Most IT jobs have a clear, specific job description and career path. However, the business analyst career path tends to vary, as do the descriptions from job to job. David Foote, president of Foote Partners LLC, an IT career research firm in New Canaan, Connecticut, explains the business analyst career path best. He says, “There are career tracks that zigzag back and forth between IT and business. Someone might start as a business analyst, then move into a project management job, then an IT management path, then go back to an innovation path … then to process management, then move up a rung to process leadership or process ownership, and then go back over to management as manager of an IT line of business.”
Today’s Business Analyst
The 21st century business analyst’s world is multifaceted. As a mediator, moderator, connector and ambassador, the business analyst must bring the business needs together with IT resources. Successful business analysts tend to be clear communicators, smooth facilitators, precise analyzers and team players. Plus, the ideal analyst has the versatility of various business functions, such as operations, finance, engineering, technology or architecture. Jay Michael, a business analyst for Colfax, agrees that the business analyst role is fuzzy at many companies. He says, “I usually describe what a BA 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?
As you explore the business analyst career path, you’ll need to clear up the confusion and learn about the many hats business analysts wear. From being a good communicator and data analyzer to possessing project management and technical skills, business analysts regularly use a variety of techniques. They are the bridge that fills in the gap between each department throughout every step of development. Modern Analyst identifies several characteristics that make up the role of a business analyst as follows:
- The analyst works with the business to identify opportunities for improvement in business operations and processes
- The analyst is involved in the design or modification of business systems or IT systems
- The analyst interacts with the business stakeholders and subject matter experts in order to understand their problems and needs
- The analyst gathers, documents, and analyzes business needs and requirements
- The analyst solves business problems and, as needed, designs technical solutions
- The analyst documents the functional and, sometimes, technical design of the system
- The analyst interacts with system architects and developers to ensure the system is properly implemented
- The analyst may help test the system and create system documentation and user manuals
Starting Your Career as a Business Analyst
Beginning business analysts need to have either a strong business background or extensive IT knowledge. With that, you can start to work as a business analyst with job responsibilities that include collecting, analyzing, communicating and documenting requirements, user-testing and so on. Entry-level jobs may include industry/domain expert, developer, and/or quality assurance. Within a few years you could choose to become a Subject Matter Expert (SME). 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.
Moving Up the Ladder
Once you have several years of experience in the industry, you will reach a pivotal turning point where you can choose the next step in your business analyst career. After three to five years, you can be positioned to move up into roles such as IT business analyst, senior/lead business analyst or product manager. The more experience you have as a business analyst, the more likely you are to be assigned larger and/or more complex projects. After eight to 10 years in various business analysis positions, you can advance to chief technology officer or work as a consultant. You can take the business analyst career path as far as you would like, progressing through management levels as far as your expertise, talents and desires take you.
How Much Do Business Analysts Make?
Depending upon which business analyst career path you choose, you’re certain to benefit from a highly rewarding and lucrative career. To give you an idea of how profitable this field can be, take a look at these job titles and average salaries, based on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, for a variety of business analyst jobs:
|Job Title||Average Annual Salary|
|Information Security Analyst||$92,600|
|Computer Systems Analyst||87,220|
Certification: Your Fastest Route to a Higher Salary and Increased Opportunities
Business analysts who want to enhance their expertise and expand their career options achieve industry-recognized certification. The current leader in business analysis certification is the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA®). The IIBA offers the prestigious Certified Business Analysis Professional™ (CBAP®), a designation 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 exam.
Expand Your Business Analysis Skills – and Your Professional Value
One of the best ways to prepare for your CBAP certification is to earn your Certificate in Business Analysis from Villanova University – 100% online. Not only will you be able to gain the critical knowledge you’ll need for the certification exam, but you’ll also be attaining a valuable credential that demonstrates your solid understanding of core business analysis skills and shows your career dedication. Throughout Villanova’s online business analysis courses, you’ll learn to:
- Initiate project plans and schedules for requirements
- Identify, analyze and design processes to enhance information flow
- Develop superior strategies for gathering, documenting and reviewing
- Explore advanced data definition, traceability, quality management and other techniques
- Understand methods for dealing with requirements changes and their impact on testing and product quality
Find out more about Villanova University’s Certificate in Business Analysis.