Why You Should Become a Business Analyst
Business analysis is a growing field with high-paying oppotunties. In this guide, we cover how to start your business analysis career in 2023
Are you feeling stuck in your current career? Looking for something with better prospects and more earning potential? Interested in a job that’s technical but still straightforward to learn and relatively safe from the threat of automation?
If you answered yes to any — or all! — of the above questions, a career in business analysis could be right for you. Let’s take a closer look at what business analysts do, what kind of person should consider becoming a business analyst, and why business analysis is such a promising career option in 2023.
What is a business analyst and what do they do?
In short: a business analyst is a professional who uses data analytics and visualization skills to help businesses solve problems, streamline operations, and improve products and services.
Being a business analyst requires the following:
- Technical skills to acquire the relevant data, do the analysis, and visualize the results.
- Business knowledge to translate analytical results into actionable business insights.
- People and communication skills to communicate those insights effectively to whoever is in a position to execute on them.
Often, business analysts work between IT and finance teams, mining insights from the data that is generated, collected, and organized by IT processes and translating it into actionable recommendations that executives can pursue.
However, business analysis work can vary a lot from company to company, and analysts may be asked to analyze and report on data that is relevant to all parts of the business, including engineering, product, marketing, and customer service.
On a practical level, this means that a day in the life of a business analyst can be quite varied! Some of their time is spent analyzing and visualizing data using tools such as Microsoft Power BI. Some of it is spent preparing reports on their results, perhaps as PowerPoint slides or PDFs; some of it is spent in meetings with key stakeholders, presenting data and helping them understand the meaning of the results.
Who should become a business analyst?
The fact that it is “technical” can sometimes scare people away from business analysis.
But you shouldn’t let that put you off! The truth is that anyone can become a business analyst. Learning the relevant skills can take only a few months, and you don’t need to be a math whiz, a programmer, or a straight-A student to master them.
Business analysis is a great career choice for anyone who enjoys thinking analytically and digging for evidence to answer questions and solve problems. If you’re the kind of person who wants to find the answer whenever you hear an interesting question, business analysis will be right up your alley.
It’s also a great career for folks who want a job with some variety, since business analysts often work with a variety of different types of data, interfacing with many teams across the company. In a year as a business analyst, you may use your skills to solve problems for marketing, product, finance, engineering, customer service, and more.
It won’t always be easy, but you’ll work on solving lots of different types of problems, rather than doing the same sort of thing over and over!
Business analysts are often relatively independent, working alone or in small teams as they move around the company solving problems, so it’s a good career for self-driven individuals who like to have the freedom to approach problems their own way.
Finally, business analysis work can create results. Good analysis can save companies millions of dollars, lead to massive product and service improvements, and result in quality-of-life improvements for everyone that you work with. If you’re the type of person who likes to be able to see that your work is making a difference, business analysis is definitely worth considering!
Why business analysis is a promising career in 2023?
Business analysis is also a great career to go into because it offers great pay and excellent career prospects. Let’s take a look at some of the specifics.
1. It’s a fast-growing field.
By almost every estimation, business analysis is a fast-growing field, and it’s projected to continue growing well into the next decade.
Tracking the growth of business analysis as a career can be difficult because, in the wild, business analysts have a wide variety of job titles.
In the U.S., however, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) tracks a few specific job titles that are often given to business analysts, and all of them are projected to grow faster-than-average between now and 2031. Here are a few examples:
- Financial Analyst jobs are projected to grow by 9% by 2031, which the BLS rates as “faster than average” growth.
- Computer Systems Analyst jobs are also projected to grow 9% by 2031, which again is “faster than average” growth.
- Market Research Analyst jobs are projected to grow by 19% by 2031, which the BLS rates as “much faster than average” growth.
- Operations Research Analyst jobs are projected to grow by 23% by 2031, which the BLS rates as “much faster than average” growth.
- Information Security Analyst jobs are projected to grow by a whopping 35% by 2031, which the BLS rates as “much faster than average” growth.
And while the lack of a single unifying job title makes tracking the profession’s growth difficult — some business analysts work in roles that don’t even include “analyst” in the title! — there’s no doubt that the field will continue to grow.
That’s because companies are collecting more data than ever before — a trend that’s likely to continue. Large companies spend millions every year transferring and storing terabytes of data. But that data only has value if it’s understandable. It must be analyzed, understood, and translated into actions a business can take before its value can be realized.
That’s where business analysts come in.
2. The barriers to entry are low (for now).
For a successful, high-paying career, the requirements for business analyst roles — both in terms of skills and certifications — are still pretty minimal.
For example, based on a 2023 job posting, an entry-level “Business Analyst I” job at U.S. $237-billion technology giant Oracle requires the following:
- No prior experience
- No special certifications
- No specific degree — in fact, an undergraduate degree isn’t required at all!
While most business analyst jobs do require some skills with popular analytics tools such as Microsoft Power BI, with the right learning materials, you can learn those skills from home, part-time, in as little as a couple of months.
It’s worth noting that the barriers to entry are likely to increase as time goes on and the field matures. Now is a great time to get in before employers are demanding a long list of expensive certifications and decades of relevant experience!
3. Business analyst career prospects are excellent.
Because the work business analysts do is quite varied, there are also many career paths and specializations that a business analyst can pursue.
For those who enjoy working with data and learning new technical skills, moving into data analyst and ultimately data scientist roles is a viable option.
For those who most enjoy giving well-researched advice to business leaders and stakeholders, a wide variety of consultant positions will be options. (Consulting work can often be quite similar to business analysis work).
For those who love the elements of the job that deal with optimizing company systems and streamlining workflows, roles like project manager can be a great next step.
And of course, there are a wide variety of more specialized analyst roles for junior business analysts to move into. Specializing in a field such as quantitative analysis, information security analysis, test analysis, or network analysis — just to name a few — can lead to significantly higher pay as you develop area-specific expertise.
4. It is (relatively) safe from automation.
While no job is 100% safe from automation, and none of us knows what the future holds, business analysts are not likely to be replaced by robots anytime soon because of the strong interpersonal element of the job.
Automation is likely to streamline and simplify the processes associated with collecting and analyzing data, but even the best data analysis is worthless unless it is understood and acted upon.
Getting people to make the right decisions based on the data is thus the most critical part of a business analyst’s job. But that can be surprisingly tricky (as most business analysts can attest). Among other things, it requires knowing your audience — the specific person or people you’ll be speaking with — and tailoring your explanation and presentation to fit their needs and wants.
That kind of nuanced, relationship-based interpersonal communication doesn’t seem likely to be automated anytime soon. That means that while automation is likely to make some of the technical aspects of a business analyst’s job easier over time, it doesn’t seem likely to replace them entirely.
5. The knowledge you already have is useful (even if you’re switching careers)
Switching careers can feel like starting over again from scratch. And sometimes, it really is starting over from scratch — if you’re a computer programmer who’s interested in becoming a dog trainer, it’s not likely that any of your skills or experience are going to be relevant.
Switching into business analysis, however, means that all of your prior experience is relevant, because understanding how businesses operate, and the key problems facing them, is a critical part of the job.
Particularly if you intend to stay in the same industry, you may not have technical skills that will translate, but your experience in other roles will still be valued. If you’ve worked in marketing, for example, that’s a plus — you understand what marketers do and the challenges they face, and you can bring that understanding to your analysis of your new company’s marketing data.
6. It offers excellent pay and benefits.
Business analyst jobs tend to pay quite well, particularly given the low barriers to entry for the field. Again, a wide variety of specific job titles fall under the “business analyst” description, and there’s no way to include them all, but let’s take a look at business analyst compensation according to several major jobs sites:
Average salaries for business analysts in 2023
In general, business analyst salaries in the U.S. tend to range from around $60,000 on the lower end for entry-level positions to well over $100,000 for more senior roles.
Let’s dig into the data. Here is some information that's current as of spring 2023:
- Indeed.com lists the average Business Analyst salary in the United States as $78,357. On top of that, Indeed says the role earns an average cash bonus of $3,500 per year.
- Glassdoor only offers location-specific estimates, but the average total compensation for business analysts even in smaller cities is often above $80,000, and in larger markets such as San Francisco it can exceed $90,000.
- The Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t track “business analysts,” but its Occupational Outlook Handbook does have median pay figures for many specific analyst jobs as of 2021. Median pay for financial analysts, computer systems analysts, and information security analysts all exceeded $90,000 per year.
No matter where you look, everyone agrees that business analysts are well-paid.
Summary: 6 great reasons to become a business analyst
In short, there are a lot of great reasons why you should consider becoming a business analyst, whether you’re looking for your first job or considering switching careers.
- It’s a fast-growing career field that’s expected to continue growing for the foreseeable future.
- It has fairly low barriers to entry, particularly given how well it pays.
- The career prospects for business analysts are excellent, with good paths for progression as an analyst as well as logical paths for moving into a variety of other roles, from project manager to data scientist.
- It’s relatively unlikely to be replaced by automation.
- Even if you’re switching from an unrelated field, your knowledge and experience will be relevant and valued because business analysts need to understand every aspect of a business.
- Did we mention it pays well?
Ready to take the plunge? Start by learning a critical skill for many business analyst roles: Power BI!