Business Analyst Job Description (Duties, Skills, Salary, Certifications & More)

By Jeff Gillis

Thanks to the rise of Big Data, a plethora of analytical jobs sprang into being. Among them is the business analyst. While the job title makes the role seem pretty self-explanatory, it really isn’t. The business analyst job description is much more involved.

Sure, these professionals do analyze company operations, that’s true. But that’s also an oversimplification.

Business analysts are tech-savvy, data-drivers who wrangle statistics with the ease of a seasoned cowboy lassoing a calf. They are familiar with the underlying nature of business like a ranch hand knows their herd. They are masters of demystifying the mayhem that unharnessed data can be, conquering it like a trainer does with a wild stallion.

Are you ready to learn more about what a business analyst job description actually looks like? Then let’s abandon all of the wild west references (for now) and get down to brass tacks.

What is a Business Analyst?

In the simplest sense, a business analyst is a problem-solver. Through the power of data analytics, they provide insights to stakeholders and company decision-makers, allowing them to select paths for improving procedures, services, products, and, of course, the bottom line.

Usually, business analysts are highly technical, but also incredibly business-oriented. They don’t live in just one world, understanding the nuances, lingo, and jargon of both sides. Essentially, on the path from A to C, they are point B.

What does that mean for you? If you’re a business analyst, that means your core purpose is to use data to derive insights that guide sounder business decisions. It’s all about using the information you gather to maximize improvement opportunities.

What Are a Business Analyst’s Duties and Responsibilities?

As with many jobs, a business analyst job description is going to vary a bit from one company to the next. However, there are core duties and responsibilities that nearly every role requires.

First, data collection and analysis are primary functions. Making the most of any available information and using it to generate insights is the goal of nearly every business analyst; it’s that simple.

However, there’s also more too it than that. A business analyst is also responsible for:

    • Identifying relevant business opportunities
    • Gathering business and user requirements
    • Documenting processes
    • Preparing reports
    • Sharing insights to influence decision-making
    • Leading projects
    • Coordinating with cross-departmental teams
    • Conducting tests
    • Recommending improvements
    • Defining solutions

Now, keep in mind that this list is an overview and not comprehensive. Remember, every business analyst job is unique, so the duties and responsibilities can vary.

If you are meeting with a hiring manager and about to face business analyst interview questions, take time to review that position. That way, you know exactly what that role involves and the hiring manager’s priorities.

Common Business Analysts Skills

As you can see, business analysts have a lot on their plate. How do they make sure they come off as a skilled bull rider and not a rodeo clown when performing their duties? By having the right skills!

What skills do they need? Usually, a mix of technical capabilities and soft skills. Let’s start with the techy stuff.

    • Business intelligence tools
    • Relational databases
    • Analytic reporting
    • Documentation
    • SQL statements and queries
    • Data analysis
    • Data visualization

In some cases, prior experience with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies is helpful. Similarly, being familiar with other programming languages, such as Python, can set you apart from the crowd. However, these aren’t always necessities.

Alright, now you know what technical capabilities you have to bring to the table. That means it’s time for soft skills. Here’s a look at what you need there:

Other soft skills can also serve you well, but those above should be deemed essential.

Business Analyst Education, Training, Certification

As with most technical roles, you can’t just walk in off the street and snag a business analyst job. That would be like trying to hop on a bucking bronco without any practice; you’ll get bounced around, tossed to the ground, and stomped into the dirt in mere seconds.

If you want to be a business analyst, then your first step is to get the right education. Usually, this means earning a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in a field that relates to the role. For example, a business administration, accounting, finance, statistics, economics, or computer science degree could all serve as a suitable foundation.

However, making sure that your major and minor come together to reflect the two sides of the job might be the best approach. For example, a business administration major with a computer science minor could potentially cover the business and technical aspects of the role.

As for certifications, you don’t technically have to have any. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t help your career.

If you want to boost your credibility (and your earning potential), here are a few business analyst certifications worth considering.

There are others that can also be beneficial, but that should give you a solid idea of the kinds of certifications that can help you reach the next level.

What Are A Business Analyst’s Salary Expectations?

As with any job, there are a ton of factors involved in the compensation equation, including for business analysts. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get an idea of what to expect.

On average, business analysts make just over $75,000 a year. The typical salary range is about $67,500 to nearly $84,000.

Now, before you run off and put a down payment down on your dream home, pause for a moment. How much you earn is dramatically influenced by your education and experience level, as well as your skillset and any certification you might have. The size of the business and the company’s industry can also impact pay rates.

Being a business analyst for a Fortune 500 company in New York City is almost guaranteed to pay more than a mid-sized business in Oklahoma City. Take that salary information with a grain of salt and understand that, yes, you can earn that much (or even more), but it probably won’t happen right away.

Take a look at this helpful graph from our friends over at Zippia.com.

Zippia analyzed data and statistics on annual salaries for Business Analysts from the United States Department of Labor- Bureau of Labor Statistics, they compared Human Resource survey information from Payscale.com and Salary.com, and looked at Zippia’s own extensive job database.

What You Need to Know for Your Job Interview

Before you head into your interview, you need to make the most of the business analyst job description for that position. It’s a trough full of information, including details about exactly what the hiring manager wants to find.

Usually, there’s a list of skills, traits, and qualifications that the hiring manager or company finds important. It’s right there in black and white, and usually accented with bullet points. Don’t ignore it.

It’s your job to show that you’re the perfect candidate, so use the must-haves list as your guide. Work those details into your responses when you practice your business analyst interview questions and answers. Have examples (success stories) you can use to demonstrating your capabilities, especially when you are responding to behavioral interview questions.

JEFF'S TIP: Is the requirements list a little thin in the job description? Are you worried you won’t hit enough of the hiring manager’s priorities because the job ad isn’t giving you much of a clue? Don’t panic. Instead, look for words and phrases that are repeated in the job ad. If they said it more than once, it’s probably a priority. You can also review the company’s mission and values statements to find out more about what the organization considers critical, and work those points into your answers, too.

You can also spend time reviewing the top business analyst interview questions. This lets you see the questions you’ll probably face in advance, ensuring you won’t get caught by surprise.

Putting It All Together

As you can see, being a business analyst requires a unique combination of skills, bringing together business acumen and technical prowess. Usually, you’ll need a strong educational background and, if you want to increase your career potential, a certification or two doesn’t hurt.

Whether you are already working as a business analyst, or are working your way into the field, keep the core responsibilities in mind. That way, you can keep your priorities aligned with employer and hiring manager needs and expectations, increasing the odds that you’ll thrive.

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About The Author

Jeff Gillis

Co-founder and CTO of TheInterviewGuys.com. Jeff is a featured contributor delivering advice on job search, job interviews and career advancement, having published more than 50 pieces of unique content on the site, with his work being featured in top publications such as INC, ZDnet, MSN and more. Learn more about The Interview Guys on our About Us page.