If you enjoy evaluating and analysing data, creating solutions, working with a variety of people and have a good grasp of information technology, a career as a business analyst could be for you
As a business analyst you'll work within an organisation, helping to manage, change and plan for the future in line with their goals. This could be for one specific project, or as a permanent feature of the organisation. You'll need to understand the current organisational situation, identify future needs and create solutions to help meet those needs, usually (but not always) in relation to information and software systems.
You'll need to demonstrate excellent understanding of the way the organisation works and the sector it operates in, as you'll be helping the organisation to develop its functions, services and products to meet goals with internal and external stakeholders.
You'll also play a key role in communicating between internal departments and external parties, acting as a 'translator' where necessary to convey how information technology can support the organisation's needs.
A business analyst may also be known as:
- business architect
- business systems analyst
- enterprise analyst
- management consultant
- process analyst
- product manager
- product owner
- requirements engineer
- systems analyst.
As a business analyst, you'll need to:
- communicate with internal colleagues to understand the needs of departments and the organisation as a whole
- work with external stakeholders to understand and investigate feedback into the service, function or product provided
- use data modelling practices to analyse your findings and create suggestions for strategic and operational improvements and changes
- consider opportunities and potential risks attached to suggestions you make
- identify the processes and information technology required to introduce your recommendations
- gain agreement, usually from senior management, of the best method of introducing your recommendations to the business
- communicate the benefits of your recommendations across departments and help to address any uncertainty and concern
- produce written documentation to support your work, report on your findings and to present to stakeholders when necessary
- support staff and teams in making your recommended changes, including helping to resolve any issues
- ensure plans are made and processes are created to evaluate the impact of the changes made, including taking responsibility for overseeing and reporting on this evaluation.
- Starting salaries for business analysts are between £21,000 and £31,000.
- The average salary of a business analyst, with approximately five years' experience, ranges between £32,000 and £38,000.
- Experienced business analysts can earn from £39,000 to in excess of £50,000.
Business analyst roles exist on a permanent basis in organisations, but you could also work on a freelance or contract basis once you've gained some relevant experience. As an experienced business analyst, you can expect to charge around £350 per day.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
Your working hours may vary, depending on whether you're a permanent employee (in which case you could expect to work full time, usually Monday to Fridays with some weekend work), or a contractor (where you may work longer hours during the week and sometimes weekends in order to complete project-based work within a specific timeframe).
You'll need a flexible approach to working extra hours when the need arises.
What to expect
- You could make significant change and impact within your role, making a substantial difference to the success of a company and the satisfaction of its employees, both of which can be very rewarding.
- You'll work to deadlines and juggle multiple projects, which gives lots of variety but can be stressful.
- The role is largely office-based but will require travel to meet different internal and external stakeholders.
- A high level of professionalism is required and formal dress is the norm.
Competition for business analyst positions is high, so having a degree is a distinct advantage. This could be in a relevant subject such as business information systems or business computing systems, but could also be from other disciplines, such as history, so long as you can demonstrate excellent analytical skills.
Relevant experience of managing projects can provide a pathway into working as a business analyst, although this is more likely for someone with a few years' industry experience, rather than someone looking to begin their career in this field.
As well as your degree, employers value experience and transferable skills, such as the ability to work in groups, analyse data, use technology and manage projects, which could be related to your studies or extra-curricular activities.
If you're a graduate from a non IT-related subject, you could take a relevant postgraduate qualification.
- excellent communication skills, with the ability to talk and present to a range of audiences, sometimes acting as a translator between parties
- the ability to motivate others and lead change
- the ability to work under pressure on multiple projects within your project timeframes
- a passion for creating solutions with a positive attitude to change
- excellent analytical skills and an informed, evidence-based approach
- a strong interest in business and business development
- a good understanding of information technology.
Business analysis exists in almost every sector, from not-for-profit organisations through to retail and the financial services. It's a fast-paced and competitive industry, so gaining work experience is essential.
You could apply for voluntary work with small enterprises to help improve a particular function of their organisation. This route might have a charitable focus.
Take advantage of any summer internship and placement opportunities provided on your course, they provide an excellent chance to gain first-hand, practical experience and skills.
You can also contact organisations directly to enquire about work shadowing, showing an enthusiasm for this area of work and for their business sector.
Business analysts are needed in the public and private sector, large multi-national companies and smaller independent enterprises. There is scope to work in this field whatever your sector interest may be. Employers may offer permanent employment, or fixed-term contracts to work on a specific project.
Many business analysts with industry experience work on a self-employed or consultancy basis.
Individual companies advertise their own business analyst positions, so search the websites of any organisations that appeal to you. You could make a speculative approach or use existing networks, such as those run by professional bodies and societies.
Look for job vacancies at:
- Inside Careers: Information Technology
- IT Jobs Watch
- Women in Technology
In any role, it's important to keep developing your skills and knowledge in line with your own interests and changes in your sector. Many organisations offer professional development through in-house training and on-the-job courses, but it's your responsibility to find your own opportunities to progress.
As a business analyst, you'll find it useful to participate in training linked to:
- change management
- data analytics
- improved communication
- information systems
- project management.
You could also consider joining professional bodies, such as the:
- BCS (The Chartered Institute for IT)
- Institution of Analysts and Programmers (IAP)
- International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA)
These organisations offer their members specific professional development courses and qualifications.
As an entry-level business analyst, gaining experience across multiple projects would be helpful for your career development. As your career progresses, you may choose to remain as a general business analyst or specialise in a particular area such as data analytics.
Career advancement opportunities might include progression to senior level business analyst. Successful business analysts with considerable experience and a proven track record can progress to working at director and executive level.