, its customer base, how it sources material and labor, its shipping and distribution methods, and its successes and failures.

For instance, business analysts for online retailers must know who visits their site, what they search for most, and what they buy. The more you know, the better business analyst you will be.

Communication Skills

Business analysts elicit information from stakeholders, share information with managers, developers, and accountants, and write and deliver reports to management and clients. As a result, they must be clear communicators.

Communication doesn’t refer solely to writing, though distilling technical research into readable terms is important. Business analysts often need to mingle with various teams that might not speak each other’s workplace language. They can help translate programming jargon to the financial team and reinforce deadline messaging to the coders. Business analysts should be able to ask insightful questions and listen to the answers.

Other Skills

What else should business analysts know how to do? These are some further skills to master.

  • Problem-solving
  • Decision-making
  • Organization
  • Flexibility
  • Negotiation
  • Meeting facilitation

Step 3: Build a Strong Resume

With all the skills and education you’ve mastered, you should be able to craft a distinctive resume to become a business analyst. Further, make sure that the resume emphasizes your business analyst qualifications, even if you haven’t worked specifically in the role.

How else can you enhance your chances in the business analysis job market? Consider these:

Gain experience at your current job

Examine your career history for examples of business analysis experience. You probably have more than you realize. Perhaps you worked as a project manager, helped develop a new product, or increased efficiency within your department. Congratulations — you’ve conducted business analysis, and you may be closer to becoming an analyst than you initially thought.

Remember the note earlier that business analysts sometimes fall into their roles? You can activate this process by volunteering for projects that require analytical skills. Offer to lead a team or build a dashboard. Prove that you’re a subject matter expert in a specific process. Perform the work even if nobody’s asking you to do so.

That extra effort can serve multiple purposes. First, it makes you more valuable to your organization. Second, it provides business analysis experience and tangible projects to add to your portfolio.

Obtain a certification

Pursuing certifications can further boost your business analyst qualifications. Certifications demonstrate knowledge, proficiency, and an interest in continuing education in your field. The International Institute of Business Analysis offers a series of entry-level, advanced, and specialized business analysis certifications that can enhance your skills and marketability.

Prepare for the interview process

Before interviewing for a position as a business analyst, research the company. Learn about their products or services, markets, and customers. You might be able to offer some efficiency tips in the interview.

In addition, research the interview topics you’re likely to cover. Indeed collected the top eight business analyst interview questions, and the Robert Half employment agency provided six other common questions. Among them:

  • Which business analytics tools or systems have you worked with?
  • What is the most important aspect of analytical reporting?
  • How would you work with a difficult stakeholder?
  • Have you successfully explained data findings to coworkers who are unfamiliar with business analysis?

An image highlighting tips for building a strong resume, as mentioned in the article.

Step 4: Become a Business Analyst

Now that you’re on the business analyst career path, let’s examine the market, which is ascending as businesses reshape themselves through data. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the need for management analysts (another term for business analysts) is expected to increase by 14 percent between 2020 and 2030. Demand for operations research analysts, who use more advanced mathematical and statistical skills, may grow by 25 percent in that same time, the BLS projects.

Demand will grow faster in some industries than in others. For example, management analysts will be in high demand in healthcare, retail, some manufacturing sectors, and utilities such as wind and solar power generation. The BLS attributes this demand to businesses’ needs to reduce costs and improve operating efficiency.

Salaries for business analysts are competitive with salaries in other tech fields. BLS research lists the median annual salary for management analysts at $93,000 as of May 2021. Management analysts working in professional, scientific, and technical services made a median salary of $100,170 in 2021.

 

An image showcasing job market statistics for business analysts.

As you begin the job search, don’t limit yourself to business analyst job listings. The career positions itself on a wheel of disciplines with many spokes. Some other job titles to consider are functional analyst, product owner, product manager, process coordinator, systems architect, systems analyst, process analyst, or usability analyst. These are unique positions, though they blend similar characteristics.

A business analyst job description likely will solicit technical expertise, an analytical mind, precision, and the ability to communicate with various stakeholders. Search for a variety of job titles to broaden your window of opportunity, then narrow your focus to match the right job to your skill set.

How to Become a Business Analyst FAQ

Business analysts drive organizational change and help companies, nonprofits, and government agencies be more productive. They research and analyze data to identify inefficiency and waste in organizations, then recommend and implement solutions. Business analysts work with multiple teams within their organization and with outside stakeholders, vendors, and clients.

The median annual salary for management analysts, another term for business analysts, was $93,000 in 2021, according to the BLS. Salaries will vary based on industry, job location, and other factors. For instance, the BLS lists the median annual salary for analysts working in the professional, scientific, and technical services at $100,170 in 2021.

Most business analysts hold a college degree, with 36 percent having a postgraduate degree, according to CareerOneStop. Some popular degree paths include business administration, finance, and data science. An MBA in business analytics is also available.

The role is certainly challenging; business analysts must be critical and analytical thinkers, decision-makers, and clear communicators. They also must be skilled in working with data and must have programming knowledge. Yet, business analysts usually thrive on this challenge and responsibility.

Become a Business Analyst Today

The World Economic Forum concluded in its 2020 Future of Jobs Report that employers of the future want to populate their workforces with people with these skills (PDF, 10.6 MB): critical thinking, analysis, problem-solving, active learning, resilience, stress tolerance, and flexibility. Those sound just like the skills of a business analyst.

If you possess these skills but need a tech tuneup, consider enrolling in a data analysis boot camp. The comprehensive curriculum will immerse you in databases, visualization software, fundamental statistics, and advanced topics such as big data analytics and machine learning. You will apply that online learning to real-world projects that showcase your new skills in data analytics.

A future of possibility awaits in business analysis. Take the next step into that future at the Data Analysis and Visualization Boot Camp at Texas McCombs.

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