A Business Analyst Career Path From Start to Finish

business analyst career path“When I grow up, I want to be a Business Analyst,” said no one ever.  Unless you’re already in the field or at the end of your Masters in business graduate program, the thought of becoming a business analyst probably hasn’t even entered your thought atmosphere.  The business analyst career path is something that evolves over time but generally the beginnings are all very similar.  A desire for the business field and a usually ambitious foundation are the common denominators.

Becoming a business analyst is no easy feat but for those looking to be successful in creating their own business or becoming a high level executive in a global corporation, starting off as a business analyst can be just the right starting point.

Business Analyst Defined

So what is a business analyst (BA) exactly? As the name suggests, it is a person who analyzes business organizations to create particular solutions to problems confronting the business.  In creating these solutions, the business analyst will bridge the business problems by providing technological solutions.  These business problems can be anything about business systems, for example the model, process, or method. The technology solutions can be the use of technology architecture, tools, or software application. So BAs are required to analyze, transform and ultimately resolve the business problems with the help of technology. 

Business analysts may overlap into roles such as project manager or consultant. When focused on specific systems, the term Business Systems Analyst may be used. A BA does not always work in IT-related projects, as BA skills are often required in marketing and financial roles as well.

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First, a general commonality among business analysts is either a post-secondary education or an already existing career in business.  BAs often have a technical background, whether having worked as a programmer or engineer, or completing a Computer Science degree. Others may move into a BA role from a business role – their status as a subject matter expert and their analytical skills make them suitable for the role.

At the undergraduate level, a growing number of universities and colleges are now starting to offer certifications to become a business analyst.

The International Institute of Business Analysis offers a couple of certifications –

  • Certified Business Analysis Professional™ (CBAP®) – aimed at individuals with already having extensive BA experience. For CBAP® exam, IIBA requires 7500 hours of hands-on experience, 900 hours in four of its commended six knowledge areas, minimum 21 hours of Professional Development in the past four years, two references meeting specific criteria, and a signed Code of Conduct. IIBA says its “CBAP® recipients are the elite, senior members of the BA community.”
  • Certification of Competency in Business Analysis™ (CCBA®) – targeted for practitioners “who want to be recognized for their expertise and skills by earning formal recognition.” Willing candidates need to sit for an exam after fulfilling certain pre-requisites categorically similar to the requirements asked for CBAP. For example, 3750 hours of hands-on experience, 900 hours in two of the six knowledge areas or 500 hours in four of the six knowledge areas.

Other certifications currently on offer include –

  • The University of California Irvine Extension offers Business Analyst Certificate Program which asks for completion of all required courses and a minimum of 2.5 units of elective courses
  • UC Berkeley Extension is offering Certificate Program in Business Analysis which consist of 10 units of four core courses all of which are delivered Online
  • Northwestern University has a Business Analyst Certificate program which currently has four core courses and one elective course
  • University of Minnesota offers Business Analysis Certificate after completing 54 hours of its five core courses and 6 hours from any one of its three available elective courses
  • University of Delaware’s Division of Professional and Continuing Studies is providing Business Analyst Certificate which can be completed in three months
  • Swinburne University of Technology offers a Business Analysis and Modelling course
  • QA provides a moderately wide range of BA courses including a Diploma and courses on very specific skills of a BA. They also have partnering experience with large organisations (for instance, British American Tobacco)
  • UK based BCS Professional Certification (formerly ISEB/The Chartered Institute for IT) offers a range of Foundation-Practitioner-Higher-Expert level BA courses which include an International Diploma in Business Analysis
  • Business Analyst Solutions provides regular schedule of BA training courses (including a Fundamental BA course), and training and exams to prepare individuals to achieve the BCS Diploma in Business Analysis (ISEB)
  • Project Management Institute, Inc. offers PMI Professional in Business Analysis (PMI-PBA) certification (wikipedia.org)

IIBA is also working to facilitiate development of professional courses by partnering with academic institutions under its Recognition Programs.

Although certifications are not a deal breaker or even what employers are necessarily looking for, business analysts that have specialized skills are always in demand.  The more technical knowledge you have, the better of a candidate you are.  Also, if an area of expertise is related to a specific industry, that can spruce up your desirability. And, certain technical expertise such as knowledge of SQL or Project/Program Management (PRINCE2, PMP) are often asked for, too.

The Business Analyst Role

Once you become a business analyst, the learning curve begins all over again and you are fresh on your journey to becoming a business problem solver.  Business analysis involves matching solutions to specific problems in the following ways:

1) Strategist:

Being a strategist is most beneficial for an organization because business is always changing.  Business analysts are able to analyze what solutions best fit the organization and can advise top level management as to what needs to be done to achieve strategic goals.

2) Architect 

Organizations may need to introduce change to solve business problems which may have been identified by the strategic analysis, referred to above. Business analysts contribute by analyzing objectives, processes and resources, and suggesting ways by which re-design or suggest improvements.

3) Systems Analyst

There is the need to align IT Development with the systems actually running in production for the business. Infusing technological solutions with business analysis is how this type of business analyst works.

Once you figure out you are on a path towards becoming a business analyst, the rewards are great and the experience you will gain of the workings of the business world will be priceless.

If you’re embarking on a business career in New York City, this course is for you!