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Business analysts work across departments to identify problems and provide solutions that help the organization achieve its goals. Though the specifics of each job vary based on current needs, business analysts generally collaborate with others to produce financial reports as well as with IT teams to develop new initiatives.
Business analysts are valued for their ability to:
- Identify problems and opportunities
- Forecast budgetary needs
- Generate reports
- Define pricing strategies
- Develop and monitor strategic plans
An Online Master of Business Administration can enable talented professionals to take their skills to the next level and become more valuable to their employers. The time and flexibility advantages of an online program are uniquely suited to busy executives.
Experience is the best teacher, which is why the online MBA program from the D’Amore-McKim School of Business at Northeastern University is designed to connect academic theory to real-world practice. The insights and knowledge gained in the program enables professionals to make progress toward their career goals.
What do business analysts do?
Business analyst roles can be difficult to define because they represent an intersection between business and information technology.
Over the course of a career, business analysts may move between distinct roles, at times focusing more on project management and others concentrating on innovation. Some professionals may be drawn to management positions on the IT side of the business.
A responsive role
Unlike some positions with clear daily responsibilities, business analysts often find themselves in positions where they must define their objectives before moving forward with a project. The authority to make decisions and follow through on objectives is what draws analytical thinkers to the role.
Companies may hire business analysts in-house, while other professionals work for larger consulting firms. In addition, skilled analysts may also offer their services on a freelance basis.
Essentially, business analysts wear many hats―but there are many functions that are consistent across industries. Key aspects of a modern analyst role include:
- Strategic planning: The analyst works with senior leadership to identify opportunities to improve the business’s operations.
- System design: Working with IT teams, the analyst will explore possible solutions, analyze needs, and develop sustainable processes.
- Research: Analysts may consult with subject matter experts, internal stakeholders, and other resources to better understand business requirements.
- Development: Experienced analysts work closely with teams to ensure their solutions are actionable and effective. Depending on their background, they may assist in the technical implementation of IT solutions.
- Reporting: Analysts generate financial reports to help senior leaders understand the impact of new solutions.
Effective business analysts are highly adaptable. The beginning of a new project may be filled with uncertainty. As analysts collaborate with other stakeholders, they will likely uncover technical issues and operational problems requiring creative solutions.
Developing solutions to unique problems is one of the skills for which analysts are valued. Organizations that need to increase their visibility into complex business challenges rely on analysts to not only solve problems, but also ensure that their solutions are carried through to fruition. For that reason, analysts will often work with teams to document their solutions and evaluate them for further improvement opportunities over time.
Business analyst vs. financial analyst vs. management analyst
The role of a business analyst often involves responsibilities that overlap with various business departments. Working outside traditional silos, analysts come in contact with teams responsible for disparate functions, from IT infrastructure to financial reporting.
So how does this role differ from similar positions?
- Business analyst vs. financial analyst: Though both roles require an understanding of business finance, business analysts are typically more concerned with IT systems. The two roles may work collaboratively when assessing the potential outcomes of a new project or visualizing the results of a completed endeavor.
- Business analyst vs. management analyst: Consultants who focus on management analysis tend to work with high-level issues related to strategy, organizational structure, and leadership.
Though some aspects of the role overlap with other analyst positions, business analysts tend to have more freedom of movement within an organization. They often move fluidly from high- to low-level processes depending on where their expertise and skills are needed most.
Essential traits of successful business analysts
The role of business analyst comes with many responsibilities which can change at a moment’s notice. Job demands and responsibilities shift frequently, requiring analysts to be prepared for anything that might come to their attention.
Effective analysts are able to thrive in conditions where ambiguity prevails. Often, business leaders turn to business analysts when they’re not sure of their next move. The analyst needs to be able to assess the situation, design a path forward, and be prepared to make changes when necessary.
Keeping these ideas in mind, the following traits can help professionals succeed in this role:
- Excellent communication skills: Business analysts typically work with stakeholders from various departments. To effectively convey their ideas, analysts need to be able to engage leadership as well as people working in IT roles.
- A flexible attitude: The nature of the role means that every project is likely to have unexpected issues. Analysts must be flexible and resilient in the face of opposition.
- Multidisciplinary technical skills: Modern business analysts need a robust understanding of IT. They also need to understand the financial context of the organization’s IT structures so they can make useful decisions.
- Creative problem solving: Business analysts should be curious. They need to explore problems from every angle so they can determine the best possible solution.
- Attention to detail: As business analysts move between high- and low-level strategies, they must ensure their message can scale accordingly. They should be able to understand the impact their decisions will have on every part of the business.
- Strategic thinking: By melding deep knowledge of technology with business strategy, analysts can create new value for organizations. This means they need to be able to analyze and understand how their projects relate to the company’s wider goals.
Whether working in an internal capacity or serving as an outside consultant, these skills will help professionals command a higher salary.
What is the average salary of a business analyst?
Salaries for business analysts vary depending on the individual’s experience and knowledge levels, as well as the location of the position. Executives who hold an MBA degree can leverage their years of experience to increase their pay rates.
Nationally, senior-level business analysts earn between $62,000 and $114,000, with the median salary being $84,000, according to PayScale.
Total pay is often composed of a base salary and cash bonuses. Many organizations also offer profit sharing and commission based on specific roles and responsibilities.
In addition, freelance analysts typically charge hourly rates between $40 and $50. However, experienced analysts with proven track records of generating value for businesses can earn more. According to ZipRecruiter, the average freelance analyst earns $81,000 annually, while experienced analysts earn over $105,000.
Professionals currently working in an analyst position can increase their earning power by developing specialized skills and knowledge in an MBA program. On average, analysts who earn a master’s degree earn $20,000 or more than professionals with a bachelor’s degree.
Finding work as a business analyst
While there’s no universal path to becoming a business analyst, many professionals advance along a similar trajectory:
- Undergraduate degree: Many business analysts begin their career by obtaining a bachelor’s degree in business administration or a related field like finance or accounting. Depending on their interests, they may also pursue knowledge of more technical subjects, like data analytics.
- Work experience: Entry-level positions give professionals time to develop their skills in a real-world environment. They not only hone their strategic and technical skills, but also develop communications prowess to help them advance their ideas. In addition, they might gain experience in customer service, business operations, and project management.
- Master’s degree: After obtaining several years of professional experience, those who want to make a larger impact at work go on to obtain a master’s degree. An MBA, for example, helps professionals to drill down into specific specializations that can benefit their career trajectory. Motivated learners often decide to major in two subjects, one focused on the business side of their role as well as a technical degree. In recent years, many analysts have become interested in data science, for example.
Assessing job opportunities
Every business analyst job is unique, so an important first step when looking for jobs is to determine what types of roles fit your unique skill set. From there, you can identify companies advertising for those roles.
As with any position, your ability to network will have a direct impact on the number and quality of opportunities available to you. Building relationships throughout your academic career can help you find more jobs after graduation.
When you find business analyst jobs that closely match your skill set, you’ll need to prepare for interviews. While junior business analysts often report to a project manager, senior analysts have more autonomy. When interviewing for these roles, you’ll often speak with product owners, department heads, or members of the C-suite.
To determine if you’re a good fit for a specific role, you’ll want to ask yourself a few questions:
- Do my skills and experience match the needs of this role?
- Will I be happy working in this environment?
- Does this role offer the level of flexibility and autonomy I’m looking for?
- Is this a step forward in my career?
- Will the work be intellectually stimulating and challenging?
Answering these questions before you accept a job offer will ensure the position is a good fit for you.
How an Online MBA prepares you to become a successful business analyst
As business analysts progress through their career, they are responsible for more decisions that impact corporate strategy. An MBA degree helps professionals to gain important business experience that can benefit them as they work with key company stakeholders.
In addition to the benefits gained through an MBA program, courses delivered online can provide you with additional advantages, such as:
- Accessibility: You can access your online program from anywhere with an internet connection. You can forget about commuting between home, work, and school, and use the time you save to focus on your studies. Plus, you still have access to great professional networking opportunities.
- Flexibility: Busy professionals can view lectures and study on their own schedules. This gives you the freedom to set your own pace and focus on what matters to you most.
- Options: Online students have the freedom to choose the best schools in the nation, not only institutions near their home.
The online MBA program from the D’Amore-McKim School of Business at Northeastern University gives you the opportunity to tailor your learning path with eight in-demand concentrations. The program’s focus on professional experience helps you to implement in the real world what you’ve learned in the classroom.
Check out the full curriculum to learn more about how to reach the next stage of your career.