Business Analyst Skills: Which are Most Important?

Business analysts have the complicated job of using tools, finely honed analytics skills, and educated guesswork to delve insights from massive dataset. It’s a vital job for many organizations, as effective business analytics can determine which projects to focus on, what teams deserve resources, and long term plans. But which business analyst skills translate most directly into success?

We conducted our own analysis to answer that question, focusing on job-posting and certification data for business analysts.

Which business analyst skills are important?

According to Lightcast (formerly Emsi Burning Glass), which collects and analyzes millions of job postings from across the country, the following skills popped up most frequently in business analyst job postings over the past 12 months:

Of course, “business analysis” is a broad category that contains many sub-disciplines to master, including a number of technical and “soft” skills. Even at a relatively early point in their career, business analysts will be expected to master:

  • Requirements analysis (what does the business need to do?)
  • Critical thinking and analysis (what’s the plan?)
  • Cost-benefit analysis (how much will this project cost us?)
  • Communication skills
  • Decision skills (is this the best possible solution?)
  • Using tools such as Power BI and Tableau to create dashboards and reports
  • Database management
  • Presenting

During the job interview process, hiring managers and recruiters will ask you questions about your past projects that are designed to reveal how you’ve utilized your business analyst skills to accomplish your previous employers’ goals. When answering these questions, make sure to emphasize how you had a positive impact on the business—for example, your analysis allowed a company to save lots of money or discover a whole new line of business.

Job interviews will also try to ascertain your cultural fit, and it’s important during those questions to show how you utilize your soft skills. For instance, you might want to describe a time you used communication and empathy to help a team through a difficult challenge. If you’re asked about your weaknesses, describe how you’re trying to improve them through hard work and self-awareness. You want to give the interviewer a sense that you’re always trying to improve your skills, whether technical or “soft.”

Are certifications important for business analysts?

Many organizations want their business analysts to have certifications, and their job postings will often list various certifications as a requirement. That being said, the current pressure to hire business analysts (along with all kinds of other specialists) means that many organizations are willing to overlook a lack of certifications if you have the right skills, experience, and a track record of success.

Here are some of the key business analyst certifications that pop up again and again within the business analyst ecosystem:

There are others, of course, but having these certifications can potentially unlock doors at companies that require them. Certifications or not, it’s always important to keep your business analyst skills up-to-date.

How much do business analyst skills pay?

Dice’s latest Tech Salary Report places the annual business analyst salary at $101,497—up four percent between 2020 and 2021. That’s slightly beneath the Tech Salary Report’s average technologist salary of $104,566, but mastery of business analyst skills—combined with experience—can boost that salary still higher.

According to Lightcast, employers have posted 318,672 open business analyst positions over the past 12 months, and the average time-to-fill has been 40 days—indicating a strong level of demand for these professionals.

What business analyst skills should I list on a resume?

Before writing your business analyst resume, re-read the job posting you’re applying for. Since it’s imperative to customize your resume to a specific job, note all of the business analyst skills mentioned in the posting. How many of them do you know? Itemize those on the resume (and only list the ones you know; remember, the interview process involves technical questions designed to reveal your knowledge).

Listing the posting’s skills on your resume is also important because many organizations employ software that scans applicants’ resumes for certain terms. Listing skills gives you a great chance of getting past that initial screening process—but make sure you’re not overstuffing your keywords.