Laura Berlinsky-Schine
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For people with strong business, analytical, and critical thinking skills, the role of a business analyst could be the perfect fit. These professionals work in a variety of organizations and settings to develop business solutions for their companies and implement them effectively.

What exactly does a business analyst do, how do you become one, and what skills and education do you need for the role? Find out everything you need to know about this important field.

What Is a Business Analyst?

Business analysts have many functions, primarily helping organizations implement technologies and improve processes and systems within the business. Ultimately, their purpose is to assist companies in achieving goals by identifying and developing business solutions for stakeholders.

Business analysts work in a variety of settings and specialties. Some different types and subsets of business analysts include:

• IT business analyst

• Reporting business analyst

• Data business analyst

• Functional business analyst

• Business management analyst

• Operations business analyst

• And several others

A Day in the Life of a Business Analyst

A day in the life of a business analyst can look very different depending on the specialty, organization, experience level of the professional, and other factors. Within a given position, the work, tasks, and priorities can vary significantly from day to day. Some responsibilities a business analyst might be expected in to perform in a given day include:

• Identification of business needs

Business analysts search for information through meetings, observation, research, and more.

• Meetings with stakeholders

During meetings with stakeholders, business analysts will gather information about projects. They must be informed about the organization’s needs to conduct research into viable solutions.

• Analysis and documentation

The process of analysis and documentation involves analyzing the information business analysts have gathered through their research, meetings, and other means and recording the results of their findings. 

• Evaluation

The business analyst considers different solutions and determines the most effective one for a given project. She will review the information she has gathered and speak with stakeholders in order to figure out the best course of action.

• Implementation

After identifying the solution and considering all aspects of the project, the business analyst implements the best course of action to achieve the end goal. During this stage, she will work with the system architects and developers to ensure that the project is being implemented correctly.

Along the way, business analysts will be involved with project management and development, testing, and more. The role of the business analyst involves working with many different people, departments, and tools to identify solutions and bring them to fruition.

How Much Does a Business Analyst Make a Year?

According to PayScale, the average salary for a business analyst is $59,282 per year. Keep in mind that salaries can vary considerably based on employer, experience level, specialty, and many other factors. 

For example, according to Glassdoor, business management analysts make $76,655 per year on average, while IT business analysts earn an average of $75,766 annually. Again, these salaries vary considerably as well due to location, experience, qualifications, and much more.

What Skills Are Needed to Be a Business Analyst?

Business analysts need a wide range of soft and technical skills to do their jobs well. Some of these skills require education and training, while people gain others from experience. Some important skills business analysts should have include:

• Oral and written communication

• Management and leadership

• Listening

• Presentation

• Problem-solving

• Critical thinking

• Time management

• Negotiation

• Adaptability

• Interpersonal

• Computer

• Ability to use analytical tools

What Are the Education Requirements for a Business Analyst?

• Education

For most business analyst positions, candidates will need to have at least a bachelor’s degree in business administration or a related discipline. You may also choose to specialize in areas such as accounting or marketing. Some employers also require or prefer applicants with an MBA, and earning this degree can also improve job prospects and salary expectations.

• Certification

For some jobs, you will need to become certified through the Institute of Management Consultants. You can take the certified management consultant (CMC) exam at the basic, experienced, or management level. You will need a certain number of years of experience and evaluations to obtain a certification at each level, have a bachelor’s degree, and pass the examination.

Typical Career Path

Business analysts can follow different paths toward entering and progressing in their field. They can choose to gain different levels of experience and education, as well as earn certifications. The basic path might include:

• Interning

Many aspiring business analysts get their foot in the door and gain experience through an internship while completing their education or having recently graduated.

• Working in an entry-level job

Entry-level business analysts can work in a variety of capacities in information technology, business management, and more. Often, some relevant work experience is required before obtaining the title of business analyst.

• Gaining experience

After working as a business analyst for several years, you might move into roles requiring more experience like senior business analyst or specialized positions such as IT business analyst.

What Types of Companies Hire This Position

Business analysts are likely to find plenty of opportunities across a wide range of industries. Nearly every business large or small requires the skills and work of a business analyst. Large corporations often employ many people with these skills and experience to work on different issues and solutions in a range of departments and areas.

Just a few of the types of companies that employ business analysts are:

• Banks and financial institutions

• Healthcare businesses

• Technology companies

• Startups

• and many more

According to ZipRecruiter, business analysts have the highest earning potential in San Francisco, with other cities on the West Coast, such as Cupertino, San Jose, Fremont, and Seattle topping the list as well. Given that many organizations have needs for business analyst, you’re likely to find work in the field across numerous cities and states.

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