A business analyst is a broad title that is often used to describe a person who analyzes processes, products, services, and business metrics to make data-driven decisions that improve an organization’s profitability and efficiency. They often work cross-functionally and alongside both technical and business stakeholders. Their work helps drive change, helping to create the path from where an organization is now and towards where it wants to be.
This guide contains all the info you need to know about starting a career as a business analyst. Included in the guide is a summary of business analysts’ degree options, a quick outline of how to become a business analyst, as well as potential career paths.
Business Analyst Degree
Often, the first step in launching a career as a business analyst is to get a relevant degree.
A business analyst’s job titles and roles continue to expand and change, opening up a wide variety of options for those interested in this career path. What makes getting a business analyst degree a bit different from other degree options is that there are many ways (and degrees) that can be used to launch a career as a business analyst.
A business analyst title is also often used interchangeably with other titles, including:
- Data analyst
- Management analyst
- Process analyst
- Product analyst
- Business intelligence analyst
There may be specific skill sets and requirements desired with each of these differentiations in titles. As a result, it’s important to start researching these variations to understand better what types of skill sets you’ll need to develop through formal education, certifications, or work experience.
At a minimum, most employers look for a bachelor’s degree in business, statistics, information technology, or a related field. Given the expansion of undergraduate programs, preference may be given to those who have completed an undergraduate degree in business analytics. However, some prefer an advanced graduate degree such as a master’s in business analytics or an MBA specializing in business analytics. Given the wide range of responsibilities and requirements of a business analyst across industries and organizations, the desired educational background can vary.
A combination of educational background and relevant work experience is often considered and deemed applicable for an entry-level position.
Regardless of the title used, obtaining relevant experience that exhibits some of the most common responsibilities of a business analyst is important, especially at the entry-level. Some of these skills can include data analysis, strong technical competencies, solid vocal and written communication skills, and problem-solving complex problems.
Experience can take the form of a full-time work experience or a shorter-term engagement such as an internship or hands-on learning experience. Often many undergraduate programs have internship components built-in, offering students the opportunity to use their time to build up their experience while in school. Glassdoor is a great place to start searching for opportunities since it consolidates a list of the top companies hiring business analyst interns.
What is a Business Analyst?
Business analysts are brought on to innovate, change, and improve existing processes, workflows, and organizations. They’re often relied on for their strong analytical skills and aren’t afraid to dig into data, think outside the box, and challenge the status quo. Their work directly impacts and helps shape improvement initiatives that work towards bettering outcomes, including operational efficiencies, profitability, productivity, or customer satisfaction.
A business analyst often bridges the gap between cross-functional stakeholders. Researching existing systems, analyzing data, and offering recommendations to improve efficiencies are often key components of the role. While business analysts are usually required to have strong critical thinking and analysis skills, their soft skills are just as, if not more important. Active listening, speaking, and presentation skills are relied on while researching and offering a recommendation for change across an organization.
A business analyst will also be expected to have strong written skills to document business requirements in a descriptive, clear, digestible manner that supports the development of new processes and workflows.
Business Analyst Job Descriptions
The descriptions, responsibilities, and level can vary greatly when searching through the thousands of business analyst job descriptions spanning multiple industries. While the role of a business analyst can take shape in a variety of different ways, Indeed outlines a broad and summarized list of roles and responsibilities for a business analyst below:
- Collecting and analyzing data for potential business expansion
- Identifying specific business opportunities
- Influencing stakeholders to support business projects
- Leading projects and coordinating with other teams to produce better business outcomes
- Testing business processes and recommending improvements
Similarly, the Bureau of Labor Statistics provides the following:
- Gather and organize information about the problems to be solved or the procedures to be improved
- Interview personnel and conduct onsite observations to determine the methods, equipment, and personnel that will be needed
- Make recommendations to management through presentations or written reports
- Analyze financial and other data, including revenue, expenditure, and employment reports
- Develop solutions or alternative practices
- Recommend new systems, procedures, or organizational changes
While they may differ in detail slightly, both of the descriptions above have clear overlaps, which can be summarized as follows:
- Analyzing and consolidating data across a variety of processes, teams, and metrics
- Working cross-functionally to understand current processes, workflows, and systems
- Testing alternative processes and ways of performing existing activities
- Providing data-driven recommendations for improvements and change
Business Analyst Job Outlook
As corporations continue to grow in a competitive landscape, the demand for improving efficiencies and reducing costs grows parallel. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the employment of business/management analysts will increase by 11 percent from 2019 through 2029. This is more than double the four percent predicted growth for all occupations in the same period.
Specifically, industries like healthcare and information technology are expected to see the highest growth in demand for these roles due to aging demographics that present new challenges to existing healthcare systems and the exponential growth and continuously changing landscape that technology has brought forth.
How Much Do Business Analysts Make?
The average base pay for a business analyst in the United States, according to Glassdoor, is $73,911. However, this range can vary greatly depending on key factors, including location, company, and career level. This is evident in the latest 2021 Business Analyst data from Built in NYC, which estimates an average base salary for business analysts in New York is $89,534, with a minimum of $59k, a median of $90k, and a maximum of $230k.