Business intelligence, which is commonly referred to as BI, encompasses a wide variety of business elements, with a focus on the software applications that are employed to study the raw data used within an organization. There are various activities included in this, such as reporting, querying, online analytical processing, and data mining.

BI as a discipline has existed for a very long time. However, since the advent of the internet and the digital age, it has become more important than ever. “Big data” was a concept that was virtually unheard of about a decade ago, but it is now a key element to the proper functioning of an organization. The days of Access databases are long gone, with companies now having huge customer relations management systems to contend with instead. Additionally, the type of data has changed significantly, as well as how it is stored. This means that there is a tremendous demand for people who have an extensive understanding of what data is, how it is used, what its limitations are, which regulations are involved in it, how it is interpreted, how it is shared, and much more.

Opportunity

Because data and software relating to data continues to grow and to be developed, there is a huge demand for those who have skills in this particular area. There have been numerous reports on growth projection, all of which paint a very positive picture for those involved in this field. For example:

  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that demand for management analysts will grow by 14% from 2014 to 2024, which is much faster than the national average. This translates to an additional 103,400 jobs.
  • QYResearchReports.com has created a new report on the increase in demand and benefits for organizations to have BI experts on board.
  • MRC has reported on five key trends within the world of BI, focusing mainly on rapid growth in demand.
  • Gartner, Inc. reports that, in 2016, global revenue in the analytics and business intelligence market stands at $16.9 billion, which is a 5.2% increase year on year.
  • St Joseph University reports that, by 2018, a shortage of 1.5 million managers and analysts in the field of business intelligence will be experienced.

Career Paths

The field of BI is incredibly wide and varied, which translates to a huge array of job opportunities for experts in this field. Some of the key job roles and their associated salaries according to Payscale.com are:

  • IT Project Manager, earning between $69,000 and $109,000 per year
  • Senior Business Analyst, earning between $73,000 and $101,000 per year
  • Senior Financial Analyst, earning between $71,000 and $93,000 per year
  • Senior Data Analyst, earning between $67,000 and $92,000 per year
  • IT Business Analyst, earning between $57,000 and $84,000 per year
  • Business Systems Analyst, earning between $57,000 and $84,000 per year
  • Business Analyst, earning between $50,000 and $71,000 per year
  • Financial Analyst, earning between $50,000 and $70,000 per year
  • Data Analyst, earning between $45,000 and $68,000 per year
  • Operations Analyst, earning between $43,000 and $63,000 per year

Indeed.com has also create a report on average annual earnings for BI specialists, which showed that:

  • Intelligence Analysts earned an average of $74,135 per year
  • Data Analysts earned an average of $70,749 per year
  • Business Analysts earned an average of $75,662 per year
  • Business Intelligence Developers earned an average of $94,786 per year
  • Business Intelligence Managers earned an average of $110,259 per year
  • Business Systems Analysts earned an average of $82,655 per year
  • Senior Business Analysts earned an average of $91,134 per year

Salaries

Job title is not the only thing that influences salary. Another very important element is where someone works. Various organizations have reported on where someone should work in the field of BI in order to earn the greatest amount of money. The caveat, however, is that in geographical locations where earnings are high, the cost of living also tends to be high as well.

The BLS reports that the average annual salary for a management analyst is $81,320. The bottom 10% earn $45,970 or less, whereas the top 10% earn $150,220 or more. They have also reported that the five best states to work in as a management analyst are:

  • Wyoming, with average annual earnings of $111,180
  • New York, with average annual earnings of $107,620
  • Massachusetts, with average annual earnings of $105,950
  • Virginia, with average annual earnings of $102,830
  • The District of Columbia, with average annual earnings of $101,860

Employers

Another important factor that influences salary is who you work for. According to the BLS, the top employers for management analysts and their associated salaries are:

  • The federal government, with average annual earnings of $88,020
  • Management, scientific, and technical consulting services, with average annual earnings of $86,300
  • Management of companies and enterprises, with average annual earnings of $82,870
  • Finance and insurance, with average annual earnings for $79,890
  • State and local government, excluding educational institutions and hospitals, with average annual earnings of $63,970

Meanwhile, Payscale.com has reported on specific organizations that hire BI specialists, with their salaries. They state that:

  • Google Inc. offers average annual salaries of between $98,000 and $152,000.
  • Amazon.com, Inc. offers average annual salaries of between $82,000 and $105,000.
  • Boeing Company offers average annual salaries of between $46,000 and $89,000.
  • Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp. offers average annual salaries of between $77,000 and $83,000.

Bachelor’s Degree

If you are interested in a career in BI, then you must start by obtaining the right education. This begins with a bachelor’s degree. Interestingly, because the field of BI is software and digitally driven, many of those degree programs are now offered fully, or in part, online. One such example is the degree program offered by Capella University, which offers the Bachelor of Science in Business with a minor in Business Intelligence.

The Higher Learning Commission accredited degree offers core and elective courses in:

  • Statistical Reasoning
  • Developing Business Thinking
  • Developing a Business Perspective
  • Fundamentals of Management
  • Fundamentals of Leadership
  • Fundamentals of Business Law
  • Fundamentals of Supply Chain Management
  • Fundamentals of Marketing and Sales
  • Fundamentals of Human Resource Management
  • Fundamentals of Organizational Communication
  • Fundamentals of Accounting
  • Fundamentals of Finance
  • Data Governance and Stewardship
  • Identifying Core Business Processes and Master Data
  • Data Identification and Collection Strategies
  • Data Mining and Analysis in Business
  • Data Modeling Strategies and Tools in Business
  • Data Interpretation and Statistical Analysis in Business
  • Advanced Data Interpretation and Statistical Analysis in Business
  • Information Solutions and Delivery Strategies
  • Introduction to Information Technology

Master’s Degree

If you really want to set yourself apart as a professional in your field, however, you should consider completing a master’s degree in BI instead. While research has shown that those who hold a bachelor’s degree earn an average of $36,000 per year more than those with a high school degree, those with a master’s degree can easily add a further $15,000 per year.

Just as with the bachelor’s degree, many schools now offer their master’s program in an online format for the convenience of their students, and because it is so relevant to BI in general. One example of a highly respected master’s program is the Master of Science in Business Intelligence and Analytics offered by Saint Joseph’s University, which is AACSB accredited, the gold standard in business program accreditation.

Admission Requirements

Each school can determine its own admission requirements. However, they are usually very similar across the board because they demonstrate that a student has the right capabilities to complete an education at master’s degree level. St. Joseph University’s admission requirements are:

  • Two letters of recommendation
  • Transcripts
  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Personal statement
  • GMAT/GRE
  • TOEFL for international students

Curriculum

Each school can also set its own curriculum. This is why accreditation is so important, because it demonstrates both to you and to prospective employers that your knowledge and skills meet or exceed the minimum standards set for the profession. With AACSB accreditation, which is what St Joseph University offers, this is a guarantee not just within this country, but even abroad. St Joseph University offers three tracks to graduation: the general track, the data analysis track, and the programming languages track. Each of these three includes the same core curriculum, which include subjects like:

  • Data mining
  • Data warehousing
  • Solutions to big data
  • Market intelligence
  • Decision support
  • Online analytical processing
  • Data-driven communication

Financial Assistance

Unfortunately, obtaining an education requires an investment of both time and money. One way to save on time is by studying towards online degrees, as this means you can study as and when it is convenient to you. Tuition, however, is something that has to be paid. Luckily, there are a lot of financial assistance available, and the bursar’s office of your chosen university will be more than happy to point you towards financial assistance and scholarships and grants.

External scholarships and grants also exist and applying for these could significantly reduce your overall out of pocket expenses. Some of the ones you may want to consider include:

  • Izenda, which offers a $1,000 Embedded BI and Analytics scholarship. Students must submit an essay on one of the Izenda chosen subjects, as listed on their website.
  • The Tall Club, which offers a $1,000 scholarship to women over 5’10 or men over 6’2
  • The Pumpkin Carvers, which offers a $500 award to the most creative pumpkin carver
  • The Frederick & Mary F. Beckley Scholarship, which provides a $2,000 to $5,000 award to left handed students at Pennsylvania’s Juniata College.

Certifications

There is no legal requirement for business intelligence professionals to hold any kind of certification or license. Many choose not to obtain certifications because of the significant cost in both time and money associated with it. That being said, holding certifications does put you ahead of the competition in the job market and may help you to obtain more interesting – and more lucrative – job opportunities. Some certifications that you may want to consider include:

  • Certified Specialist Business Intelligence (CSBI)
  • Business Intelligence Vendor Training
  • Oracle Business Intelligence Certification
  • IBM Professional Certification Program

Associations

If you do want to become involved in the world of business intelligence, it is recommended that you join a number of professional organizations. If possible, become a member as early as possible, preferably while you are studying towards your bachelor’s degree. Many of these organizations offer scholarships and grants to their members, which can help you through your degree. Furthermore, they can link you towards continuous education credits if you have chosen to become certified. Most importantly, being a member of professional organizations means that you are always up to date with the latest developments in your field, and that you have fantastic networking opportunities as well. Some of these organizations and associations include:

  • TDWI (Transforming Data with Intelligence)
  • Dama
  • International Institute for Analytics
  • Pass (SQL)
  • INFORMS

References

Henry Steele
Henry Steele
Henry is Editor-in-Chief of Business Student.com. He is a seasoned business professional who regularly consults with local business's throughout Southern California. Henry pursued his undergrad in Business and Economics at the University of San Diego and gained valuable life changing experience through a unique internship upon graduation.

BusinessStudent.com provides students of business with the opportunities to get ahead in their career.