While it is possible to gain business analyst experience in the classroom, some of the best hands-on learning happens out in the field. Students who participate in internships; attend business analysis conferences and regional meetings; or look for entry-level work, either part time while in school or immediately after graduation, often have the most competitive business analyst experience. Experience is often as important to getting a job as it is to advancing within an organization.
The level of interest in what are usually scant business analyst positions can make paying jobs hard to come by. Experience is not always paid, however, and does not always take place in an office. Innovative students can find a variety of ways to gain valuable business analyst experience, from volunteering in up-and-coming organizations to shadowing professional leaders during school breaks.
Business analysis is a discipline that combines data gathering and statistical projections with a tangible understanding of how corporations work, grow, and thrive. There are a host of different business analysis jobs, but experience is important to success in each. In most cases, this starts with education. Analysts often have at least a bachelor’s degree, with many coming out of business school programs. The more graduates there are, the more important experience becomes as a means of differentiating similar candidates.
One of the best ways for aspiring analysts to get relevant experience is to participate in an internship. Business analyst internships often take place during the summer months, sandwiched between academic semesters. Interns generally work with a corporate analysis team, often under the supervision of a senior officer. Whether a business analyst intern is paid is largely a matter of the company’s size and operating budget.
Many companies will also hire students on as part-time business analysts, particularly at the graduate level. A student who works during the year is often able to build a rapport and demonstrate tangible skills directly. This kind of business analyst experience often leads to a job with the company after graduation and is a valuable indicator of promise, drive, and skills, in any event.
Finding business analysts jobs is not always easy, however, and market competition is often steep. Students who are looking to break into the field might have to start by offering to take unpaid internships or volunteering with small businesses or entrepreneurial start-ups. Working without pay can be a difficult financial decision in the short term but will often yield greater benefits down the line. Whether a job was compensated has little bearing on the skills developed or learned.
It is often also possible to gain business analyst experience by networking with established professionals in your area. Many associations host business analyst conferences, where new trends and developments are discussed in some depth. Conferences often have job fairs and networking opportunities, as well.
Meeting as many people as you can in the field will help open doors to experience opportunities. A company might not have a paying job to offer, but a senior analyst may let you shadow her for the day, or may sit down with you over lunch to answer your questions. This could lead to a host of different opportunities and ways for you to develop your professional acumen.