If you are looking to start a business analyst career, you may be wondering if a college, undergraduate, or bachelor’s degree is required.
While I believe the answer is no – you can always create opportunities for yourself. I do realize that having an undergrad degree is required by many organizations, and if you have the degree your job prospects may be improved.
But let’s take a deeper look at this question and how to approach the options you have.
How My Undergraduate Degree Helped Me In Business Analysis
First, let me share a bit of personal background. I earned my bachelor’s degree from a liberal arts college, and I dual majored in Philosophy and English. While I learned a ton in college, and I never regret the 4 years I spent digesting and dissecting great works, I didn’t graduate with any real professional skills.
I managed to land a role as an associate editor at a publishing company, which was about as ideal of an opportunity on paper as you could expect with my degree. And yet, it was really a glorified administrative role and I was absolutely bored out of my mind.
I offered again and again and again to work on technical projects and finally got an opportunity about a year into my role – this brought me into quality assurance testing. You can find my story of transitioning from QA to BA here. I also leveraged the tuition reimbursement benefits in my company to start a master’s degree in Library and Information Science, which helped me build business domain knowledge and awareness.
Once I was in a business analysis position, I remember realizing how similar the work felt to my Introduction to Logic course. Dissecting requirements was very similar to dissecting philosophical texts. Looking for errors in thinking and logic was a lot like investing a problem domain and ensuring the requirements fit together cohesively to solve a business problem.
It’s not like I learned to be a business analyst studying philosophy, but the critical thinking and analytical skills certainly helped.
Hiring a Business Analyst Without a College Degree
Let’s fast forward several years – I’m building and managing a team of project managers, business analysts, and quality assurance professionals. I distinctly remember discovering one of the business analysts I hired did not have a college degree. It surprised me because I honestly never thought to ask the question, and I certainly had some pre-conceived assumptions that most professionals did have college degrees.
At the time, our VP of Technology also let me know he never went to college either.
For context, we were working at a small company, less than 500 people, and had a small tech team. I hired for experience and the ability to literally hit the ground running. We always had multiple active projects that were behind schedule and I didn’t have the capacity to train and mentor my team the way I would have loved to.
When I interviewed this business analyst, she presented herself as extremely capable, flexible, and proactive. And her work contributions lived up to, and even exceeded, my expectations.
So I not believe that a college degree is necessary to be a great business analyst.
Some Employers Require College Degrees for Professional Positions Like Business Analysis
However, the reality of our professional environment is that some employers do require a college degree to be hired for a professional position like business analysis. This means, that you may be unfairly screened out before you even get a chance to present your experience and qualifications.
If you don’t have a college degree, it’s even more important to:
- Identify your transferable business analysis skills.
- Focus on your contributions and accomplishments from your work history.
- Highlight the professional business analysis training, as well as training in related skill sets.
- Be prepared to speak to your specific work experience in a job interview, whether it’s from a role with the BA job title or in a related role doing business analysis work.
- Build business analysis experience by approaching your current role or volunteer work, no matter your title or role, with a business analysis mindset.
- Focus on positions that leverage any specialized skill sets you have, particularly in a specific business domain or business application.
- And don’t overlook opportunities to grow into business analysis. Here are 13 Jobs That Can Lead to a Business Analyst Job (with the path to get there).
If your goal is to start a business analyst career, I, personally, would find it difficult to advise you to stop applying to roles and go back to school for 4 years to pursue a bachelor’s degree, and then circle back to your BA career ambitions. But you will need to embrace that you will face more roadblocks and some employment opportunities will not be open to you. Instead, focus on the opportunities that are open to you, and the employers who hire based on experience and aptitude versus academic credentials.
We Can Help With Practical, Real-World Training
When it comes to starting a business analyst career, nothing is more important than real-world professional experience. Our online business analyst training programs are structured to support you as you learn business analysis skills and apply them in the real-world (even outside formal business analysis roles), so you can build the experience and work history employers are looking for when they hire business analysts.
Download the FREE Business Analyst Skills Assessment
Another great resource to help you get started is the BA Skills Assessment.
- Discover the essential skills to succeed as a BA.
- Gain clarity on your strengths and transferable skills.
- Define an action plan to expand your business analyst skill set.
>> Download the Assessment <<
Learn How to Start Building BA Experience Straight Away
This is a great video to watch and learn how to start expanding your business analysis experience, so you can qualify for a wider range of business analysis positions.