July 18, 2022

Business Analyst Certifications: Do You Actually Need Them?

Business analysts need certifications, right? Not necessarily. Skill mastery is the name of the game.

Business analysis is a lucrative and in-demand career field. Business analysts’ reports are central to organizational decision-making — and their salaries reflect their value. 

If you’re thinking of becoming a business professional or entertaining the idea of a career switch, you might wonder if you need a business analyst certification to convince employers that you’re qualified. Short answer: You don’t.

In this article, we’ll go over the various business analyst certifications available in the market, including their value and how you can demonstrate your skills to employers. 

A List of Different Business Analyst Certifications

There are various institutions that offer certifications tailored to different levels of experience. Let’s look at a few.

Certified Analytics Professional 

One certification that stands out is the Certified Analytics Professional (CAP) certification. The CAP certification comes with a robust curriculum and positive reviews, but this certification costs $695, and you need a master’s or bachelor’s degree in a related field and a minimum of three years of experience. It’s certainly a route you can take, but it could take much longer and cost much more if you don’t already have a degree in a related field. 

International Institute of Business Analysis

The International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA), a reputed international organization from Canada, is the only option offering specific business analyst certifications. They offer three levels of business analyst certifications. The entry-level certification is the Entry Certificate of Business Analysis (ECBA). Taking and passing the ECBA exam certifies that you have basic knowledge of business analysis, which is enough to get you in the door as an entry-level business analyst. For the ECBA certification, you will need to take a test, pay the application and exam fees (approximately $600), and complete 21 professional hours of training sessions (in person or online).

International Qualification Board for Business Analysis 

The International Qualification Board for Business Analysis (IQBBA) takes a more IT-focused approach to business analysis. While advanced courses are available for highly experienced business analysts, the Foundation Level certification is the basis for a well-rounded business analyst. This certification platform teaches prospective business analysts the fundamentals of the field, including skills like designing business solutions, evaluating solutions, and gathering and analyzing data. Innovation is a key part of this certification, which emphasizes the importance of developing innovative solutions to gain a competitive advantage in the market.

Project Management Institute 

Unlike other certifications listed here, the business analysis certification offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI) focuses on project management. That’s because the PMI values business analysis as a valuable tool for project managers. If your goal is project management, but you want business analysis skills to get an edge on the competition, the PMI-PBA is a viable option. PBA stands for “Professional in Business Analysis,” a title that indicates everything a potential employer needs to know before your interview even begins. With this certification, not only would you be setting project parameters, you would also be managing the project from beginning to end.

Certified Tester Foundation Level 

The International Software Testing Qualifications Board (ISTQB) doesn’t offer a specific business analysis course. However, the Certified Tester Foundation Level (CTFL) educates and certifies employees in positions adjacent to software development. A business analyst working closely with the software development team would benefit from a CTFL. 

Certifications Are Overkill for Entry-Level BAs

It’s easy to assume that stacking up certifications will make you a more desirable job candidate. The more certifications, the better — right?

Not so fast.

Don’t make the mistake thinking certifications are required for the job. With the rising demand for business analysts, it’s an employee’s job market out there. While a certification will certainly look good on your resume, you don’t need it. 

The reality is that certifications don’t teach you the hard skills you need to actually do the job, which is what employers are looking for. 

Apart from the CTFL, the other certifications aren’t very technical, which doesn’t serve you well in the long run. For example, gathering and analyzing data by writing custom-built SQL or Python scripts will make you look like a rock star to employers. Memorizing industry jargon and processes doesn’t even compare. 

It’s understandable to want as many certifications as possible when you’re looking for a job, but, unlike project managers, who are more often than not required to have a Project Management Professional (PMI-PMP) certification, business analysts don’t need certifications to land a job (although some can help — see below). 

So, if you want to get a certification, do so to demonstrate what you already know. When you already know how to do the job, the certification simply helps your resume stand out. 

Let Your Skills Do the Talking

The truth is that employers are looking for someone who can do the job well, and they need proof of it. The less time they have to spend bringing you up to speed, the faster you can start proving your worth.

Whether you want to be an IT business analyst or a more general business analyst, you want to show proficiency with applications like Microsoft Power BI and Excel — and a programming language like SQL. 

By completing our Business Analyst course path, you’ll learn how to use these applications, and you’ll complete eight projects that mimic the real-world tasks you’ll have to complete as a business analyst. This gives you a chance to put your skills to the test and collect your work into a portfolio you can show employers. 

In addition to your portfolio, we believe that a skill certification that specifically showcases your abilities in action is far more valuable than a generic business analyst certification. Passing an exam of this caliber will prove you can work with stakeholders to set the proper requirements for projects and model data you’ve collected into effective visual aids that will advise decision-makers on their next steps. Dataquest’s Business Analyst course path will prepare you to ace just such an exam (we’ll give you a 50% discount on the PL-300 certification). 

So, building your portfolio and earning a Power BI certification will help you become a business analyst and ensure that you can talk the talk and walk the walk.

Alejandro Medellin

About the author

Alejandro Medellin

Alejandro is a freelance writer based in Colorado. He graduated with a Bachelor's degree in news journalism from the University of North Texas. When not writing, you can typically find him enjoying his hobbies, of which there are many.