What is a Business Intelligence Analyst?
Last Reviewed/Updated: October 17, 2019
Business intelligence analysts specialize in interpreting company performance and compares it to other related activity to analyze how well they are doing. A Bachelor's degree is a requirement for most job opportunities, and it is worthwhile to get advanced education for specialized areas in the industry or to move on to a senior position.
Business Intelligence Analysis Careers
As a subset of the business intelligence sector, the business intelligence analyst is a specialized position that focuses mostly on how the company or organization is performing financially. The intelligence portion is comparing the processes and end results to other companies in the same industry. In comparison, a traditional or general business analyst also examines data to improve the company, but it focuses mostly on its internal departments for efficiency and effectiveness.
Data science can be looked at as the evolution of business intelligence. Both categories involve gathering data and analyzing it, but the focus of BI is to look at past and present information to improve in the future and make better decisions. Jobs more geared toward data science have a focus toward the future, creating predictive models and experimenting with them.
Becoming a business intelligence analyst generally requires a Bachelor's degree, and it helps if it is geared toward finance, accounting, or economics. Coursework should certainly have a focus on core business education along with supply chain management, quantitative analysis, data-driven marketing, and programming. Communication, writing, and presentation skills are all extremely important in this position. The analyst must be able to present their findings in an easy to understand way for the IT department and shareholders. With financial data, analysts must possess good numeracy skills -- not so much in being a good mathematician, but being able to interpret them and have extremely high attention to detail.
Advanced courses and graduate degrees are helpful for those that want to specialize in certain job categories or obtain a senior position, with a Master of Business Administration being one of the most popular. Employment opportunities will generously improve as companies are eager to higher those that have higher skills in making correct financial decisions and are able to make the company obtain a competitive edge over others in the same industry and maintain financially viability.
Technical skills are important as potential candidates will gain a significant advantage with computer proficiency as they can use the tools to determine if their processes are meeting consumer standards and what tweaks need to be implemented. Examples of software knowledge include the ability to work with query software like SQL, and Tableau and Excel for statistical organization.
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- Observe and analyze various sources of data sets to determine issues or inefficient results.
- Create and maintain reports that detail effective ways to improve certain aspects of the company's operations.
- Research customer data to determine that the procedures and processes are working to the best of their ability and establish necessary changes.
- Adapt to constantly changing technology and finding opportunities to implement them in processes.
- Strong communication, writing, and presentation skills that clearly detail problems and solutions to other parts of the organization.
Degrees and Certifications
Bachelor of Computer Information Systems, St. Louis University
The School for Professional Studies offers an attractive path into business intelligence with this program, adding on a Data Analytics concentration that includes just two extra courses to go with the 120-credit degree: Survey of Machine Learning and Data Mining. Obtaining the degree can be accomplished completely online and the curriculum is spread out through four years. There are six 8-week terms throughout the calendar year, with students being able to take two courses per fall and spring term and one course in each summer term.
Students are able to begin the degree at the beginning of any term. Unique recommendations to get into the program are being at least 22 years of age, have three years of relevant work experience, high school diploma or GED score of over 2250, official transcripts, and complete an interview with an academic coach.
Master of Science in Business Analytics,
Accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, the fully online MS-BA program is very similar to the offering on campus, offering the same courses and professors. Each course is taken one at a time for five weeks, and the 33-hour curriculum can be completed in 16 months. Those looking to get into the program must have at least a Bachelor's and a 3.00 cumulative GPA within the final 60 credit hours, and they submit a few application forms with a fee, official transcripts, resume, GMAT/GRE test scores, and a letter of recommendation.
Master of Applied Business Analytics, Boston University
Boston University offers an on-campus or online Master's degree with a 10-course curriculum that can be completed between 18 to 24 months. Each course counts as four credits, and 16 of those credits can be waived for students that have already completed a graduate certificate in Applied Business Analytics. Along with those courses, the degree is also separated into four core courses and two of the following electives: Cybercrime, Terrorism, Agile Software Development, IT Security Policies and Procedures, and Web Analytics and Mining.
Business Analytics Graduation Certificate, Creighton University
A shorter-term plan to receive the skills necessary is completing the Business Analytics graduate certificate offered by the Hedier College of Business at Creighton University. There are three core courses to take -- Survey of Business Intelligence and Analytics, Data Visual Analysis, and Database Management Systems -- along with two elective courses to complete the 15-credit certification. A Bachelor's degree in any field fulfills the requirement assuming there is credit in computer programming and statistics. While the certification must be completed on-campus, credit can go to a Master's degree that is available online.
Certified Business Intelligence Professional (CBIP)
The Data Warehouse Institute offers a CBIP that demonstrates how knowledgeable a candidate is in business intelligence and data warehousing. Before taking certification exams, it is recommended to have at least two years of related experience (computer information systems, data modeling, systems analysis, etc.) and a Bachelor’s or Master’s in computer science, information systems, engineering, or statistics. Holding a certification gives better opportunity in advancement and can demonstrate specialized skills.
Three tests that are required to achieve the certification are Information Systems, Data Warehousing, and one of the following: Business Analytics, Data Integration, Leadership and Management, or Data Analysis and Design. It costs $350 to take each test with members having a $25 discount. While it only takes a score of 50 percent or higher to pass (and 70 percent or higher to achieve a higher grade certification), there are 110 total questions in a 90-minute test.
According to Payscale, the average national salary for a business intelligence analyst is $67,362. In addition, employees receive nearly $10,000 worth of annual bonuses and incentives, such as commission and profit sharing. When adding it all up, the low spectrum sees around a $50,000 salary while the higher end will just break the $100,000 mark. Work categories such as accounting, biotech and pharmaceuticals, consulting, and utilities can see a higher average of approximately $74,000.
Mid-career employees (between 5 to 9 years of experience) nearly see a $10,000 raise on average. San Francisco, California, sees the highest jump in salary by a whopping 27 percent above average, followed by Seattle, Washington, at 15 percent. Some organizations that offer the higher salaries include Infosys, McKinsey and Company, IBM, and Hewlett-Packard.
Health care will be a vital industry for business intelligence careers, and Principal is a Fortune 500 company with large amounts of IT and engineering opportunities available across their departments. A senior data analyst or business intelligence consultant in Des Moines, Iowa, partners with the Global Investors US Wealth Advisor Solutions team and findings from various sources of data are interpreted, organized, and presented to management and the sales and marketing teams. The senior position requires at least a Bachelor’s degree with over six years of related work experience.
One of the biggest tech companies in the world has grown at a rapid rate with their advancement in business intelligence. For example, a business analyst working in Selling Partner Support is responsible for improving the experience of selling on Amazon. The goal is to eliminate issues that sellers run into now and potentially down the road, and determining trends and communicating those to business leaders to gain an edge in competition. A Bachelor’s degree is required with experience in SQL and Excel, but there are preferences in more statistical software (such as R or SAS) and experience with predictive analysis, data mining, and survey research.
There will always be a need for companies to improve their processes and run efficiently. Organizations must stay ahead of the curve and control their costs, along with holding an advantage over the competition. Job seekers that have advanced education in business intelligence will be the best candidates to score a growing marketplace that becomes more data-driven. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be 9 percent growth for business operation specialists through 2026.
While similar to business analysts in trying to find solutions for the company, this role, also known as business consultants, gears toward general research and retrieving information. They typically work with various departments, identifies issues and problems, and they develop a plan with the information they get. The difference between this and an analyst is the latter hold developed skills to take action — consultants are responsible for setting things up. It is popular for workers in the field to hold a Master of Business Administration for higher employment.
Market Research Analyst
One of the more popular career paths involving business intelligence is market research. In this position, they aid businesses in marketing their products and services by observing consumer characteristics, trends, interests, and any other information they can obtain. This data is retrieved by interviewing customers and conducting surveys or focus groups. There is frequent collaboration with marketers and product management to determine successes and failures, forecasting expectations, and what can be improved on going forward.
A higher level of business intelligence involves engineers that design and develop software being used by the company. They collaborate with other programmers to create, manage, and improve upon applications that the organization uses. It is imperative to keep up to date on the latest technology to stay ahead of the competition. Frequently, engineers are specialized in specific areas of software development, be it networking, databases, operating systems, and more.