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What Is A Business Intelligence Analyst And How Much Do They Make?

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A business intelligence analyst performs complex data analysis in order to identify certain trends and / or statistics.  They then apply various business models to these trends and statistics in order to predict future outcomes.  Although a business intelligence analyst spends a lot of time looking at and analyzing data, they need to have a human side too, with the ability to communicate efficiently with other members of their team, if they are working in a team, and to management-level employees when explain their results.  Their overall goal is to increase the profitability of a department, project, or the organization as a whole.  A business intelligence analyst will work either for a company / organization directly or for a consulting firm.

What Does A Business Intelligence Analyst Do?

Business-Intelligence-Analyst at work on drawing board

Most companies of any significant size possess a data warehouse.  This is a digital record of the company’s operations in every area e.g. marketing, sales, purchasing, accounts and so on; it is a vast amount of raw data that can be utilized to make the company more efficient if analyzed correctly.  Analyzing this date efficiently is a business intelligence analyst’s job.  They use a variety of different analytical software programs and tools, some of which they may well have written themselves, in order to mine this data, searching for important statistics and trends.  The business intelligence analyst can then analyze these statistics and trends, again using a variety of different analytical software programs and tools, in order to draw conclusions about the different potential outcomes that will result from a range of different business decisions.  Finally they present their findings to the project leader, department head or another management-level employee of the company.

What Kind Of Person Makes A Good Business Intelligence Analyst?

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Not everyone is suited to becoming a business intelligence analyst.  The kind of person who makes a good intelligence analyst must have a wide range of very different skills and be able to implement these skills effectively.

A good business intelligence analyst is someone who is very meticulous and analytical and who has an extremely good eye for detail.  They must be the kind of person who is comfortable working with raw data and converting it into useful material.  They must also be extremely computer literate with an excellent working knowledge of current data analysis software.  In addition, they need to have the ability to code in order to write their own programs when and if the need arises.

Moreover, as well as being proficient in the computer sciences, they must possess a strong business background and a sound knowledge of the industry in which the organization they are working for is placed.  For this reason business intelligence analyst’s often choose to focus on a particular industry such as, for example, healthcare or defense.

Good business intelligence analysts will also be very creative as they need to find solutions to many different problems and may well need to develop unique solutions to unique problems.

Finally, and this is an essential part of the job that is often overlooked, they should also have very good interpersonal skills.  This is vital as they must also be able to present their findings in a clear, concise and down-to-earth manner to those who might not be as data-savvy as themselves.

It bears repeating; not everyone has what it takes to become a business intelligence analyst.

What Academic Qualifications Should A Business Intelligence Analyst Possess?

Business-Intelligence with light bulb graphic

A good business intelligence analyst is proficient in both business and computing skills and they must hold, at the very least, a bachelors degree in one of these areas; so, a business degree of some kind, ideally business administration, or a computer science degree.  However, they must also have a very good knowledge of the subject they did not study.  Employers are generally looking for either: a four year business degree which has a strong focus on computing skills; or a computer science degree in addition to a very strong business knowledge.  Of course experience working in the areas of either computing or business is also very valuable for budding business intelligence analysts and will be looked on favorably by potential employees.

A master’s degree in a related field will also aid job prospects considerably.

Additional knowledge of, and certification in, different computer programs and / or language, is also an advantage, especially those programs that are used for statistical analysis.  Some of the software that business intelligence analysts may use include: Panarama NovaView; Microsoft SQL Server; IBM DB2; PowerPivot, Power View.  Knowledge of these programs is, of course, in addition to advanced proficiency in programs such as Excel and the like.

How Much Does A Business Intelligence Analyst Earn?

business intelligence analyst african american female

The average salary for a business intelligence officer is almost 85,000 dollars per year, making it reasonably attractive.  Salaries do vary from state to state though.  In New York, for example, the average salary is 100,000 dollars per year and in California it is 94,000 dollars per year.  By contrast, in South Dakota, it is just 67,000 dollars per year and in Hawaii only 61,000 dollars per year.

This wide disparity in average wages means that an aspiring business intelligence analyst may find it necessary to change location if they are to make the very best salary.

Who you work for will also determine your salary.  Generally speaking, the federal government pays the highest wages, closely followed by companies in the private sector.  The employer that pays the least is, generally speaking, the state government.

Future outlooks are good with the number of positions expected to increase by approximately 22 percent until 2020.  This optimistic outlook though, needs to be tempered just a little by the fact that there may well be an increased number of people looking for positions in this field in the coming years.

What Are The Downsides Of Being A Business Intelligence Analyst?

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Few business intelligence analysts work less than 40 hours per week, and many work considerably more hours, especially when deadlines are close.  Moreover, as mentioned previously, to find the very best positions, employees may need to move state to somewhere where business intelligence analysts are highly valued and remunerated accordingly.

It is also an extremely niche job that requires a very particular set of skills and a very particular personality.  Both the skills and personality traits required are outlined above.  If you do not possess these skills and personality traits you will likely find this job both overly demanding and somewhat tedious.  Even if you do seem to fit the bill, be aware that you will need to be constantly learning more to keep abreast of things, such is the speed at which technology and its software develops.

Overall, if you have the right kind of personality for this job, in addition to the necessary qualifications, becoming a business intelligence analyst can be a very rewarding and lucrative career choice.  Business Intelligence analysts can make concrete improvements to organizations and these tangible results can be very satisfying to observe.  In addition, this is a growing industry, meaning that many more jobs are being created for potential employees over the coming years.

The video below features Sonia Fournier and what she does during the day as a business intelligence analyst.

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