Business Intelligence Analyst

Behind every business decision is a savvy business intelligence (BI) analyst. Accurate data is a valuable commodity that drives business solutions, which is why BI analysts are in such high demand. These data-driven professionals deliver actionable insights about company and industry trends to improve operational efficiency and financial performance. Ranked by Forbes as one of the top-paying jobs in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), well-qualified BI analysts can expect to enter lucrative industries such as healthcare, banking and finance, e-commerce, software and technology, insurance, and manufacturing.

What Does a BI Analyst Do?

BI analysts use technical expertise and business acumen to paint the “big picture”, leveraging data to improve a company’s bottom line. Because they model and interpret large amounts of information, the average BI analyst may need programming skills (e.g., proficiency in SQL, Cognos, or other BI-specific software), a talent for data mining and visualization, as well as knowledge in statistical and quantitative methodologies. Every piece of data needs a voice, which is why communications skills are a must. On any given day, a BI analyst might be writing reports for company principals, meeting with developers to improve data storage structures, or giving a presentation on performance metrics to reduce costs.

Common Responsibilities
Collect data about an identified problem and recommend innovative solutions that improve efficiency and overall financial performance. Meet with management to recommend solutions that enhance systems, procedures, and other organizational processes.
Mine and analyze financial and related data, including employment reports, revenue, and expenditure. Give presentations and write reports that effectively communicate data to diverse audiences, including functional leadership and other stakeholders.
Perform cost-benefit analyses on strategic projects intended to optimize company performance. Conduct interviews with employees and observe performance to determine necessary resources, operations, personnel, facilities, and equipment.

Business intelligence analysts can occupy a variety of positions from junior staff to senior management. While every business analyst can expect to work up the chain of command, roles may vary depending on whether someone is working primarily with data systems (such as BI developers and architects) or interpreting this data to inform business strategy (such as BI managers and directors).

Average Salary by Job Title
Job Title Description Average Salary
Business Intelligence Manager Business intelligence managers typically lead a team of BI analysts, driving data extraction, quality control, risk analysis, and other assessments to increase profitability. Because they design and maintain ongoing reports and metrics that influence optimization strategies, BI managers are able to translate raw data into workable insights for company decision makers. $100,956
Business Intelligence Director Business intelligence directors are responsible for the business intelligence and analytics process at a given company, leading teams of analysts, architects, developers, and managers in order to advocate for data-driven solutions at the top levels of company leadership. BI directors mentor junior staff, interface with executives and external clients, and design delivery systems to meet project requirements. $127,360
Business Intelligence Architect Business intelligence architects are gatekeepers of complex, multidimensional data warehouses. They usually manage a team of developers to determine how a given platform functions and how it can be improved to streamline the gathering of business intelligence. BI architects also input and build enterprise information and oversee the customization of particular applications. $105,402
Business Intelligence Consultant Business intelligence consultants are typically hired from consulting firms or are independent contractors who provide services for short- or long-term assignments. Performing similar functions to other business intelligence roles, consultants typically evaluate the efficiency of existing systems and educate staff about best practices to minimize operating costs and increase profits. $84,407

Types of Business Analysts

While a good catch-all term, “business intelligence analyst” doesn’t capture the wide range of positions that fall into the category of business intelligence and analytics. Some positions are more technical, requiring fluency in quantitative methods or software proficiency, whereas others require traditional business know-how. Responsibilities may vary depending on the industry, business domain, technology used, and project requirements.

Management Analyst

Distinct from positions that evaluate market trends and strategies, management analysts tackle internal processes involving human resources, budgets, procedures, equipment, and facilities. Management analysts plan and coordinate projects to streamline diverse administrative and management operations. They may also conduct analytical studies and prepare reports, surveys, and manuals to ensure compliance with best practices. A typical business management analyst evaluates staff to ensure that the work performed matches the company’s internal logic and product delivery standards.

Healthcare Analyst

Healthcare business analysts are some of the most in-demand professionals in the business intelligence sphere, accounting for around 18% of job listings. They are typically well-educated in healthcare administration and are fluent in healthcare management systems. By compiling and analyzing data, healthcare analysts improve how health services are rendered at hospitals and other healthcare agencies. They may also monitor and analyze current trends in the healthcare industry to ensure the services provided are in-step with best practices.

Technical Analyst

Technical analysts are number crunchers and need to possess a solid understanding of finance as well as statistical and quantitative methods. Because of the expertise required, some states require certification to work as a qualified technical analyst. The typical BI analyst in this role engages in financial forecasting by analyzing fluctuations in the stock market. Technical analysts use information like interest rates, stock prices, and trading volume to determine when to sell stocks, and to assess and predict favorable market conditions for employers.

Functional Analyst

Functional analysts are subject matter experts, which commonly entails technical specialization in areas such as information technology or computer science (including software fluency), or specialization in particular industries. While the job requirements of functional analysts will vary, many analysts evaluate current technologies and research emerging technologies; design, maintain, and upgrade existing computer systems; and oversee product development to ensure it meets organizational requirements.

Agile Analyst

Being an agile business analyst means using business analysis in an agile environment, which usually refers to agile software environments where a project depends on collaborative decision making. Agile environments operate with values essential for cross-functional teams: innovation, leadership, empathy, business orientation, and anticipation. A company will typically seek agile business analysts when the project requirements evolve over time — requiring flexibility — and where interaction with end users influences how a product is designed.

Potential Industries for Business Intelligence Analysts

BI analysts can hone their skills in any industry that deals with large amounts of data, which includes both nonprofit and public sector organizations. But if profit is the primary motive, both small-scale and large, Fortune 500 companies require the unique blend of business acumen and technical skill deployed by BI analysts.

Healthcare

Healthcare business analysts compile and analyze medical data that helps healthcare managers make informed decisions about patient welfare, while also ensuring that health services are rendered in a cost-effective manner.

Government Agencies

BI analysts in the public sector have the opportunity to manage enterprise information pertaining to large populations, and may work on projects that affect how public services are rendered at the local, state, and federal levels.

E-Commerce

BI analysts in e-commerce operate in high-tech settings at some of the world’s most highly valued companies, routinely collaborating with managers, developers, and end users to ensure that existing systems are optimized for profitability and product delivery.

Financial Markets

BI analysts who work in finance are both quantitative and technical specialists capable of analyzing stock market trends while also being familiar with front-end development and finance-specific technical architecture.

Because of the diverse industries that require detailed data analysis, BI analysts can rely on healthy career prospects and salary potential. Whether they are earning stripes in entry-level positions, or managing a team of analysts as BI directors or managers, the opportunities for vertical growth in business intelligence are plentiful.

Average Salary for BI Analysts by Experience Level
Experience Salary
Entry Level (0-5 Years) $63,000
Mid-Career (5-10 Years) $78,000
Experienced (10-20 Years) $86,000
Late Career (20+ Years) $89,000

Pay Difference by City for Business Analysts

BI analysts are in-demand wherever modern, data-driven industry is booming. Because of factors unique to each geographic location, however, the range of salaries and types of analyst jobs available will vary. Whereas high-tech, high-salary jobs might predominate in San Francisco, jobs may pay less in areas such as Atlanta due to factors like supply and demand, industry sector, and/or cost of living. The following cities have the highest median salaries for BI analysts:

Median Salary for BI Analysts by Location
Location Median Salary for BI Analyst
San Francisco $84,815
Houston $73,709
Seattle $72,750
Atlanta $67,338
Los Angeles $66,975

Edward J. Grebeck CEO at Tempus Advisors

Edward Grebeck is a global debt market strategist who uses business analytics to make financial and economic predictions. Most notably, Grebeck warned of mispricing and conflicts associated with the 2008 credit crunch. He is also an adjunct professor at NYU, teaching courses on finance and economics.

While there are many different pathways to becoming a BI analyst, the responsibilities entailed therein can be quite rigorous in terms of the knowledge and skills required, particularly if the position is more technically oriented. Many employers will require an accredited degree program that equips students with a business mindset and prepares them for building and analyzing large volumes of information. Having a degree is therefore the best option for becoming a licensed, experienced BI analyst.

What Degree is Needed to Become a BI Analyst?

Generally speaking, employers expect incoming BI analysts to possess at least a bachelor’s degree in business intelligence, computer science, or business administration with a focus on data science and computer information technology. Higher-level positions may call for graduate degrees such as a Master of Business Administration or a Master of Science degree in specialized fields like finance or computer science. This is because degree programs related to business intelligence and analytics are known to equip students with programming skills for building and maintaining databases, statistical skills for analyzing trends, and communications skills for presenting complex information to diverse stakeholders.

It should be noted that, particularly for later-stage career development, a degree without specific technology- or industry-specific skills and certifications may not be enough to satisfy all job requirements. To become a healthcare analyst, for example, several years of experience in healthcare administration may be necessary. Similarly, job advertisements for financial or technical analysts may require certification or a strong familiarity with finance-specific software applications, and agile business analysts may be expected to have stronger programming skills since they work routinely with teams of software developers and managers.

Internships for Business Analysts

Internships are fixed-period assignments, either paid or unpaid, that are intended to train students and recent graduates in the same skills they would otherwise use as full-time employees. Interns usually work for three to six months at a company to gain valuable exposure to the responsibilities and expectations common to their industry of choice, and may or may not gain full-time employment at the conclusion of their internship.

In the case of prospective business intelligence analysts, internships are a valuable tool not only for gaining potential college credit, but for the hands-on experience not attainable from a traditional degree program. Business intelligence interns can expect to work at multiple levels, including research and analysis, collecting and interpreting data, and learning the ropes of basic business management. Common duties might include helping to draft reports, analyzing business requirements, preparing research presentations, and assisting with miscellaneous administrative tasks.

BUSINESS INTELLIGENCE CERTIFICATIONS

The Certified Management Consultant™ (CMC®)

The CMC requires a bachelor’s degree and ensures those who earn certification are well-trained in standards for ethics and technical proficiency, project management, consulting, and related professional behavior. Through multiple requirements such as references and written examination, the certification requires applicants to be well-qualified and up-to-date in multiple dimensions of management competency.

Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP®)

Applicants for full CBAP certification must have at least five years or 7,500 hours of business analysis experience. Through a series of scenario-based and case-study questions, applicants apply their professional experience to imagined situations and demonstrate their ability to synthesize knowledge and information.

PMI Professional in Business Analysis (PBA)

The PBA exam consists of 200 multiple-choice questions on subjects including: needs assessment, planning, analysis, traceability and monitoring, and evaluation. The PMI is intended for those who work with teams and manage the product development process, including project requirements. In essence, the certification is for project and program managers whose core function is business analysis.
  • Transforming Data With Intelligence (TDWI) TDWI provides membership opportunities for students, which include a portfolio of technical and business education. TDWI members can benefit from events and conferences, online learning, onsite education, certification, and resources for research. Courses TDWI offers cover areas such as must-have skills for modern data modeling, essential skills for BI and analytics professionals, and advanced skills for communicating with data. TDWI offers membership discounts on training and certification, members-only events, as well as a professional network of industry experts and analysts.
  • Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals (SCIP) Founded in 1986, SCIP is an international membership organization for business experts from multiple industries, including government and academia, whose intent is to research decision-support tools and share strategic intelligence. SCIP is a valuable resource for networking opportunities and has student chapters across the United States. The typical backgrounds of its members include economics, science and technology, marketing, strategic analysis, data science, and market research.
  • Big Data, Analytics, Business Intelligence and Visualization Experts (LinkedIn Group) Consisting of over 200,000 business intelligence professionals, this LinkedIn group offers an easy way for students to connect to peers, mentors, and potential employers. The community exists to bring together stakeholders across multiple industries and sectors and solicits input from experts on a variety of topics, including big data analytics, data warehousing, digital marketing, and data visualization. This group is an ideal platform for students to network without the hassle of membership fees and other requirements.