What Is a Business Analyst? (With Duties and Skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 27 July 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 are professionals who help improve a company's efficiency using math and information technology (IT) skills. If you're interested in business and technology, this might be a rewarding career for you. Learning more about this career path, including the average salary and helpful skills you may use, could help you determine whether it's something you want to pursue. In this article, we explain what is a business analyst, what they do and how you can become one.

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What is a business analyst?

A business analyst is a professional who uses business and technology knowledge to assess data and make suggestions for a company. They use data analysis skills to help businesses improve their products, services, software or systems. They can work in a variety of sectors, helping organisations solve problems and improve their systems.

Related: Analytical Thinking: Definition, Examples and Tips

What does a business analyst do?

Business analysts work with company leaders and stakeholders to help them solve problems and meet objectives. Their primary role is to increase efficiency and productivity by assessing information sets. They gather and analyse data about a company and then communicate their recommendations for improved efficiency. Their solution might be a new product, service, workflow or computer program.

Roles and responsibilities

Their daily duties can vary depending on their employer and industry. Common responsibilities can include:

  • Discussing a company's needs and objectives before collecting relevant data

  • Researching, collecting, storing and documenting information related to a company's goals or needs

  • Analysing data for trends, patterns and areas of improvement

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

  • Presenting data, analyses and solutions to company leaders and staff

  • Communicating between departments, particularly between management and IT

  • Creating mathematical models, graphs and other visual representations

  • Translating data to make it easy to understand for stakeholders

  • Presenting data to stakeholders and offering advice

  • Developing and overseeing projects related to improvements

  • Monitoring results and revising strategies as necessary

How to become a business analyst

If you're interested in becoming a business analyst, consider following these steps:

1. Earn a bachelor's degree

Business analysts typically need at least a four-year bachelor's degree in a business or finance field. Consider earning a degree in one of the following areas:

  • Business

  • Business administration

  • Business management

  • Economics

  • Finance

  • Accounting

Courses in math, statistics and computer science can also provide business analysts with useful skills. Consider taking a variety of courses in math and IT to help you develop your relevant industry knowledge.

2. Consider a master's degree

Many business analysts also earn a master's degree in business administration, finance, information management, accounting or a similar field to improve their employment options. This is often optional for this role, although some employers may seek candidates who have a master's degree. Consider earning one to help you qualify for more roles and potentially earn a higher salary.

These programs include more advanced training in areas like financial decision-making, strategic operations, investment management and mathematical modelling. They typically take two years to complete. Some part-time programmes can take longer and you may work while attending classes in the evenings or on weekends.

3. Gain relevant professional experience

Business analysts typically get much of their training on the job, often starting with an internship and getting promoted to higher-level positions as they gain experience. They might also take courses to improve their skills in certain areas, such as programming or IT systems. After completing your education, consider gaining work experience in an entry-level role at a business or financial institution. Recent college graduates may also pursue internships where they can work in different departments to develop industry-specific knowledge.

Companies in a variety of sectors may hire business analysts to help improve their efficiency, so consider your personal interests and strengths when finding a role. For example, if you're interested in production, you might explore a role at a manufacturing company. Earning relevant work experience can help you build your business knowledge, industry-specific skills and technical data analysis abilities, which you can highlight when applying for advanced roles.

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4. Explore certification options

While not required, business analysts can benefit from getting certified through a professional organisation. Certification can show prospective employers your motivation and dedication to the field. Certification options include:

  • Certified Management Consultant through the Institute of Management Consultants. The IMC offers three levels of management consultant certification based on years of experience. All require studying for and passing written and oral exams, which business analysts can complete in as little as two months.

  • Business analysis certifications through the International Institute of Business Analysis. The IIBA offers six levels of certification based on years of experience. All require preparing for and passing a computer-based exam.

  • Business analysis certifications through the Chartered Institute for IT. This globally recognised organisation offers five levels of certification depending on years of experience and the number of previous certification programs completed. All require taking required training programs, then studying for and passing an exam.

  • Professional in Business Analysis certification through the Project Management Institute. To earn this title, business analysts must meet minimum work requirements, then study for and pass the required multiple-choice exam.

Business analysts might also be able to take certification courses through a local university. Most certifications require completing a certain number of continuing education hours per year to stay credentialed.

5. Consider earning a doctorate

Although a doctorate is usually optional in this field, some roles require it. In particular, business analysts who want to work in academics, research or science may need a doctoral degree. If you're interested in one of these fields, consider earning your degree to help you qualify. These programmes typically take four to six years to complete, after earning a master's degree. If you join a joint programme, where you earn a master's before a doctorate, it can take up to eight years to complete.

6. Find and apply to positions

Some professionals advance their roles internally in one company. For example, a business analyst might begin their career at a company in an associate or assistant role and then advance to the analyst position. Alternatively, you can search online to find open roles in a new company.

Before applying, consider updating your CV to show your most recent qualifications. You can add your education, any certifications and your relevant skills. Consider reviewing the initial job posting to learn more about what qualifications the employer is seeking. You can customise your CV to highlight your most relevant skills and experiences.

Important skills for business analysts

Business analysts use a specific set of technical and interpersonal skills to succeed in their roles. Here are some important skills you might use in this career path:

Communication skills

Business analysts should be able to describe their findings and recommendations verbally and in writing clearly. They communicate between a variety of professionals, from customers to IT staff to business leaders. Their plans should be easy to understand and implement.

Problem-solving skills

A business analyst's primary role is to identify and solve problems. They should be able to find solutions that benefit the entire company and create a plan for implementing them. They can use problem-solving skills to create productive solutions.

Critical thinking skills

Business analysts assess and evaluate every option when trying to resolve issues. This might require being creative and open-minded when presenting ideas. Critical thinking skills can help them identify needs, prioritise tasks and analyse data.

Organisational skills

Business analysts gather and look at large amounts of data and documents. They need to keep this information organised and pay attention to every detail. They can also use organisational skills to create accurate and clear reports to present to business leaders and stakeholders.

Technical skills

Business analysts also need technical math skills to create models and solve problems. They may use specialised software to organise information and share their findings. They also need technical data analysis skills and a strong understanding of their industry and how their business functions.

Related: Computer Skills: Definitions and Examples

FAQ about business analysts

Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about this career path:

How much do business analysts make?

The national average salary for business analysts is HK$390,635 per year. Your salary can depend upon your place of employment, education, training and experience.

Is business analysis a good career?

Whether this is a good career choice depends upon your personal interests and career goals. This career requires strong math skills and data analysis knowledge. If you're interested in these topics, it might be a rewarding career for you.

Where do business analysts work?

Business analysts can work in nearly any industry. They might work with banks or finance companies, technology companies, insurance agencies, nonprofit organisations or government agencies. Many move between companies and industries as needed. Business analysts might work for one company at a time or consult for several companies simultaneously. This might require them to travel between locations.

Business analysts typically work in an office setting and collaborate with different managers and departments. They do much of their work on computers, but they also meet regularly with stakeholders, discussing objectives and providing guidance.

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

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