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Business Analyst Career Explained

Business Analyst Career Explained

Business analyst analyzing business performance data while holding paper at desk

Last Updated March 8, 2024

Everything about the business analyst career path is flexible. While the skills of a business analyst are universal, how and where they apply those skills can vary widely by their industry, organization, products, and the project they are working on.

Those kinds of options make business analysts an attractive career path for ambitious professionals willing to commit to learning the skills the job requires. Chief among those skills is the ability to leverage insights from data into actionable options. Doing so requires that they become clear communicators, smooth facilitators, precise analyzers, and team players.

Jay Michael, a business analyst for Colfax, said he describes his job this way when asked: “I usually describe what a [business analyst] does by telling people I am a bridge between business systems from the end-user to functional implementation of technical solutions. But when you tell somebody that they look at you like ’OK, what do you really do?’”

What Does a Business Analyst Do?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists the business analyst occupation under the title management analyst and reports that the primary focus of this profession is to “recommend ways to improve an organization’s efficiency. They advise managers on how to make organizations more profitable through reduced costs and increased revenues.”

Some of the key roles and responsibilities of a business analyst include the following.

  • Identifying opportunities for improvement in business operations and processes
  • Meeting customers/users and gathering requirements
  • Prototyping and modeling products and processes
  • Designing or modifying business systems or IT systems
  • Working with stakeholders and subject matter experts to understand their problems and needs
  • Gathering, documenting, and analyzing business needs and requirements
  • Solving business problems and designing technical solutions
  • Documenting the functional and, sometimes, the technical design of the system
  • Working with system architects and developers to ensure the system is properly implemented
  • Helping to test the system and create system documentation and user manuals
  • Facilitating workshops to establish a shared understanding among diverse stakeholders 

How to Start on the Business Analyst Career Path

Becoming a business analyst requires earning at least a bachelor’s degree. Some employers may prefer job candidates who have earned a master’s degree in business administration. 

Because business analysts can work in almost any profession, as well as government agencies and non-profits, they tend to come from many different backgrounds. It’s not uncommon for a business analyst to have earned an undergraduate degree in areas as diverse as business, economics, finance, marketing, and psychology, according to the BLS.

Entry-level jobs may include industry/domain expert, developer, and/or quality assurance. This is the time to delve into the areas that interest you most and develop those areas that can help you progress into higher management positions.

Those who wish to move higher up in the profession typically begin to make a move after three to five years in the career. At that point, it’s possible to move into project management, IT roles such as senior/lead business analyst, product manager, and consulting roles. After eight to 10 years in various business analysis positions, you could advance to chief technology officer, chief operating officer, project management office director, or work as a consultant.

Business analysis training and certification can help provide one of the fastest routes to increasing your salary potential. An example of this is Villanova University’s 100% online Certificate in Business Analysis designed to give students the skills and knowledge to play a central role in businesses achieving their strategic objectives. Villanova is an International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA®) Endorsed Education Provider and the business analysis program helps prepare students for IIBA certification exams.

IIBA offers the Certified Business Analysis Professional™ (CBAP®) and Certification of Capability in Business Analysis™ (CCBA®), two designations accomplished by candidates who successfully demonstrate their business analysis expertise. As a candidate, you’ll need to detail your business analysis work experience, and pass the CBAP® or CCBA® certification exam.

Business Analyst Salary and Job Outlook

The BLS reports an annual average salary for management analysts of $100,530 as of May 2021. The BLS projects 11% growth in the profession between 2021 and 2031, which translates into almost 102,000 new analyst positions. Healthcare and information technology are two of the industries where management analyst positions are expected to grow the fastest.

The metro areas with the largest number of business analyst jobs are Washington D.C., New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, Sacramento, Atlanta, Dallas, Seattle, and Minneapolis. State capital cities also have clusters of management analysts in high numbers.

As taught in Villanova’s Essentials of Business Analysis course, similar job titles in the profession other than business analyst and management analyst include the following.

  • Business architect
  • Business system analyst
  • Data analyst
  • Management consultant
  • Process analyst
  • Product manager
  • Product owner
  • Requirement engineer
  • System analyst

Business analysts sometimes work within companies. However, they most often work as consultants brought in to lead specific projects that focus on identifying the root cause of an organizational issue and developing the best solutions. 

*Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook on the Internet at (visited Sept. 12, 2022).

National long-term projections may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth. Certificate or degree programs do not guarantee career or salary outcomes. Students should conduct independent research for specific employment information.