Reader question: I’m trying to become a business analyst. I have several years of professional experience and I’m evaluating training options. I want to help make myself more marketable for business analyst jobs. I think that employers will find it valuable if I can list a BA certification on my resume, but I don’t have the experience necessary to apply for the CBAP. What training and certification options would you suggest to help me get the next BA job?
For a Junior BA, Let’s Ask This Question Differently
Really, the question might even be,
What training and certifications should I take to enhance my capabilities in order to move my career along?
I rephrase the question, because I think the focus should be on how you want to improve professionally rather than on what any specific job will ask for.
For this conversation, let’s include those just starting as a BA, those transitioning careers into business analysis and those work as a BA through year three. These are the foundational years for a person still testing the waters of business analysis and learning to perform better. As such, a good way to learn is to take classes, but what do they do for you after shelling out lots of cash? What about certifications?
That’s correct….courses and certifications are two different things. Though they are related, we’ll do well to treat the discussion of their value separately.
What is the Value of a Course in Business Analysis?
Courses represent the need or desire to know more about something for direct and generally immediate use. Take courses that are geared toward your daily work, so you don’t lose the knowledge due to lack of practice or integration into work tasks.
(Hey Doug, This is Laura. Let me jump in here for a moment and say that this is why all Bridging the Gap business analysis training courses include time to expand your experience in addition to your knowledge through the lifecycle of the course. Back to you Doug.)
Thanks Laura. As I was saying, in other words, don’t take an Agile Requirements class unless you are going to bring back that knowledge and put it to use in an Agile requirements shop or a shop that is moving that way. If you are a student that is taking a series of courses as part of a curriculum geared toward a degree in Business Analysis, it might be worth your while to contact the education department at the IIBA to ensure that you are taking courses that provide the most value for you as part of your degree plan and how the certification may be of value following graduation.
For the analyst role specifically, I also see that not only are courses geared primarily toward the hard skill disciplines, (SQL, OOAD, Agile, etc.), but individuals tend to pile those courses onto their repertoire. While having some skill in technologies or methodologies is in fact important, I would also like to stress the value of taking courses in soft skills like facilitation, listening, communications (all types), conflict resolution, and others.
(Ooh! Wait, We’ve got one of those too. It’s called Essential Elicitation Skills. But I’m interrupting…continue on.)
For a junior analyst, I believe that these types of instruction offer the most value and have the longest lasting impact on the person’s career. It is the quality of the soft skills that often distinguish a good analyst from a great one. Don’t forget about this aspect of career development, because when the time comes in one’s career to attempt certification, knowing how to confidently work through challenging scenarios using soft skills will add great knowledge to understanding certification knowledge requirements.
What is the Value of Junior-Level Business Analysis Certifications?
Certifications represent formal and intensive study of a discipline, such as project management or business analysis. Many junior analysts believe that certifications also represent a degree of prestige that could assist in obtaining jobs and/or promotions. I would never discourage one from studying a body of knowledge to become enlightened on standardized methods for a profession. In fact, in the CBAP study groups that I have facilitate, I make a point to invite those who simply want to learn the material and have no interest in the certification.
As someone who routinely reviews resumes and interviews potential candidates, the letters at the end of junior-level candidate’s name represent only one thing: that person can pass a test. I give that person no further benefit in the job interview process, because there is no proof that the person can perform in the workplace. Doesn’t it count that the candidate has taken the time to study and doesn’t that show a commitment to the profession? Yes and maybe, respectively. I still care most about what that person can do, how he or she communicates, how well does the candidate listen, whether he or she can back up statements of greatness with acts to match.