Whether you're just beginning to plan your future or you're pretty sure you're leaning toward being a business analyst, the best place to start your research is with an in depth business analyst job description. If your inclination is to problem solve and think creatively, you may have found your niche. As you read further, you'll find information about what a business analyst does, what the job duties are, the skills and education needed, and the job outlook. You'll also find some helpful links to additional information to prepare you for your career path as a business analyst.
Job Overview: What Does a Business Analyst Do?
In short, a business analyst identifies business needs and determines solutions. While those solutions may include developing software systems, they can also involve evaluating business systems, strategic planning, and policy development. A successful business analyst advances a company's stated goal, even in a down economy, by defining, analyzing, and documenting technical solutions. A core principle of business analysis is requirements management. You'll need to work with different business units and related and affected parties.
Business Analyst Job Duties
Defining and managing requirements are at the core of what a business analyst focuses on. A brief breakdown of the job duties you'll find in a business analyst position includes:
- Determine a project's requirements through interaction with current and future users.
- Anticipate future requirements that can affect even the best-conceived baseline plan.
- Maintain focus on the core business needs. This means non-essential modifications related to trends or users' personal preferences can detract from the success of the project.
- Organize requirements into related categories.
- Translate business requirements into practical technical solutions.
- Verify functionality and accuracy against the original plan.
- Emphasize simplicity to help reach the objective.
- Manage the requirements like project schedules, costs, and projected time line to gain approval.
- Maintain the new system and operations by correcting defects, making enhancements, and providing regular maintenance reports to management.
For a more in-depth look at what a business analyst does, read about the key roles of a professional business analyst.
Business Analyst Job Essential Skills
To be a successful business analyst, you'll need strong skills in the following areas:
Communication. Strong verbal, written, and face-to-face communication skills are critical. You need to clearly communicate project requirements, ask pertinent questions, and actively listen.
Problem-solving. If you don't enjoy finding solutions to problems, business analysis may not be for you.
Negotiation. Balancing a profitable outcome while dealing with clients, developers, users and management takes persuasion.
Critical Thinking. Evaluate every issue and analyze multiple choices.
Ability to think creatively, innovate, and plan. This combination of skills will lead to solutions not immediately apparent to others, but which are required in the business analyst job description.
Attention to detail and organization skills. When approaching a problem, every detail must be examined for its role, and documenting those details serves as a blueprint for the solution.
Leadership, conflict resolution, and building consensus. Before the solution can be implemented, all parties involved in the process should indicate buy-in, and it's up to the business analyst to convince them.
Additionally, you can get an extensive look at the skills needed to be a business analyst, so you can decide if the profession is right for you.
Becoming a Business Analyst
Entry-level positions as a business analyst are usually open to those with a bachelor's degree in business, management, economics or computer and information science, but many employers prefer candidates with an MBA. Experience in a specific industry can help your chances as well. If you're currently employed and have the opportunity to work with an in-house business analyst, that experience will look good on your resume and give you a taste of what the work is like.
Qualifications & Training
While the positions vary based on the industry, the basic work of a business analyst is to study business processes and procedures with an eye always to improving efficiency and performance. Many business analysts pursue positions related to their undergraduate degrees, such as health care, manufacturing, or supply chain management. Industry work experience will provide a strong understanding of how things work.
A senior analyst often has a master's degree, sufficient experience, and good performance in previous positions. Fields of study like business administration, business analytics and information systems are helpful as well.
To bolster your credentials as a business analyst, you may want to consider becoming certified by The International Institute of Business Analysis which offers the Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP) designation. Additionally, The Institute of Management Consultants USA offers the Certified Management Consultants (CMC) certification.
If you're still in college, you can explore the available business analyst internships in your area that will not only give you an up-close view of what the job entails, but may get your foot in the door for an entry level position.
If you're fresh out of college and you're working in your chosen field of study, whether it's healthcare or manufacturing, you're unlikely to walk into a business analyst position, but don't be discouraged. Your work experience and observations on the job will help get you there. Make your career path known so that when an opportunity arises, you can take advantage of it. Generally, the business analyst job description includes a clear section dedicated to experience. However, employers often seek the talent of young professionals, offering entry-level jobs as well.
Business analysts can work in-house or as management consultants. The business analyst job description doesn't include fixed working hours. Consultants often split their time between the client site and their own offices. This often results in frequent travel. The tight schedules often imposed by a client can cause stress trying to fit in client meetings, travel, and the actual analysis. Many business analysts, when under tight deadlines, work more than 40 hours per week.
Self-employed analysts have more control over their work schedule, but still deal with stress because they have to continually expand their client base. You can also read about the job description for financial analysts to compare the two positions.
Job Outlook & Advancement Opportunities
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for business analysts is projected to grow 14 percent during the period 2014-2024, which is considerably faster than the average. Additionally, as companies look for ways to improve efficiency and bring down costs, the demand for business analysts will continue to grow.
The healthcare industry will surely be in need of management analysts. This comes as a result of the aging population and the effect of the Affordable Care Act. Government agencies will be looking for ways to improve efficiency as well.
Competition for these jobs will be strong because of the high earning potential which makes the occupation attractive. Those with a graduate degree, certification, or bi-lingual skills will do well.
If you've considered each category in this business analyst job description and think you have the skills, education, and hunger to succeed as a business analyst, the jobs are out there.