How to Become a Business Analyst

Do you want a versatile career that combines business with data and statistics? Learn how to become a business analyst.

portrait of Alison Plaut
by Alison Plaut

Published August 26, 2022

Edited by Amelia Buckley
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How to Become a Business Analyst
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Business analysts use data to analyze a company's processes, improve decision-making, and enhance outcomes. Business analysts work to identify goals, best practices, opportunities, and strategies to streamline processes. Responsibilities include monitoring costs and financial returns, meeting with stakeholders, and overseeing project completion.

Becoming a business analyst requires a minimum of a bachelor's degree, although many professionals hold graduate degrees. People who enjoy working with data and business statistics are well suited for this career. An aptitude for mathematics and computer science can help business analysts. Continue reading to discover how to become a business analyst.

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What Does a Business Analyst Do?

A business analyst is responsible for analyzing business data and performance to improve decision-making within an organization. Business analysts use data to drive decision-making. A skilled business analyst can increase efficiency, reduce costs, and identify issues from organizational structures to staff development.

Business analysts follow different paths or may change careers as they rise to senior positions. Business analysts can move into jobs as senior analysts, technology architects, enterprise architects, or senior project managers. An advanced degree can create opportunities for senior positions in any of these careers.

Business Analyst Responsibilities

  • Create a business analysis that highlights problems and solutions.
  • Drive decisions through data.
  • Set pricing based on current analytics and performance.
  • Identify opportunities for improvement.
  • Report to the CEO and CFO to guide business decisions.
  • Meet with key stakeholders.
  • Set performance goals and monitor outcomes.

Business Analyst Not For You? Check Out These Related Careers.

What Are the Steps to Become a Business Analyst?

To become a data analyst, the first step is to earn a bachelor's degree. Many professionals then gain experience in an entry-level position before completing a master's degree in business or data analytics. As the field of business statistics and small business statistics is evolving, professionals can benefit from continuing education or a specialization.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree in Business or Data Science

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the average net cost of a four-year bachelor's degree ranged from $56,720 at a public institution to $112,200 at a private school in 2019-2020. In addition to specialized courses, bachelor's degree students gain a general education foundation which includes soft skills applicable to any workplace.

One of the most common degrees for business analysts is a bachelor's in business administration. Business analysts can also hold degrees in computer science, finance, economics, or accounting. Data science or computer information systems are two other options.

Common career advice is to choose a major that meets your interests and fits future career goals.

Step 2: Get an Entry-Level Business Analyst Job

For recent college graduates, finding and landing a job is the next step in their career trajectory. Students can consider career bridge programs, internship opportunities, and networking or mentorships to find the right fit.

Entry-level business analyst jobs are often available at large firms and corporations. Applicants can look for junior business analyst jobs. Consider companies with positive employee reviews and opportunities for advancement as a starting point.

According to Payscale, the average base salary for a junior business analyst was $50,870 as of July 2022. Many junior business analysts may be promoted to a business analyst within three years. Others choose to earn a master's degree after earning 1-2 years of experience.

Step 3: Earn Your Master's Degree

While it's not necessary to go to graduate school as a business analyst, it can help you build advanced skills for career growth.

Common master's degrees for business analysts include business analytics, business intelligence, business administration (MBA), or data science. Students who do not want to commit to a graduate degree can consider alternatives like business certificate programs.

For many students, the potential debt from going to graduate school can be a major factor. Total tuition can vary widely by institution. NCES data reports that the average tuition and fees of graduate school was $19,749 per year in 2020-2021. Business analysts can choose MBA specializations including data science or business statistics.

According to Payscale, the average salary of a senior business analyst with less than one year of experience is $74,000, as of August 2022. That exceeds $23,000 more per year than the average salary for junior data analysts.

Step 4: Get a Job as a Business Analyst

With a master's degree, graduates are prepared to apply for positions as a business analyst or senior business analyst. According to Payscale August 2022 data, the average salary for all business analysts is $64,330. The top 10% of senior business analysts earn an average salary of $118,000.

Common specializations for business analysts include:

Professionals should look for companies with a good culture and opportunities for career growth.

Step 5: Consider Continuing Education or a Specialization

It's a good idea for business analysts to pursue continuing education to stay ahead of improving data systems and business best practices. Professionals can earn certificates for advanced training or specialized skills that can lead to a higher salary or promotion.

There are also Ph.D. programs in business analytics. A further advanced degree opens academic careers in research or as a university professor. Some doctoral degree-holders choose to pursue business analytics careers in government or private corporations.

Possible specializations or research areas include:

What to Know Before Becoming a Business Analyst

Accreditation

Students should choose an accredited college for all bachelor's, master's, and doctoral programs. Accredited colleges are held to rigorous academic standards to ensure students' general education and degree-specific preparation. Online schools and programs are also accredited to ensure academic quality and career potential.

Licensing and Certification

Licensing or certification is not required to work as a business analyst. However, certifications can lead to career growth. Common certifications for business analysts, such as those from the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA), include:

Cost

According to a BestColleges data report, the average cost of a four-year bachelor's degree is $56,720 or more. Tuition and fees for graduate degrees in the U.S. cost an average of $12,394 per year at public institutions, as per NCES data.

Students should consider true program costs, which include tuition, fees, room and board, transportation, hidden college costs, and lost income while attending school. Students can compare costs of on-campus and online programs to find a program that suits their lifestyle.

Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), financial analysts earned a median salary of $81,410 in 2021. Management analysts earned a median salary of $93,000.

According to Payscale, the average salary for senior business analysts is $87,890 as of August 2022. For junior business analysts, the average salary is $50,870.

New York, Alaska, and Connecticut are states with the highest average annual wage for financial analysts, according to the BLS. Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Washington, and Illinois are the highest-paying states for management analysts, as per the BLS.

Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Business Analyst

What qualifications do you need to become a business analyst?

Becoming a business analyst requires a minimum of a bachelor's degree. Many business analysts go on to earn advanced degrees such as an MBA with a specialization in business analytics, or a master's in data analytics. Degrees and certifications can build high-demand skills and experience necessary for advancement.

Professionals can consider certifications for further career growth. These include:

What is the fastest way to become a business analyst?

The fastest way to become a business analyst is to earn a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution in business, finance, data analytics, or a related field. After earning a bachelor's, graduates can apply for entry-level business analyst positions.

A typical bachelor's degree takes four years to complete. With accelerated programs or summer semesters students can complete a bachelor's degree in three years.

Students can finish a bachelor's degree faster by earning credit for work experience or AP coursework. Taking more courses online or completing an online degree are other options to complete a bachelor's degree faster.

How do I become a business analyst without a degree?

Most companies prefer to hire professionals with a minimum of a bachelor's degree. However, it may be possible to gain experience and become a business analyst without a degree.

Some professionals choose to take on projects that demonstrate their ability to identify problems and implement meaningful change. Professionals can practice the skills used in business analysis, including:

In all cases, be sure to document the steps you took and the results to demonstrate your experience and expertise to potential employers.

Can I become a business analyst with an online degree?

Accredited online degrees require the same rigorous academic standards as on campus degrees. Students can earn an online degree in business, economics, data science, or computer science and become a business analyst. Accredited online bachelor's degrees are widely accepted by employers and graduate programs.

Online degrees give students more flexibility to adapt their schedule to personal commitments or to work schedules. With an online degree, students benefit from many of the same faculty as on-campus students.

How much money can I make as a business analyst?

Earning potential for business analysts depends on each professional's degrees, certifications, and years of experience. Salaries are also relative to the region, cost of living, and the individual company.

According to Payscale, the top 10% of earners with the title junior business analyst earned an average salary of $67,000 per year. The top 10% of senior business analysts earned an average annual salary of $118,000. The average salary for all senior business analysts was $87,890 as of August 2022.

In related careers, the BLS reports that the top 10% of financial analysts earned a median of $166,560 in 2021. The highest-paid 10% of management analysts earned $163,760, as per BLS data.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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