The top skills for a business analyst are changing alongside today’s evolving data-driven business landscape. The UK data and analytics industry continues to prosper despite the fragile job market produced by the COVID-19 pandemic. As businesses become increasingly reliant on data and analytics, employees in the industry report increased job security and enthusiasm about their future, with nearly a third of employees seeking new opportunities within the market in 2021.
You can set yourself apart with an MSc in Business Analytics from Aston University that prepares graduates with the top 10 skills a business analyst needs to land lucrative roles, experience career mobility and make a difference in numerous industries.
Type of Skills For a Business Analyst
Employers are interested in hiring business analysts with hard and soft skills that allow their team to work well with others, solve complex problems and excel in an environment with rapid technological innovation. The World Economic Forum jobs report distributed the top 10 skills for a business analyst into four distinct skill groups.
Companies have identified the ability to problem-solve as one of the high-demand skill groups needed in the modern workforce. According to the Future of Jobs Report, problem-solving has stayed at the top of employers’ agenda with yearly consistency. Problem-solving involves analytical thinking, critical analysis and basic reasoning needed to identify solutions to complex issues.
Employers seek business analysts who can regulate their actions, feelings and thoughts to work independently and fulfil their work responsibilities. A business analyst with self-management skills can work well under pressure, be resilient in the face of stress and integrate feedback into future work habits.
Working with people
The ability to work well with others continues to appear on the top 10 skills needed in a business analyst. Business analysts must work well independently, however, they should be prepared to collaborate with team members, support other departments, communicate complex ideas to executives and stakeholders and make concise recommendations for future business strategies.
Technology use and development
Business analysts must be proficient in using technology to succeed in their role. The World Economic Forum jobs report identified emerging technologies that are being adopted including cloud computing, big data analytics, encryption and cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and others. A modern business analyst must be familiar with developing technologies to satisfy the skills gap that currently exists in the job market.
Top 10 Skills For a Business Analyst
The four primary skill groups listed above can be further segmented into the top 10 skills for business analysts. According to the World Economic Forum jobs report, the following areas represent the top 10 skills for business analysts from present-day to 2025.
Analytical Thinking and Innovation (Problem-solving)
The business analyst role requires analysts to analyse data sets, identify business problems and recommend solutions to internal departments, executives and stakeholders. An MSc Business Analytics degree enrols students in courses such as “Big Data for Decision Making” and “Decision Models” that teach analysts to turn real-world problems into spreadsheet models that generate data-informed solutions to business problems.
Active Learning and Learning Strategies (Self-management)
An effective business analyst requires active learning; “an educational approach in which students are encouraged to engage with the material to be studied through activities, such as experimentation, group discussion and role-play.”
Students enrolled in an MSc Business Analytics programme engage in a final dissertation where they are required to select a topic, apply the appropriate research methodologies, assess the validity and reliability of previous studies and conduct research that is sensitive to cultural and economic contexts. The dissertation project transcends traditional learning models and allows future analysts to enter a deep dive into the application of their coursework before applying learning strategies in the workforce.
Complex Problem-solving (Problem-solving)
Business analysts face complex problem-solving daily, from using data modelling for recommending improvements to identifying risks associated with their recommendations. Problem-solving skills are developed in an MSc Business Analytics programme that focuses on both hard skills (mathematics, statistics and business) and soft skills (communication, presentations and leadership). Future business analysts can hone these skills to help business boost performance while mitigating risk.
Critical Thinking and Analysis (Problem-solving)
The typical business analyst is well-versed in analytical thinking. Analytical thinking is the mental process needed to extract meaningful data and develop insights that can be converted into creative solutions. Problem-solving is both innate and learned through practice. Courses such as, “Data Mining and Web Analytics” allow professionals to uncover patterns, regularities and trends in data sets and develop an understanding of the data’s value to business intelligence. This practical skill allows business analysts to practice critical thinking in the context of big data, AI, cloud computing and other relevant technologies.
Creativity, Originality and Initiative (Problem-solving)
Is creativity important for a business analyst? Yes, creative thinking results in new solutions to old problems. The World Economic Forum jobs report found that employers continue to value employees who think differently and introduce originality to the workforce. Creative thinkers with a background in business analytics are capable of developing groundbreaking innovations in the data and technology space.
Leadership and Social Influence (Working with People)
In the Forbes’ article “Are You Analyst Material?”, author and industry analyst Richard Stiennon revealed several essential traits needed to be a successful analyst including the ability to engage in public speaking, be an effective storyteller and maintain “thick-skin” in the face of adversity. These traits also reflect what it means to be an influential leader. A business analyst must tell a story using data, communicate insights to their team and remain steadfast in the recommendations they propose.
Technology Use, Monitoring and Control (Technology Use and Development)
The introduction of new technologies such as cloud computing, the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence has created a skills gap that has been difficult to fill. According to the World Economic Forum jobs report: “the window of opportunity to reskill and upskill workers has become shorter in the newly constrained labour market.” This means that the pace of technology adoption is beginning to outpace the ability of employers to hire relevant skilled employees. As a result, business analysts trained in technology use, monitoring and control have an advantage over their competition in filling analyst roles and experiencing expedited career mobility.
Technology Design and Programming (Technology Use and Development)
Business analysts require programming knowledge to develop software solutions and engage in data visualisation, the process of using descriptive and inferential statistical methods to extract meaningful information from data, then develop visualisation techniques, like dashboards and infographics for displaying and summarising information.
Courses such as “Descriptive Analytics” and “Software for Analytics” teach students how to operate in specific software packages such as R, Python, SQL and their related languages. Proficiency in the use and development of technology allows business analysts to excel in their field and translate data sets into consumable visual interpretations.
Resilience, Stress Tolerance and Flexibility (Self-management)
Working as a business analyst can be a high-stress job that requires resilience. According to the Telegraph, working as a business analyst entails stress management and the ability to work well under pressure. Students pursuing a degree in MSc Business Analytics learn how to balance their coursework, learn complex topics and apply their findings in a comprehensive dissertation. The process of earning an MSc Business Analytics degree is an excellent prerequisite to managing stress in the workplace and learning how to be flexible in unpredictable circumstances.
Reasoning, Problem-solving and Ideation (Problem-solving)
The final skill listed as one of the top 10 skills for a business analyst is reasoning, problem-solving and ideation. Business analysts are problem solvers who turn raw data into tangible insights. Ideation is the process of, “brainstorming techniques that can help structure your ideation sessions.” Business analysts are responsible for structuring their findings presenting solutions in presentations that involve data visualisation and communication skills.
Develop the Top 10 Skills for a Business Analyst
Aston University offers a suite of MSc Business Analytics programmes designed to prepare you for analytical roles through theoretical and practical business applications, relevant case studies and hands-on experience. Based on your professional goals and desired skill set, choose from three specialised programmes:
Management & Analytics
Digital Marketing & Analytics
The programmes give maximum flexibility and convenience for working professionals with the following features:
Coursework is 100% online.
With three intakes per year, you can choose when to start.
The degree can be completed in about two years.
Tuition is affordable and starts from £9,500.
Graduates join a global network of more than 90,000 alumni.
Aston is recognised by QS, the global university rankings authority for careers and education, as one of the top 100 in the world for business and management studies. The university is also ranked 10th in the UK in data analytics programmes by Eduniversal.
As a premier global business school, Aston University is among the elite one per cent of schools holding a triple accreditation from AACSB, EQUIS and AMBA.
A career in business analytics allows you to fill the job market’s most desirable skills and become an asset to companies across various industries. Explore your possibilities in business analytics careers with an Aston University online MSc Business Analytics suite.