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What is a business analyst, and how can you chart a successful career in business analytics? Read on for an introduction to the roles and responsibilities of a business analyst as well as what it takes to become one.

What Does a Business Analyst Do?

Also commonly known as a data analyst, a business analyst examines and evaluates data to help businesses overcome challenges and generally optimize their policies and procedures with a double focus on improved operational efficiency and the generation of high-quality products and services. The key element in this definition is the analysis of data. While many different paid professionals strive to streamline company operations and maximize company output, business analysts distinguish themselves through their specialized expertise in data analytics. In the words of CIO Magazine contributors Mary K. Pratt and Sarah K. White, “business analysts are responsible for bridging the gap between IT and the business using data analytics to assess processes, determine requirements and deliver data-driven recommendations and reports to executives and stakeholders.”

Business Analyst Skills

Depending on the industry in which they work, business analysts will want to learn one or more established business analysis methodologies such as Six Sigma and Agile Business Analysis. They should also let their respective industries dictate their areas of professional expertise. For example, a business analyst in the healthcare industry must be familiar with health insurance billing while a business analyst in the finance industry must be familiar with trading regulations.

Despite the varied and specialized nature of their work, business analysts tend to share a few essential skills in common. If you want to succeed in this field, you might want to begin by focusing on skill development in the following areas:

Data Analysis

Of course, a considerable mastery in data analysis must lie at the heart of any business analysts core skill set. However, professionals who focus more on growth strategy and less on digital analytics can find success with a lower level of technical proficiency in this area. Broadly defined, data analysis involves the gathering, tracking, investigation, examination, and evaluation of data with an emphasis on digital performance metrics. To complete this process, business analysts use a broad spectrum of analysis and visualization tools such as Excel and Tableau.

Collaborative Teamwork

When people imagine a data analyst, they might visualize a human computer crunching numbers alone in a windowless office. In reality, business analysts work in a highly dynamic environment, collaborating with a broad spectrum of internal team members and external stakeholders to complete various projects. This means they must be able to facilitate activities and communicate well with different people with varying areas of expertise. Whether interacting with upper management or support staff, you will need to be able to speak and write with exceptional clarity as a business analyst.

Proactive Problem-Solving

As a business analyst, you will encounter problems that require effective and efficient solutions. By detecting problems early (or, better yet, anticipating them before they occur), a business analyst can avoid disruptions, limit expenses, and generally minimize any negative effects on project stakeholders. After identifying and addressing issues, wise business analysts will take risk mitigation measures to prevent them from occurring again.

Knowledge of the Business Analysis Process

Although there are many ways to approach business analysis project management, Mayank Sahu, CFA, presents an excellent seven-step process flow that suits this highly unique field. After taking steps to research and understand the background of the project, you must identify the stakeholders who will work with you to make important decisions such as establishing core project priorities. Then, you should collaborate with those stakeholders to establish a clear and relevant set of goals. Before you can begin to make progress toward those goals, you must first define the scope, timeline, and requirements of your project. You can then, finally, implement your project with a focus on aligning deliverable results with project objectives.

Communication and Interpersonal Skills

As discussed above, efficient and effective teamwork is impossible without strong communications skills. To work well with the wide range of players on a business analysis project, you will need to facilitate highly productive interpersonal interactions. This might mean clarifying misunderstandings or translating technical jargon into terms for a general audience. As a business analyst, you will also be tasked with documenting project processes and presenting project results. By honing your interpersonal and communication skills, you will be better equipped to build mutual trust and enthusiasm among all project team members and stakeholders.

Financial Reporting

As quoted by CIO Magazine contributors Mary K. Pratt and Sarah K. White, the technology management consulting firm Robert Half insists that business analysts need a “strong understanding of regulatory and reporting requirements as well as plenty of experience in forecasting, budgeting and financial analysis combined with understanding of key performance indicators” to succeed in their chosen profession.

Qualifications and Training Required

There is neither a single credential necessary to become a business analyst nor a single educational path to prepare you for the role. Largely a self-regulated industry, business analysis requires professionals with a particular skill set (see the “Business Analyst Skills” section above); however, the relative values of your official qualifications are bound to be assessed differently by different potential employers.

If you already have considerable information technology (IT) or business experience, you are likely to benefit from a short data analysis workshop that lasts for a few days or less. These so-called “boot camps” may pad your resume nicely, but they do not generally offer full certifications and will offer you little in the way of employment power unless they are accompanied by other significant academic and professional achievements.

For this reason, you will certainly want to consider a college degree if you want to pursue a career as a business analyst. However, the type and level of the degree you seek should depend on your unique career aspirations. From a Bachelor of Science in Data Science to a Master of Science in Business Intelligence and Analytics, a degree with a specific focus on the complexities of business analysis is highly recommended in all corners of the industry.


While it is a relatively new professional field, there are already several certifying organizations that administer official credentials that signify capability in various areas of business analysis and help professionals prove their merit as business analysts. In fact, the International Institute of Business Analysis offers a range of certifications from the Entry Certificate in Business Analysis (ECBA) to the Certification of Capability in Business Analysis (CCBA) to the Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP). This organization also administers Agile Analysis Certification (AAC).

The other major organizations to offer business analysis certifications include the International Qualification Board for Business Analysis (IQBBA), the International Requirements Engineering Board (IREB), and the Project Management Institute (PMI). The IQBBA administers the Certified Foundation Level Business Analyst (CFLBA) designation, the IREB administers the Certified Professional for Requirements Engineering (CPRE) designation, and the PMI administers the Professional in Business Analysis (PBA) designation. Check with these individual organizations to learn more about the specific requirements of the certifications they offer.

Business Analyst Salaries

While you can expect a generally healthy salary as a business analyst, specific payment figures for professionals in this field are somewhat difficult to calculate. This is largely due to the fact that business analyst salaries can vary dramatically according to the specific wants and needs of employers in various industries and geographic locations. If you want to boost your earning potential as a business analyst you must recognize that salary levels generally go up along with your levels of education, certification, and experience.

Business Analysis Tools and Software

In the “Data Analysis” subsection above, we mentioned Excel and Tableau as two examples of the computer programs and platforms that business analysts commonly use in their work. However, this is scarcely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the wide variety of analysis tools and software used by business analysts today.

Beyond the spreadsheet platform Excel, you might rely upon any number of general office software as a business analyst, including other programs in the Microsoft Office Suite, such as Visio for creating diagrams and flowcharts as well as Microsoft Word and PowerPoint to support effective communication.

The data visualization tool Tableau is just one of many powerful digital analysis programs at the business analyst’s disposal. Power BI provides a considerable boost to analytics processes and helps you share the insights gleaned from those processes. The pair of tools QlikView and Qlik Sense automates data discovery as well as analytics and visualization processes.

Other types of digital tools and software for business analysts include business process modeling notation (BPMN) tools such as Bizagi, requirement management tools such as Jira, and prototyping tools such as Axure RP. Like all individuals working together on a professional project, business analysts can also benefit from a quality project management platform such as Asana.

Business Analyst Roles and Responsibilities

We have already discussed the broad and varied nature of business analysis and the ways in which the discipline can change based on the parameters set by the sector you work in, the company you work for, and the project you work on. However, the average business analyst is likely to see many of the following roles and responsibilities in the job descriptions of potential employers:

  • Setting project objectives as well as key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure them.
  • Compiling and analyzing large data sets.
  • Visualizing data using forms such as tables and charts.
  • Creating financial forecasting, budgeting, and performance models to test prospective business decisions.
  • Understanding and refining the business goals, strategies, and requirements of the companies they serve.
  • Engaging in risk analysis and management.
  • Planning and implementing management changes.
  • Influencing quality assurance and testing standards.

No matter which of the above duties that a business analyst might perform, it is essential to evaluate their success and address any deficiencies. In this way, business analysts can create a continuous loop of evaluation and improvement to fuel business success.

Business Analysts and Their Relationship With Technology

In addition to relying heavily upon technology to both source and analyze the data that they use to inform and guide business decisions, business analysts often turn to technology for effective solutions the problems that their data analysis uncovers. For this reason, you will have to stay up to date on the latest industry-relevant tech trends if you want to court success as a business analyst.

To Learn More

The business and technology faculty at Post University are ready to help you do a deep dive on business analysis and business analytics. In fact, Post offers two degree programs that are relevant to aspiring business analysts: the Bachelor of Science in Data Science program at the undergraduate level and the Master of Science in Business Intelligence and Analytics program at the graduate level.

Thank you for reading! The views and information provided in this post do not reflect Post University programs and/or outcomes directly. If you are interested in learning more about our programs, you can find a complete list of our programs on our website or reach out directly!

Please note jobs and/or career outcomes highlighted in this blog do not reflect jobs or career outcomes expected from any Post program. To learn more about Post’s programs and their outcomes, please fill out a form to speak with an admissions advisor.