July 1, 2022
The demand for business analysts is steadily increasing. Here’s what you need to know to get started in the field.
Business analysts are currently among the most sought-after specialists in the world, and the demand for them is only increasing. For the previous year leading up to the publication of this article, there were around 200K business analyst job vacancies opened at any given time on LinkedIn.
So why is this data science profession so popular? These days, every business accumulates huge amounts of data, and they need people to help them analyze it and extract meaningful insights. The more data we have, the higher the demand for business analysts . . . and we have a lot of data!
There isn’t a better time than right now to start a career in business analytics.If you want to know how to become a business analyst, then you’re in the right place. We’ve laid out the five most important steps that’ll take you from complete newbie to a professional business analyst, regardless of your skill level.
Here they are . . .
Step 1: Determine if Business Analysis Is the Right Choice for You
As with entering any other new sphere, the first logical step is to gather enough information to see if the role will fit you — and if you’ll actually enjoy it.
You could start by asking yourself the following questions:
- What is a business analyst, and what do they do?
- What is the difference between a business analyst and a data analyst?
- What career opportunities will this role open for me?
- What technical and soft skills should I develop to become a business analyst?
- What salary can I expect?
- How long will it take me to become a business analyst?
With a bit of Google and some YouTube search, you’ll find plenty of helpful resources to form an initial opinion about a new career in business analysis.
Here are a few tips:
- Start by reading about business analysis on the International Institute of Business Analysis website. It will help you to get information from an internationally recognized professional body.
- Search for key phrases such as “pros and cons of business analytics” or “a day in the life of a business analyst” on YouTube. This will provide you with perspectives from people who went through the process of becoming business analysts.
- Read blogs or watch videos on the differences between business analysts, data analysts, and data scientists — it will help you identify the similarities and differences between these roles, and it can help with your decision-making.
However, don’t spend months digging into all the details. At this stage, your goal is just to understand what the role entails and how it differs from other roles, as well as the pros and cons, how you would spend your day, and if you feel you would like the work or not.
Have you decided if working as a business analyst appeals to you? If so, then let’s move on to the next step.
Step 2: Identify What Skills You Have and What Skills You Need
The second step in starting a career as a business analyst is to identify the skills that the position requires — some will be essential, and some you can learn on the job. The core objectives of the business analyst role are to identify business needs and problems, analyze your discoveries, and offer recommendations. The type of problems you’ll work on will differ if you are an IT business analyst, a management consultant, a requirement analyst, or a process analyst, but your core functions will be the same.
Don’t worry if you don’t have all the skills listed below; employers know that entry-level specialists will learn as they progress. However, the more you know, the better your chances of landing the specific role you want.
Business Analyst soft skills:
- Active listening skills
- Time management and organizational skills
- interpersonal skills
- Analytical and critical thinking
- Communication skills
- Negotiation skills
- Team management
Business Analyst hard skills:
- Research skills to identify problems and opportunities
- Project management
- Data analysis skills
- Working with databases using SQL
- Managing data with Excel
- Convey insights using Power BI
Step 3: Start a Learning Program That Will Get You the Right Skills
At this point, you’ve decided to become a business analyst, and you have identified which skills you should master (or brush up on). Now, it’s time to select a good learning program.
You can find many courses on business analytics online, but it’s not always easy to pick the right one. If you’re serious about entering the profession without any knowledge or experience, the number one skill you need to focus on is analyzing hard data in order to find data patterns that will help an organization improve its business.
Here’s what we suggest you look for in a learning program:
- Comprehensive curriculum covering fundamental business analyst skills and tools
- A program that can take you from zero experience to job-ready
- Practical exercises and projects to practice new skills
- A supportive community of learners and professionals
Personally, I followed the Business Analyst Career Path at Dataquest, among other paths, because not only did it tick all the boxes above, it was also affordable. I found the path very well-rounded, comprehensive, practical, and perfectly designed to take me from “zero to hero” in business analytics. The curriculum is entirely online and self-paced, and it covers all the technical skills we discussed earlier — and it offers plenty of exercises and portfolio-ready projects based on real-world data.
Step 4: Build a Portfolio to Showcase Your Skills to Employers
The best way to showcase your skills to employers is to create a portfolio of projects. A completed project shows employers that you can actually solve real problems.
If you want to work in a specific industry, I would suggest you create projects that are related to the field. However, if you aren’t sure which sector you would like to work in, create projects that address diverse business problems — it will show that you’re adaptable. Also, I would highly recommend that you demonstrate the use of different analytical tools such as Excel, SQL, Microsoft Power BI, or Tableau. It will be important to use data visualization in your projects because this is how you will present to your coworkers.
Your portfolio is also a great way to showcase your soft skills. A portfolio not only demonstrates your ability to solve business problems, it also demonstrates your curiosity about business data, your readiness to work independently or on a team, and your analytical mindset.
Bonus tip: Don’t just claim that you have good communication skills on your resume. Instead, put this super-power into practice by efficiently stating the goals and explaining your findings in your portfolio projects. Use clear language, and avoid technical jargon. And be concise!
Step 5: Get Certified, Build Your Resume, and Start Applying
Let’s imagine that you completed the learning program and built a portfolio. What’s next? It’s a good idea to get certified in specific tools, such as Microsoft Power BI’s PL-300 certification. This highlights your skill, and it shows that you are willing to go the extra mile to get the job. At Dataquest, we offer a 50% discount on the PL-300 certification if you complete the Business Analyst Path.
Now it’s time to write an impressive resume and start applying for business analyst job openings.
First, create a long, multi-page resume where you’ll include all your technical and soft skills, projects, courses, work experience (it’s ok if it doesn’t seem relevant to business analytics), education, achievements, internships, publications, certificates, volunteering activity, etc.
Whenever you apply for a new business analyst job, just copy that giant version of your resume, then tailor it for this particular position. Pay special attention to the keywords used in the job description, and consolidate the resume to only one page.
Don’t be discouraged by inevitable rejections, which are nothing more than a natural part of any job hunting. Be optimistic and keep applying for jobs — this is the most secure way to success!
Start Your Learning Journey
To sum up, we discussed the five steps of the career roadmap of an aspiring business analyst. Now you know the following:
- What questions you should ask yourself (and Google) before deciding if this sphere is a good choice for you
- How to learn business analytics,
- What skills to develop and how to showcase them to a potential employer
- How to land your first job as a business analyst.
If you feel that you’re ready for this exciting journey, start learning today!