How To Be A Business Intelligence Analyst in 2024?

The role of a business intelligence analyst (or developer) is crucial in business analytics, where raw data is transformed into actionable insights.

It’s not just about charts or numbers on a spreadsheet; rather, it involves identifying trends, predicting outcomes, and facilitating data-driven decision-making.

If you’ve ever thought about becoming a business intelligence analyst, this article is a great starting point. It will guide you through the process of becoming a BI analyst in 2024. We will discuss the role, skills, and experience required.

Additionally, we’ll explore how you can navigate the job market successfully – from gaining practical experience and building a professional portfolio to preparing for interviews and evaluating job offers.

If you’re eager to start learning right away, our Data Analyst in Power BI skill track will provide you with many of the skills you need to kick-start your career.

So, who is a business intelligence analyst?

A business intelligence (BI) analyst is someone who specializes in finding insights from large amounts of data. They use their skills to help companies make better decisions and find new opportunities.

Also, BI analysts are skilled in using tools like SQL for working with data and platforms like Tableau or Power BI for visualizing data.

But it’s not just about the technical skills. BI analysts also need to be great communicators and storytellers. They must be able to explain their findings to others in a way that’s easy to understand, especially for executives and decision-makers. 

Moreover, this combination of technical and communication skills is what makes BI analysts so valuable to organizations.

What does a business analyst do?

A business intelligence (BI) analyst is like a data detective, uncovering valuable insights from piles of information to help companies make smart decisions. Here’s a simpler breakdown of what they do:

  • Analyzing Data: BI analysts dig into big sets of data to find trends and patterns. They then explain these findings in a way that helps others understand what’s going on.
  • Creating Reports and Dashboards: They make reports and dashboards that show data in easy-to-understand ways. This helps everyone, from bosses to workers, see what’s important at a glance.
  • Working with Others: BI analysts talk with different people in the company to understand what they need from the data. They then find ways to give them the right information.
  • Checking and Improving: They keep an eye on how well their data systems are working and find ways to make them better over time.
  • Keeping Data Safe: They make sure that data is kept safe and follows all the rules. This is really important, especially with all the concerns about data privacy these days.

How to Become a Business Intelligence Analyst: 5 Steps for Success

Now that we’re familiar with what BI analysts do, let’s turn our attention to how you can start your career as one. 

We’ve outlined five steps you need to take in order to become a business intelligence analyst.

1. Develop key skills and competencies

BI analysts must have solid technical and analytical skills. However, as we have already touched on, specific soft skills like communication, collaboration, and overall business knowledge are also fundamental to succeed as a BI analyst.

Let’s go over a few of these skills in more detail, as well as some resources for how you can start your journey to becoming a business intelligence analyst:

Technical skills

These can be broken down into three main areas:

  • SQL: the ability to efficiently query databases and manipulate data using various SQL platforms is essential to master. DataCamp has a skill track specifically designed to learn SQL in business analytics.
  • Data visualization: proficiency in tools like Power BI or Tableau is equally crucial in the role. BI analysts must be able to transform the data they extract from databases into compelling narratives for a diverse audience (technical and non-technical alike).
  • Programming: while not mandatory, knowledge of programming languages like Python or R can be valuable for advanced data analysis. We have a separate post on whether BI analysts should learn to code–check it out to find out why learning to code is a good investment in your career as a BI analyst.

Analytical skills

As mentioned above, the BI analyst should be able to quickly analyze data and extract meaningful insights and trends, which depends heavily on their technical skills.

However, beyond just technical skills, the BI analyst must be able to think critically about a problem to find an optimal solution.

Some of the key analytical skills for BI analysts include:

  • Statistical analysis: Proficiency in applying statistical methods to analyze data sets, including understanding distributions, statistical testing, and regression analysis. This skill is essential for making informed inferences from data.
  • Data extraction and exploration: The ability to sift through large datasets to identify patterns, trends, and relationships. This includes using techniques like clustering, classification, and association rule mining.
  • Data cleaning and preprocessing: Skills in cleaning and preparing data for analysis, which involves handling missing values, outliers, and data normalization. This step is crucial for ensuring the quality and reliability of the analysis.
  • Predictive analytics: The ability to use historical data to make predictions about future trends or behaviors. This often involves machine learning techniques and model building.

Soft skills

Effective communication and collaboration are two skills that are not taught or spoken about as much as they should be, but they are the stand-out skills of successful BI analysts.

Here are some of the key soft skills you’ll need to develop to become a BI analyst:

  • Communication: You’ll need to be able to communicate data insights to a range of audiences, and you’ll work with a range of stakeholders from across the business you work for.
  • Problem-solving: The ability to think critically and creatively to solve complex business problems using data-driven approaches.
  • Attention to detail: A keen eye for detail is essential for ensuring the accuracy and reliability of data analysis and for identifying subtle yet important trends or patterns in data.
  • Teamwork and collaboration: Frequently, BI analysts work as part of a team. Collaboration with other team members, including data scientists, IT professionals, and business stakeholders, is crucial.

2. Get qualified and progress your skills

Once you’ve developed your essential skills, you’ll need to continue building towards starting your career as a BI analyst. You can get qualified or certified, which can certainly help, although, as we’ll see, practical experience is also essential.

Educational qualifications

A bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as computer science, information technology, statistics, or a similar discipline, is often a prerequisite in most job postings for BI analysts. 

Additionally, while not mandatory, specialized degrees in business intelligence, data science, or analytics are becoming more prevalent and can provide a focused education directly applicable to the role.

In addition to traditional college degrees, obtaining one or more certifications is advantageous to prove you have mastered the technical skills required for the job. 

There are various other business analyst certifications, as we’ve explored in a separate post. Here are a few examples:

Developing analytical and soft skills

We have mentioned the technical, analytical, and soft skills required as a BI analyst. At this point, you might wonder how you will develop these skills, especially if you don’t have a formal degree.

Online data science bootcamps and self-study through online courses are viable options for developing and mastering technical skills.

While bootcamps can get incredibly pricey, the self-study route is both cost-effective and can provide an extensive learning curriculum targeted at the skills and tools that are most relevant to the role.

However, the biggest challenge in self-study is putting together the right curriculum where you’re learning concepts and tools plus applying and practicing your skills.

Instead of spending weeks figuring out a roadmap for becoming a BI analyst, atomcamp provides individual online courses and career tracks that lay out your entire path to learning the right skills. Not only that, but you’re also able to apply your skills through guided projects and real-world datasets.

3. Gain Practical Experience

  • Internships and Entry-Level Positions: Starting with internships or entry-level roles provides hands-on experience, exposure to real projects, and the chance to work with industry professionals. Look for roles that involve working closely with data, even if they require minimal prior experience.
  • Projects and Case Studies: Work on projects that apply your skills in real-world scenarios. Start with general projects and then tailor them to specific industries of interest. Focus on data manipulation, exploration, analysis, visualization, and dashboard creation. Document your process and results to showcase in a portfolio.
  • Competitions: Participate in data science competitions to enhance problem-solving skills and engage with others in the field. Competing allows you to share insights, learn from others, and develop practical knowledge.
  • Networking and Mentorship: Join BI forums and communities, attend industry events, and engage in webinars and conferences to build your network. Networking can lead to mentorship opportunities with experienced BI analysts who can provide guidance and support as you develop your skills.
  • Online Communities: Connect with data professionals on social media and through online communities. Building relationships in these communities can lead to job opportunities and provide help and support as you grow in your career.

4. Build a professional portfolio

Building a stand-out professional portfolio is a crucial step when looking for a job in most technical positions. The portfolio should catch the attention of potential employers and demonstrate that you have the skills needed to get the job done.

We will go over how to document and present your work in a portfolio effectively and how to augment that portfolio with a solid online presence that gets you noticed.

However, there are two things to keep in mind as you go through this process:

  1. Be consistent: Ensure there are no grammatical errors or typos, and maintain consistent branding across your online presence, resume, LinkedIn, and portfolio.
  1. Tailor to the job you want: Tailor your portfolio to align with the specific skills and requirements mentioned in the job descriptions. Make it easy for employers to see your fit. If you’re interested in a particular industry, ensure your projects reflect relevance to that industry’s challenges and needs.

Record Your Work

In your portfolio, showcase one or two pillar projects—these are in-depth, focused projects that immediately demonstrate your key skills as a BI analyst.

Additionally, include several supporting projects that highlight your abilities in areas such as data cleaning, exploration, and visualization. Be sure to emphasize your proficiency with specific tools like Power BI or Tableau.

As you tackle these projects, follow these guidelines for documenting your work:

  1. Clear Project Descriptions: Provide detailed explanations of each project, including the problem addressed, your approach, the tools used, and the outcomes achieved. This demonstrates your ability to solve business problems using data.
  1. Methodologies Used: Explain the methodologies employed in each project, such as data cleaning, exploratory data analysis, or predictive modeling. Clearly outline your process.
  1. Tell a Compelling Story: Use visuals with annotations or visually appealing graphics to make your portfolio engaging. A well-designed portfolio is more likely to capture attention.
  1. Maintain Consistency: Keep a consistent visual style across all your projects to create a cohesive and professional portfolio.
  1. Quantify Achievements: Where possible, quantify the impact of your work. For example, mention how your analysis contributed to a specific improvement or decision.
  1. Highlight Challenges: Discuss any challenges you faced during projects and how you overcame them. This demonstrates your problem-solving skills.

Establish an Online Presence

Building an online presence can showcase your technical and analytical skills to potential employers and peers in the data field. Even if you’re still learning, an online presence can help you connect with others and stay motivated, possibly leading to future job opportunities.

Here are some ways to start building your online presence:

  • Upwork: Create a compelling data portfolio for Upwork to showcase your professional story and achievements quickly and effectively.
  • LinkedIn: Optimize your LinkedIn profile with a professional photo, an engaging headline, and a concise summary. Once you’ve completed a few projects, you can also link to them on your profile.
  • GitHub: Set up a GitHub repository to host your code and project files. This demonstrates your technical skills and makes it easy to share your work with potential employers.
  • Personal Blog: Consider starting a personal blog or website, which you can do for free on platforms like GitHub or Medium. Share your insights on industry trends, case studies, or tutorials to demonstrate your commitment and passion and establish yourself as a thought leader.

Final Thoughts

In 2024, becoming a business intelligence analyst means you need both technical skills and good people skills. BI analysts must be able to communicate well, work with others, and understand how businesses operate to help leaders make smart decisions.

Moreover, they also need to know how to use tools like SQL, Power BI, or Tableau for data analysis and have some programming skills. Being able to analyze data quickly and find trends is also important.

To get a job as a BI analyst, you need to get hands-on experience, create a portfolio of your work, and prepare for interviews. There are many opportunities for BI analysts in different industries and companies.

While becoming a BI analyst might seem hard, it’s also rewarding. With the right skills and attitude, you can make a big difference in a company’s success. If you’re interested in this career, you can start learning today with our Data Science bootcamp in Power BI career track.