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Smart decisions are informed decisions. Weighing a job opportunity, selecting a new mattress, deciding on a dinner spot — these choices are easier to make and result in better outcomes when they’re backed by research and data (even if that research is simply, “What haven’t we eaten this week?”).

The same applies in the workplace. Successful companies know data can revolutionize how they target customers, refine their offerings, and shape their culture. For this reason, they place a high value on talent that understands how to gather and apply business data effectively.

If that sounds intriguing to you, you might enjoy becoming a business intelligence (BI) analyst. Here’s everything you need to know about this in-demand job.

What is a business intelligence analyst?

A BI analyst collects, processes, and yes, analyzes data a company receives or has access to — revenue, customer demographics, website clicks, to name a few examples. They’re responsible for creating and/or managing data warehouses, or systems specifically designed for individuals to store and perform queries (searches or requests for information) on all available data. With a firm grasp on data analysis and its applications, business intelligence analysts are able to inform decision making and drive efficiency and growth across an organization, from hiring to sales to marketing to business operations.

BI analysts typically sit under the business intelligence team within an organization, or serve as an offshoot of the engineering team — where a lot of data is housed and harnessed. They’re similar to, and sometimes compared to, data analysts, but the two might differ in the skills and software they use day to day.

What does a business intelligence analyst do?

Business intelligence analysts don’t work without assistance: They have a variety of BI tools at their disposal from major tech companies such as Google, Microsoft, or Amazon. These tools allow them to streamline data visualization and data collection so they’re not spending hours at a time pulling information or building graphs.

Beyond handling and maintaining data, BI analysts might also:

  • Weed out errors in data or enrich it with new information or filters
  • Build or edit data models
  • Translate data into charts, dashboards, or other helpful tools for others to use
  • Present market trends, predictions, or insights
  • Attend meetings or sprints for projects in which data may come into play
  • Manage or mentor more junior business analysts

How to become a business intelligence analyst: a step-by-step guide

To make your career journey simple, we’ve broken down the exact steps for how to become a business intelligence analyst if you’re starting from zero.

1. Weigh the pros and cons

Business intelligence isn’t for everyone. (If it was, companies would have a much easier time filling jobs!)

Before you do anything, you have to get confident as to whether going down this path, or switching careers to BI, is the right move for you.

Start with an old-fashioned pros and cons list tailored to your needs. BI analysts tend to work in fast-paced, self-motivated, high-pressure environments — that could be a pro or a con for you, depending on who you are and how you work.

In general, the pros of a BI analyst role are job security and high compensation (relative to other industries). Cons might be the barrier to entry and time commitment required to develop key skills.

2. Go to school (or take an online course, or sign up for a bootcamp)

Some people want to break into business intelligence from a related field, but even those who majored in math or statistics may need additional technical training to actually land a job.

Going back to school is an option, and a great one if you have the time, money, and drive to make the most of your experience. Having a reputable university on your resume can be a big job search boost, and many colleges offer robust career and job placement services for alumni.

Another route is a part-time or self-paced certification program. They can be completed online, in person, or in a hybrid environment, depending on your preference and schedule. Many people choose a bootcamp for the cost alone — unlike a full-time degree, which might cost somewhere in the high five or six figures, certifications cap out at around $20,000 on averageAre Data Science Bootcamps Worth It?. Plus, the flexible schedule allows professionals to keep their current jobs while learning, and caters nicely to parents, caregivers, and entrepreneurs with other responsibilities.

Bootcamps come with their own pros and cons, so do your research before signing up: Read reviewsReview Platforms And Rankings Worth Your Attention When Choosing a Bootcamp and testimonials, talk to current or former students, and ask questions of the lecturer or organization in charge.

3. Complete some practical training

You’ll want to put your skills to the test in a real-life setting to confirm you know what you’re doing and prove to employers you can apply your education to their needs.

If you attend graduate school or a bootcamp, you might already get exposed to this practical experience through externships or internships, or projects in partnership with tech companies. But if not, you could raise your hand for data-driven projects in your current job, or build your own data project based on a personal or professional problem you’ve encountered.

4. Develop your network

With connections in the world of business intelligence, you can bounce ideas off others, stay on top of industry trends, and, perhaps most importantly, get references for dream jobs.

Of course, meeting people in a new field is easier said than done. This is where a formal program can be most helpful — you’re taught how to network and then encouraged to collaborate with other aspiring BI analysts and regularly attend talks led by BI experts. Upon graduation, you often can also apply to join a pool of alumni who work for various companies.

But you can cultivate your network solo, too, by sending personalized messages to people you admire on LinkedIn or attending data-focused conferences and events.

5. Prepare your job search materials

The last step before you apply to jobs or ask your network for a referral is to build a well-crafted resumeHow to optimize your data science resume

If you’re making a career change, previous experience may be less relevant to BI analyst jobs than others. When in doubt about what to include, consider what the job description is asking for and whether your background, hard skills, or soft skills relate to it. Employers admire candidates who can tie a clear line between even the most irrelevant experience and the role’s responsibilities.

If you’re coming out of a bootcamp or degree program, be sure to highlight not just what the curriculum entailed but how your contributions made an impact on a theoretical or actual business.

What skills do you need to be a BI analyst?

BI analystsBusiness Intelligence Analytics Guide have a strong balance of hard skills and soft skills in their career toolboxes. 

Common hard skills include:

  • Data management using tools such as Google Sheets and Microsoft Excel
  • Database systems and programming languages such as SQL or R
  • Data visualization and analytics using tools such as Tableau, PowerBI, or Google Data Studio
  • Data warehousing solutions such as Amazon’s Redshift, Google’s BigQuery, or Microsoft Azure
  • ETL (extract, transform, and load) tools such as Informatica, Talend, and Microsoft’s SQL Server Integration Services
  • Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and/or natural language processing
  • Data governance and ethics

In terms of soft skillsThe Skills You Need to Work in Business Intelligence Analytics, business intelligence analysts are experts in and passionate about:

  • Presentation and storytelling
  • Problem solving and critical thinking
  • Business acumen
  • Communication
  • Time management
  • Attention to detail

Do you need a degree to become a business analyst?

You don’t necessarily need a degree to become a business intelligence analyst! But an expertise in data analysis is a must.

You can certainly develop these skills through an undergraduate or graduate program in computer science or data science — especially if you prefer that kind of learning environment. But plenty of online bootcamps and professional certificates provide the same training at a fraction of the cost and time.

Some employers will ask for at least a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field for entry level positions. It’s important to take a close look at a business intelligence analyst job description before applying to ensure you meet the requirements. When a degree is listed as preferred but not mandatory, emphasize your classroom and real-life experience to supplement your application.

What is a business intelligence analyst’s salary?

A business intelligence analyst’s salary will be highly dependent on the company and level of the applicant — not to mention, their negotiation skills. 

Location matters, too: An analyst in a major US city where cost of living is higher may earn more than the same employee in a small town. When conducting salary research for a business intelligenceUnraveling Business Intelligence: A Comprehensive Guide role and reading job descriptions, be sure to take these factors into consideration.

Online salary provider Payscale lists a BI analyst’s annual base income as somewhere between $55,000 and $102,000. Glassdoor puts the average salary of a BI analyst in the U.S. at $96,000 a year.

Become a BI analyst with TripleTen

In just four months, you can launch your business intelligence career with TripleTen. Our Business Intelligence Analytics bootcamp requires no previous STEM or IT experience. In addition to covering all the basics from top to bottom, you’ll have the opportunity to apply for a real-life project for a real-life company, and you’ll gain access to an abundance of job search resources and coaching.

Upon graduation, 87% of TripleTen students land a job — some going on to work for Tesla, Google, and Apple. If you’re not able to land a job within six months of completing our program, we’ll refund your tuition.

Is a bootcamp right for you?

Discover your ideal path to tech by taking our quiz.

Take the quiz

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