Landing a Competitive Position: Business Analyst Requirements

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Business analysts perform essential functions across a wide variety of industries and organizations. This position translates data into intelligible business insights. It offers an opportunity for high pay to qualified candidates with tech backgrounds. Companies have learned the value of using data to inform their decision-making, and examples of this are prominent throughout many sectors.

At a recent data conference in Texas, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Wendy’s presented their progress in incorporating business analytics into their operations. Wendy’s uses a full-scale analysis of its customer habits to help shape future decisions, whereas Dick’s uses analytics tools with its inventory decisions. While these companies are well-established and nationally recognized, they were hailed as early adopters to new systems that simplify corporate processes and optimize efficiency. As the economic landscape continues to shift along with the development of new technologies, more organizations will come to recognize the need for business analytics to stay competitive and face a new generation of consumers.

Master of Science in Business Analytics Degree

Business analytics involves using data to inform corporate strategy based on numerical evidence. This evidence can be based on performance data, such as sales or patient outcomes in health care, or it can predict future outcomes based on advanced mathematical modeling. A Master of Science in Business Analytics (MSBA) degree exposes students to topics including data management, with an emphasis on building skills like quantitative modeling, data mining, data management, and the programming language SQL. MSBA graduates enter the field with the skills necessary to create their own data-driven solutions. Business analytics is present in industries such as government, health care, hospitality, sports management and media.

Business Analyst Position

Business analysts help organizations make decisions based on advanced statistical methods. They find problems in an organization, such as areas of excess spending, bottlenecks in production, and blind spots in customer acquisition. They then gather data relevant to these problems, particularly the challenges to managers, and develop mathematical models to find solutions. The methods that business analysts use include statistical analysis, simulations and predictive modeling. They must communicate these strategies and findings to other professionals who may not have quantitative knowledge. As such, business analysts are well-versed in creating easy-to-understand reports, memos and presentations.

With the rise of big data, businesses rely more on business analysts to manage and interpret the information companies need to thrive. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that operations research analysts earned a median annual salary of $83,390 in 2018. Wages vary by geography, professional experience and educational background. The BLS expects a 26 percent job growth rate for this position between 2018 and 2028, which is much faster than the national average for all occupations.

Business Analyst Requirements

While business analyst requirements may vary by position and field, there are some common steps you can take to set yourself up for success in any of these roles.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

One of the first steps toward becoming a business analyst is earning a bachelor’s degree. STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — expose students to the technology and computer software that professional business analysts use daily. A strong quantitative background enables prospective analysts to learn more quickly.

Step 2: Work in the Field

It’s beneficial to pursue internship opportunities with data sets and programming languages such as SQL. Most employers prefer candidates to be familiar with working with data, and internships make students more competitive candidates for positions following graduation. Professional experience also helps students develop soft skills, such as written and verbal communication and time management.

Step 3: Attain a Master’s Degree

To qualify for business analysts positions, professionals should earn a graduate degree focused on developing both the technological and managerial skills needed for the job. An MSBA that highlights not only how to gather and organize large data sets, but also how to interpret and provide solutions with that data, offers the best chance of attracting potential employers.

Step 4 (Optional): Acquire a Certification

While not a strict business analyst requirement, a certification can be a useful tool for prospective employers to better understand your level of expertise. Certification can offer tangible benefits, such as a potential boost in income: Randstad, a global recruitment agency, reports a 16 percent salary increase for certified business analysts. The International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) offers competency-based certifications for professional levels of business analyzers.

Discover the Benefits of a Graduate Degree

The more business turns to big data, the more important business analysts will be to the continued growth of the economy and to individual companies. Those who earn a graduate degree focused on the technological developments changing the business landscape are best positioned not only to get jobs but to advance to leadership roles in their field.

For those interested in becoming a business analyst, the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business offers an online MSBA program dedicated to developing graduates prepared to serve as immediate and long-term assets to their companies. The school is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International), and students in the MSBA program can graduate in as few as 20 months. Learn more about the program today.


Recommended Readings

Master’s in Business Analytics Salary: Enhance Your Earning Potential

The Value of Data in Business

Changes in 2017 That May Shape the Business Landscape



BA Times, “Nine Key Skills That Every Good Business Analyst Needs”

BA Times, “The Requirements Process”

Compelo, “How Iconic US brands Wendy’s and Dick’s Sporting Goods Are Using Business Intelligence”

International Institute of Business Analysis, Core Business Analysis Certifications, “Business Analytics”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Operations Research Analysts