Few corporate roles are more important — and less understood — than that of the business analyst. According to the International Institute of Business Analysis’s “Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge,” business analytics is a key function of dozens of corporate job titles, including business architect, business systems analyst, process analyst and requirements engineer.
The amount of information businesses collect continues to grow, and new technologies are optimizing business processes to unprecedented levels. The convergence of these two trends increases the importance of business analytics for all industries.
Graduates of the Master of Science in Business Analytics (MSBA) program at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business will find a range of business analytics careers in which their skills are in demand. First, it is important to understand what a business analyst does and the job outlook for business analysts.
What Does a Business Analyst Do?
Business analysts, also called management analysts, evaluate how an organization operates, and recommend approaches to the management team that might improve productivity and reduce costs. To do this, a business analyst gathers and examines data, uses that data to develop models, examines company financials, and researches customer habits. A business analyst uses this information to recommend ways to improve systems or processes to company leadership.
Business Analyst Job Description
Every type of company can use business analysts to examine processes and data to drive stronger performance. Even the best-run companies can benefit from making their business processes more efficient. Business analysts typically work at client sites or in their own offices. They interview employees, evaluate on-site processes and equipment, and examine financial data and employment reports. Their analyses may lead them to recommend new equipment, updated procedures or even a revamped organizational structure.
Business Analyst Salary and Outlook
The business analyst job outlook is bright. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for management analysts as of May 2020 was $87,660. The BLS projects that demand for management analysts will increase by 11% between 2019 and 2029, which is much faster than average for all occupations. The BLS also highlights that competition for management analyst jobs will be strong due to the occupation’s high earnings potential.
Steps to Become a Business Analyst
While some entry-level business analyst positions require only a bachelor’s degree, most firms favor candidates who hold a master’s degree in business administration or a related area, including business analytics. Also, computer and information science experience is becoming increasingly important for business analysts. While not a required credential, the Institute of Management Consultants USA issues certified management consultant (CMC) certification for analysts who meet the organization’s education and experience requirements.
Business analysts can also work in specialized industry roles, some of which are explained in more detail below. For these roles, employers value experience in a related field. Candidates with a graduate degree who are certified or who have special expertise will have an edge in the job market.
Career Paths in the Business Analytics Field
An individual can choose from many different paths in business analytics. Here is an in-depth look at five occupations, including each job’s duties, requirements and career growth potential.
Computer Systems Analyst
Ensuring the networks and digital systems that businesses rely on are well designed and functioning is the province of computer systems analysts. While a background in technology and information science is essential, systems analysts must also be adept at understanding the needs of employers to succeed in this business analyst career.
- Job duties and work environments: Computer systems analysts evaluate a firm’s existing networks and work processes, planning alternative improvements or replacements. According to figures compiled by the BLS, 28% of computer systems analysts work in computer systems design and related services, 14% work in the finance and insurance industries and 9% work for professional management services.
- Experience and education requirements: A bachelor’s degree in a computer-related field is considered the minimum education requirement for computer systems analysts, although many firms prefer candidates with a graduate degree.
- Salary, job growth and options for advancement: As of May 2020, the median annual salary of computer systems analysts was $93,730, according to data compiled by the BLS. The BLS also forecasts overall job growth for computer systems analysts between 2019 and 2029 to be 7%. After gaining experience, computer systems analysts can progress to such positions as project manager, IT director or chief technology officer.
Market Research Analyst
Knowledge of consumer behavior is the hallmark of market research analysts. They conduct research focused on how people are likely to act when making purchase decisions, and they communicate their results to clients and employers to help benefit business decision making.
- Job duties and work environments: The BLS reports that as of 2019, 11% of market research analysts worked in management, scientific and technical services; 10% in finance and insurance; 8% in wholesale; and 8% in management of companies and enterprises.
- Experience and education requirements: A bachelor’s degree in market research or a related field is the minimum education requirement for market research analysts. Master’s degrees in market research, statistics or business administration are often required to qualify for leadership roles and positions involving technical research, according to the BLS. While certifications are voluntary, the Marketing Research Association offers the professional researcher certification to demonstrate proficiency in standards, ethics and techniques in the profession.
- Salary, job growth and options for advancement: According to the BLS, the median annual salary for market research analysts as of May 2020 was $65,810. The BLS forecasts that market research analyst jobs will grow 18% between 2019 and 2029. The BLS also notes that the market research analyst job outlook is brightest for candidates with master’s degrees in market research, marketing, statistics or business administration.
The need to provide up-to-date patient care as quickly, effectively and efficiently as possible drives the demand for health analysts who are able to collect and analyze data from diverse sources, converting their analysis into accurate forecasts that help guide decision makers. As a result, health analyst is a fast-growing business analyst career.
- Job duties and work environments: Along with administrators and executives, health analysts work to improve patient care. They provide forecasts based on their research to benefit all departments and functions within large health care networks. According to the BLS, 33% of medical and health services managers work for state, local or private hospitals.
- Experience and education requirements: The BLS reports that health care managers and administrators often have degrees in health administration, health management or business administration. For health analysts, a degree in health information systems, health economics, or accounting and budgeting will likely draw the interest of potential employers.
- Salary, job growth and options for advancement: The median annual salary for medical and health services managers as of May 2020 was $104,280, according to the BLS. However, the median annual salaries were higher for those employed in government ($116,380) and hospitals ($112,870), which are more likely to employ health analysts than are smaller health care facilities. In terms of the health analyst job outlook, job growth for all medical and health services managers is projected to increase by 32% between 2019 and 2029, according to the BLS.
In addition to compiling and organizing data, statisticians apply mathematical techniques to unlock the intelligence that helps guide business decision makers. Increasingly, they rely on algorithms and other software to process the massive amounts of data now being generated by industries, consumers and government.
- Job duties and work environments: Statisticians first decide what data will be required to answer a specific business question or solve a problem, and then they determine the mathematical techniques to generate a useful analysis. The job may entail designing surveys, polls or other experiments to use in the research. Research and development organizations (14%), the federal government (11%), and health care entities (10%) were the largest employers of statisticians as of 2019, according to the BLS.
- Experience and education requirements: The BLS notes that an entry-level statistician position typically requires a master’s degree in mathematics, computer science, economics or another quantitative major. In addition to classes in linear algebra, probability and experimental design, statisticians benefit from courses in engineering and the physical sciences.
- Salary, job growth and options for advancement: The BLS reports that as of May 2020, the median annual salary for statisticians was $92,270. Statistician jobs are forecast to grow 35% between 2019 and 2029, according to BLS figures. Job prospects will be most favorable for statisticians with experience in data analytics, computer programming and quantitative analysis.
Operations Research Analyst
The role of operations research analyst revolves around problem solving. It requires mastery of advanced data mining, statistical analysis and mathematical modeling techniques. Typical challenges include analyzing the value companies are realizing from specific assets and collections of assets (for example, determining the most efficient routes for delivery drivers).
- Job duties and work environments: Operations research analysts are involved in all aspects of a business, including logistics, records management and customer relationship management. Among their most important tools are databases, statistical software and modeling programs. The BLS reports that 28% of operations research analysts are employed by the finance and insurance industries, and 23% work for professional, scientific and technical services entities.
- Experience and education requirements: The BLS notes that many employers now prefer operations research analysts who hold a master’s degree, whether in operations research or a related field. The multidisciplinary nature of operations research means that a background in economics and political science can be beneficial.
- Salary, job growth and options for advancement: As of May 2020, the median annual salary for operations research analysts was $86,200, according to the BLS. The BLS also projects that operations research analyst jobs will increase by 25% between 2019 and 2029, much faster than the forecast for all jobs in the same period.
How the Master’s in Business Analytics Sets the Stage
As business and industry increasingly rely on data analytics to gain a competitive edge, the need for workers with business analytics skills will grow more acute. One of the best ways to prepare for a career in business analytics is to earn a master’s in business analytics degree online from the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.
Those who graduate from the program join a global network of over 66,000 alumni and can enjoy greater job security, higher salaries and potentially become analytics department leaders.
Visit the University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business website to explore more about the school’s online Master of Science in Business Analytics program.
Examining the Importance of Business Analytics
Research Analyst Roles and Responsibilities
Data Mining in Business: Skills and Competencies Needed to Succeed
American Health Information Management Association
Houston Chronicle, Business Analysis Basics
Institute of Management Consultants USA
International Institute of Business Analysis, “A Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK Guide)”
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Computer Systems Analysts
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Financial Analysts
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Management Analysts
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Market Research Analysts
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Mathematicians and Statisticians
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Medical and Health Services Managers
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Operations Research Analysts
U.S. News & World Report, “What Is a Computer Systems Analyst?”
U.S. News & World Report, “What Is a Market Research Analyst?”
U.S. News & World Report, “What Is an Operations Research Analyst?”