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How to Become a Business Analyst

Are Business Analysts in High Demand?

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Business Analysts are already in high demand, and that demand is only expected to increase for the foreseeable future.

While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn’t record statistics for the job title “Business Analyst” per se, it does track multiple job categories that fall under the broader umbrella of business analysis, including Management Analysts, Financial Analysts, Market Research Analysts, Operations Research Analysts, and so on. Some of the long-established categories – like Financial Analyst, which has been around for decades – are predicted to see modest growth, while categories that relate to emerging technologies can expect much more dramatic growth over the decade ending in 2029 – including Management Analysts (11 percent), Market Research Analysts (18 percent), Operations Research Analysts (25 percent), and in the case of the highly technical and specialized role of Information Security Analysts, a whopping 31 percent – what the BLS characterizes as “much faster than average” growth.

While current figures are difficult to obtain, IBM in 2015 predicted that, by 2020, the number of annual openings for data analysis–related jobs in the U.S. – including categories like data-driven decision makers, functional analysts, data systems developers, and analytics managers, all of which are different flavors of Business Analysts – would reach 2.7 million per year. That growth represents 15 percent growth over a five-year span. If anything, the 2020 pandemic has further accelerated corporate investment in business analysis, which implies that even these bullish projections will fall short of the actual demand, both in 2021 and in the future.

Is Digital Transformation Driving the Demand for Business Analysts?

The digital revolution is the driving force behind the growing demand for Business Analysts. Business is as old as civilization; what’s changed is our ability to retrieve large amounts of data about how our businesses operate. That’s not to mention the way businesses themselves are changing, pivoting to products that are marketed or distributed via digital platforms or are themselves digital.

As data and the things it can do for business takes on new prominence, many industries are making big investments in business analysis and building out their analytics departments – especially in telecommunications, insurance, advertising, financial services, healthcare, and technology. That growth is expected to continue well into the future as industries that lag in big data analytics adoption (these include education, government, and manufacturing, among others) have pledged to increase their big data analytics activity in the future.

The reasons for this increased investment are clear: data is a crucial tool in giving businesses a critical edge over their competition – and fundamental in helping an organization to identify and define problems, and to organize and interpret their data to provide useful insights and solutions. The relative speed and ease with which data can now be leveraged also means that virtually every organization can optimize their operations and investments, allowing them to:

  • Predict consumer behavior
  • Set realistic targets
  • Make informed decisions

The different ways this can be applied to business is almost endless: demographic marketing, logistics, tracking expenditures over time, measuring efficiencies in day-to-day operations – all provide clues on how to run a more efficient operation. Anywhere data can be gathered, analyzed, and compared against key performance indicators, it can be used to effect change and improve outcomes.

It’s no wonder, then, that according to a report from McKinsey, the United States faces a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 people with analytical skills, as well as 1.5 million Managers and Analysts who understand how to use data analysis to drive decision-making. In its 2017 report The Quant Crunch: How the Demand for Data Science Skills is Disrupting the Job Market, IBM predicted that the number of jobs for U.S. data professionals would grow from 364,000 to 2,720,000 by 2020; if anything, the events of 2020 have accelerated that demand even further. And IBM added that nearly every one of the 2.8 million “analytically savvy” workers who would fill that gap would be required to change jobs to meet that annual demand.

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