What Does a Business Analyst Do? And How to Become One

Business analysts help maximize a business's effectiveness through data-driven decisions. Learn about what business analysts do and what it takes to become one.
Business analyst prepares for a meeting

What is a business analyst?

Business analysts use data to form business insights and recommend changes in businesses and other organizations. Business analysts can identify issues in virtually any part of an organization, including IT processes, organizational structures, or staff development.

As businesses seek to increase efficiency and reduce costs, business analytics has become an important component of their operations. Let’s take a closer look at what business analysts do and what it takes to get a job in business analysis. 

What do business analysts do?

Business analysts identify business areas that can be improved to increase efficiency and strengthen business processes. They often work closely with others throughout the business hierarchy to communicate their findings and help implement changes.

Tasks and duties can include:

  • Identifying and prioritizing the organization's functional and technical needs and requirements

  • Compiling charts, tables, and other elements of data visualization 

  • Creating financial models to support business decisions

  • Understanding business strategies, goals, and requirements

  • Planning enterprise architecture (the structure of a business)

  • Forecasting, budgeting, and performing both variance analysis and financial analysis

Business analyst salary and job growth

The average salary for business analysts in 2021 in the United States is $79,599, according to Indeed. Salaries can range from $57,599 to $108,580, depending on the company, location, and amount of experience the business analyst has [1].

The demand for business analysts has increased in recent years and is projected to continue. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects job growth between 2019-2029 for similar roles to range from 7 percent (computer systems analysts) to 25 percent (operations research analysts) [2, 3]. Other related job titles include management analyst and operations analyst—both of which perform duties similar to business analysts.

How to become a business analyst

Becoming a business analyst may require gaining skills and credentials applicable to the work. Coursework, certifications, or degrees can each aid your path to a job as a business analyst.

1. Sharpen your business analyst skills

Here are some skills you’ll typically want to have as a business analyst. 

  • Business acumen: A solid understanding of finance, accounting, and business principles will help you surface what operational issues exist, and how best to address them.

  • Communication: A business analyst is often expected to communicate with several different players within an organization, including upper management and other teams. Being able to present your ideas clearly and convincingly will be a large asset as a business analyst.

  • Data analysis: Gathering, tracking, and analyzing performance metrics will be central to a business analysis role. Having a good grasp of data analysis and visualization tools like Tableau, Excel, and BI Tools can be useful. Some knowledge of a programming language like SQL may also come in handy.

2. Take a course

Refreshing your familiarity with skills expected of a business analyst can show employers your knowledge is up to date and adequate. Coursework, either in person or online, can give you the tools needed to get your foot in the door in the field of business analytics.

Courses in data analytics or business analytics can bring you a holistic understanding of the job. Or familiarize yourself with the tools used in business analytics through coursework in Tableau or Excel and MySQL.

3. Earn a business analyst certification

Earning a certification can expand your skill set, and potentially increase your earnings or make you more competitive for jobs. Here are some business analysis certifications to consider:

  • IIBA Entry Certificate in Business Analysis (ECBA)

  • IIBA Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP)

  • IIBA Certification of Capability in Business Analysis (CCBA)

  • PMI Professional in Business Analytics (PMI-PBA)

If you’re just starting out as a business analyst, the ECBA can show hiring managers you’ve received several hours of training and know the basics of business analysis. If you have some experience with business analytics, the CBAP, CCBA, and PMI-PBA can show employers your competency and experience.

4. Get a degree

Many employers like to see at least a bachelor’s degree on your resume, though some may prefer candidates with a master’s degree.

Bachelor’s degrees: Bachelor’s degrees are common for entry-level positions in analytical fields, according to the BLS. Getting your bachelor's degree in a quantitative field like economics, finance, computer science, data science, statistics, information management, or a similar field can prepare you for business analysis jobs.

Master’s degrees and MBAs: Some employers might prefer candidates with a master’s degree in a relevant subject. You may also consider getting a master’s of business administration (MBA); several programs offer specializations in business analytics. Getting your master's degree in business analytics or business administration could help advance your skills and knowledge, and give you a leg up in the job search arena.

5. Know your entry-level options

Internships and entry-level positions in accounting, finance, or business settings can build your experience before you land a higher-level position. In your job search, look for titles like junior business analyst or entry-level business analyst. If you’re still in school, making an appointment with a career counselor can help you understand what opportunities are out there.

Next steps

If a career in business analysis sounds interesting, start by exploring the ways you can bolster your skill set. Courses in business analytics or business systems can give you a broad introduction to the profession. Otherwise, sharpen your expertise in data through the Google Data Analytics Professional Certificate program.

Glossary of business analysis terms

  • Business architecture: Part of the enterprise architecture that defines the business or organization's structure, specifically its strategy, goals, objectives, internal environment, external environment, and stakeholders

  • Data-driven decisions: Decisions made based on data instead of emotions, observation, or intuition

  • Decision tables: A type of model that presents complex business rules or logic in an easily read, tabular form with all potential actions and conditions included

  • Enterprise architecture: The structure of a business, including IT software and hardware, business processes, projects, operations, and employees

  • Financial analysis: The process used to evaluate budgets, projects, and transactions to analyze performance and make decisions about whether they're appropriate

  • Variance analysis: The analysis of differences between the planned performance and actual results to figure out recommendations for correcting and preventing issues

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Article sources

1. Indeed. "Learn About Being a Business Analyst, https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/careers/what-does-a-business-analyst-do." Accessed March 25, 2021.

2. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Computer Systems Analysts, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-systems-analysts.htm." Accessed March 25, 2021.

3. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Operations Research Analysts, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/math/operations-research-analysts.htm." Accessed March 25, 2021.

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