A reader asks:
Hello, I am very interested in becoming a business analyst, the only problem is I have no idea where to begin. One main question I have is what do I need to study in college that can lead me to the point of becoming a BA? I understand that the term “BA” can be a general term, however I am looking for the best path to take getting there. Please keep in mind I have started some classes in IT as a network specialist but have withdrawn from the courses at my school, due to me discovering that BA is the career I wish to pursue. Please help, any information you can give me in regards to this issue would be greatly appreciated.
There are two main tenets of thought on how your studies in college relate to your career options after college. The first is to use your college experience to broaden your mind and thinking, pursuing a liberal arts education that may have little direct applicability to your future career. The second is to use your time in college to pursue training in a specific vocation and plant the seeds of your future career while an undergraduate.
To reveal my biases, I attended a liberal arts college and dual-majored in Philosophy and English. I didn’t start thinking about a career until my senior year when it became apparent to me that the continued education/professorship path was not a good fit. I remember many, many conversations with my parents talking about what I wanted to be when I grow up. I fought with the answer and fought the need for an answer. After college, as you can imagine, I found myself very satisfied with my college years but without any great career prospects. I managed to land an assistant editor job at a local publishing company and proceeded to work myself up from there, eventually landing in a business analyst role that would be the foundation for my first real “career.”
If I had to pick one college class that was the most helpful to me as a BA, Introduction to Logic would be it. In my first months as a BA, as I fought to think through designing systems, the concepts kept coming back to me. It turns out, there were a lot of parallels between picking apart a logical argument and designing a coherent system! While Aristotle did not teach me to write use cases, he sure taught me to think critically. And that has always been important as a business analyst.
I know many, many other BAs with similar stories. So, on the one hand, it may not really matter what you study in college, as long as you are learning and growing intellectually in a meaningful way.
But I know that many do not pursue education the same way I did, and are looking to build the seeds of a vocation while an undergrad in college.
I think an ideal background for a business analysis role would include courses in the following areas:
- Analysis/Problem-Solving Process
- Public Speaking
- Relationship Building
- General Business
- A dash of the Business Analysis Fundamentals
How can you take this and apply it to your selection of an undergraduate major or program?
A lot of the advice regarding specific courses really depends on what programs your college offers. You might choose an “off topic” liberal arts degree that interests you and add some electives in business analysis so you leave college with an awareness of the core business analysis skills. Or, you might choose a more formal “BA” degree and make liberal use of your electives to choose from courses in fields such as sales, marketing, business, philosophy, psychology, and English to broaden your perspective.
Regardless, when you leave college, be prepared to build some professional experience outside the BA profession, as that’s where you’ll build the professional experience and transferable skills that will lead you to a business analyst job within a few years of graduating. You can accelerate this path by using your summers to work in internship programs.
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