How to Become a Business Analyst
Is Business Analyst a Good Career?
The short answer is: yes, absolutely, Business Analyst is s a highly appealing career path.
Like any career, though, the nature of the work itself is a major factor in whether Business Analyst is the right career for you. The skills and competencies you have will, to a large degree, determine your success.
Reasons to Become a Business Analyst
Topping the list is the fact that Business Analysts are in high demand. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that demand for some fields of business analysis is set to explode. The demand for Management Analysts, for example, is projected to grow 11 percent over the next decade, adding about 93,000 jobs in the U.S. alone – what it qualifies as “much faster than average” growth. For Market Research Analysts, who study market conditions to determine potential sales of a new product or service, things look even sunnier, with a projected 130,000 new jobs – an 18 percent growth rate – on the horizon.
That high demand translates into relatively secure employment – and extremely competitive salaries. The aforementioned position of Management Analyst, for example, drew a median salary of $94,000 in 2019, according to the BLS. Even Business Analysts in less technically demanding positions routinely earn an average salary that sits comfortably in the high five-figure range, and often into six figures for Business Analysts in senior positions. In fact, the top 10 percent of Business Analysts earn $150,000 a year or more, according to some sources. High demand also means there are more opportunities for Business Analysts to relocate to new cities, even new countries, or to work remotely.
Business Analysts’ skills are also highly transferable, which means they’re especially able to move to new sectors or take on new roles. This fact also speaks to their ability to advance their careers. Business Analysts’ resourcefulness and broad set of skills, combined with a high level of technical expertise, means they’re well poised to contribute to developing overarching business strategies, company and information systems architecture, process and program management, and project management – all top-tier aptitudes that translate into a higher level of job satisfaction, and can lead to executive positions.
What Are Business Analyst Career Paths?
Career paths in business analysis are as varied as business itself – Business Analysts touch on virtually every facet of business operations, work in virtually every type of business, and in virtually every sector, including non-profit, public, and government organizations. All of which is to say, career possibilities in business analysis are virtually unlimited. Here are four of the most common broad categories you might begin your career in business analysis – but there are many more.
IT Business Analyst
Because business analytics is so often focused on the processes businesses use to operate – and especially the information systems, or technological communication tools they use – it should be no surprise that Business Analysts often find a home in IT. And of course, as businesses modernize, developing comprehensive IT strategies is usually a big part of their transformation. It’s a natural fit for a Business Analyst – researching the company’s needs, then crunching the numbers to determine what solutions will most effectively respond to the company’s needs and promote its stakeholders’ goals.
The role of IT Business Analyst can be considered an evolution of a more generalist Business Analyst’s because it draws on a much more intensive understanding of how technology can be incorporated into business management – particularly different operating systems, data requirements, and process requirements, and how each of these figure into a company’s overarching strategic objectives.
Just as IT Business Analysts are more deeply focused on a business’s information systems, so Management Analysts are more deeply focused on just how businesses are run. They’re also sometimes called Management Consultants, which speaks to the fact that Management Analysts are more likely to work for outside firms, rather than occupy an in-house position. That said, many Management Consultants are still highly specialized, working for clients within a particular field, such as finance or the public sector.
With management analysis, the emphasis is on operational efficiency. People working in this area might be more likely to come from a business background (i.e., business administration), as opposed to tech (i.e., computer science). While not as tech-based as IT business analysis, management analysis still relies heavily on data and what it can reveal about the unseen ways businesses work. As a Management Analyst, you’ll be expected to provide managers with information to help them conduct their jobs better, from decision-making to restructuring, including research into business operations, analyzing that data for insights, and using it to make projections or forecasts. It goes without saying that Management Analysts also interface with stakeholders throughout an organization, from the C-suite to individual team members, so good communication skills are a key attribute here.
As the name suggests, a Quantitative Analyst works with numbers – specifically, dollars. Also known as Financial Analysts or Financial Engineers, Quantitative Analysts use a company’s data to build mathematical models that they can use to make predictive forecasts, which can be invaluable to businesses making decisions with hefty financial implications. In other words, Quantitative Analysts look at the numbers to help take the risk out of decision-making.
Because “quants,” as they’re sometimes known, work primarily with models in an economics or finance context, they typically come from a background in math, statistics, economics, or finance, often with a master’s in one of these fields. This higher level of educational attainment not only makes Quantitative Analysts more specialized – it also means they can command higher salaries than Business Analysts in most other fields.
The most experienced and knowledgeable Analysts can earn the title of Data Scientist. While not strictly limited to business, Data Scientists also probe what data can tell them in search of insights. And, like all Business Analysts, Data Scientists are problem-solvers, using computer science, mathematics, and statistics to find meaningful patterns in data and, ultimately, to help organizations make better decisions. Data Scientists may also be called upon to work with data that’s less straightforward – non-numerical data, for example, or data sets where highly disparate data points make developing correlations more challenging.
Perhaps the biggest thing that differentiates Data Scientists from Business Analysts is the advanced level at which the former work – not only correlating or interpolating data, but also using sophisticated statistical techniques and machine learning to develop actionable predictions. In that sense, data science – like all science – is an exploratory field, one where experimentation frequently takes the place of a predetermined roadmap when trying to solve a puzzle with no obvious way to develop a solution.
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