BY Sydney LakeJanuary 20, 2022, 2:03 PM
Newly renovated entrance and escalators to Penn Station, as seen in September 2021. (Photo by: Lindsey Nicholson—UCG/Universal Images Group/Getty Images)
During the past several years, the demand for business analysts has grown—and there’s seemingly no end in sight. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that during the next decade, the number of business analyst jobs will grow about 14%, almost twice as fast as the average for all roles.
With such high demand and job growth comes high starting salaries. Business analysts with just a bachelor’s degree earn about $70,000 as a base salary, on average, according to data from Indeed.
Professionals with a master’s degree have a much higher earning potential. In fact, business analysts in North America who have a master’s or doctorate degree earn 17% more than those people in the same roles who hold undergraduate degrees, according to a report that education technology company Skillsoft released in November 2021.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Sloan) has one of the most competitive master’s of business analytics programs in the U.S. Students leave the program to earn an average base salary of $114,000 and 100% of them graduate with full-time job offers.
“I’m a big believer in education,” Guy Gomis, a senior vice president, partner, and data and analytics practice leader for recruiting firm Brainworks, tells Fortune. “I can see where the demand is going globally, and just in the U.S. market, and I can see just how incredible the demand is for people that are data and analytics focused.”
Why demand for business analytics is so high
The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the push for many companies to become digital- or tech-first as businesses were forced to work and thrive in a dispersed and remote setting.
“Today, virtually every business is a technology business, and what drives growth in technology-enabled businesses is understanding patterns in the oceans of data produced by these businesses,” Michael Yoo, Skillsoft’s general manager of technology and developer portfolio, tells Fortune. “Companies are looking for patterns in how customers behave, how their sales channels sell, how their products and services are used, and how they perform versus their competitors.”
Demand for business analytics jobs are on the rise now that companies of all sectors—not just those dubbed specifically as tech companies—are in need of data-savvy employees. What can be challenging for both candidates and companies is that business analysts don’t have a consistent job description since their roles span all industries, Gomis explains.
“When you call someone a data analyst or data scientist it means a hundred different things to different companies, which is frustrating for candidates—but also for the employers because when they’re looking for a data analyst, they expect everyone to do the same thing as what they call a ‘data analyst,’ but it’s different,” he says.
To combat any confusion and high-turnover rates—which Gomis explains are common to the industry—he recommends that companies build what he calls a hybrid data team, which includes a pipeline of interns, people with a couple years of experience, and then more senior analysts.
How to be a successful business analyst
Gomis says that having an internship in the field before applying for a full-time job is critical—whether post-bachelor’s or post-master’s degree.
“The programs that are setting up their students to have an internship stand out because one, the student has experience with a company and they know they want to do this, this is a field that they’re passionate about, they want to get into it,” he says. “Most of them will get hired before even their senior year, frankly.”
Beyond technical skills, business analyst recruiters agree that it takes more to be successful in the field. That includes strong communication skills, according to Harnham, a company that specializes in data and analytics recruitment.
“Strong communication skills are a must. Companies are looking for hybrid candidates that can do it all,” a Harnham spokesperson said in a statement. “They want a person who is able to understand the technical side of the job, such as the coding languages, but they also want someone who isn’t nervous about speaking openly with stakeholders in a way that is digestible.”
Skillsoft’s Yoo says that the most promising candidates and employees combine their technical and analytical skills with good business judgment.
“It doesn’t matter how mathematically beautiful your analysis is if it doesn’t give you actionable insights that make sense in the real world,” he says.
See how the schools you’re considering landed in Fortune’s rankings of the best business analytics programs, data science programs, and part-time, executive, full-time, and online MBA programs.