A pedestrian walks up the stairs of the Embarcadero Center in San Francisco, California, as seen in March 2022. (Photographer: David Paul Morris—Bloomberg? Getty Images)
Business analysis careers are growing in popularity. Business and data analysts help organizations make data-driven decisions by interviewing sources of information, generating reports, and identifying patterns and trends. In the United States, the role of “data analysts and scientists” is the second most in demand, according to a 2020 World Economic Forum survey.
With the right training, business analysts can help inform decision-making in every part of an organization, from marketing and sales to human resources and finance. And this role is usable across all sectors, including IT, finance and insurance, government and public sector, and business and professional consulting, with these top five complemented by the healthcare sector. and social services, according to the International Institute of Business Analysis. .
Even within the same industry, there is room for a wide range of skills. “There’s a place for the hard-core technologist and coder,” says Brad Price, assistant professor of business data analytics at West Virginia University. “But there is also a place for the person who wants to do managerial analyses. There is also a place for the person who really cares about how we communicate with data and visualize data.
If you’re curious about this rapidly growing career path, you’re not alone. Here is a step-by-step guide to becoming a business analyst:
- Obtain an undergraduate degree
- Look for an entry-level job in a related field
- Build your skills with a master’s degree
- Develop skills with professional certifications
1. Get an undergraduate degree
According to the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA), nearly 45% of employed business analysts have a bachelor’s degree, compared to about 34% of analysts who have earned a master’s degree. A four-year undergraduate degree will put you on the path to acquiring the knowledge needed to land a job in business analysis.
While a specific business or technical degree is not a requirement to break into business analytics, a solid understanding of mathematical analysis and computer science will stand you in good stead in your future career. Accordingly, areas of undergraduate study that may be useful for those interested in becoming a business analyst include statistics, finance, information technology, management, and accounting.
2. Look for an entry-level job in a related field
People looking to break into the field with limited experience will find themselves in good company; among active business analysts, 64% have 10 years or less of experience. A junior employee working in business analytics will likely learn on the job helping more senior analysts with data collection and reporting.
Learning on the job will require understanding the fundamentals of analytics and also learning the technical skills that many analysts rely on, including statistical software (such as SPSS, SAS, or STATA), programming languages (including Python or R) and the ability to perform data mining and data visualization.
3. Build your skills with a master’s degree
You may also want to go back to school. “A master’s degree sometimes serves as a pivot for people who didn’t know they were interested in this field when they got into college and led them there,” Price says. “That’s what a lot of programs are doing right now: helping people refresh their skills or focus their skills.”
Whether prospective business analysts are fresh out of undergrad or considering a career change, a master’s degree can provide a head start. Fortunately, there are several types of professional offers to consider:
- A Master of Business Administration (MBA) provides much of the training needed for employment as a business analyst, but usually spread out over broader topics rather than specialized courses in business analysis.
- A master’s in business analytics will typically offer more personalized courses in topics such as prescriptive analytics and the use of data science in business, preparing graduates to tackle real-world organizational problems.
- A Masters in Data Science or even a Masters in Information Management program offer other options; paired with business and management courses, both areas of study may be suitable for people looking to work as a business analyst.
With so many options, how can a potential master’s candidate find the best program for their career? A differentiator may be the breadth of courses offered.
“Organizations can create a competitive advantage if they harness the power and insights that are often hidden in complex data,” says William Young, director of the online Masters in Business Analytics (MBA) at Ohio University. . “Our program has been successful because we not only focus on developing technical skills, but also on the strategic use of business analytics in the workplace.”
Price agrees, favoring an educational model of learning to learn. “We don’t just teach math and statistics, operations research and information systems,” he says. “What we do is help our students develop a problem-solving way of thinking around a set of tools that will empower data and technology, and be empowered by data and technology.
4. Develop skills with professional certifications
The business analytics field also recognizes a variety of professional certifications that help indicate skills and subject matter expertise to employers and clients. These include:
- International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA): The globally recognized IIBA certifications range from entry level to advanced level and cover everything from general topics to specialist areas such as cybersecurity analysis, agile analysis and analytics commercial data.
- BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT: The Chartered Institute for IT offers business analytics certifications at all levels, from basic to expert. Topics include project management, agile business analytics, corporate finance, and data analytics.
- Project Management Institute (PMI): PMI offers a bespoke Professional Certification in Business Analysis (PMI-PBA)® that highlights holders’ ability to define requirements, shape project outcomes and drive results expected business.
Price of WVU says professional certifications are both “value added” and necessary because of the way they complement master’s training, while providing specialization.
“A certification is usually for a specific skill set, where I think those master’s degrees, depending on what program you’re going to and how it’s taught, can really grow you in general as an individual” , he said. “The certifications allow us to be really targeted in the areas of the field. [They’re] more on where you want to grow and how you want to grow in the field.
Opportunities abound in business analytics
Considerable preparation is required to advance as a business analyst, but with a median annual salary of $98,230 and the prospect of growing faster than the average forecast of 14% by 2030, the payoff is well worth it. a lot.
From entry-level roles to career advancement based on targeted certifications and broader graduate education, there’s a place for anyone who wants to play a part in solving problems and bringing real-world solutions to organizations across the world. whole world.
Find out how the schools you’re considering have landed in Fortune’s rankings of the best master’s programs in public health, business analytics programs, data science programs, and part-time, executive, full-time, and online MBA programs.