To succeed, a business analyst needs to possess the following skills to greater or lesser degrees depending on the particular position:
It’s crucial for a business analyst to have a solid grasp of Excel for basic data analysis and Structured Query Language (SQL) for data manipulation and retrieval from databases. Additionally, a senior business analyst will often have skill in a statistics-specific programming language like R or a general-purpose programming language like Python, especially if they are working with machine learning.
Business analysts often must be able to utilize analysis techniques from all four common analytical domains: descriptive analytics, diagnostic analytics, predictive analytics, and prescriptive analytics. Especially important techniques include regression analysis, factor analysis, cohort analysis, cluster analysis, and time-series analysis. See our deep dive on business analytics for more.
Business analysts must be familiar with all common steps of the analytics process, including data collection, data cleaning, and data mining.
Being proficient at analysis is not enough: successful business analysts must also be able to create compelling data visualizations (including dashboards) to communicate insights to diverse stakeholders.
In addition to these technical skills, soft skills like communication skills, project management, teamwork, critical thinking, and leadership are critical for success.
Business and industry expertise
Business and industry expertise are also crucial for the successful business analyst. An analyst is generally expected to have a handle on business fundamentals in areas like marketing, operations, strategy, sales, human resources, and/or finance to be able to align their analysis with business goals and communicate effectively with multifunctional teams. For the same reason, many companies expect their business analysts to have a thorough understanding of their industry.
To develop these skills, many — but not all — business analysts follow a traditional educational path, first earning a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field like finance, business, statistics, or computer science, and perhaps then even pursuing a business analytics master’s degree, either online or in person. Increasingly, however, there are alternative options for those who wish to retain flexibility, haven’t followed a traditional educational path, or don’t have the time or money to pursue a traditional degree. These options include business analytics bootcamps, certificate programs, and other short courses. We’ll dive into these options at the end when we make suggestions for how you can get started on your business analytics career path.
In addition to educational qualifications, your typical hiring manager will have a requirement that business analytics job candidates have previous work experience, even if they’re applying to an entry-level job. Below are the desired qualifications for someone applying to the business analyst position at Aramark. As you can see, Aramark is looking for someone with existing experience in analytics and facility with many of the key software for business analysts: