How to Become a Professional Business Analyst in 5 Steps

Research what it takes to become a professional business analyst. Learn about education requirements, job duties, median wages, and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Business Intelligence degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Business Analyst Do?

A business analyst gathers and organizes information about a business, uses it to identify problems or inefficiencies in business processes, and provides advice about possible solutions. The goal of the position is to enhance a company's profits and efficiency. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways, from reviewing data and reports to interviewing employees in order to find out what they believe needs to be changed about how the business is run. It can also be important to follow up after the fact to ensure changes made are working effectively.

Consider the information in the following table to determine if a career as a professional business analyst is right for you.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Business, management, economics, finance
Key Skills Analytical, communication, problem solving, and time management skills
Certification Required Not required, but the Institute of Management Consultants USA (IMC USA) offers Certified Management Consultant (CMC) certification
Job Growth (2014-2024) 14% for all management analysts*
Median Salary (2015) $81,320 for all management analysts*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

A bachelor's degree is sufficient for entry-level employment as a business analyst with some firms. Programs in business administration or subjects that emphasize organization and systemic thinking - such as engineering, computer science, or information systems - are relevant options. If you aren't in a business program, take courses that cover business principles, communication, marketing, technology, and budgeting.

Step 2: Obtain Employment

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov), approximately 614,110 people were employed as management analysts as of 2015. You are most likely to find a position with management, scientific, and technical consulting services. State and federal agencies and finance and insurance firms employ a smaller but still significant number of analysts as well. Employment for management analysts is projected to grow 14% to 861,400 workers by 2024. Growth will be driven by the need for businesses to improve efficiency and reduce operational costs.

Step 3: Earn a Master's Degree

Many employers prefer to hire analysts with a Master of Business Administration (MBA) or a related area, such as management information systems (MIS). A graduate degree can improve your communication and problem-solving skills, and should expand your capacity to understand and respond to a business' needs.

Master's programs in business administration provide a comprehensive review of fundamental business areas such as finance, accounting, human resources, marketing, and operations management. Programs often allow you to choose between a general curriculum or concentrations in finance, global management, entrepreneurship, and other areas. You may also have the option to take courses online so you can sustain your existing career while earning the degree.

MIS programs examine the role of information in the normal internal processes of an organization. They can also teach you about how to make optimal use of information to solve problems and achieve an organization's objectives. Course content touches on information system fundamentals, systems analysis, business communications, technology management and database management. As with MBA programs, you may have the option to complete an MIS program online or on campus.

Step 4: Receive Professional Development Training

The business climate evolves quickly, making ongoing education an essential tool for analysts. Industry associations and some colleges offer professional development training that can better prepare you to perform an analyst's core duties. The six areas of knowledge that might be covered in training include business analysis planning and monitoring, requirements management and communication, solution assessment and validation, elicitation, enterprise analysis, and requirements analysis.

Step 5: Obtain Certification

The International Institute of Business Analysis (www.theiiba.org) offers the Certification of Competency in Business Analysis (CCBA) credential and the Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP) designation. A CCBA designation indicates that you have acquired a professional level of skill and expertise as an analyst. To gain the CCBA you need at least 3,750 hours of experience, at least 900 hours of experience in two of the six knowledge areas or 500 hours in four of the six areas, and 21 hours of professional development training in the last four years.

The CBAP designation is for senior analysts with more extensive experience. To be eligible you need 7,500 hours of analyst work experience, 900 hours of experience in four of the six knowledge areas, and 21 hours of professional development training in the last four years.

What Are Some Similar Careers?

Budget analysts fulfill a similar duty to business analysts, focusing on company spending and budgeting to maximize profits. Financial analysts counsel businesses to guide them on how to invest. Market research analysts examine market conditions to determine what kinds of products and services are selling at that point in time.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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