In business, it’s not enough to earn income. To achieve optimal financial health, companies also must practice efficiency. Inefficient processes waste time, money, and labor. Maximizing efficiency helps companies achieve profitability.
Without a clear plan however, this can be a challenge. How do companies optimize their operations and production?
Enter the business analyst: a professional who maps out strategies for a company to fine-tune its efficiency. The business analysis field is growing quickly, offering those skilled in data interpretation a path to a satisfying career. Individuals exploring how to become a business analyst should consider specific education and career development steps.
What Does a Business Analyst Do?
Business analysts—also known as management consultants, management analysts, and systems engineers—examine a company’s practices and look for ways to improve them. They uncover inefficiencies in a company’s operations, production processes, and other functions and develop solutions that will cut down on waste.
While some business analysts work for the organization that they analyze, many of them are independent consultants who work on a contractual basis. They may work on a company-wide scale, or they may be asked to focus on a single department or process, such as project management or information technology.
To identify a company’s weaknesses, business analysts use a variety of methods. They may:
- Conduct staff interviews
- Observe operations on-site
- Examine documentation (revenue records, expense reports, internal procedures, etc.)
Once they have the information they need, business analysts develop recommendations and present them to management, whether in written reports or through presentations. After implementation, business analysts continue to follow up with management to ensure the plan is working and make adjustments as needed.
How to Become a Business Analyst
Business analysis is an expanding but still competitive field that requires specific expertise. Prospective analysts need a solid understanding of how businesses operate. Those seeking to become a business analyst can prepare for the role through education, experience, and certification.
Business Analyst Education
Typically, companies require applicants to have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree to qualify for an entry-level business analyst position. Bachelor’s degrees may be in business, engineering, or the social sciences. However, a Master of Business Administration (MBA)—including an online MBA, for those seeking greater flexibility—can help candidates stand out from other job seekers, with some companies strongly preferring those who hold an advanced degree, particularly for senior positions.
Professional Experience in Business Analysis
Analysts typically have gained some related experience in business. Professionals who aim to become business analysts should work in their desired field: for example, an analyst who wishes to be a consultant for financial companies should spend time working in finance. Often, professionals work in business for several years before securing a job as a business analyst.
Business Analyst Skills
Business analysis is a highly skilled profession. Business analysts should cultivate the following competencies:
- Business analysts should be keen interpreters of information. They may be versed in database technology and languages such as SQL. They should also be able to analyze and interpret financial records.
- Business analysts need to be able to communicate their findings to audiences who are not data experts, including managers and executives. They need to know how to break down complicated concepts into language that is easily digestible.
- Solving problems requires creative thinking. Business analysts who work as consultants must tailor unique solutions to every situation, as they will likely encounter different circumstances for every client.
- Organization and time management. Whether they are contractors or employees, business analysts often work under tight deadlines and are expected to complete their evaluations and recommendations in a timely manner.
Business Analyst Certification
Some candidates may wish to gain certification in business analysis to bolster their credentials. The International Institute of Business Analysis offers several levels of certification. Prospective business analysts can qualify for an entry certificate in business analysis (ECBA). After two or three years of work, they can be recognized with a certification of capability in business analysis (CCBA). Once they have worked in the field for five years, they may qualify for the certified business analysis professional (CBAP) credential, which can help them ascend to leadership roles.
Business Analyst Salary
Business analysts earned a median annual wage of $93,000 in 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). An analyst’s salary depends on a variety of factors, such as their geographic location, sector, and level of experience and education.
The following were the highest-paying sectors for business analysts in 2021, according to BLS data:
- Professional, scientific, and technical services – $100,170
- Management of companies and enterprises – $96,940
- Finance and insurance – $83,050
- Government – $81,090
The job market for business analysts is projected to expand by 11% between 2021 and 2031, adding approximately 108,000 new positions over that period, the BLS reports.
Help Shape an Organization’s Future
Business analysts are vital to modern companies’ profitability and success. Business analysts help organizations identify and manage their weaknesses, allowing them to maximize their efficiency and achieve growth.
Washington State University’s Online MBA in Finance offers a foundation in business with courses in planning, administration, data analysis, and more. The program also offers four optional concentrations in finance, marketing, international business, and hospitality business management for those seeking a more focused education. Find out how WSU’s online MBA can be the launchpad for a fulfilling career as a business analyst.