What Is a Business Intelligence Analyst? Making Data-Driven Business Decisions

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Business intelligence analysts use data to help businesses navigate decisions. Once you have the necessary skills, you can take several paths to become one.

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What does a business intelligence analyst do?

A business intelligence analyst, also known as a BI analyst, uses data and other information to help organizations make sound business decisions. 

Though a business intelligence analyst’s exact job description can vary, it broadly breaks down into three parts:

  • Breaking down key business data: A business intelligence analyst might gather, clean, and analyze data, such as revenue, sales, market information, or customer engagement metrics. BI analysts may also program tools and data models to help visualize or monitor data.

  • Interpreting the data: Finding patterns or seeing areas in the data that signal potential improvement in business practices is a key part of a BI analyst’s job. For example, a BI analyst might analyze market trends to understand how a company might need to adapt its product.

  • Sharing findings: Sharing findings can include anything from visualizing data in graphs and charts to putting reports together and presenting in front of other teams or clients. Based on their findings, business intelligence analysts will also make recommendations to improve or grow the business.

According to Glassdoor, a business intelligence analyst in Canada makes an average annual base salary of $79,084 [1]. Compare that to similar roles.

  • Data analyst - $67,985 [2]

  • Business analyst - $69,314 [3]

  • Product analyst - $64,169 [4]

  • Business intelligence consultant - $74,787 [5]

  • Senior business intelligence analyst - $89,653 [6]

  • Business intelligence architect - $72,731 [7]

  • Business intelligence manager - $100,827 [8]

  • Business intelligence engineer- $95,159 [9]

Business intelligence analysts vs. business analysts: What’s the difference?

Business analysts, not to be confused with BI analysts, also analyze information to make recommendations to improve a business. However, while BI analysts deal more directly with data to find insights, business analysts typically deal with the practical applications of those insights.


How to become a business intelligence analyst

Here are the skills a BI analyst typically has and the paths you can take to acquire them:

  • Database tools: Working with data will be crucial to your job. Knowing how to manage data using common data tools, such as Excel and SQL, is essential. Familiarity with data analysis tools that offer machine learning solutions has become an increasingly sought-after skill among BI analysts.

  • Data visualization: BI analyst Job descriptions often cite knowledge of services like Tableau and Power as important skills. These tools help create graphs and other visualizations of data.

  • Coding languages: As a BI analyst, you may create systems or processes to help analyze data and monitor key aspects of the business. Employers often seek familiarity with coding languages like Python, Java, or R.

  • Financial and business knowledge: A good understanding of business practices and finance will be critical to providing insights on improving the business.

  • Communication: A business intelligence analyst often speaks to teams or creates written reports to share findings. Having the written and verbal communication skills to synthesize research and recommendations is often core to the role.

Becoming a business intelligence analyst

There are several paths to becoming a business intelligence analyst. Because each company has its requirements for the job, gaining as much education and experience as possible is ideal. Here are some ways to do that:  

Professional certificates or online courses: A professional certificate or course is a good way to build needed skills like data analysis or familiarity with Power BI. Certificates or online courses often require no previous experience or degree and can offer the flexibility needed to learn a new field while not disrupting your life. The University of Colorado offers a Data Warehouse Business Intelligence Specialization on Coursera that can help you learn the essentials of business intelligence analysis.

You can also become a Certified Business Intelligence Professional (CBIP) if you have two or more years of experience in computer information systems, data modelling, systems analysis, or a related field.

Bachelor’s degrees: A bachelor’s degree in business administration, finance, computer science, or a related field can help you gain the technical and critical thinking skills a BI analyst needs. Most jobs also require a bachelor's degree. 

Master’s degrees: While a master’s degree may not be necessary for the job, it can build on your previous experience and education and make you a more competitive candidate. Consider a master's degree in business intelligence or a related field. Economics, business administration, and statistics are also good choices, especially if you already have a background in BI. If you’ve worked in business for several years and need a stronger background in data, a master’s degree in data science might suit your needs. If you have a solid understanding of data analysis but need a better business understanding, a business administration program focusing on business analytics might be what you’re looking for.

Getting started

Business intelligence analysts use their critical thinking skills and quantitative abilities to help businesses improve and thrive. As data is increasingly important in our everyday lives, BI analysts will likely be crucial to business operations for years to come. Hone your skills with Specializations like the Business Analytics Specialization offered by the University of Illinois on Coursera. 


Article sources


Glassdoor. "Business Intelligence Analyst Salaries in Canada, https://www.glassdoor.ca/Salaries/canada-business-intelligence-analyst-salary-SRCH_IL.0,6_IN3_KO7,36.htm?clickSource=searchBtn." Accessed May 9, 2024.

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