Students who graduate from business intelligence degree programs can work in fascinating, varied fields to improve their clients' bandwidth, functionality, and success. A great fit for analytical individuals, these roles are on the rise as more companies seek to harness expertise guidance.

There's significant competition for business intelligence careers, so students should begin looking for ways to strengthen their applications while still in school. Options include completing internships, joining relevant student organizations, and finding applicable summer jobs. They should also take advantage of any career services (e.g., resume review or job interview prep) provided by their school.

These graduates qualify for an array of business intelligence careers, some of which are reviewed in the following guide. Readers can also find details on common salaries, education requirements, concentrations offerings, networking opportunities, and helpful resources.

Skills Gained in a Business Intelligence Program

Business intelligence degrees impart a wide spectrum of skills, giving graduates the tools they need to thrive in myriad professional settings. Aside from the competencies built through coursework, degree seekers can continue honing their knowledge through internships or by joining student clubs and organizations and seeking out relevant certification programs. Common skills gained from business intelligence degrees include those listed below.

Analytics

Business intelligence professionals use their analytical skills to sift through large amounts of data, interpret information, and make recommendations about how to proceed. They must know how to analyze many different types of data to work effectively.

Written/Oral Communication

Individuals in these roles must communicate with stakeholders about complicated and often nuanced information. Therefore, they should know how to write and speak effectively to ensure they don't lose details in translation, compromising their reports.

Attention to Detail

As they review large amounts of information, business intelligence professionals must know how to identify the details that would help answer their questions. They should therefore possess a keen eye for relevant information and know how to stay focused during research hours.

Problem-Solving

Companies bring in analysts to find solutions to issues such as funding shortages, managerial problems, and technology needs. These individuals must take the information provided and draw conclusions to help the company move past its problem and continue growing in a profitable manner.

Time Management

Analysts often work on an hourly basis, so clients expect them to use their time wisely. The most effective business intelligence professionals know how to stay focused and attuned to their research questions, and they can deliver final projects in a timely manner.

Why Pursue a Career in Business Intelligence?

Individuals pursuing business intelligence careers engage in fascinating, high-level assignments that allow them to use their smarts and creativity to solve multifaceted problems. Professionals in this arena also enjoy many growth opportunities throughout their careers. Positions exist at every degree level to meet different needs and aspirations.

Some individuals may feel drawn to business intelligence careers in the world of tech startups, while others may want to work with nonprofits. Regardless of your passion, jobs across a variety of industries may help fulfill your personal and professional interests. As the profession continues to evolve, business intelligence graduates can look forward to a lifetime of learning and continuing education opportunities, keeping them on the cutting edge of their field.

How Much Do Business Intelligence Majors Make?

Business intelligence program graduates can earn substantial salaries, depending on several factors. Industry plays a significant role, as certain industries pay more than others. Experience level and job title dictates professionals' wages, as well, since those with more experience and senior titles enjoy greater earning potential. Degree level also factors into salary, as professionals with advanced degrees typically command higher salaries.

Lastly, students should consider location. Those living in larger cities usually earn more, but their increased cost of living may negate the rise in pay.

Median Salary for Business Intelligence Professionals by Occupation and Job Level
Job Title Entry Level (0-12 Months) Early Career (1-4 Years) Midcareer (5-9 Years) Experienced (10-19 Years)
Management Analyst $52,000 $60,000 $71,000 $77,000
Market Research Analyst $45,000 $52,000 $57,000 $77,000
Financial Analyst $53,000 $59,000 $67,000 $70,000
Computer Systems Analyst $56,000 $60,000 $70,000 $77,000

Source: PayScale

Interview with a Professional

Justin MacLean

Justin MacLean

Consultant

Justin MacLean, an independent consultant working in the field of analytics for business, boasts a background in programming, selling, strategy, and product management. Justin spent his early career with Oracle, designing and building solutions in enterprise resource planning. He has since worked across sectors, industries, and functions, always with a focus on understanding data and using it to address business problems. He founded InkSpace Analytics in 2018 to produce outcomes with analytics.

Why did you decide to pursue a career in business intelligence? Was it something you were always interested in?

I've been interested in computers since I was a kid and discovered business intelligence shortly after joining the professional workforce as a consultant working in logistics. I was attracted to the space because it provides a wonderful opportunity to apply technology to real business problems. I was also looking for work that allows for the daily opportunity to learn about new functions, industries, and technologies.

What do you find to be the most exciting aspect of working in business intelligence?

For me, what's exciting is the ability of BI to guide decisions in real businesses. To me, this is the central objective of the space, and it's not as easy as it looks. Very often, the business objective gets lost as we build the latest "cool" thing, and we wind up with a solution in search of a problem. What's exciting is identifying a problem, then creating a well-matched solution.

How do you stay up to date with changes in the industry?

First, I do a lot of reading to keep up on information. I find books are great for teaching large concepts and involved or detailed topics. Blogs and newsletters are everywhere online and can be good sources for quick updates on news in the industry. I'm also a big fan of podcasts, which seem to be growing in number and quality.

Second, I put quite a bit of effort into skills development. There is a great deal of free or inexpensive education available online that I make use of. These services are really good for introducing yourself to a new tool, programming language, or business concept. Likewise, many examples of the tools used in business intelligence are open-source, or at least have free trials available, and you can't beat a hands-on experiment to get a handle on something.

Why did you decide to move into independent consulting? Is this a common career path for individuals in the field?

Yes, it's fairly common, and seems to be following the trend toward the gig economy. Of course, there are also many opportunities doing business intelligence work inside organizations, as well. I have always wanted to start my own business, so the independent route was a good fit for me. It's not as stable as a full-time job would be, but I get to be my own boss.

What advice would you give to those considering pursuing a career in business intelligence?

Make sure that the types of problems we solve in business intelligence are ones that interest you. The best business intelligence professionals are interested in business first. We use technology as tools to get jobs done. For example, if you would like to spend time helping a leader understand why one sales territory is doing better than all the others, or how one product's profitability compares to others, then a career in BI may be right for you.

There are also a few concepts that I find relevant to almost every task in business intelligence and would definitely recommend understanding. First, you must understand relational databases. These are the beating heart of virtually every business software application and data warehouse. Once you understand the thinking behind these, you'll have a start toward building insights for your customers. Second, SQL is the ubiquitous language for asking questions and extracting answers from relational databases, so learning it is critical. Third, in your career in business intelligence you will encounter many different applications, database technologies, and software products. Don't get attached to any of them. There will always be a new tool to learn, a new concept to master, a new possibility to consider. Get good at learning new things, and your career will have longevity, and you can be valuable to businesses for as long as you want to be!

How to Succeed in Business Intelligence

Education Required

Educational requirements within business intelligence careers vary based on the type of job. Those hiring for support and assistant roles typically seek candidates with associate degrees, but most positions require at least a bachelor's degree. Students hoping to work in areas of management, leadership, research, or teaching almost always need a graduate degree.

The following sections provide a brief overview of what to expect at each degree level, but learners wanting to dig into more of the nuances can check out BestColleges' guides on bachelor's business intelligence programs or master's business intelligence degrees.

Experience Required

Given the consulting nature of many business intelligence careers, experience plays a key role in fulfilling hiring requirements. Before working as a financial analyst, for instance, candidates should possess finance experience. After ascertaining your specific area of interest in business intelligence, gain at least a few years of experience in that discipline before seeking out an analyst role. Internships in college can also give candidates a leg up.

Licensure and Certification

Though rarely required, many individuals working in business intelligence careers — and especially finance — benefit from licensure and/or certification. These credentials help professionals stand out from their competitors and demonstrate their commitment to continuing education. Financial analysts selling financial products must possess a license from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). Check out some common certifications below.

  • Certified Management Consultant
    The Institute of Management Consultants USA currently certifies more than 10,000 members across the globe as certified management consultants. Applicants must possess at least five years of relevant experience, a four-year degree, and references. They must also pass a written and oral examination to receive certification.
  • Chartered Financial Analyst
    The CFA Institute provides the chartered financial analyst certification to more than 150,000 financial professionals. While completing a self-study program, applicants must pass three levels of exams, demonstrate at least four years of experience in investment decision-making, and join the CFA Institute.
  • Professional Researcher Certification
    Insights Association offers the professional researcher certification to individuals who want to demonstrate their advanced skills and knowledge in research. Those hoping to qualify must complete 12 industry-related educational credits and qualify for and pass an examination. They must also complete 20 credits of continuing education every two years to maintain certification.

Concentrations Available to Business Intelligence Majors

Because the business intelligence field covers such a wide array of disciplines and industries, it's common to find programs that offer concentration areas in addition to core coursework. Some students may feel drawn to working in financial intelligence, while others want to tackle the technology or marketing worlds. Whatever your interest, make sure you take the time to find a school that caters to your needs. The concentrations highlighted below give a glimpse of what's available, but they do not serve as an exhaustive list.

  • Data Management: This concentration appeals to individuals looking to work more on the technical side of things, with coursework covering topics in areas of data analytics, information mining, and outcome mapping. Learners also cover common topics in areas of analytical reasoning, common database servers, and data-based decision-making.
  • Healthcare: With so much data available, more and more healthcare organizations are looking for ways to properly organize, secure, and leverage this information. Students consider how using healthcare analytics can improve patient outcomes, with emphasis in areas of healthcare operations, analytics models, security and ethics, and regulatory considerations.
  • Operations: Learners in this concentration focus on gaining tools to help companies run smoothly. They mostly focus on operations for manufacturing and/or service professions, with specific studies in regulatory considerations, managing supply chains, negotiating contracts, and improving financial outcomes.
  • International Business: This concentration allows students to take their expertise beyond the U.S. border by emphasizing specialized studies in organizational models, cross-cultural communication, global ethics, and how different types of organizations (e.g., governmental, corporate, nonprofit) function across the world.

What Can You Do With a Business Intelligence Degree?

Because business intelligence degrees exist at every level, it stands to reason that graduates at all degree levels can find complementary careers. Professionals with an associate degree in business intelligence qualify for several support and assistant roles, but most entry-level positions require at least a bachelor's degree. Those hoping to work as financial analysts, budget analysts, or technical analysts need a bachelor's to enter the field.

Degree seekers hoping to work in managerial positions or with advanced concepts typically pursue master's degrees, as this qualification dives deeper into core topics and allows more time to learn about specialized subjects. Those with aspirations to teach at the postsecondary level, engage in research, or operate as top executives often pursue doctoral degrees, which qualify candidates to pursue these careers. The following sections dive into degree levels to give you a better sense of what to expect at each step.

Bachelor's Degree in Business Intelligence

The most common path into a business intelligence career, bachelor's degrees introduce students to general education topics, foundational discipline coursework, and several specialization areas. Analyst and consulting roles typically require this degree, which serves as a solid foundation for entry-level jobs or potential graduate study. Most programs require approximately 120 credits and take four years of full-time study to complete. BestColleges provides a guide on business intelligence degree programs at this level to shed more light.

Management Analyst

Working with managers, management analysts look for ways to improve efficiency and effectiveness through leadership. After observing the organization and staff, these professionals make recommendations on how to improve outcomes such as increased income and reduced costs.

Salary: $83,610

Budget Analyst

Budget analysts primarily concern themselves with helping organizations improve their financial situations. They review historical financial data, observe problems, and create solutions to improve organizational spending and revenue creation. They also develop budgets and monitor them during the consultation period to make recommendations.

Salary: $76,220

Financial Analyst

Financial analysts work with public and private businesses and individuals to help them make sound financial investments. They recommend specific investments based on unique organizational/individual factors, monitor economic trends, and create reports with quarterly updates.

Salary: $85,660

Market Research Analyst

Whether working in house or as consultants, market research analysts help companies understand current and future market trends and how they might affect the sale of a product or service. They create market forecasts, review existing marketing plans, learn more about prospective clients, and create actionable and accessible data reports.

Salary: $63,120

Operations Research Analyst

These professionals work in industries such as business, healthcare, or logistics to help organizations create more streamlined operations procedures. They gather input from employees, review operations and sales data, and speak with customers about their experiences before collating that data into an actionable plan.

Salary: $83,390

Master's Degree in Business Intelligence

Individuals seeking roles requiring more nuanced skill sets often pursue master's degrees to meet those specifications. Master's degrees in business intelligence usually require two years of full-time study, and many offer specializations. They build on knowledge gained at the bachelor's level and move from foundational studies to advanced learning. Graduates go on to more senior-level management roles or advanced analyst positions.

If you want to learn more about programs at this level, review BestColleges' guides on master's in business intelligence degree programs and top online master's in business intelligence programs.

Economist

Economists seek to understand how goods, resources, and services are produced, distributed, and consumed among specific audiences. They collect and analyze this data alongside overarching economic trends and historical data to find ways of improving current trends.

Salary: $104,340

Statistician

Business intelligence professionals who find themselves drawn to the data and analytics portion of their job may enjoy work as statisticians. These individuals use their advanced knowledge of data analysis and statistical modeling to understand and solve problems in business, healthcare, and other industries.

Salary: $88,190

Survey Researcher

These professionals design surveys to collect information about particular topics regarding job satisfaction, salary, or any number of questions related to opinion or perception. They then collate these answers and present them to clients as a way to better understand next steps.

Salary: $57,700

Financial Manager

Financial managers take on the responsibility of ensuring companies' overall financial health. They accomplish this goal by creating budgets, monitoring spending, producing revenue reports, developing financial projections and reports, staying attuned to market trends, and working with high-level managers to inform the decision-making process.

Salary: $127,990

Political Scientist

Political scientists use their business intelligence skills to better understand how political systems interact with free economies and participate in capitalism. They study how shifts in power affect businesses and the roles these trends — and government in general — play in business arenas.

Salary: $117,570

Doctoral Degree in Business Intelligence

The highest degree level available within business intelligence, doctoral programs qualify students for any job in the field. Program graduates work in the upper echelons of the field as decision-makers, thought leaders, educators, and cutting-edge researchers — all of whom shape the discipline's future.

Most teaching and research positions require doctoral qualifications, so individuals aspiring to these roles should keep that in mind. Most programs mandate 3-5 years of full-time study, but actual program length depends on how much time students spend researching and writing their dissertations and completing other graduation requirements. Degree seekers interested in pursuing a doctoral program should review the jobs below to understand whether this qualification serves their needs.

Business Intelligence Professor

These individuals work within colleges and universities to educate the next generation of business intelligence leaders. They prepare lectures, assign projects and exams, advise students on courses, write recommendation letters, and present at academic conferences.

Salary: $78,470

Researcher

Business intelligence researchers work to advance their field through the study of historic and current data. They look for new ways to analyze data and mine information that might help in these settings. These professionals write reports about their findings and publish them in trade journals or present them at professional conferences.

Salary: $78,140

Top Executive

Also known as CEOs, these top-tier professionals lead organizations varying from finance corporations to large hospitals. They provide leadership and guidance to other senior staff, offer strategic planning, meet with industry stakeholders, and — in some cases — report to a board of directors.

Salary: $104,980

What Industries Can You Work in With a Business Intelligence Degree?

As demonstrated throughout this guide, careers for business intelligence degree graduates run the gamut from business and healthcare to technology and finance. Students should ensure that even in school, they are headed toward their ideal industry. Learners who don't yet know their path can review the common industries below to get a sense of the possibilities.
Management of Companies and Enterprises

Individuals in these industries serve as C-level professionals who make important decisions about finances, market placement, operations, and budgeting.

Securities, Commodity Contracts, and Other Financial Investments and Related Activities

Financial analysts and managers and other finance professionals choose this industry to advise clients on making good decisions with their money.

Management Consulting

A great fit for individuals who want to work with many different clients, this position allows professionals to sharpen their managerial skills and teach leaders to better serve their employees and clients.

Computer Systems Design and Related Services

Tech-minded individuals often gravitate toward this industry, which allows them to analyze systems and network needs before making recommendations on improvements.

Local, State, and Federal Government

Government offices at all levels require business intelligence professionals' expertise to guide questions on spending, revenue, benefits, and employee retention.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics / PayScale

How Do You Find a Job as a Business Intelligence Graduate?

Many jobs related to business intelligence demonstrate great growth potential, but students and recent graduates still need to take proactive steps to land a top spot. In addition to building interview skills and polishing your resume, you should also take advantage of specializations and certifications provided by your school.

Networking also plays a significant role in the job search, and students can join a number of professional organizations, many of which offer local chapters and national conferences where business intelligence professionals can meet potential recruiters. Such organizations include the Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals, the Global Business Intelligence Professionals Association, and the Digital Analytics Association.

Industries hiring the most business intelligence graduates as of 2019 include financial management and investments, management consulting, and computer systems design. Candidates' degree level largely dictates the type of position — and even the type of industry — they qualify to enter.

Professional Resources for Business Intelligence Majors

Association for Financial Professionals

AFP serves members by providing training, certifications, an annual conference, regional roundtables, career development, discussion boards, a podcast, career coaches, resume services, and online profile development.


American Association of Finance and Accounting

AAFA has existed since 1978, working to support executives in these industries by providing job postings, local affiliates in more than 40 American cities, career advancement opportunities, and a regularly updated blog.


International Institute of Business Analysis

Members of IIBA can take advantage of business analysis membership services, numerous certifications, global thought leadership, local chapters, an annual conference, a career center, business analysis competency models, best practices, and a knowledge center.


Institute of Management Consultants

In 2019, IMCUSA celebrates its 50th year serving management professionals through local and national events, continuing education opportunities, career support, certification, mentorship opportunities, seminars and webinars, networking opportunities with more than 10,000 members, and online chat rooms.


Society of Professional Consultants

The SPC focuses on helping individual consultants work to grow and scale their businesses by providing opportunities for networking, mentoring programs, continuing education, monthly meet-ups in Boston, nationwide events, and consultant directories.


A Glimpse Into the Daily Life of a Business Intelligence Manager

Students who want a glimpse of what it looks like to work in this industry can read this insightful article from Ann-Marie Ramsay, Director of International Strategy and Operations at Indeed.com.


Business Intelligence Interview Questions

Students can use this helpful page on Glassdoor to understand the questions they may encounter in a business intelligence interview. The site even provides some answers to give students insight into what hiring managers are looking for.


What You Need to Know About Business Intelligence

Forbes offers this helpful article from a business intelligence professional who provides answers to common questions about day-to-day business intelligence work. The article also provides evidence of why business intelligence plays such an important role in companies.


10 LinkedIn Groups for Business Intelligence Professionals

This resource serves students and recent graduates looking to engage in the business professional community without paying for a professional association membership.