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The path to a career in business intelligence

Man presents on a flat screen television to colleagues in a high-tech boardroom

By Cooper Nelson

At a glance

  • A degree in computer science, math, business, finance or economics is the minimum requirement for most business intelligence analyst roles.
  • Salary for business intelligence roles range from $48,690 to $163,760, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • Business intelligence analysts must have skills in programming and software, math and statistics, analytic processes, critical thinking, communication and time management.
  • Grow your business knowledge and skill set with an online business degree from University of Phoenix.

The path to a career in business intelligence

The sheer quantity of digital information available to businesses today has transformed the way companies operate. Businesses rely on data to assess performance and define areas to improve, and business intelligence analysts are the people who take that data and turn it into usable information for business strategy.

Business intelligence (BI) requires an analytical approach to give stakeholders insights to make strategic decisions. Given the value this field offers companies in every industry, it’s no surprise roles are proliferating. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects an 11% increase in demand for management analysts between 2021 and 2023, and a 23% jump in positions for operations research analysts.

Regardless of their industry or focus, most BI analysts have similar job duties. They work closely with company managers and decision-makers to plan analysis projects. Then, they help determine the study method and the type of data they are seeking.

Technical responsibilities can include sourcing and transforming the data to be a valuable basis for analysis. Analysts may use coding languages like Python, SQL and R, for example, or they may use software that finds and categorizes data automatically.

After performing an analysis, analysts form conclusions based on the findings.

The responsibilities don’t end there, though. Business intelligence aims to improve operations and strategies, so BI analysts need to present their findings to company decision-makers and managers, who use those insights to make operational or strategic decisions. This may involve creating presentations and visuals that explain and support the findings to people without the same level of technical knowledge. 

What skills are necessary for a business intelligence analyst?

Several skills are necessary to succeed as a business intelligence analyst:

  • Programming and software skills are required for every BI analyst specialty. Some positions require Python, C++ or Java skills, while data-centered languages like SQL and R are also important. Some companies rely on BI platforms like Tableau or Oracle BI.
  • Math and statistical skills are helpful for roles that handle forecasting and modeling.
  • Analytics ability is necessary for collecting data, transforming it and using it to answer specific questions.
  • Critical thinking is vital for planning projects and finding conclusions based on the data.
  • Excellent communication abilities are essential because BI analysts need to present data findings to company decision-makers.
  • Time management is another vital aspect of BI analyst jobs. Analysts often have to work under tight deadlines and sometimes even interpret data in real time.

Salary ranges for BI analysts

Salaries for BI jobs depend on several factors, from how much experience you have to your area of expertise. Here are some annual ranges for BI roles, all as of May 2021 and according to BLS:

Salary ranges are not specific to students or graduates of University of Phoenix. Actual outcomes vary based on multiple factors, including prior work experience, geographic location and other factors specific to the individual. University of Phoenix does not guarantee employment, salary level or career advancement. BLS data is geographically based. Information for a specific state/city can be researched on the BLS website.

Types of degrees for business intelligence roles

The BI career path almost always starts with a specialized computer science degree, and people converge on that path from a multitude of educational avenues. Your academic choices can affect how soon you start working, what your potential salary will be and which BI-related jobs you can apply for after graduation.

Here are the three main degree choices for starting a business intelligence career. 


Some colleges offer associate degrees in subjects such as business intelligence, business analytics or data analysis. These programs usually last two years with full-time study.

Associate degrees can help students focus on a single aspect of business intelligence. For example, an associate degree in business fundamentals can help more technically minded students grasp the business knowledge necessary for a BI career.

Associate degrees typically qualify individuals for entry-level positions. BLS puts the median salary for graduates of two-year programs in general at $963 per week, which is $50,076 per year.


A bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement for many business intelligence careers. You can start with a technical degree in computer science or math, or pursue a degree in business, finance or economics. Specialized data science and business intelligence or business analytics degrees are available from select universities.

Regardless of your academic choice, a bachelor’s degree program takes about four years to complete. 


A master’s degree requires a bachelor’s degree plus two more years of study. Programs like business analytics and data science offer specialized knowledge that can help BI analysts qualify for senior-level jobs or advance past entry-level positions at the start of their careers.

According to BLS, a master’s degree is the minimum requirement for some analyst positions. Having a master’s degree often means applicants have the technical and nontechnical skills necessary to perform the full range of business intelligence analyst duties. 

Resources for tuition, grants and scholarships

There are many resources for reducing the overall cost of college. You can start the process of paying for a business degree before you enroll in a program. The first step is to apply for federal financial aid. You can do this by filling out a FAFSA® form. This may also qualify you for loans or federal and state grants.

You can also find special programs, scholarships and internship opportunities for students interested in business intelligence. These are sometimes available through professional associations, including the American Statistical Association, the Data Analytics Association, INFORMS, the Association of Data Scientists and the International Institute of Business Analysis.

Earn a degree in business at University of Phoenix

If you’re eager to build your business knowledge and skill set, University of Phoenix offers a variety of business degree options. These are: 

Learn more about online business degrees and certificates at University of Phoenix!

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