Business Analyst Careers: Salary Info & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of a business analyst career? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary info to see if becoming a business analyst is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Business Analyst Career

Business analysts help determine the needs of organizations and provide system-based solutions to maximize efficiency and value. Consider the following pros and cons to determine if the business analyst industry is right for you.

Pros of a Business Analyst Career
Comfortable earnings (management analysts earned an average annual salary of about $90,860 in 2014)*
Healthy job outlook (much-faster-than-average 19% job growth for management analysts from 2012-2022)*
Grad school investment not required*
Business analysis skills applicable across several fields (including product management, software development and quality assurance, among others)**

Cons of a Business Analyst Career
Deadline pressures can mean long work hours*
Corporate personalities may impede the introduction of systemic changes**
Facilitating communication within complex organizational structures can be challenging**
Difficulties associated with employee adaptation to potentially disruptive new technologies**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **International Institute of Business Analysis.

Career Info

Job Description and Duties

Business analysts identify the need for and help implement change within businesses. Communication is an essential part of this job. As a business analyst, you facilitate communication between diverse teams, which may be in different locations or even countries. You rely on an established, though evolving, set of techniques and models to evaluate business operations processes and determine business requirements. Often, solutions to business problems are based in information technology; however, in this role you address diverse business goals, some of which don't involve technology.

Specific duties are generally related to steps in a defined process. You may interview employees and managers, as well as evaluate various forms of enterprise data. You're likely to spend a lot of time in meetings, translating business requirements into specifications that technical teams can use. Presentation skills are required to explain technical issues to project stakeholders. Testing, team training and documentation are typically components of the job, too.

Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn't provide salary data specifically for business analysts; however, they do report salary data for other common job titles in the field such as market research analysts, computer systems analysts, and management analysts (also known as management consultants). According to a May 2014 report from the BLS, market research analysts earned an average salary of about $68,700, computer systems analysts earned a median annual salary of $87,320 and management analysts earned about $90,860. The job growth in these fields from 2012-2022 is expected to be faster than average when compared to all other industries: 32% increase for market research analysts, 25% for computer systems analysts, and 19% for management analysts.

Career Skills and Requirements

A blend of computer or information science and business skills are required for success as a business analyst. You may consider a bachelor's degree program in management information science, which combines these fields. Specific degree field requirements, however, vary by employer. Though many employers prefer to hire candidates with a computer-related degree, other employers hire applicants with business or liberal arts degrees who have the technical skills to do the job. Some positions may require you to earn a master's degree, which may be an MBA or an M.S. in Computer Science, depending on the specific type of role employers need to fill.

Professional certificate and master's degree programs in business analysis are available if you wish to receive formal training in the field's processes and techniques. Some of these programs are based on the guide to professional practices developed by one of the field's leading professional organizations, the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA). These programs are designed to introduce you to a set of competencies, which includes techniques for communicating requirements and assessing solutions.

What Employers Are Looking for

Though your duties as a business analyst may overlap with the duties of financial analysts, project managers or quality assurance specialists, you play a distinct role. Employers often emphasize the need for candidates to have strong communication skills, as well as industry-specific knowledge and experience. Following is a sampling of job postings specifically for business analysts from August 2012 by actual employers:

  • An IT staffing agency in Phoenix seeks a business analyst to use business process and other modeling techniques to determine requirements and develop project plans. Qualified candidates should have a bachelor's or master's degree in a computer field or equivalent work experience. Teamwork, documentation and multitasking skills are also desired qualifications.
  • A New York City entertainment company is looking for a business analyst to assist in all steps of the application development process, including business process design, testing and training. This job requires a minimum of five years' experience in a business analyst or systems/development role. A bachelor's degree in business, computer science or information systems and experience in the entertainment industry are preferred.
  • A New Jersey engine lubricant company seeks a business analyst with experience programming business applications. Job duties include evaluating business needs, writing specifications, creating flowcharts, training staff and documenting procedures. In addition to a bachelor's degree in business, math or computer science, candidates need five years' systems experience. Expertise in Microsoft Office applications and the programming languages SQL and Visual Basic are also required.

How Can I Stand out?

Get Certified

Professional certification as a business analyst or management consultant may help convince employers that you have the skill set required for the job. According to the IIBA, certified business analysts also tend to receive higher salaries. You can earn the Certification of Competency in Business Analysis (CCBA) or Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP) designations, which require 3,750 and 7,500 hours of hands-on business analysis experience, respectively. You can gain this experience in a variety of roles, including process improvement, systems analysis and requirements management.

Additional requirements for the entry-level CCBA credential include passing an exam that covers the six professional competencies contained in the IIBA's A Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge. To achieve the next level of certification, you need to participate in professional development and establish a determined level of experience in four of the six competencies, among other requirements.

Continuing Education

Membership in professional associations like the IIBA provides you with access to a variety of professional development opportunities. The IIBA offers an online library and webinars among its educational resources; it also endorses education providers of business analysis courses and programs, offered online and in classrooms all over the globe. Completing certificate or degree programs in business analysis can give you an edge over job candidates who have a more general background. Potential employers may also view your resume more favorably if it shows that you pursue professional development opportunities, like workshops and courses.

Other Career Paths

Financial Analyst

If business analysis is too technologically oriented for your taste, you may consider putting your analytical skills to use as a financial analyst. In this role you recommend investments based on evaluations of a variety of data and trends. You can qualify for many positions with a bachelor's degree in business, economics, statistics, accounting and related fields, but many employers seek candidates with an MBA or a master's degree in finance. The BLS predicted faster-than-average job growth for financial analysts of 23% between 2010 and 2020. According to the BLS's May 2011 salary report, they earned an average annual salary of about $88,000.

Software Developer

Negotiating the politics involved with facilitating communication between diverse segments of a company can be draining. If you prefer to spend less time in meetings, you may consider becoming a software developer. The BLS predicted job opportunities in this field to grow much faster than average, with a 30% increase from 2010-2020. You can enter this high-paying profession with a bachelor's degree in computer science. The BLS reported that software developers of applications earned an average annual salary of about $92,000 in May 2011, while developers of systems software earned about $100,400.

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