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How to Become a Business Intelligence Analyst

Candace general assembly

By Liz Eggleston
Last Updated February 12, 2021

What is business intelligence infographic

What is Business Intelligence? What’s the difference between Business Intelligence and Data Analytics? We’re diving into this lucrative career path with Candace Periera-Roberts, a General Assembly instructor with 20 years of experience in data. Learn about the BI Analyst career trajectory and average salaries, how to learn business intelligence (spoiler alert: you don’t need a data degree), and which personality traits make a great business intelligence analyst.

Meet The Expert: Candace Periera-Roberts

Tell us about your experience in data – what brought you to teach at General Assembly?

I have worked in data in some form for ~ 20 years including work as a business analyst, data warehouse developer/analyst, business intelligence analyst, data engineer, data analytics lead instructor, etc. 

I originally started with GA teaching SQL workshops at their Atlanta campus and it grew to other data related workshops/bootcamps and to be an instructor for Data Analytics Online and for Atlanta. When I was offered a role to teach courses in my field for GA I was excited to be able to share my knowledge with others who wanted to learn this industry. 

What is Business Intelligence?

What is business intelligence and why is it important to an organization?

Business intelligence (BI) combines strategies, procedures, and technology that is centered around data. BI includes common functions such as data mining, process analysis, data visualization and analytics, performance management, predictive/prescriptive analytics, reporting and dashboards. BI can have members such as visualization and data analysts, data engineers, business intelligence analysts, and data scientists. 

Could you give us an example of a problem/question that a BI Analyst may be asked to solve on the job?

A Business Intelligence Analyst’s work varies by company, but the top questions are usually around KPIs. How is the company performing? What are the sales markers? A BI Analyst would take a top-down approach to answering those questions. Let’s say my company’s sales have declined, for example. The BI Analyst would be tasked with finding out if that decline is coming from a specific region, a certain product/service, a specific sales rep, etc. 

Business Intelligence vs Data Analytics

What are the differences between business intelligence analysts and data analysts?

In general, BI Analysts work to make sure that the data is ready for use from the sources and works with other roles such as Database Administrators and Data Engineers. Data Analysts work more closely with customers (internal and external) to meet their data needs and they work with BI Analysts as well. Many times these roles are actually blended. Payscale.com offers a list of tasks per role. 

Business Intelligence (BI) Analyst Tasks: 

Median Salary: $69k

  • Provide application analysis and data modeling design to collect data for centralized data warehouses.
  • Extract data from databases and data warehouses for reporting and to facilitate sharing between multiple data systems.
  • Proficient in the use of query and reporting analysis tools.
  • Standardize data collection by developing methods for database design and validation reports.

Data Analyst Tasks:

Median Salary: $61k

  • Collect customer requirements, determine technical issues, and design reports to meet data analysis needs.
  • Identify new sources of data and methods to improve data collection, analysis, and reporting.
  • Collect, analyze, and report data to meet customer needs.

Most Popular BI Tools

Which tools, programming languages, and/or skills do BI analysts use?

Anyone looking to get into BI should have knowledge and skills that are both technical and non-technical. This list is not exhaustive, but highlights several that will serve an analyst well. 

  • Microsoft Office especially Excel, Word, and PowerPoint
  • ERPs such as Oracle and SAP
  • SQL and relational database knowledge
  • Data Visualization tool such as Tableau
  • Leadership, Communication, and presentation skills
  • Translation skills to communicate with both technical and non-technical 
  • Data Analysis and logical thinking skills.
  • Ability to solve problems and think outside of the box at times
  • Specific industry knowledge.
  • Forward thinking/visionary and attention to detail.
  • Business acumen
  • Python or R can be beneficial in more senior positions
  • Intro to Statistics

Which personality traits make a great BI analyst?

You do not have to come from a technical background, but be willing to learn the technical side of the job. Having a business background is actually helpful as it can assist in understanding the business problems, understand the business itself, and create insights for stakeholders. This helps to ask the right questions to understand the needs of the business. Technical knowledge is helpful in this field because you can lend insights to what can be delivered. As you dive deeper from a Data Analyst role to a BI Analyst role and the blending that happens between the two, additional technical skills will be needed such as SQL. I would recommend anyone in a data driven role to have a solid knowledge of Excel, SQL, and a visualization tool such as Tableau.

The Business Intelligence Career Trajectory

What is the typical career trajectory for BI analysts (from junior to senior roles)?

Glassdoor actually has a nice path that includes salaries and transition jobs. How to become a BI Analyst: Complete Career Path | Glassdoor. A typical career trajectory would be to start as a BI Analyst, then Senior BI Analyst, then Lead BI Analyst, then Director of Business Intelligence

The Data Analytics Bootcamp from General Assembly can be a jump start toward a career in this field. 

Before bootcamps, how did you typically become a BI analyst? Is Business Intelligence a skillset that can be learned at a bootcamp? Why?

I personally didn’t get a data degree, but rather learned on the job throughout my career and actually taught myself SQL. I eventually got my Masters in Computer Information Systems, but that’s not necessary for a career in business intelligence! In General Assembly’s Data Analytics Bootcamp, we’re not only teaching the tools, but also how to frame a hypothesis and work through an empirical process. Students build an Excel project, then a SQL project, and finally a Tableau project. 

You can learn different tools and techniques for Business Intelligence in different programs such as General Assembly or micro masters offered through a variety of colleges (these are longer in length). There are “boot camp programs” but it is usually more than a 1 day session. There are also full degree programs in data analytics. 

Depending on the level of interest, background, financial commitments, etc. a boot camp is the launching pad for a career in data/BI. This is a career path where we are always learning and acquiring new skills. 

Which types of companies (size/industry) hire business intelligence analysts?

BI Analysts could work in everything from a start up to a large corporation. Typically, you find Business Intelligence teams in mid to large sized companies. 

Which teams do BI analysts typically work with or support within an organization?

BI works across multiple areas of the business it just depends on the organization. BI in general is supposed to help deliver information to help the organization achieve its goals. To do this BI needs to work with both IT departments and the business departments. 

How to Learn BI Skills

Are there any certifications that BI analysts must have (Certified Business Intelligence Professional - CBIP)?

There are many additional certifications that can be acquired including Certified Business Intelligence Professional - CBIP. Here is a list of certifications from CIO.com that may be of interest. 

For anyone making a career change in business intelligence analysis, what resources do you recommend? 

I’d start with a program such as the General Assembly Data Analytics Course. This is a great kickoff for this sort of career path. There are additional places to learn about data analytics such as Data Camp, Coursera, Udemy, etc. Here is a list of additional programs:

What tips do you have for anyone on the hunt for a BI analyst job?

Networking sessions online and in person (if possible because of COVID), Meetup.com has groups in different cities for those interested in data. Research what analysts need as the market is always changing. Never stop learning! 

Find out more and read General Assembly reviews on Course Report. This article was produced by the Course Report team in partnership with General Assembly.

About The Author

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Liz is the cofounder of Course Report, the most complete resource for students researching coding bootcamps. Her research has been cited in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, TechCrunch, and more. She loves breakfast tacos and spending time getting to know bootcamp alumni and founders all over the world. Check out Liz & Course Report on Twitter, Quora, and YouTube!

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