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How to become a business analyst

At a glance

  • Business analysts use data to find ways to optimize business operations.
  • Aspiring business analysts can obtain a degree in business or economics and may consider pursuing a certificate in a related field as well.
  • Both technical and soft skills are needed to thrive in business analytics. Examples include knowledge of databases, familiarity with data analytics, and strong communication and problem-solving abilities.
  • If you’re looking to start a career in business or expand your existing knowledge and skill set, explore the online business degrees available at University of Phoenix!

Business analysts are an important part of today’s data-centric world. Professionals in this field focus on different aspects of business operations, from management to accounting to operations. Regardless of where their expertise lies, these professionals play a crucial role in the business world.

And that role is growing. The need for qualified operations research analysts is projected to increase by 23% between 2021 and 2031, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Meanwhile, jobs for management analysts are projected to grow 11% during that same period.

Companies rely on data to assess their processes and find areas for improvement. As a result, business analysts are not limited to technical industries. Business analysts work in various sectors, from manufacturing and retail to software development and insurance.

A wide range of specialties in the field also exists. Business intelligence analysts, management analysts and IT business analysts are just a few examples. These specialties require expertise in a specific area, but all analysts need the same analytical and technical skills and understanding of business principles regardless of their focus.


Business analysts are unique in that they are part data scientists and part business advisors. They need to know data analytics to glean applicable insights, and they also need to understand their industry and general economic and business principles. This ensures their business analysis ultimately improves operations and increases profits. 

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What is a business analyst?

Best degrees for business analysts

Business analysts can begin their career path in one of several ways. They can enroll in a bachelor’s degree in IT or data science. In addition to a degree program, students may be interested in completing additional professional development or boot camps in data analytics.

For example, a business student or a recent graduate might take a business analytics certificate course to hone their skills and distinguish themselves from other aspiring analysts. Or they can pursue a master’s in data science.

Here’s a look at the degrees that can prepare you for a career in business analytics.


As a business analyst, you need a deep understanding of business principles, so earning a business-related degree can be a helpful first step. It’s possible to learn the specialized skills for this job through elective classes or certification programs that teach computer-related aspects of the profession during intensive, hands-on sessions.

There are different degree options even within the business category, including a bachelor’s in management. Your choice may depend on whether you want to focus on management or operational analytics. Both degree options will give you a solid knowledge of business practices and principles.

Computer science

Technical skills are essential in most business analyst positions, so you could also benefit from a bachelor’s in computer science. You will learn programming skills to work with databases and analytics software during this program. Languages like R, SQL and Python are important for business analysts. A degree can also help you if you want to become an IT business analyst or an analyst for a tech or software company.

Please note that the Bachelor of Science in Computer Science degree program at University of Phoenix does not include business analyst as a job outcome.


Data and analytics increasingly influence marketing. Business analysts with a marketing degree can specialize in advertising, using their communication skills and knowledge to assess past campaigns, create forecasts for current plans, research markets and consumer trends, and perform research related to the pricing and product releases. Many marketing degree programs will offer courses that teach students how to use analytics software and tools and general communication skills.

Please note that the Bachelor of Science in Business with a Marketing Certificate degree program at University of Phoenix does not include business analyst as a job outcome.


An economics degree can serve you well in a business analyst career because it gives you an understanding of the forces that affect industries. Individuals with a degree in economics will understand factors that influence the pricing of products and services, how to perform industry and competitor research, and how to assess the effects of policies, regulations and taxes on business operations. 

Skills for business analysts

Technical skills required for business analytics include knowledge of databases, data analytics and relevant programming languages like R, Python and SQL, according to the International Institute of Business Analysis. Regardless of their employer’s industry, a business analyst also needs to know about data mining techniques, data analytics applications like R and SAS, and data visualization software.

A business analyst also needs to understand the technical requirements of their employer’s industry and their area of specialization. For example, a business analyst who focuses on IT processes will need to understand the nuances of networks, software, hardware, databases and cybersecurity.

Soft skills are also essential for business analysts. Business analysts need to be able to present their findings clearly and understandably, especially to a company’s decision-makers, administrators and executives.

Analytical and problem-solving skills are vital soft skills in this career. A business analyst also needs to be highly organized with regard to research projects and job responsibilities.

Job responsibilities for business analysts

Business analysts work in different industries and sectors, but they all have the same goal. They use data to help companies identify areas for improvement and make informed decisions about processes, policies and strategies.

Analysts communicate with business decision-makers to plan analysis projects. After they complete their business analysis, they need to organize and present their findings. They often need to visualize data and translate findings in a way that executives without the same technical expertise can understand.

Depending on the industry, business analyst responsibilities might include pricing, financial forecasts, budget modeling, marketing analysis and assessing the efficiency of business operations.

Salary for business analysts

The field of business analytics has a wide range of salaries. While BLS doesn’t have data specifically for business analysts, it does for related fields, including operations research analysts. The annual salary range for operations analysts in May 2021 was between $48,690 and $160,850, with pay depending on industry, location and company size, according to BLS.

The salary range for another related field, management analytics, was $50,190 to $163,760 in May 2021.

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.

Job outlook for business analysts

BLS projects 11% growth in jobs in management analytics and 23% growth in operations research analysis between 2021 and 2031.

These projections suggest there will likely be new job openings for graduates with a relevant bachelor's degree who have developed the diverse skills necessary to succeed in business analysis.

Earn a business degree from University of Phoenix

University of Phoenix offers several online business degrees that prepare students with skills necessary for a variety of career paths, whether you’re just getting started or looking to advance your skill set. These include:

Associate of Arts with a concentration in Business Fundamentals – From management to accounting, the skills learned in this program are essential for anyone looking to advance their business education. 

Bachelor of Science in Accounting Degree – Businesses around the world rely on skilled accountants, accounting managers and auditors to manage their finances and make profitable business decisions.

Bachelor of Science in Business  Knowledge of the ins and outs of running a business can spell the difference between success and failure in a competitive world.

Bachelor of Science in Data Science – Discover techniques to transform structured and unstructured data sets into meaningful information that can be used to identify data patterns and trends and drive strategic decision-making.

Master of Science in Data Science – Learn database design, data processing and warehousing, data queries and interpretation, business intelligence, and statistical methods and how to apply data science strategically to improve business decision-making.

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