Business Analyst Certifications: Tips for Earning Your First Ones

With widespread fears of recession leading organizations to re-calculate their risk assessments, business analysts are more in demand than ever. These analysts must crunch datasets from across organizations to spot opportunities and threats before they emerge.

Business analysts also help companies enhance business value and find ways to lower costs. That requires a keen understanding of analytics techniques and business intelligence methodologies—and this is where business analyst certifications come into play.

Does business analysis have an official certification?

Business analysis includes diverse fields such as data analytics, product ownership, Agile, and cybersecurity. Accordingly, there are different certifications aimed at different elements of business analysis.

While some universities and learning platforms may offer certificate programs in business analysis, the most widely recognized and most highly valued business analysis certifications largely come from IIBA, the International Institute of Business Analysis, and PMI, the Project Management Institute.

IIBA offers three levels of business analysis certification, along with several options that showcase more specialized knowledge. Casey Ayers, a Pluralsight author focusing on business analysis, says the Entry Certificate in Business Analysis (ECBA), which covers foundational knowledge on how to approach business analysis, is a good start for someone new to the discipline.

Certification of Capability in Business Analysis (CCBA) is a good option for those with a few years of experience practicing business analysis, while Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP) is the “gold standard” in business analysis certification, recognizing your mastery of important concepts in the field.

PMI, best known for its PMP project management certification, also offers the PMI-PBA certification in project-related business analysis. “This certification may be earned independently of the PMP and can be a good option for those purely focused on helping project initiatives define their objectives,” Ayers says.

Are business analyst certifications in demand?

The short answer is “yes,” with some caveats. “As in other disciplines, business analysis certifications can help set you apart from other candidates for business analysis positions by showcasing your knowledge and—thanks to exam requirements—your experience in the field,” Ayers explains. “Importantly, earning certifications can also help communicate to others your dedication to business analysis as a vocation.”

Showing your dedication to helping organizations discover new sources of value and ways to achieve strategic goals can make you an ideal candidate in a growing area of focus. Certifications can demonstrate that dedication, allowing you to stand out in a crowded field of applicants.

Which business analyst certifications are in demand?

Ananya Pani, U.S. CEO of Adaptive, points out certification bodies seem to have geographic preferences, noting IIBA is widely popular in USA, Canada, Middle-East, India, and Australia. The IREB is popular in Mainland Europe, while BCS is popular in UK.

“Look at prevailing certifications popularity in the region where one lives,” she says. “If one is considering migrating to a new country, do look at the certifications popular in that country.”

Pani says certified BAs earn significantly more—a benefit she says is proven year after year by IIBA’s Annual BA salary Surveys. “A certified business analyst also has a broader perspective of the BA techniques and approaches and demonstrates better capabilities in principle and practice,” she adds. “It shows commitment to the profession.”

Certifications can also improve overall job performance, boosting confidence at work. And it’s great for personal branding when it comes time to apply for a new analyst job. “They also help business analysts stand out in the field and improves personal branding and widen market opportunities for business analysts to move to better opportunities,” Pani says.

From her perspective, CBAP continues to be the most aspired for certification for business analysts. “We expect CBAP to maintain the same coveted position in 2023,” Pani says. “However, we also expect CBDA to attract lot more market attention as data analytics is growing much faster than requirements analysis.”

Other certifications to consider:

Which business analyst certifications pay the most?  

Dice’s latest Tech Salary Report places the annual business analyst salary at $101,497—up four percent between 2020 and 2021. And according to Lightcast (formerly Emsi Burning Glass), which collects and analyzes millions of job postings from across the country, the median business analyst salary stands at $79,498 per year.

Earning certifications such as CBAP and PMP can boost this average salary by giving you leverage in compensation negotiations with a current or future employer. Because certifications show you possess certain in-demand skills, your value to a business is clear; managers may be willing to offer a premium in order to hire or retain you.

Lightcast states that employers have posted 318,672 open business analyst positions over the past 12 months, and the average time-to-fill has been 40 days. That’s a strong level of demand, but there are also a lot of business analysts out there competing for prime slots—possessing certifications could help you get past the initial resume and interview screenings, boosting your ultimate chances of landing the job.