Top Business Analyst Certifications

As the business analysis market continues to heat up, many Business Analysts are vying for ways to stand out in the crowd. Because of this, BA certifications have become a hot commodity.
Aspiring professionals are using certifications to give them an edge over their competition in the entry-level job market, while current Business Analysts are gaining certifications to show their business analysis prowess and increase their opportunities for promotion or to be included in special projects.

Regardless of where you are in your career, a certification may just be the boost you need to take you to the next level.

But which certification is right for you?

Here’s a breakdown of the top business analysis-related institutes and organizations, along with their most popular and helpful certification options.

International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA)

After being founded in 2003, the non-profit professional association known as the IIBA has steadily grown and expanded to be one of the premier business analysis organizations in the world. In fact, shortly after its inception, their Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK), which is now on version 3, was designated by many organizations as the industry standards document for everything business analysis.

This notoriety has enabled the IIBA to make available some highly sought-after certifications.

Level 1 – Entry Certificate in Business Analysis (ECBA)

One of the newer additions to the IIBA’s certification portfolio is the ECBA. This certificate is curated for aspiring or new business analysts who want to prove their understanding of the foundational concepts of business analysis as they begin their careers.

This certificate covers business analysis planning and monitoring, elicitation and collaboration, requirements life cycle management, requirements analysis and design definition, and general business analysis knowledge.

IIBA exams validate your knowledge of the BABOK v3 standards at varying levels of understanding, and your completion of them displays your commitment to the business analysis profession. Not only do we have courses that teach to the BABOK guide standards, but the IIBA has also validated and endorsed them, so they count toward PDU and CDU requirements for various certifications. These courses include:

Level 2 – Certification of Capability in Business Analysis (CCBA)

One of the long-standing certifications offered by the IIBA is the CCBA. This certification is ideal for business analysis professionals with two to three years of business analysis experience who want to be recognized for their work in the field and the knowledge they have acquired. It also requires that you’ve completed at least twenty-one hours of Professional Development within the last four years. Looking to gain more knowledge and Professional Development hours with IIBA-endorsed courses? Take another look at our course list above!

The topics this certification covers are business analysis planning and monitoring, elicitation and collaboration, requirements life cycle management, strategy analysis, requirements analysis and design definition, and solution evaluation.

Level 3 – Certified Business Analysis Professional (CBAP)

The CBAP is currently the highest certification offered through the IIBA and is one of the – if not THE – most coveted certifications available for Business Analysts. This certification is targeted toward BAs with thirty-five hours of Professional Development over the past four years. You can complete some (or all!) of these Professional Development hours with our IIBA-endorsed courses listed above in this article!

Landing this certification demonstrates that you have what it takes to be part of the most impactful projects in any organization and will provide you with a clear advantage in promotional opportunities and salary negotiations.

The knowledge areas covered in this certification are business analysis planning and monitoring, elicitation and collaboration, requirements life cycle management, strategy analysis, requirements analysis, design definition, and solution evaluation.

Agile Analysis Certification (AAC)

With Agile practices now the norm in most organizations, the IIBA has launched the Agile Analysis Certification. Since its introduction in 2018, the AAC has continued to grow in popularity as more organizations recognize and begin adopting the practices taught within their agile standards.

The exam covers the Agile Mindset, Strategy Horizon, Initiative Horizon, and Delivery Horizon.

Because some Agile standards conflict with traditional business analysis standards, the IIBA has written and published another standards document – the Agile Extension (v2).

Project Management Institute (PMI)

Even though the PMI has been around since 1969, its primary focus has narrowed in on project management standards and certifications. Only recently (2017) have they released their own set of business analysis standards (PMI’s Guide to Business Analysis) and expanded to also offer two business analysis-specific certifications.

PMI Professional in Business Analysis (PMI-PBA)

Currently, the most popular business analysis certification the PMI offers is the PMI-PBA. This certification is positioned to compete with the IIBA’s CBAP. With a heavy focus on the core responsibilities of a business analyst, such as requirements elicitation, documentation, and management, this certification will likely continue to grow in popularity as the PMI continues its expansion into the business analysis profession. 

The prerequisites for this certification can be fulfilled by completing thirty-five hours of either work or education experience.

PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)

With Agile’s continued adoption by organizations, the fastest-growing PMI certification is the PMI-ACP. This is targeted toward Business Analysts who want to prove they have the skills and talents necessary to be successful in an Agile environment.

As a prerequisite for this certification, individuals must have completed 21 contact hours (earned in Agile practices) or 35 contact hours of formal education (in project management).

As the PMI’s Guide to Business Analysis does not cover the agile methodologies specifically, there is an add-on standards document called the Agile Practice Guide

British Computer Society (BCS)

Popular in Europe, as that is where it originated, the BCS (formerly known as ISEP) has continued to grow and expand its certification offerings outside of its traditional IT background to also include certifications on business analysis. When working toward business analysis certifications with the BCS, students follow the SFIAplus framework to track their professional development progress and see how they’re doing as they build their skills and when measured against industry benchmarks.

Foundation Certificate in Business Analysis

Without any entry requirements, the Foundation Certification in Business Analysis was created for those professionals who aspire to become Business Analysts. Prospective professionals can look to the Business Analysis (fourth edition) book by Debra Paul and James Cadle, et al. to assist in landing this entry-level certificate.

Exam topics for the Foundation Certificate in Business Analysis include defining what business analysis is, the core competencies of Business Analysts, looking at business analysis in a strategic context, identifying activities in the Business Analysis Service Framework (BASF), analyzing and managing stakeholders, improving business services and processes, and much more.

Diploma of Business Analysis

The most sought-after BCS certification, or diploma as they call it, is the Diploma in Business Analysis. This certification is earned only after you have passed four exam modules (one being the Foundation module mentioned above) and completed an oral examination which takes place in a virtual meeting room.

There are a few prerequisites necessary to achieve this certification, including passing specific BCS examinations or holding other globally recognized certifications (for example, the IIBA’s CBAP, IREB’s CPRE foundation level, and other BCS certificates).

Choose The Certification That’s Right For Your Career
While there are hundreds of different business analysis certifications that can be earned, those from the IIBA, PMI, and BCS are held in high regard and will deliver the highest ROI for those ambitious enough to pursue them.

– Written by Jeremy Aschenbrenner, The BA Guide

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4 Responses

  1. Thank you.

    What would you recommend for someone moving from BA to core advisory consulting or pre sales?

    I’ve been a BA for 10+ years, but I feel it takes special skills to make presentation worthy enough to be presented to prospect client’s CEO/CFO and make a convincing pitch

    1. The big difference between a BA and a role like pre-sales is where you are involved. As you mentioned pre-sales is involved early, often to sell the possibility of value. Because of this, you will want to focus at least a part of your training to fully understand how to best identify the opportunity and propose a strategy as to how solving for that will provide value. I’d recommend you start with our Business Analysis Process Series (https://www.thebaguide.com/baps) to gain more insight.

      Best of luck to you!

  2. Thank you for the clear distinction that you have provided. Between PMI and CBAP which would be the better bet? I’ve had the title of BA for about a year but I’ve worked as BA in different engineering roles for more than 7 years before this. I want to certify myself, any leads would be of great help

    1. They both are recognized and utilized by many industries, but if you can meet the requirements of the CBAP, that is the one I would recommend. The challenge will be ensuring you meet the project hours required to qualify for the exam. You can begin the application for the exam at no charge, so you can go ahead and walk through it to see if you can qualify based on what you can put together.

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