Demand for business analysts is surging, as big data expands and new technologies continue to emerge. Some experts estimate that in Australia, this role will grow at the impressive rate of 20.2% in the next five years.
If you develop your skills as business analyst now, I have no doubt your expertise will be in high demand in just a few years.
Being new to the game may be less of an obstacle than you expect. 64% of business analysts typically have less than 10 years of experience.
This reflects the relative youthfulness of the field, as companies scramble to hire new data professionals and fill their digital skills gaps with fresh talent.
So, where do you begin?
There are many different ways to start a Business Analyst career, depending on your professional and educational background.
In this article, I’m going to explain a few of the different pathways you can take, go over the essential ‘must haves’ for your career as a business analyst - in terms of core skills, education and certifications. I will also take a look at job prospects and skilled migration pathways specific to Australia.
Many of my students at Torrens University Australia (TUA) come from all over the world to obtain a cutting-edge education and build their career in an emerging field in Australia. If they can do it, you can too.
What does a Business Analyst do?
Let's take a brief look so you can be sure it’s the right career for you.
A data management consultant for Wells Fargo, writes that a business analyst is “much like a neuron, processing and transmitting information throughout the nervous system.
Business analysts are essential to the interpretation and use of data within a company. They help to identify problems and guide departments in developing solutions. They act as liaisons between internal departments by collecting, distributing and managing company data.
Put simply: they are digital-to-human translators who put data into context and help transform it into applied solutions.
Here are some of the tasks that Business Analysts have to complete on any given day depending on the project:
- Analyse business needs
- Define a business case
- Elicit information from stakeholders
- Model requirements
- Validate solutions
- Project management
- Project development
- Quality testing
As you can see, it is an incredibly flexible role that blends hard skills in data and tech with soft skills such as problem-solving and communication.
Depending on where your passions and talents lie, a business analyst career can also become a pathway to another unique specialisation.
If you begin a career under the broad umbrella that is the business analyst role, you can then choose to take it down one (or several) different directions later in your professional life such as business strategy, systems analysis, product management, data science, IT, artificial intelligence and program management, to name just a few examples.
Core skills and transferrable skills
The first two questions anyone who wishes to become a business analyst (or any other new profession, for that matter) must ask are: what are the core skills I need and what transferrable skills do I already have?
Here is a brief summary of the core skills every business analyst needs:
- Technical skills in ICT, modelling and data analysis programs (such as SQL Server, Microsoft Visio, Data Warehouse, Business Process Modelling and ETL tools)
- Data review and statistical analysis
- Financial planning and strategy
- Organisation, planning and documentation
- Decision making
- Project management
Now, you can take a look at this list, do some further research and identify which of these skills you’ve perhaps already had the opportunity to learn and practise. These are the transferrable skills you can bring over from your existing career.
If you were to write your Business Analyst resume today, what experience, roles and selling points would you already be able to put on it? On the other hand, what is missing and how much education or training do you need to fill these gaps?
Education and upskilling
Virtually all Business Analysts have an undergraduate degree and many go on to complete postgraduate study. Having at least one bachelor’s is essential, except in very rare cases.
For a business analyst, having a technical educational background, such as an undergraduate degree in IT, Software Development or Programming will be a huge help in your career.
However, you can migrate smoothly into business analysis from an educational background in finance, Project Management, Accounting, or Business - provided you learn all the relevant programs and technical skills.
If you already have a relevant degree or work experience in a similar field, there are several different ways you can fill essential gaps.
What kind of learning you require – whether you need to study a degree, self-teach, enrol in a short course or even just learn on the job - will depend on your existing knowledge and education.
1. Talk to your boss
Perhaps you come from an IT background and you’re already competent across all the right technical skills, but you need to practise skills, such as communication, strategy and research. In this case, you may be able to request a project or role within your company that will give you the opportunity you need to develop.
It’s always a good idea to share your desire for professional development with your employer. If you’re lucky, your company may even pay for you to go back to study or complete some training while working.
2. Short courses from reputable institutions
If you’ve already got a degree in a relevant field and you just need to learn some specific data management programs or analysis techniques from experts, you might want to pick some specific short courses to complete in your spare time. Torrens University offers a range of short courses online for you to study.
3. Study the BABOK guide
The Business Analysis Body of Knowledge BABOK reference book is a key resource I strongly recommend you read to help you understand all the tasks and techniques of a business analyst. This text contains the most widely agreed upon and collated knowledge of the business analysis community worldwide.
4. Go back to school
If you looked at the list of core skills and realised you can only tick off two or three boxes then you should consider enrolling in an undergraduate or postgraduate degree.
Desirable qualifications for a business analyst include:
Undergraduate degree in subjects such as computer science, business information systems, computing and systems development, business management, accounting, finance, financial planning and ICT.
Postgraduate qualifications such as artificial intelligence, ICT, data analytics, systems management, programming, business administration and business information systems.
Torrens University Australia offers an undergraduate course, the Bachelor of Business Information Systems which was introduced to develop graduates with technical competence and a strong ability to interpret information to solve workplace problems.
If you already have an appropriate undergraduate degree, the right master’s program could be the ideal option for you to retrain as a business analyst. Not only will it allow you to gain a thorough, supplementary education in just two years or less, but you’ll also have access to the industry networks and internship opportunities that your institution offers.
At Torrens University, the Master of Business Information Systems was designed just for this purpose: to train professionals from a broad range of backgrounds in the technical and management skills they need to become a senior business analyst.
Depending on your country of residence, employers may also look for recognised certification of your skills from a professional body.
Certifications are not a legal requirement for a business analyst career in Australia – but they will add to your credibility and help you stand out from the pack.
In Australia, there are three main professional associations offering official business analyst certifications:
- International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA®)
- British Computer Society (BCS)
- Project Management Institute (PMI)
IIBA is the most popular of these, with over 4,000 local members. The PMI offers business analytics certification specifically for project managers who need to upskill. The Master of Business Analytics and Master of Business Analytics (Advanced) degrees at Torrens University are endorsed and supported by IIBA.
Getting experience and finding work
When you’ve got all the right qualifications and experience, you should have no issues finding an employer. When you do, you can expect a high salary averaging $110,000.
The best stepping-stone from study to work is an internship. Make sure before you enrol that you select a university with a fantastic internship program. Torrens University has an internship program with strong industry partners and connections. If you’ve already graduated, you can also organise an internship for yourself.
For current students, internships are a fantastic opportunity for you to get experience in the workplace whilst completing your degree and are a great addition to your resume for prospective employers.