Business intelligence is one of the fastest-growing job sectors in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, hiring for business intelligence analysts is expected to grow by 14% over the next decade.
Business intelligence careers generally have three tracks: Analytics, Engineer, or Architecture. Business intelligence analysts evaluate business data and generate insights to help businesses reduce costs, maximize profits or gain a competitive edge. Business intelligence engineers, architects and developers design and construct the infrastructure to store and process data.
To launch a business intelligence career, you will likely need a minimum of:
This business intelligence career guide provides an overview of the field, an introduction to different BI job titles and offers tips for breaking into business intelligence careers.
→ Land Your First BI Job. Prepare for your interview with our guide to business intelligence interview questions.
Business Intelligence is a combination of analytics, data mining and data visualization. The chief function of BI is to translate data into insights that facilitate data-driven decision making.
Here is how explanation by a current practitioner about the huge impact BI professionals have on their organizations:
“Business intelligence (also called BI) refers to the technology that allows businesses to organize, analyze, and contextualize business data from around the company,” says Ben Johnson, a Business Intelligence Analyst at Access Bank. “BI makes a difference by introducing options to summarize insights, making business operations smarter, providing visibility to facts concealed under complex data, and providing a competitive edge to business everywhere.”
Modern business intelligence systems utilize a mix of tools and processes, including:
Within business intelligence there are developers and engineers who build BI and analytics infrastructure, and the analysts who evaluate the data, meet with stakeholders and generate reports that inform business decisions. Some of the most common job functions include:
Let’s say an e-commerce business is experiencing high abandoned cart rates. To solve this business intelligence problem, the BI department would first meet with stakeholders to determine the types of data they would need to scope out the issue at hand.
In this case, customer experience analytics could help identify where in the sales funnel customers abandoned their cart, which types of customers are abandoning and potentially why they are abandoning. After meeting with stakeholders, a business intelligence engineer would design and build databases and dashboards to process the raw customer analytics data.
Then, a business intelligence analyst would analyze the aggregated data assembled by the engineer and identify where customers were dropping off in the sales funnel, which types of customers, etc. Reporting this information back to the product and development teams, the analyst can help improve customer experiences to reduce abandonment rates and drive new revenue.
Almost all business intelligence professionals start in analyst roles, before working their way up the career ladder. The most common roles in business intelligence include:
Business Intelligence Analyst - BI analysts typically deal with processed data. They perform statistical analysis to generate reports and isolate insights about the business. They typically focus on marketing, operations or finance for the business.
Customer Insight Analyst - This role is common in larger companies (like Amazon), and is an analytics role focused solely on customer experiences. Customer insight analysts typically serve customer experience and marketing departments to help them gain a better understanding of their core customers and answer questions about how to best serve the customer’s needs.
Business Intelligence Engineer - Similar to the data engineer role, BI engineers build dashboards, databases and ETL pipelines to process raw analytics data. They are also responsible for using visualization tools like Tableau to implement dashboards for stakeholders.
Business Intelligence Developer - BI developers have a similar role to engineers, but developers typically work more closely on front-end solutions, helping to develop dashboards, software and applications to present business data.
Business Intelligence Architect - In large organizations, BI architects are responsible for designing a roadmap for development. Architects are not necessarily responsible for building or implementing the solutions; rather, they are responsible for translating the needs of an organization into a plan for the developers and engineers to build.
Business Intelligence Manager - Business intelligence managers oversee a team of analysts and developers/engineers, and they are responsible for driving the performance of the BI department. Managers collaborate cross-functionally with leadership teams, building and interacting with stakeholders to shape the roadmap for BI development and analysis.
In simple terms, business intelligence, or BI, is the practice of applying insights from data to the problem of running an enterprise business. This field is split between two common careers (BI analysts and BI engineers).
While there is some overlap between the two roles, a BI engineer mainly constructs and maintains the data pipeline that a BI analyst uses to deliver insights to their employer. Therefore, BI engineers have a more technical role than BI analyst and require specialization in data storage and ETL tools.
The core responsibility of a business intelligence analyst is to gather, clean and analyze business data. This can include data like revenue, sales, or customer engagement metrics. In particular, BI analysts are required to:
Business intelligence engineers and developers core responsibility is building and maintaining the BI data environment. They may create pipelines to process daily transaction data or develop custom BI reporting tools. Responsibilities of a business intelligence engineer include:
No matter the role, careers in business intelligence require a strong background in business, economics, statistics, or a related field. BI professionals also require strong technical skills, as well as the ability to communicate their insights to people who may not be familiar with data science.
Required business intelligence skills include:
A bachelor’s degree is a minimum requirement to land a BI job. However, most BI jobs are not entry-level and require 4 years of professional experience on average.
With that professional experience component in mind, it is important to choose a major that provides skills that are well-aligned to BI careers and that will help you land an entry-level role like data analyst. The best subjects to study for BI careers include:
Beyond a bachelor’s degree, you will likely need supplemental training for the role. In fact, a master’s degree is an increasingly common ‘preferred’ qualification for business intelligence jobs. There are two ways you can gain additional training:
Professional certifications - Certificate programs in SQL, data analytics, visualization tools like Tableau, QuickSight and Python will make you more competitive for BI roles. Bootcamps can also help you level up your skills in a short amount of time.
Master’s degree - A master’s degree in statistics, data analytics, data science, or a related quantitative field are preferred for many BI roles. MBAs are another option, but would require additional training in BI technology. Typically, a master’s degree is helpful for those making career transitions or those who want a deeper understanding of data science.
As we have discussed, a BI analyst is not an entry-level role. This is because employers prefer analysts who have solid experience in data and business analysis. Having an MBA or data science master’s can substitute for a portion of real-world experience, however you should still expect to be asked for 1-2 years in the field in addition to the degree.
Since most BI roles require 4 or more years of professional experience, many BI analysts, engineers and developers start their careers as data analysts, business analysts, or in entry-level data engineering jobs.
These roles provide a strong foundation in skills like SQL, data analytics and database design, which are all must-have foundations for BI roles. Similarly, these roles provide an introduction to tools like Tableau, AWS Glue and Hadoop.
Other than working for a company there are many ways for you to build business intelligence skills. You can:
Ultimately, no matter your mix of experience and outside learning, you have to do well in the interview. Business intelligence interviews focus heavily on SQL, as well as analytics and SQL case studies, product/business sense, and statistics. For example, the Amazon business intelligence engineer interview includes 4-5 rounds that focus on:
Business case studies are a key part of BI interviews, and it helps to practice with as many mock interviews as possible. Here is one such example, a walk-through of a business intelligence mock interview:
A senior level BI analyst role typically requires at least eight years of experience in business intelligence, analytics, product management/development or technology. In addition, for senior-level roles an MBA or master’s degree in data science, business analytics, or statistics is often required. Besides both experience and a higher education, some employers also require Certified Business Analysis Professional certification through the International Institute of Business Analysis.
Here is a complete list of requirements for a senior level BI role:
Business intelligence manager roles typically require an MBA or master’s degree in business analytics. Similarly, these roles require 10-12 years of BI or related experience, and employers may also request some form of BI certification.
BI managers generally work closely with leaders across operations, product, business development and other related departments to support and implement tools that facilitate more agile data-driven decision making. The key role of a BI manager is to lead the BI team - including analysts, engineers and developers. Managers play an integral role in conceptualizing, building, maintaining and generating insights from the organization’s BI tools.
Some requirements include:
Interview Query offers a variety of resources to help you prepare for business intelligence interviews. Start with our guide to Business Intelligence Interview Questions, or become a premium member to access: