In simplest terms, a business analyst (sometimes abbreviated as BA) is someone who analyzes a process or organization. They assist in strategic planning, and often figure out the most optimal workflows and market approaches. That makes them valuable players for organizations of pretty much any size, from startups (which might employ one or two) to huge enterprises (which may leverage dozens or hundreds).
In exchange for helping organizations through their conundrums, business analysts can expect to earn a hefty salary. According to Dice’s Salary Calculator, a business analyst in the Bay Area with five years’ experience can make between $72,418 and $94,143 per year. Even in areas not swamped by excessive demand, such as the Midwest, analysts with the same background and skills can earn up to $84,000—and that’s before you factor in specialized abilities.
(A note on the Salary Calculator: some companies, of course, pay far more for talent. The salary range is more of a market estimate than an absolute judge of the minimum and maximum salary for a given profession.)
Business analysts must often act as a conduit of sorts between management and tech staff. Negotiating with those two parties to figure out what’s technically feasible is a feat that requires exemplary communications skills. A business analyst must have a firm grasp of an organization’s methodologies, standards, tools, and techniques; they also need to monitor various teams’ progress toward their goals. (A full breakdown of business analysts’ typical scope of work is available on Dice.)
Business analysts who spend a sufficient length of time in the industry learn the value of planning, which allows them to come up with plans that effectively balance time, cost, and quality. It’s also important that analysts learn the technologies under discussion—if they don’t, the technical side of an analysis will become that much harder (if not outright impossible). Good analysts also consider the requirements “food chain.”
Given the complexity of the job, it’s unsurprising that its practitioners can pull down healthy salaries. Check out the Salary Calculator if you want a more granular look into the pay and potential career path for business analysts.