Become A Business Analyst

Find out what skills are important to become a business analyst. Learn about the top certification programs and schools for business analysts.

Business analysts, sometimes known as management consultants, work with businesses to improve workplace efficiency. Some analysts are brought in to improve company finances, while others are hired to oversee a particular project. Business analysts work in many different fields. They commonly partner with data analysts and other management workers, using information from past projects to launch more successful marketing campaigns. The majority of business analysts are hired on a per project basis. Some work as independent contractors, while others partner with consulting firms.

Business analysts are in high demand, especially with more businesses opening up. In 2019, job growth for analysts was expected to grow by 11 percent over the next 10 years. Previously, analysts would travel on site and temporarily share office space with their employer. After Covid-19, the majority of analysts prefer to work remotely, using cloud-based services to access all the information they need and meeting with clients digitally. The average salary for a business analyst is $75,000 to $85,000.

Business Analyst Education Requirements

The requirements to become a business analyst vary depending on your employer. Most business analysts either get a bachelor’s degree in one of the following fields:

  • Business administration

  • Accounting

  • Marketing

  • Business Management

Another alternative to getting a degree is completing a certification course. There are varying levels of certification. Some courses are intended for experienced business analysts, requiring you to have a degree and several years of experience. These certifications essentially serve as resume boosters, showing off your advanced marketing skills to employers. Other certification is meant for new analysts, teaching you the basics and preparing you for entry level positions.

Certification courses are shorter and less expensive than getting a college degree. A bachelor’s takes four to five years to complete, while most certification courses are completed in months. The cost varies depending on the program, but most courses cost a few hundred dollars. In order to complete a certification course, you must pass an exam. Most exams require you to pay a fee before taking the test.

In-Person vs. Online Training

Both degree and certification programs are available in-person or online. Which option you choose largely depends on personal preference. Online classes are better if you have a busy schedule, while in-person classes are good if you prefer an interactive learning experience. Some online classes are hosted live, giving you some level of interaction with your teacher and other students. Other classes provide pre-recorded lessons, which you complete at your own schedule.

Financial Aid for Business Analysts

One of the big differences between certification and degree programs is the amount of financial aid available. Since degree programs are hosted by college, you can get assistance through student loans, education grants and scholarships. Certification programs rarely have financial aid options. Some entry level programs have financial options for lower income students, while others offer payment plans to help students who cannot pay for the course upfront.

Business Analyst Skills

There are many important skills to succeed as a business analyst. Communication is an important part for any analyst. There are several levels of communication. As an analyst, you must work with many managers and employees. You must be able to clearly convey your ideas and explain why your plan will work, while also receiving feedback and making your client feel comfortable enough to communicate with you.

A large part of being successful as a business analyst is the ability to plan and take the lead on projects. This also requires the ability to research many fields and quickly absorb knowledge. Before starting on a project, business analysts spend hours researching their employer, looking over financial data and assessing the best way to accomplish what their client needs.

Other important skills include analytical thinking and creative problem solving. Business analysts are commonly brought in when the standard ideas are not working. You must be detail oriented and able to express your ideas in a structured way your clients can understand. This is especially important if you are hired to represent the company with shareholders or investors.

Certified Foundation Level Business Analyst (CFLBA)

CFLBA is an entry-level certification available through the International Qualifications Board for Business Analysts (IQBBA). The CFLBA is globally recognized, teaching all of the necessary skills to get started as a business analyst. Some of the skills covered include creating innovating projects, breaking down finances and successful networking. The IQBBA does not charge for classes, but you must pay a $250 fee to take the certification exam. After completing your CFLBA, you can take additional classes for an Advanced and Expert analyst certification.

Entry Certificate in Business Analysis (ECBA)

The ECBA is offered through the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA). The IIBA has multiple levels of certification, starting with the ECBA. In order to qualify for the ECBA, you must have at least 21 hours of professional training within the last four years. If you want to take the ECBA exam, you must first pay a $60 application fee, then an additional fee to take the exam. For IIBA members, the cost is $110, or $235 for non-members.

University of Virginia

If you want to get a bachelor’s or master’s degree as a business analyst, the University of Virginia is one of the top colleges. Tuition typically costs $26,000 to $28,000. The university runs the McIntire School of Commerce, one of the premier business programs in the United States. Classes cover many areas, including text analytics, consumer behavior, database management and cybersecurity. Students have flexibility in choosing which classes they take, but must complete at least 12 credits worth of business analytics courses to get their degree.

Carnegie Mellon University

Carnegie Mellon University is unique because it provides both a bachelor degree program for business analytics as well as a 16-month certification program in Business Intelligence and Data Analytics. The average tuition cost to get a degree is between $43,000 to $55,000, based on your major. The university partners with local businesses, offering grant programs and internships to students.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

MIT is a premier business school, often compared to elite ivy league universities. MIT has several certification courses available through the MIT Sloan Master of Business Analytics program. You can also get either a bachelor or master’s degree through the college. Because it is such a premier school, employers are more likely to hire you if your degree or certification comes from MIT. Getting into MIT is difficult, but you receive some of the best business training from the experienced professors. It is one of the more expensive schools, with tuition costing around $50,000.