What is a Business Analyst? (With Skills and Qualifications)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 24 December 2022

Published 26 June 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Business analysts can be the agents of change within a business. They use data analysis to gain valuable insights that help guide businesses in making decisions and improving processes, products and services. They're agile professionals who are considered a bridge between IT and business development. Understanding the role and path to becoming a business analyst can help you make more informed decisions about your career. In this article, we answer 'What is a business analyst?' in detail and provide steps on how to become one.

What is a business analyst?

Business analysts analyse data from different areas of a business to develop insights used to advance the company. These insights can highlight business vulnerabilities, impediments and strengths. Business analysis can be a part-IT and part-business development role. Before they make crucial decisions to meet their goals, companies gather as much information as possible. As business analysts provide data-backed insights, they often work with business leaders who can use this information to make informed decisions.

Business analysts can articulate the insights while also considering a feasible response to the findings. This means they can consider technological and financial limitations when translating their data information.

Common focus areas for business analysts

As all businesses need to make important decisions, business analysts can work in nearly any industry. Larger companies and lucrative industries rely more on the results of business analysts, as their decisions tend to include more risk. They might work with banks, insurance and technology companies, non-profit organisations or government agencies.

Business analysts can work as consultants for multiple clients simultaneously or work in-house for one company. They primarily complete their work with computers, using a variety of software programs. They generally work in offices where they can work closely with other professionals they need to communicate with.

What is a business analyst's main role?

Business analysts create models and reports on business decisions. They do this by working closely with the finance and IT departments to establish methods that optimise costs. Business analysts spend a large part of their time forecasting and budgeting and understanding key performance indicators (KPIs).

Business analysts are responsible for understanding what their client or company wants. They create models and systems that reflect these goals and monitor the appropriate data. Tracking this data over a period of time provides vital information. They can then translate this information into reports and present information for business leaders and stakeholders to make decisions that help meet their goals. Other responsibilities of a business analyst might include:

  • Creating a detailed business analysis, outlining problems, opportunities and solutions for a business

  • Analysing data for trends, patterns and areas of improvement

  • Budgeting and forecasting

  • Planning and monitoring results

  • Researching and documenting information

  • Identifying a company's goals and needs

  • Identifying a company's limitations and vulnerabilities

  • Working with an organisation's IT department to implement new programs and software

  • Presenting data, reports and solutions to clients and company leaders

  • Communicating between departments, mainly between management and IT

  • Developing and overseeing projects

What skills and qualifications do you need to be a business analyst?

The skills and qualifications you may need to be a business analyst vary depending on your industry. Below we outline typical qualifications and skills required in a business analyst position:

Required qualifications

A bachelor's degree from a university in a relevant field is an important requirement to become a business analyst. Some master's programs can help you appeal to employers and make it easier to land a business analyst job, but a master's degree isn't essential. Certification from The International Institute of Business Analysis is also an optional but powerful qualification to advance your business analyst career.

Key skills

Working as a business analyst can require both hard skills and soft skills. They can consider business principles to interpret data in their jobs. Business analysts present this information to others in an insightful and digestible way. Here are the key skills business analysts need to succeed in their careers:

Related: Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills

Analytical skills

Analytical skills are the ability to extract information and draw conclusions from data. Many factors can play into analytical skills, such as logical reasoning, research and knowledge, critical thinking and creativity. You can develop this skill by practising working with data sets and understanding their trends.

Communication skills

Business analysts can clearly articulate their insights and recommendations verbally and in writing. They communicate with business leaders, IT and staff, so their plans can be easy to understand. You likely use communication skills every day, and you can improve them through consciously practising them. You can pay extra attention to how you explain ideas to people and ask them for constructive feedback on how you can improve your ability to communicate ideas.

Problem-solving skills

A business analyst's main job is to solve problems with data-driven information. Effective problem-solving involves finding solutions using your logic, creativity and experience. Business analysts can find solutions that benefit the entire company. You can improve your problem-solving skills by studying problems and solutions within your industry. Puzzles, like sudoku are an excellent way to exercise your problem-solving skills, too.

Attention to detail

Attention to detail describes the ability to produce accurate, error-free work. Data sets that business analysts work with can be large and complex. An error within a data set can multiply as it's analysed, creating more significant errors. Business analysts require a high level of attention to detail to ensure that their findings are accurate.

Attention to detail is a skill you can improve when you make an effort to check your work's accuracy regularly. For example, you can dedicate 20 minutes at the end of a task to ensure there are no errors in it, or if it's a long task, you can check every two to three hours.

How to become a business analyst

Below are four steps that outline how to become a business analyst:

1. Complete a bachelor's degree

There are multiple bachelor's degrees that you can complete as you become a business analyst. It's recommended that you complete a degree in business administration, IT, systems finance or a related field. Business analysts benefit from having experience in business, finance and IT because these are all crucial areas of their work. Many employers will look favourably at candidates with relevant advanced qualifications, too. These can include a master's degree in business analytics or information systems, for example.

2. Familiarise yourself with the BABOK Guide

An important part of becoming a business analyst is to familiarise yourself with the International Institute of Business Analysis guide. This guide, also known as the BABOK Guide, contributes to the business analysis body of knowledge. The BABOK Guide is a globally recognised text that represents the collective knowledge of the business analysis network. It outlines the skills, knowledge and best practices involved in business analysis. As the accepted standard for the concepts and techniques applied to business analysis, familiarising yourself with it is a necessary part of being offered a business analyst position.

3. Gain work experience and apply for graduate jobs

After completing your education, your understanding of business analysts' concepts and principles means you can start applying for entry-level positions. Some employers look for recent graduates to support their senior business analysts. These positions are excellent first jobs for graduate business analysts to learn from more experienced seniors.

More often, most business analysts find entry-level jobs in other analytical areas and work their way towards becoming business analysts. These roles include data analyst, systems analyst or financial analyst, for example. When you've worked in an entry-level position for two to five years, you may be ready to apply for a business analyst position.

Read more: What Is a Graduate Program? (With Definitions and FAQs)

4. Apply for certification

Applying for certification is optional to become a business analyst, but it can help advance your career. There are two qualifications, the Certification of Capability in Business Analysis (CCBA) and the Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP). These are globally-recognised certifications that show employers that you're an experienced business analyst and work within the code of conduct.

It can also demonstrate that you're committed to ongoing professional development. Gaining these certifications requires different skills and experiences, so you should document the projects you work on and store them for reference.

Is a business analyst an IT job?

While business analysts are not IT professionals, they work closely with the IT team. They use computers heavily in their work, which includes using complex software to interpret large data sets. Many business analysts have an undergraduate degree in IT because computer skills are important to their success. Business analysts are more business-focused than traditional IT roles, and analysts must consider the business goals when reporting on their software results.

Is a business analyst a good career?

If you like working with numbers and solving problems, a career as a business analyst can be an excellent career. A business analyst can make high-level decisions. It can be rewarding for them to see the result of their work through their company's growth. Business analysts earn an average salary of $101,090 per year, which can vary widely depending on the company and industry they work in.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate’s experience, academic background and location.

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