5 Steps to Becoming a Business Analyst

Step 1
Pursue an undergraduate degree in the appropriate field.
Virtually all business analysts have bachelor's degrees, although many go onto achieve master's degrees and other advanced education. They often come from academic backgrounds that include undergraduate degrees in accounting, finance or business administration.
Step 2
Supplement your primary education with computer courses.
While pursuing your undergraduate degree, you should make sure to supplement your education with computer programming, computer science and related courses. Different business analyst niches require different levels of computer proficiency and technical prowess, but business analysts generally serve as the bridge between a company's core departments and its IT department. The more computer and technical education a person has, the better prepared that person will be when it comes time to look for a job.
Step 3
Get certified.
Graduates can gain critical supplementary knowledge while making their resumes shine by achieving a respected certification. For many, the first step is to earn the prestigious International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) certification. IIBA is the globally recognized trade association and governing body for the business analyst industry.
Step 4
Gain real-world experience.
You can get an early jump by pursuing summer internships in related fields while you're still studying. If your school requires or encourages volunteer work, you can offer your skills and time pro bono for a small company that may not be able to afford a more advanced business analyst. If you're already working in a different capacity, ask your supervisors and managers to consider you for projects that require business analysis, or to put you on a team that includes a working business analyst.
Step 5
Continue your education while you're working.
By this stage in the process, you'll likely have a much better grasp about the niche, field, industry and environment to which you'd like to dedicate your career. This is a perfect time to pursue a master's degree, an advanced certificate or both, focusing more specifically on the exact career path you're pursuing. When you emerge from the process, you'll be a highly qualified candidate with both advanced education and real-world experience.
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FAQ on Earning Your Business Analyst Degree

What fields do business analysts come from if they switch to the occupation mid-career?

You might be able to leapfrog over entry-level positions if you've worked in an applicable field prior to or during your pursuit of a business analyst degree. For example, software developers often have skill sets that make the transition natural and easy. Just working for a company that employs business analysts could make you stand out to hiring managers who may be impressed by your mastery of that company's stakeholders, organizational structure and business model.

If work experience isn't an option, what educational backgrounds do hiring managers value the most?

The Holy Grail of business analyst education is the academic trifecta of IT, business and communication. Business analysts must understand the world of business and the technology that drives those businesses, and they must be fluent in the languages of both departments. A blend of communications, computer science and broad-spectrum business competency is the right formula to use as a jumping-off point for nearly all entry-level business analyst positions.

What programming languages are most highly valued?

It's true that programming knowledge can make a resume shine, but don't get too bogged down with specialized computer programming until you begin working toward a specialty later down the road. In the beginning, a basic knowledge of HTML, Javascript and SQL will suffice.

What computer skills should I concentrate on learning while I'm pursuing my degree?

Visual modeling and other graphic representations are a key part of the business analyst's toolbox, as is a strong working knowledge of analysis tools that harvest, organize and interpret large data sets.

What business management skills should I focus on learning?

No matter which specialty you end up pursuing, you'll benefit from an education centered on sales and marketing, elicitation and facilitation, as well as problem-solving as it pertains to the development of business solutions.

What about so-called "soft skills" that are hard to teach and learn, but are nonetheless critical to success in the field?

Business analysts must have excellent time-management skills and possess the ability to think critically. Not only must business analysts be able to handle change, but they will be relied upon to continually foster and drive positive change in the environments where they operate.

Business Analyst Salary & Job Growth

If you're considering a career as a business analyst, you're probably curious about how much money you can expect to earn along the way. According to salary data site Glassdoor, the average business analyst earns $70,170 a year, with the average entry-level employee earning $65,000 and a senior business analyst pulling in an average annual salary of $88,000. Business analysts can also expect to have their checks padded with average non-salary annual compensation of $5,496. That, however, is the average. Salary data site PayScale lists the median annual salary as $58,805 and informs prospective candidates that most data analysts receive raises during their first decade before moving on to other positions after roughly 20 years.

Alabama Mean wage annual: $71,410

Currently Employed: 73,110

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 6%

Alaska Mean wage annual: $78,590

Currently Employed: 13,850

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 0%

Arizona Mean wage annual: $68,190

Currently Employed: 140,330

Change in Employment (2016-2026): N/A

Arkansas Mean wage annual: $61,920

Currently Employed: 49,680

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 19%

California Mean wage annual: $83,500

Currently Employed: 978,370

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 12%

Colorado Mean wage annual: $77,290

Currently Employed: 178,980

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 19%

Connecticut Mean wage annual: $84,300

Currently Employed: 90,370

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 8%

Delaware Mean wage annual: $77,540

Currently Employed: 27,680

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 10%

Florida Mean wage annual: $68,610

Currently Employed: 445,980

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 19%

Georgia Mean wage annual: $71,950

Currently Employed: 234,750

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 13%

Hawaii Mean wage annual: $68,780

Currently Employed: 27,350

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 6%

Idaho Mean wage annual: $63,510

Currently Employed: 26,350

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 11%

Illinois Mean wage annual: $74,530

Currently Employed: 328,610

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 7%

Indiana Mean wage annual: $63,380

Currently Employed: 117,190

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 10%

Iowa Mean wage annual: $64,760

Currently Employed: 67,560

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 12%

Kansas Mean wage annual: $67,760

Currently Employed: 67,330

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 6%

Kentucky Mean wage annual: $62,060

Currently Employed: 73,400

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 9%

Louisiana Mean wage annual: $60,590

Currently Employed: 68,480

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 12%

Maine Mean wage annual: $65,250

Currently Employed: 23,390

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 2%

Maryland Mean wage annual: $80,870

Currently Employed: 165,330

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 4%

Massachusetts Mean wage annual: $84,340

Currently Employed: 201,220

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 9%

Michigan Mean wage annual: $71,130

Currently Employed: 204,080

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 8%

Minnesota Mean wage annual: $72,420

Currently Employed: 161,080

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 8%

Mississippi Mean wage annual: $60,910

Currently Employed: 30,420

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 4%

Missouri Mean wage annual: $69,100

Currently Employed: 139,900

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 9%

Montana Mean wage annual: $61,230

Currently Employed: 19,860

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 9%

Nebraska Mean wage annual: $65,410

Currently Employed: 49,040

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 12%

Nevada Mean wage annual: $68,930

Currently Employed: 46,430

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 12%

New Hampshire Mean wage annual: $72,330

Currently Employed: 28,550

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 8%

New Jersey Mean wage annual: $84,950

Currently Employed: 233,820

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 7%

New Mexico Mean wage annual: $65,530

Currently Employed: 34,740

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 7%

New York Mean wage annual: $94,680

Currently Employed: 543,880

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 13%

North Carolina Mean wage annual: $74,030

Currently Employed: 213,810

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 14%

North Dakota Mean wage annual: $63,810

Currently Employed: 17,050

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 11%

Ohio Mean wage annual: $69,200

Currently Employed: 270,580

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 7%

Oklahoma Mean wage annual: $63,750

Currently Employed: 69,400

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 4%

Oregon Mean wage annual: $71,430

Currently Employed: 87,150

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 13%

Pennsylvania Mean wage annual: $73,290

Currently Employed: 279,180

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 6%

Rhode Island Mean wage annual: $77,270

Currently Employed: 27,010

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 9%

South Carolina Mean wage annual: $62,770

Currently Employed: 75,380

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 9%

South Dakota Mean wage annual: $63,290

Currently Employed: 19,110

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 4%

Tennessee Mean wage annual: $64,760

Currently Employed: 120,350

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 15%

Texas Mean wage annual: $78,240

Currently Employed: 575,030

Change in Employment (2016-2026): N/A

Utah Mean wage annual: $65,110

Currently Employed: 70,800

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 24%

Vermont Mean wage annual: $66,200

Currently Employed: 15,990

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 7%

Virginia Mean wage annual: $84,180

Currently Employed: 265,210

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 11%

Washington Mean wage annual: $79,090

Currently Employed: 203,780

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 17%

West Virginia Mean wage annual: $61,000

Currently Employed: 22,080

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 5%

Wisconsin Mean wage annual: $64,950

Currently Employed: 137,430

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 12%

Wyoming Mean wage annual: $68,320

Currently Employed: 8,220

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 8%

Definitive job outlook predictions and statistics for business analysts are difficult to come by. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) tracks trends and numbers for management analysts, who perform similar duties and whose job title is often used interchangeably with that of business analyst. Employment for management analysts is expected to grow by 14 percent in the decade between 2016-2026, which is faster than projected growth in the general job market. A recent report issued by the University of California, Irvine predicts varied growth for six different business analyst specialties between 2012-2022. The spectrum starts at 6.1 percent projected growth for budget analysts and goes all the way up to 31.6 percent projected growth for market research analysts and marketing specialists.

Finding a Business Analyst Program

When researching potential academic programs that could lead to a career as a business analyst, you already know to focus on business or a related field with supplementary study in communications and computer science — but subject matter isn't the only consideration. Cost is obviously a deciding factor, but so is the method of delivery. Online education, for example, provides distance learners with incredible flexibility in scheduling without sacrificing quality in learning. Accelerated courses will speed up the process, but the individual courses are likely to be heavier and more challenging. You might be able to spend significantly less money by starting your academic journey at a community college or another two-year school, but it's critical in that case to make sure your credits will transfer when you move to a four-year college or university.

Professional Business Analyst Associations & Groups

Business analysts connect IT departments with the larger business divisions — and it's important for them to stay connected to each other, as well. From trade associations and networking groups to industry-specific job boards and ongoing education centers, these groups and communities exist solely to unite and empower both current and future business analysts.

Resources for Business Analysts

Business analysis is a complicated field. The following resources can help you chart your career, pursue your education, learn more about the industry and help you develop a better understanding of what to expect when you start working.

Business Analyst Body of Knowledge (BABOK)

Developed and distributed by IIBA, the BABOK guide is the definitive work for business analysts. Created in conjunction with 150 researchers and writers from 20 countries, the BABOK guide is the closest thing business analysts have to an industry bible.

Business Analyst Times

Dedicated solely to the profession and the industry, BA Times offers webinars, job boards, articles, white papers and other useful resources that are critical both to industry professionals and aspiring business analysts.

The Business Analyst's Guide to Networking on LinkedIn

This tutorial is designed specifically for business analysts and prospective business analysts who are seeking to expand their networks on the world's largest professional social media channel.

How to Start a Business Analyst Career

This book serves as a thorough and actionable guide to becoming a business analyst.

ICCP

ICCP provides assessment, certification, education and ethics enforcement for a range of business, computer and data analytics professionals.

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