what can a business analysis certification do

What Does a BA Certification REALLY Buy You?

Studying for any certification is a daunting task; actually, it is more like a project. Watermark Learning routinely advises that studying for the Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP®) exam after taking our 35-hour certification preparation class will take approximately 100 hours or more, depending upon how familiar you are with the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK®) before taking the class. So, what makes all the time it will take to fill out the detailed application, participate in the preparation class, and then study another 100+ hours worth it? Not to mention the anxiety-ridden process of sitting for a 3.5-hour, 120-question CBAP® exam? You have a busy life with work (or seeking employment), friends, family, hobbies, travel, etc.; you get the picture! No, I am not trying to talk you out of a business analysis certification; this blog is meant to talk you into it. To that end, let’s get to it!

I earned my CBAP® certification in January of 2013. I was working as an independent consultant/trainer and at that point in time, considered myself a program manager specializing in organizational change, process improvement, agile, and service management initiatives. As a continuous learner, I reviewed the BABOK® and certification requirements and realized that I had been a practicing (strategic) business analyst for at least a couple of decades! I enrolled in Watermark Learning’s certification preparation class, put my nose to the grindstone, and a couple of months later – TADA – I could add CBAP to my email signature.

We will be discussing more about the BABOK®, the application process, study tips, etc. in upcoming blogs but first, it is important to have clarity regarding why YOU want to earn the certification. This will enable you to keep your “eye on the prize” to stay motivated during the certification process.

What does a certification from the International Institute of Business Analysis™ (IIBA®), especially the CBAP® designation, REALLY buy you? Experience and research suggest these four primary benefits; each will be discussed further:

  1. You will be more valuable to your organization or more marketable if seeking employment.
  2. Your earning power will grow significantly.
  3. You will be able to “speak BA.”
  4. Your credibility as a business analysis professional will increase.

You will be more valuable to your organization or more marketable if seeking employment.

As of April 30, 2020, there are 9,878 individuals holding the CBAP® credential in the world. This means that you will definitely stand out from the crowd since the CBAP® is internationally recognized as “the” desired credential in business analysis. It demonstrates that the credential holder has vast (and varied) experience in addition to “book knowledge” since a CBAP applicant must document at least 7,500 hours of practical application across the six knowledge areas.

According to the 2019 Global Business Analysis Salary Survey Report conducted and published by IIBA®, the 5,616 survey respondents representing 129 countries reported working within the six knowledge areas a significant percentage of the time (see graphic below).

Hence, the CBAP® credential reflects a diverse knowledgebase and corresponding skillset.

Your earning power will grow significantly.

According to that same salary survey, business analysts who hold one or more IIBA certifications earn 14% more than average! Specifically, CBAPs earn 19% more than average and IIBA®-AAC (agile analysis certification) credential holders earn 12% more than average. By the way, top-paying industries for business analysts listed in the survey report are Agriculture and Mining, Pharmaceuticals, and Energy and Utilities. Agile (adaptive) approaches are utilized in 71% of the respondents’ organizations. While the CBAP offers a robust foundation, the IIBA-AAC credential (while fairly new), is definitely recognized as a differentiator and is seemingly compensated accordingly.

Stay tuned to a future blog where we will discuss various business analysis certifications and help you identify those most valuable to you given your career aspirations.

You will be able to “speak BA.”

In my consulting engagements, I have worked with BAs across industries and geographies. Business Analysis has its own language. Business analysts oftentimes work with other BAs in their own, vendor, or offshore organizations. Recently, I was communicating with a credentialed BA in India whose organization had been engaged by my client to assist with a complex project. We discussed the potential value of a coverage (traceability) matrix and identified the relevant requirement attributes we wanted to collect during our elicitation efforts. At the end of the conversation, we both commented about how nice it was to plan and effectively communicate with a BA professional. The ability to communicate in the same language saved time, eliminated confusion, and ultimately better served the project and sponsoring organization.

A common language is so important that the former principals of Watermark Learning, Elizabeth and Richard Larson, authored a user-friendly reference book entitled “How to Talk BA” available through Watermark or booksellers.


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Ben Schwartz

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