Business Analyst Salary – United States

What is the Business Analyst Salary? Anytime you are considering a career it is good to know what the salary expectations that go with it are.

This post is based on what I have seen (not necessarily earned) in the Business Analyst field in terms of salary and usually what goes along with the higher salaries.

Numbers presented in this post are in US dollars along with the assumption that at the high to very high end, the person would be working as a consultant rather than a permanent employee of a company and the company is US based.

The salary range for Business Analysts is large but not vast – you don’t get into the millions doing this. At your lower end, the starting pay can be in the low 30’s per year. In the middle you might expect anywhere from 50-80k. Once you get into the Senior Business Analyst role you might expect anywhere from 80- 130k. At the very high end, you might be able to bring in as much as 140k – 200k but those opportunities are few and far between, usually involve travel, being located in an expensive part of the country and specialized knowledge.

One thing I have to mention is that not all Business Analyst roles are the same and depending on what the Business Analyst is working on / responsible for can have a great impact of their dollar value to a company. At the same time not all Business Analysts are cut out to work in the high dollar roles because of the specialized knowledge and people interaction skills required. Eventually I will put together a questionnaire to enable BA’s to sense what direction they are being called in.

Looking at the numbers above, you may consider that being a Business Analyst is a great opportunity, however if your motivation is making money there are more lucrative careers out there in sales, marketing, investing. Eventually you will hit a plateau with the Business Analyst salary and may even see the salary shrink from time to time as companies merge or outsource opportunities. Most people that have been doing the Business Analyst role for more than 10 years have all reached a point where the salary raises have hit a wall. This means that sometimes the next role for these people can be a bit of a cut from the previous or involve taking time off while waiting for the right role to come along.

Some similar  types of roles that pay more than the Business Analyst salary:

  • Trainer for a specialized training company as long as companies are hiring training companies. When times get hard, training is usually cut back. I have known people to make in excess of 250k in those roles but it does involve travel.
  • Project Manager / Program Manager – I have seen these salaries get into the 200+k bracket
  • Product Manager – These roles offer more growth than the BA which leads to larger salaries.

To get into the higher Business Analyst salary bracket it usually requires:

  • Years of experience. Once you break the 5 years you are well on your way to being a Senior Business Analyst and generally anybody with 10 years is considered senior by default.
  • Specific software application skills. Knowledge of certain SAP software modules or Personnel software such as PeopleSoft goes along way here to raising your value. There are other software packages out there, so the best way to find out what is in demand is to search the job sites. Note that with the larger software packages such as SAP, salary is dependent on specific modules not just knowing any SAP module. Additionally the experience needs to be current to get the best dollar offer.
  • Data warehousing / business intelligence. This area is growing rapidly and Business Analysts with the skills to define data, access (write SQL) and report on it, are in big demand which has raised the salaries accordingly.
  • Specialized knowledge in a business process can take you into higher amounts of money, in some cases in excess of 200k. I have seen from my own experience that specific business knowledge makes you more desirable in the market place. However it boils down to supply and demand combined with a willingness to travel to the location where the demand is. Some samples of in demand business skills – Basel Compliance, Capital Markets (The various desks / trading products), ecommerce. This is only a small sample, the job sites can show you more. The demand can also be very temporary as corporations wish to respond rapidly to business change and then once it is over they have no desire to maintain the relationship with the Business Analyst because of the cost.
  • Specialized Certifications. I am not talking here about a Business Analyst certification but rather certifications that go along with specialized business knowledge. Examples would be a Business Analyst that at some point has held or still holds brokerage certifications. These certifications guarantee the Business Analyst understands the trading floor and states they can talk the same language.
  • Having a MBA helps open doors. It is however not a necessary requirement as companies will value relevant experience over a MBA.

I left Business Analyst certification off of the above list because it has only been around for a few years. This has most value for two types of people in the Business Analyst role. Trainers use it to prove their credentials to train. BA’s with only a limited amount of experience use it to get in the door on their next role as it supposedly states to the employer that they know how to be a Business Analyst.

Lead Business Analyst – what do they do?

For your next role as a Business Analyst, you may be approached to be the Lead BA . This post is about some of the skills you may have to use in the role.

1 – Project estimates of BA involvement – Identifying how much time and resources it would take to complete a project. I have had to estimate the hours, the duration and how many BA’s I would require to complete a project.

2 – Interviewing of BA candidates – presumably you will have lots of experience in this from the interviews you have been at yourself.

3 – Peer review of work – You should be familiar with this from your time of service as a Senior BA.

4 – Mentoring of junior BA’s – I have sat in on junior BA’s requirement gathering sessions, reviewed their work and provided constructive criticism where needed.

5 – Delegation of work – As the lead you will be expected to monitor the work load of your team and adjust the assignments accordingly to best meet the need of the overall group. This could mean taking work away from one BA to free them up for a project they are more suited too.

6 – Client relationships – Part of the role will be to check that the client is happy with the work of the BA’s assigned to them. If problems are encountered, then the Lead BA will be expected to propose a solution.

7 – Handling of problems – In general if something is going wrong, the Lead BA is expected to help resolve it. This is where your negotiation skills come to play.

 

4 interview points to help get you hired as a BA

In the past few years, employers have got more suspicious of the qualities of Business Analyst candidates. When I have talked with employers in regards to this, 9 times out of 10 it is because a previous employee or contractor did not live up to the expectations of the employer. 1 out of 10 reason is that they have a stellar resource currently and they want to replicate that resource.

Certainly I have seen contractors and employees in the BA role get let go and usually because of an inability to live up to client expectation.

Some actions that have surprised me in recent interviews is that when a candidate presents good examples of their work, the employer becomes suspicious that the candidate is this good. The feeling is why would such a good candidate be available.

So for Business Analysts looking for a job now, you can expect that the interview will be tougher than ever before.

Suggestions on things to ease the interview:

1 – Referral – You need to find someone who knows you that also knows the people doing the hiring. That simple referral from a known source alleviates a lot of the suspicion of your quality as a candidate. Note that this referral has to be from a neutral source i.e. your representative from the agency is not always considered neutral as they make money if you are hired.

2 – Focus on the skills needed for the role – You may have worked on a variety of different types of projects with some dealing with business process, others dealing with data warehousing. The people interviewing you are only interested in the skills that are relevant for the job on offer. You can dilute your case for being hired significantly if you can’t stay focused on the role specific skills during the interview.

3 – Understand the knowledge of the people interviewing you and what they are expecting. Some interviewers have their own preconceived idea of what they think a Business Analyst does. If you start to go outside of their knowledge comfort zone they start to think you don’t know what you are doing. Best way to handle this is to focus on using examples of projects you have worked on that tie in with the questions they ask. Usually this problem occurs when they ask you to take an example they provide of a made up project and describe what you would do. Very often if you are a senior BA you will take the example way beyond what they expected and in response the interviewer will inform you that you are making it too complicated.

4 – Keep examples of your work limited to what is relevant. Better to show a few page that highlight your BA skills than a 100 pages that either duplicate what is shown before or are not relevant for the role under discussion.

As to the people I have seen let go from the BA role over the years, they failed to meet the expectation of the business units they worked with. This led the business units to no longer wish to work openly with those individuals which made it no longer possible for them to do their job.

Good luck with your interviews.

Resume Keywords – help you find work

Previously I had talked about the need to be specific about the projects you have worked on in your resumes.

Today I would like to get on the subject of Keywords, their importance and how to find them.

With most agents and HR people using search engines to locate suitable candidates for their open roles it is important that your resume rises to the top. To achieve this, your resume has to include the Keywords these people are searching on.

Examples would be: Ecommerce, Data Warehousing etc..

Ok. So some of you might say you were already aware of this and have been active in making sure you have the common keywords in your resume so what is the problem?

Having been in the Business Analyst / IT consulting world for over twenty years I started to see a trend a few years ago where effectively keywords were changing on a regular basis especially when it came to job titles. To put it in simple terms Apples were becoming Oranges, then Oranges were becoming Bananas and then Bananas were becoming Pineapples. Confused?

Let me explain. Information Technology follows trends and with each trend comes a set of keywords. Years ago being a “Screen Designer” was a hot set of words to have on your resume. The people that designed screens were important to the company as they dealt with the User Interface. I just did a search on Monster.com and came up with 98 jobs in the whole country that referred to that set of keywords. Now I repeated the search using “UI” and “UX” and the results are in excess of a 1000. Hopefully that example makes it a little clearer. Note: I did the search using 2 characters “UI” for User Interface, so remember that words are not the only thing you need in your resume.

Picture the recently laid off “Screen Designer” who searches for work using the job title he has held for 10 years. His success in finding work will be limited by his use of out of date keywords.

Now that you understand the problem, you need a solution.

Here is what I do every 6 months or so. I take an evening or a weekend and just read through IT jobs listed on one of the job search engines such as Monster.com or Indeed.com for a particular city that I want to work in but without any other keyword search parameters. Remember the importance here is to find out what they are calling the job / skills now that you are qualified to do. When I see a job that looks of interest to me and matches my skill set I make notes on the words that appear in the job description such as Job Title, Skills, Experience etc. After a while I end up with a long list of Keywords. I may further expand my search by using words from that list to find other jobs in other cities to see if there are any additional words that I need to capture.

With my list of Keywords I am then able to update my resume to match the current trend in employee search and hopefully make my resume rise to the top of the lists that HR and the people at the agencies are creating.

Good luck with your Keyword building : )

 

Where Senior BA’s end up

I am actually going to take it easy this week and refer you to an article written by someone else.

This article is good reading if you are considering a career as a Business Analyst or are at the more junior end for it lets you know what the 10 year career path is.

After reading it, you may want to reflect and consider where you would like to end up and steer your ship in that direction.

What is the future for Senior Business Analysts

Happy reading

Sixth Type of Business Analyst

December 4, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Business Analyst Skills, General News 

It was pointed out to me today that in addition to the 5 0ther business analyst types I had identified there is a 6th one.

This 6th business analyst type is someone whose focus is in support of a specific piece of software.

6 – Application Support Business Analyst

This role is finely tuned to the support of one or more software applications used by their business or IT partners. Examples of this would be like SAP modules, PeopleSoft, Oracle Financials, Salesforce. They are somewhat of a cross between a user and a product owner because of the in depth knowledge they have around the applications they support.

In you can think of any other types of Business Analysts be sure to let me know.

Become more hireable – use project specific examples in resume

The business analyst role in its various forms has been around for more than 25 years. This means that there are a lot of business analysts out on the market looking for work.

Employers are no longer turned on to a candidate just by the fact they have lead JAD sessions, captured requirements etc. This is so common place I think everybody has it on their resume in some form or other.

In some ways Business Analysts roles has become like programming roles where the details of what you have experienced get you hired.

To this end, employers are now looking for a dovetail like fit into their open vacancies.

What this means is that Employers look at:

1 – Industries you have worked on. Being able to leverage your experience in one industry to translate into others is important here. Here are some examples of industries:

  • Insurance
  • Finance
  • Health Care
  • Telecommunication
  • Capital Markets
  • Retail
  • Transportation
  • Consumer Goods
  • Energy

2 – Specific projects you worked on. As I mentioned in a previous post, there are at least 5 types of business analysts out there and depending on what role the employer is trying to fill you may or may not be a fit.

All is not bad news. Because an employer is being picky about their candidates, they may be willing to overlook what Industry you worked in if you have the right projects under your belt and vice versa be willing to look at you if you have been in their Industry.

So when you are looking at opportunities for your next gig, think about how it will boost your resume and also be sure to mention the experience in detail once completed.

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