A business analyst works to identify problems and find opportunities for businesses to improve their processes, products, and services. Their responsibilities include creating models for business decision-making, budgeting, forecasting, developing plans, and monitoring business performance against key performance indicators (KPIs). A KPI is a measurement used to assess if and how businesses are meeting their key business objectives.
Business analysts can serve across multiple industries, including information technology, finance/insurance, government and public sector, business/professional consulting, and healthcare and social services. Many large organizations have business analysts on staff who continuously monitor operations and devise and implement process improvements. Business analysts also work as external consultants, providing targeted analysis and recommendations to organizations on a short-term contractual basis.
Trends such as machine learning/AI and agile methodologies are changing the role of the business analyst. For example, AI techniques serve a useful purpose in analyzing the scores of data that companies collect about their business, the market, and their customers. Still, businesses integrating AI into their processes are seeing mixed results. The Harvard Business Review reports that about 72% of organizations find that their AI initiatives fall short of expected outcomes. The challenges include a lack of clear vision and unrealistic business value propositions. The business analyst role can help improve the success of AI implementations. With the knowledge and background to serve as an AI translator, business analysts can apply their technical expertise to translate the complexity of AI into business language. They then can communicate the intended business results of an AI integration project.
Business analysts can play a proactive role in agile environments. Agile is a flexible framework that enables fast iterations of software development based on feedback to meet business and IT goals and improve customer experiences. For example, a digital transformation project team focused on improving user experience can use the agile framework to make changes to software according to customer feedback quickly. A reported 77% of business analysts contribute to digital initiatives, according to the International Institute of Business Analysis. Business analysts can also introduce new business processes to transform the efficiency, productivity, and cost of running existing business processes.
Organizations want to find more efficient and cost-effective ways to acquire, prepare, and analyze data. From that data, they hope to uncover insights that can help them soar above their competitors. The growth of business analyst roles demonstrates the need for professionals that can help companies make the best use of their data and improve operational efficiency, brand awareness, customer relationships, and profitability. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 14% growth of management analyst roles, including business analyst jobs, over the next ten years.
Business analysts are serving in data management, business intelligence analyst, business systems analyst, and IT business analyst functions. In the age of data, business analyst job profiles continue to expand to include roles such as analytics manager, business analytics specialist, business intelligence (BI) engineer, data engineer, data visualization developer, and machine learning scientist.
Business Analyst Salary
There are a variety of business analyst jobs across many industries. Still, business analyst jobs have this in common: they can lead to financially rewarding careers. Just as the titles, daily activities, and career paths of business analyst roles vary, so do salaries. The BLS also provides salary information for business operations specialists across all industries. Below are some examples of the annual median salary in sectors with the highest levels of employment for business analysts and related business operations specialist roles:
- Federal Government – Executive Branch: $86,870
- Companies and Enterprises: $80,770
- Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools: $65,730
- State Governments (not including school and hospitals): $68,380
- Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services: $82,040
Demand for business analyst roles has a favorable outlook in 2020, according to the BA Times, “all US business analysts will increase from the present 364,000 openings to 2,720,000 as indicated by IBM.” Below are examples of projected salaries by business analyst profile, according to the BA Times:
- Data-Driven Decision Makers: $91,467
- Functional Analyst: $69,162
- Data Systems Developer: $78,553
- Business Analyst: $105,909
- Analytics Manager: $160,125
Business Analyst Career Path
Typically, employers hire business analysts with at least a bachelor’s degree. Candidates may have completed their undergraduate degree in finance, statistics, economics, accounting, business administration, political science, or other related subjects.
Many employers may require a master’s degree in business, information technology, or a subject area that combines both business and IT elements, such as business analytics. It is common for experienced business analysts to return to school to earn a master’s degree, which may help them to advance to senior analyst and consultant roles.
Educational requirements vary by business analyst job type. For example, a degree in information technology or computer science may serve a candidate looking for IT business analyst roles as well. Similarly, a marketing degree may help marketing research analysts qualify for some positions. A financial analyst role may require candidates with degrees in areas such as accounting, economics, finance, statistics, and mathematics. In some functions such as operations research analyst, employers may seek candidates with a degree that focuses on quantitative analysis, computer science, and advanced statistical and database software.
In addition to formal education at the graduate level, a certification may help position candidates for leadership roles. For example, the International Institute of Business Analysis offers multiple accreditations, including:
- Entry Certificate in Business Analysis (ECBA)
- Certification of Competency in Business Analysis (CCBA)
- Certified Business Analyst Professional (CBAP)
- Agile Analyst Certification (AAC)
- Certification in Business Data Analysis.
Depending on the area of focus, individuals have other certification options. For example, a market research analyst may benefit from a Professional Researcher Certification (PRC) offered by the Marketing Research Association. In another example, financial analysts often pursue their Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certification from the CFA Institute. For experienced business analysts seeking to advance their careers as consultants, The Institute of Management Consultants USA offers Certified Management Consultant (CMC) certification.
Due to an increasing focus on efficiency and cost control improvements in business operations, BLS forecasts faster than the average growth employment of management analysts compared to all other occupations: 14 percent from 2018 to 2028.
Factors for career growth may include years of experience, level of education, and industry. A typical career path for business analyst jobs may consist of working about three years at an entry-level role before moving on to domain-specific positions. Titles at this level include project manager or IT business analyst.
In the next phase of a typical business analyst career path, qualified candidates serve in more senior-level roles. A job title can include a senior business analyst. At the highest levels, and typically after eight to ten years serving in various business analysis roles, a qualified individual with demonstrated leadership skills can advance to the business expert roles or move on to the c-suite, in a position such as chief technology officer.
Data Management Jobs
The median annual salary for data management jobs such as computer and information systems managers was $142,530 as of May 2018, according to the BLS. Employment growth projection for the role of computer and information systems managers is 11 percent from 2018 to 2028. The growing demand and high salary for this role is a result of increasing urgency among businesses to transform their operations digitally.
Duties for computer and information systems managers and related roles include helping organizations ensure secure and reliable access to data assets, including sensitive information, and comply with government regulations. On a typical day, activities may consist of performing technology assessments, advising top executives on strategic technology investment, performing cost-benefit analysis for new projects, and working with systems analysts, software developers, and information security analysts.
Business analyst type roles under the umbrella of data management jobs include database administrators, computer systems analysts, computer programmers, and computer and information research analysts. Below is a brief description of the focus of each role:
Database Administrators (DBAs)
DBAs focus on implementing, testing, managing, and updating databases to ensure that they operate efficiently, are accessible, and are aligned with a company’s needs. According to U.S. News & World Report, the median annual salary for database administrators is $90,070.
Computer Systems Analysts
Combining information technology and business disciplines, computer systems analysts help organizations run efficient and effective computer systems, encompassing hardware, software, and networks. The median annual salary was $88,740, according to U.S. News & World Report.
After a software developer or engineer signs off on the design specifications for a program, the computer program writes the code that instructs software programs on how to run. They also rewrite, debug, and test software. The median annual salary was $84,280, according to U.S. News & World Report.
Computer and Information Research Analysts
Focused on creating and improving software and hardware functionality, computer and information research analysts work across disciplines. They often work with electrical engineers and hardware engineers to study and solve complex computing problems. The median annual salary was $118,370 as of May 2018, according to the BLS.
Business Intelligence Analyst Jobs
At the intersection of business strategy and computer science, business intelligence analyst jobs involve the use of SQL, data visualization, and similar tools to formulate data analysis, solve problems, and provide in-depth knowledge of specific business domains. Through their business knowledge and communication skills, business intelligence analysts translate technical and complex subjects or data and make them understandable to non-technical audiences.
Related roles include financial analysts, market research analysts, economists, and budget analysts. Below is a brief description of the focus of each these roles:
Financial analysts investigate economic and business trends, evaluate business values, and provide investment guidance to companies and individuals. They typically work in financial firms such as banks and insurance companies. Their median annual salary as of May 2018 was $85,660, according to the BLS.
Market Research Analysts
From forecasting sales trends to using statistical software to analyze customer and competitive data, market research analysts provide insights on market conditions and consumer preferences. BLS reports a median annual wage of $63,120 in May 2018.
Through qualitative and quantitative economic analysis methods and tools, economists help decision-makers in government and companies understand the business impact of economic indicators. They provide insights on trends in the production and distribution of resources, goods, and services. As of May 2018, economists earned a median annual salary of $104,340, according to the BLS.
Both public and private institutions across various industries rely on budget analysts to organize their finances. Typical duties include reviewing budget proposals, monitoring spending, and preparing reports. As of May 2018, the median annual wage for budget analysts was $76,220, according to the BLS.
Business Systems Analyst Jobs
The computer systems analyst role is ranked #6 in the best technology jobs category, according to US News & World Report. Among the drivers behind the popularity of the business systems analyst jobs is the growing adoption of cloud computing by all types of businesses and digital transformation of companies in industries such as healthcare. According to the BLS, computer systems analysts earned $88,740 in May 2018. In terms of projected growth, employment will grow 9 percent from 2018 to 2028.
Business systems analysts conduct advanced data-modeling to plan and implement data systems and analyze complex information to uncover solutions to business problems. Similar roles include operations research analyst, computer and information systems managers, computer and information research scientists, and management analysts. Though, the duties for each of these vary, as described below:
Computer and Information Systems Managers
From orchestrating all areas of information technology to helping define technology goals and plans to meet business objectives, computer and information systems managers contribute to the success of computer-related systems and related projects. As of May 2018, the median annual wage of this and similar roles was $142,530, according to the BLS.
Computer and Information Research Scientists
Individuals in this role are typically problem solvers, inventors, and designers. They develop models and solutions to innovate technology approaches, improve human interaction with technology, and develop robotics controls. Their median annual wage, according to BLS, was $118,370 in May 2018.
IT Business Analyst Jobs
IT business analysts manage multiple IT projects simultaneously, including collaborating with management teams to oversee large software development projects. They use advanced data visualization and business process analysis tools to model business operations.
The role of IT business analysts overlaps software development and data management as companies adopt agile methodologies and continuous integration/continuous development pipelines. By applying their understanding of all the business processes in an organization, they can develop and execute a business strategy that ties IT and business functions.
IT business analysts are logical with strong critical thinking skills. They establish a chain of activities to help meet customer needs during and after IT implements system changes. For example, they understand the logical flow of a technical solution concerning current business processes, which can help minimize gaps in operations and ensure seamless customer experiences.
IT business analysts and related computer systems analyst roles earned a median annual salary of $88,740 as of May 2018, according to BLS. Employment growth projections are 9 percent from 2018 to 2028, according to BLS.
Below are similar IT business analysts jobs with varied responsibilities:
Operations Research Analysts
Operations research analysts make use of technology to create mathematical and analytical models. They use databases and statistical software to analyze and solve problems in areas such as logistics and healthcare, with a focus on helping senior leaders with critical business decisions. As of May 2018, the annual median pay was $83,390, according to the BLS.
With a broad skill set that includes analytics, mathematics, engineering, computer science, or other technical competencies, management analysts can work across many fields, including IT. Specifically, they offer expertise on the proper allocation of resources, development of production schedules, and price setting for technology products and services. Their median annual wage, according to BLS, was $83,610 in May 2018, though a certificate such as Certified Management Consultant (CMC) designation, may allow them to earn more.
Business Analysts Needed for a Changing World
International Institute of Business Analysis reports 2,720,000 job openings by 2020. Similarly, Datapipe says that the value of the business intelligence and analytics industry by the end of 2020 will reach $26.50 billion.
AI and predictive technology are among the drivers behind the rising demand for business analysts. The evolution of these technologies also means that business analytics professionals must be ready to adapt and remain current on industry trends.
With their multifaceted skills, including critical thinking and problem solving, technical and data analytics knowledge, and understanding of business operations, business analysts are in prime position to help businesses across various industries to adapt and succeed in a changing global marketplace.
Entering the field of business analytics typically requires only a bachelor’s degree. Still, many employers seek candidates with a master’s degree, which can provide them with a solid understanding of strategic decision-making and leadership skills, as well as knowledge of security, legal and ethical issues involving data.