How to Become a Business Analyst With No Experience | 6 Tip Guide
If you enjoy technology, problem-solving, data analysis and business, you may want to pursue a career as a business analyst. In this role you would be responsible for a range of activities that help companies gain an edge, enhance their performance and be more effective in the marketplace by using data to advise and improve on business processes. While everyone’s career path to become a business analyst is different, there are some things you’ll want to understand about the field, the responsibilities and different routes you can take to become one.
You may be able to become a business analyst with no experience, but you likely will also need to obtain the right skills to enter the field. Learn all about the industry and the opportunities it may offer, including how you can forge your own career in the world of business analysis.
Understand What a Business Analyst Does
Working as a business analyst includes a variety of responsibilities based on the needs of the organization for which you work. Typically, a business analyst works with a company to leverage data and technology to streamline processes, understand the needs of the market and become a more efficient and competitive organization. Business analyst job duties vary from organization to organization, but may include interpreting data, looking for ways to optimize processes and analyzing the market and competitors. Because they use concrete data to form conclusions, business analysts may be involved in the decision-making process.
This role is unique in that people can become business analysts from multiple paths, even with no direct business analyst job experience. So, if you come from a completely different background but have the correct skill set, you may be able to launch a new career as a business analyst. According to O*NET OnLine, a career information database run by the Department of Labor, skills for business intelligence analysts may include complex problem-solving and systems evaluation and analysis. O*NET suggests business analysts may need to know about computers, databases and management principles, none of which are limited to prior business analyst experience.
It is important to understand the role and responsibilities of a business analyst so you can leverage the experience you have to break into this field.
1. Consider Your Educational Background
Education is important if you want to become a business analyst. Unlike many fields, however, you may be able to find business analyst roles with a large range of degrees. For example, you might have a bachelor’s degree in a subject such as business administration, data analytics, computer science, finance, accounting or a technology-related field.
While every organization will have different requirements for business analyst roles, many focus on understanding the role of data in decision-making. The ability to leverage technological solutions to solve business problems and increase competition is also important. For this reason, degrees that focus on statistics, data analysis and technology may provide you with a solid start to a business analyst career. O*NET suggests most business analysts have bachelor’s degrees, but does not say they need to be industry-specific. Additionally, even if you do not have an educational background in math, finance or technology, you may be able to gain practical skills outside the classroom.
Those with a different background may gain useful skills for a business analyst role through such avenues as boot camps that focus on providing critical skills for aspiring business analysts. These boot camps teach students what they need to know in a range of areas like data science, technology and business intelligence, data management, data visualization and much more.
2. Consider Relevant Business Analyst Skills
As with any career, there are both hard and soft skills that may help you succeed as a business analyst. While the exact nature of your daily work may change based on the organization you work for, hard business analyst skills generally include the following:
- Statistics and data modeling, interpretation and data visualization.
- Database management skills.
- Some understanding of common programming languages, especially R and Structured Query Language (SQL).
- Project management skills, including development best practices.
- Strong analysis skills, including business metrics, market insights and competitive analysis.
Because business analysts may work with various departments and leadership to help inform decision-making, there are some key soft skills that may be helpful in the role as well. These include but are not limited to:
- Strong communication skills, including verbal and written.
- The ability to create and deliver presentations, often distilling highly technical or data-heavy information into understandable language.
- Problem-solving skills, including the ability to identify and solve business challenges with technology and new processes.
- Organization and the ability to juggle multiple complicated tasks at the same time.
- Leadership and decision-making skills that include the ability to work with executives and leaders within an organization.
Many working professionals in all fields use these soft skills in their jobs. This means you may be able to boost your presence as a potential candidate for a business analyst role by emphasizing these skills on your resume. For example, you may have a head start if you create presentations, talk with executives, manage projects or have to solve problems in your current position.
3. Become Familiar With Different Business Analysts’ Roles
Business analysts’ roles are not all the same. In fact, a large part of the daily responsibilities a business analyst may depend on the type of organization for which they work. For example, a business analyst working for a large, traditional company may interpret data and look for ways to improve processes and be more competitive. Someone working in a similar role in a technology-driven company may be directly tied to the development of new products, software and technology.
For this reason, it may be helpful to understand the types of roles you could pursue as a business analyst. Here are a few potential roles:
- General business analysts may work in a corporation to help understand and improve basic business functions. This might include analyzing the market, researching competition and examining the role of various departments in the organization’s success.
- IT business analysts may work to solve a company’s growth and competitive problems by leveraging technological solutions. This could include applying automation to be more efficient, playing a role in developing new technology or implementing technology to solve business problems.
- Business intelligence analysts may be more deeply involved in data management and interpretation. This may include developing ways to gather and interpret company data and market information.
Other careers may relate to some or all of these roles. For instance, a finance professional may gather data and use that to help leaders make important decisions regarding new products and lines of business. You may be able to use the relevant work you already perform to improve your resume as you work on creating a new career as a business analyst.
4. Add Business Analyst Courses to Your Portfolio
If you’re curious about how to become a business analyst with no experience, it may start with using your everyday work to set yourself apart in the market. This may include leveraging your use of metrics or your ability to interpret data to make decisions in the workplace or solve problems. These skills may be fostered in a variety of roles from marketing and finance to IT and human resources. It also includes highlighting the many soft skills you may use daily, such as communication, leadership, team-building and problem-solving.
Becoming a business analyst without a degree may also be possible using this method, and by taking courses to improve your skill set. From boot camps to business analytics courses, you may be able to use education to fill in any gaps in both hard and soft skills.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Sloan School of Management
MIT Sloan Digital Business Strategy: Harnessing Our Digital Future
MIT’s six-week course involves three key relationships: human minds and machines; physical products and digital platforms; and the core (centralized knowledge) and the crowd (decentralized knowledge). With these lenses, you’ll learn the potential of disruptive technology for business, guiding you to drive digital transformation within an organization.
Enrollment Type: Self-paced
Length of Program: 6 weeks
5. Get Involved in Projects
One of the strategies to become a business analyst with no experience and without a degree is to gain experience in your free time. You may take projects to illustrate your ability to identify problems, create solutions and understand the implications of change. Here are some examples of projects you could complete to showcase your skills:
- Look for opportunities in your current role to interpret data and create strategies. Note that it is important you do not use or reveal proprietary information in the process.
- Examine a common business process and apply your knowledge to create multiple solutions. Try to include solutions that use technology, such as automation.
- Look at ways a software program can solve a business problem and build a case for implementing it into current business practices.
- Write a case study detailing a market or business problem, and strategies a business can use to solve it or leverage it for business growth.
- Volunteer with a nonprofit to take on any related business analyst role and tasks. Remember to document your work and progress.
Staying connected to professionals in your field may play a role in your overall success. This may be true in your current role, but it can also make a difference in your ability to start a career as a business analyst. One way you can do this is to talk to current business analysts to learn about the day-to-day realities of the work. This may help you understand more about the career and provide insight into what types of skills may help you succeed.
Some examples of what to ask when speaking to a business analyst at a networking event may include:
- How did they get their current role? For example, did they apply as an analyst or did they migrate to it from a different role?
- Their degree and educational background.
- If they are members of any professional associations.
- What advice do they have for someone just starting out in the field.
Attending networking events or even finding them can be challenging. Here are a few ways you can get to meet the right people:
- Join a professional association whose members include people who work in business analysis and peripheral careers such as finance, accounting, IT, data sciences, development, project management and similar roles.
- Ask any coworker in your organization who works in an analysis role if you can talk with them about your career development.
- Take a business analysis course and talk with fellow classmates to find out who has experience and knowledge that can help you grow.
Last updated September 2021
This page includes information from O*NET OnLine by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration (USDOL/ETA). Used under the CC BY 4.0 license. O*NET® is a trademark of USDOL/ETA.