One of the most common queries I get from my readers is this:
“What is the best business analyst certification for beginners?”
Usually this question comes from those trying to break into a Business Analyst career and have no prior experience.
It can be challenging to demonstrate that you’ve Business Analyst skills if you’ve not played a BA role before.
Hence, many BA aspirants try to earn a Business Analyst Certification to help boost their credentials.
Now, we all know that obtaining any kind of certification costs time and money.
So before you set off to obtain that BA certification, you’ll want to know a few things:
1. Is a Business Analyst certification required?
2. What are the different types of BA certification?
3. As a beginner, what kind of BA certification do I need?
4. What’s the difference between the CBAP and CCBA certifications?
5. What do I look for in a BA certification?
6. Are there related courses which will be relevant to a Business Analyst?
7. Are there other ways to gain BA experience?
In this article, I’ll try to answer the questions above.
1. Is A Business Analyst Certification Required?
Now, before we launch into a discussion of the best Business Analyst certification for beginners, it’s apt to ask:
Is A Business Analyst certification required?
Put another way – do hiring managers care whether you’ve a BA certification or not?
Well, I’ll be honest with you.
When employers are interviewing for BA positions, they obviously value prior BA experience first.
They don’t specifically look for BA certifications on your resume.
However, if they’re assessing two candidates for a BA role and both CVs are quite similar (e.g. both lack strong BA expertise and credentials), THEN a BA certification may well be the tie breaker.
I know because I’ve interviewed would-be BAs as well, both in my current consulting firm and whilst I was with a bank.
So I’d say that Business Analyst certifications are good to have, but they won’t be a strong deciding factor in your interview or job application.
As a candidate for a BA role, you’re better off obtaining some relevant BA experience (see Point 7 below), rather solely focusing on a BA certification.
Another important thing to point out is that employers for BA roles value attitude and soft skills a lot.
So you can be sure that during the BA interview, you’ll be tested on your attitude and soft skills, perhaps through some form of behavioral interviewing.
So in summary, don’t rely on just the BA certification to get a BA role.
Expand your perspective, try to take on BA-like roles in your present company and build up direct BA expertise (more on this in Section 7 below).
2. Types of BA Certification
Next up – we should look at the types of BA certification available out there. Now, I’d generally class BA certifications into three broad categories:
Top Tier – these are the better certifications out there, which may cost you more money – but are well recognized as BA credentials when you’re looking for a role.
In this category, we’re looking at the likes of the Certified Business Analyst Professional (CBAP), offered by the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA). We’re also thinking of graduate degree programs, e.g. a Masters in Business and IT.
Mid Tier – there are other certifications out there, e.g. online sites like Udemy and LinkedIn which offer some nice BA courses. However, they may not be deemed as solid BA certification in their own right.
Lower Tier – then there are the lower tier offerings out there. This category includes the training course provider who may offer some “BA certifications” but in reality are not well recognized out in the market.
So which tier of BA certification should one take up?
In my view, if you’re serious about breaking into a BA career, I’d say go with the best, i.e. take up a CBAP from the IIBA or take on a full-fledged Masters program which will teach you about business analysis.
If the cost of a top tier BA certification is prohibitive, you can do some base BA courses in Udemy and LinkedIn. The nice thing about these two places is that you can easily access the online course, via a desktop, laptop or mobile.
The above being said, it’s still important to go beyond mere certification and get some practical BA experience.
BA certifications will introduce you to the jargon, methodologies and technical speak behind the Business Analyst’s toolkit.
With that knowledge, you’re better equipped to pick up some practical BA experience, which can be a real differentiator when you’re apply to a BA role somewhere.
3. A Beginner’s Perspective
If you’re a beginner with no experience in Business Analysis, what certification is suitable for you?
Well, for me, one of the better business analyst certification for beginners is the CBAP, which is run by the IIBA. We mentioned it briefly above, so let’s try to understand the CBAP a bit better here.
CBAP stands for “Certified Business Analysis Professional“.
It’s what I’d call a top-tier, foundational BA certification that will benefit all those looking to launch a Business Analyst career.
The typical CBAP qualified person will possess the following skills:
- The ability to identify business needs and then determine the best technology solutions to solve business problems.
- They are very skilled in the six base knowledge areas and techniques covered in the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK). If you’re familiar with the Project Management Institute (PMI), it runs its Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK). The BABOK is a similar construct but it’s tuned towards standardized, professional knowledge for business analysis.
For those of you interested in becoming a CBAP, you may wish to check out this link.
For your information, the IIBA is a well known, international professional association for business analysts. It has more than 18,000 members worldwide and is consider THE go-to place for Business Analysts who want formal training in BA techniques.
4. The CBAP and CCBA Certifications
We talked about CBAP above, but there is also another qualification run by the IIBA called the CCBA, or the Certification of Capability in Business Analysis.
If we look at the CBAP and the CCBA, you’ll find two distinguishing features between them:
- The amount of business analysis experience required
- The diversity of business analysis experience required
Now, you can sit for the CCBA exam if you document, at a minimum, 3750 hours of work experience, in line with the BABOK over the last seven years.
Also, within the BABOK guide, you need to have at a minimum 900 hours in 2 of the 6 knowledge areas or 500 hours in 4 of the 6 knowledge areas.
On the other hand, in contrast, if you apply for the CBAP, you need to have much more experience. I’m talking about a minimum of 7500 hours of BA work experience in line with the BABOK over the last 10 years. You also must be able to document 900 hours in 4 of the 6 knowledge areas.
Both Business Analyst certifications are well recognized.
However, if I’d place my bets on the better option to pursue, I’d go with the CBAP.
The coverage and depth of the CBAP are considered much better than the CCBA.
In fact, many of those whom I see working towards a CCBA only treat it as an interim certification, whilst they build up business analysis experience.
Eventually they work towards the broader and more comprehensive CBAP when they hit the re-certification period..
The exams are also different and I would imagine that given the lesser experience requirements for the CCBA, that the exam might be easier overall.
Case Study. I started my career in the IT consulting industry in the early 2000s, working for an American MNC. Back then, many of my peers were very much into Java programming, J2EE, servlets, middleware, etc. If you were working in the early 2000s in IT, you’d know what I’m talking about.
I made a conscious choice back then to focus on becoming a Business Analyst than becoming a IT Specialist. I volunteered myself for projects where a BA role was available, which hardly anyone wanted to take up at the time – because IT was the “in thing” and nobody thought much of becoming a BA.
Many of my IT Specialist colleagues came to me and said “Why are you learning about how to gather system requirements? What value is there in doing that? You should be learning Java and IT architecture.”
I sometimes look back on those conversations and I can honestly say I have no regret in going down the Business Analyst path.
I learnt SO MUCH in terms of solving business problems with IT or other techniques. I learnt how to facilitate requirement workshops. I learnt how to document IT requirements in business friendly language.
And most importantly, I learnt how to present and communicate information in a simple way to business people.
These skills have stayed with me for a long time in my career and have really made a difference.
My suggestion to those starting out in a Business Analyst career – stick it out! You should read up guides on how to excel as a BA and don’t give up. Over the long term, you will reap the benefits of being a BA.
4. What To Look For In A Business Analyst Certification
It’s often easy to get lost in the different business analyst certification for beginners out there.
Most folks get lost in the different options and end up not progressing in their certifications.
Here’s where I think it’s important to think of your own requirements.
What kind of BA training and certification do you really need as an individual?
Consider your own requirements – it will help you decide what course suits you.
Here are three things to consider:
Your BA Training Needs. If you’re new to Business Analyst work and want to get a fundamental sweep of business and systems analysis, you can go for a full fledged CBAP certification.
If you’re more interested in a specific area of Business Analysis, e.g. Business Data Analytics or Agile Project Delivery – then you may wish to do specific courses that deep dive into those topics only.
Your Budget. Your budget is always important in selecting a BA certification for yourself. If you’ve company sponsorship, then go for a good, solid course. If it’s your own pocket money, then you’d want to do some research on the true costs of the BA training.
Case Study. I recently attended an Agile ScrumMaster Certification course which was sponsored by my company. The course was not cheap – easily a USD 800 per head.
I already had the broad Business Analyst experience but needed some brush up in terms of the latest agile project delivery methodologies, Scrum techniques, etc.
So a dedicated, deep dive into an Agile ScrumMaster Certification made sense for me, rather than a CBAP (which would have cost a lot more).
Incidentally, in many countries you may get subsidies from the government for learning IT or BA related courses.
In Singapore, for example, there’s a SkillsFuture Program which allows Singaporeans to attend courses and get subsidies. These can be quite significant amounts, so do make sure you claim them if you’re eligible.
The Mode of Delivery. Some BA certification programs are classroom based and allow you to interact with you classmates. This is advantageous as it allows you to get in touch with folks, build your network and possibly land a job with a company you want to work for.
However, if networking is not your priority, then an online course or distance learning program may be something you want to consider instead. These options will also save costs.
5. Other Courses Of Interest To A Business Analyst
If you intend to become a Business Analyst, you should realize that there are other peripheral skill sets that will benefit you.
I can think of three areas.
Project Management. As some of you will know, Business Analysis has quite a bit of overlap with Project Management.
In both cases, you have a lot of stakeholders to manage, a lot of scope and requirements to manage. You also need to have communication skills and the ability to think forward and truly understand stakeholder needs.
In fact, the Project Manager path is one of the most common career options for a seasoned Business Analyst.
So it’s something you should definitely consider as a BA.
If you intend to become a Project Manager after being a Business Analyst for a number of years, it would be a great idea to study for the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification.
Agile Project Methodologies. Agile project delivery is now all the rage. Just ask any major institution which is running software implementation projects.
Instead of traditional, “waterfall” based project delivery, firms are clearly turning towards agile delivery.
This is in part driven by the need to roll out workable products to the users in a much shortened timeframe.
Business users now look for value delivered from systems in months, rather than years.
The problem with traditional software delivery approaches was that business benefits get delivered in one large chunk, often after e.g. months and months of development.
And what happens in those scenarios? Often, the software delivered does not meet users’ needs. So the company has just wasted months of development time to provide software that’s totally off track.
Agile project delivery prevents this by getting Business Users involved right upfront, by identifying a “Product Owner” role.
This Product Owner (usually from the Business departments) can make decisions and trade-off calls between cost, scope and schedule.
There is also a continuous prioritization of business requirements to make sure that the ones with the highest business value percolates to the top of the list.
Case Study. I’ve always subscribed to a traditional “waterfall” approach to software development.
I’m used to project the planning, documentation, due dates and risk management templates.
Project governance forums and slides full of traffic lights and project status reports.
In a truly agile project, all that goes away.
Notice that I said “truly agile” – because many of my clients continue to run “hybrid agile” approaches – meaning they mix a bit of traditional waterfall into agile project delivery.
That being said, the need and demand for agile is clear and it would definitely be beneficial for a Business Analyst today to pick up these agile skills.
Test Management. Another area that is of tremendous relevance to a Business Analyst is that of test management. What do I mean bby test management? Well, if you’re implementing a system for a company, one of the key phases of the project is the testing phase.
This is where the software gets “”quality assured”” and you check to make sure the critical bugs and defects are ironed out before the product can be shipped out to the world.
From my perspective, testing is a great way for BAs to see the output of their requirements gathered from business users translated into actual working code.
Many BAs I know don’t like to do testing as they think it is “too technical”.
I beg to differ. Testing is a great way for you to understand how software delivery and quality assurance works.
It’s a skill I’d look for in any Project Manager, Business Analyst – and yes, in any senior IT and Operations.
These days, of course, testing has evolved beyond what I was used to, e.g. a decade ago. With agile software delivery methodologies in place, testing has become a lot faster.
Testing usually involves crafting unit test scripts (i.e. programs tested by developers), System Integration Test scripts (tested by IT Analysts) and User Acceptance Test scripts (tested by Business Analysts or Product Owners).
You need to be conversant in these testing terms so that you can contribute effectively to the testing process in any software delivery project.”
6. Great BA Related Courses In Singapore
For those interested in Business Analyst Certification courses for beginners, it’s also useful to consider two other courses.
in Singapore. I’d imagine if you reside elsewhere, there would be equivalent courses in the local universities or polytechnics.
SP Jain School of Global Management. This business school has a great has a reputation in Singapore and is know to have a great Data Science Foundation course. If you’re a BA or looking to start a career in data science, this may be the course to attend.
National University of Singapore Institute of System Science. The Institute of System Science (ISS) resides in the National University of Singapore (where I studied). It offers a very comprehensive Diploma in System Analysis certification which teaches you the full foundations of Business Analysis.
If you’re looking for a full-fledged course that will help you become a BA within a year or so, this is a great course to take. It will put you in good stead to apply for BA roles, as you also have an internship opportunity whilst studying there.”
7. Other Ways To Gain BA Experience
A final thought for those looking for best business analyst certification for beginners.
It’s important to understand that BA experience can be obtained in many ways. You don’t need to just take a BA certification.
You can make use of your current role or get involved in transformation projects in your company.
Larger companies will always have some Business or IT transformation project going on, so you definitely will have good chances to switching to a BA track.
Tip. One good way to rack up BA experience is to volunteer yourself into a project and ask to be a Test Analyst. Many companies struggle during the testing phase of software and definitely would not mind someone volunteering time to test a software.
If you have the opportunity, you can also ask for other types of BA experience, e.g. formulating strategic imperatives, business cases, gathering system requirements, etc.
And speaking of gaining BA experience, attitude and “soft skills” continue to be very, very important to employers.
Employers love BAs who can manage stakeholders, have great communication skills and the ability and passion to learn more about the job, industry and BA methodologies.
So if you have prior BA experience AND you’ve a great attitude to the job, it’s done – you’ll most likely be hired.
Experience refers to prior Business Analyst experience, e.g. formulating strategic imperatives, business cases, gathering system requirements, testing, etc.
Attitude refers to “soft skills” – the ability and passion to learn more about the job, industry and also BA methodologies.
So if you have prior BA experience AND you’ve a great attitude to the job, it’s done – you’ll most likely be hired.
To round off our discussion of Business Analyst certifications for beginners, I think I’d put down three key takeaways.
First, think about why you need a Business Analyst certification. Are you looking for a BA role? Remember to keep things in perspective – the BA certification won’t get you the job – you should also try to build up BA experience by taking on BA-like roles in your present company and build up direct BA expertise.
Second, find a BA certification that suits you. It’s very easy to get lost in the different Business Analyst certification options out there. Consider your BA training needs, your budget and also the mode of delivery.
Third, be aware that their are other ancillary skill sets that will benefit you in your BA career. These include Project Management, Agile Project Methodologies and Test Management.
And that’s all for now! Until next time, have a good time learning more about Business Analysis and best of luck in searching for that BA certification! Feel free to reach out to me if you’ve any questions at all.