I’m Sorry About Your Worthless Business Analyst Certification

by BA Master · 64 comments

Certificates Are For Children

What is a certification really worth?  Children get them for good school attendance or winning a race.  Yet, numerous college institutions, and other organizations, are passing Business Analyst Certifications off as though they are equal, in some way, to the degrees they confer upon graduates.

When asked whether someone should complete their college degree or get a BA Certification instead, I recently posted the following on LinkedIn:

I think completing your degree will give you the most “bang-for-your-buck”. Here are a few reasons I feel this way:

  1. You already have significant experience as a BA. Right now, the CBAP is not as widely recognized or required by employers as, say, the PMP. A quick search for CBAP on the major job boards will validate this.
  2. A degree provides you more options if you find you cannot advance, specifically if your company does not have a career track beyond Senior BA.
  3. In my opinion, many of the Certification programs offered are way overpriced. You can acquire additional BA knowledge cheaper online or through books. This works best when you find a mentor or two that you can have direct your knowledge seeking efforts.

If you are more business oriented, I would suggest a Bachelors in Information Systems or other Business degree. If you are very technical, I would recommend a Computer Science degree. If you are hoping for further advancement, I would recommend the MBA which can lead to higher management levels.

Worthless BA Certification Exceptions

There can be exceptions.  The Project Management Professional (PMP) certification offered by the Project Management Institute (PMI) is a fine example.  The PMP is a certification recognized across all industries and backed by a mature organization with a history of steady improvement.  Employers across the globe demand PMP certification as a basic requirement.  The closest thing Business Analysts have is the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA).  However, the IIBA is not yet mature enough to engender the same sort of recognition as the PMI.  Don’t get me wrong, the IIBA will become what the PMI is, but that is going to take years.

 

Experience and Training – NOT a Piece of Paper

A quick search of the job boards proves that current employers are searching for people with particular experience and training.  You would be better off plunking down $6,000 on a SAP or Business Objects training course than a Business Analyst Certification.  That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay for training.  On the contrary, you should purchase training, but you can do it much more cheaply by taking online Business Analyst training courses and buying books.  If you do decide to get the certificate anyway, just make sure you are doing it to get the training to develop experience and NOT just for the piece of paper.

{ 60 comments… read them below or add one }

Phillip Wiedower

I completely agree with your assessment. Certifications are often used as a method for HR personnel, who often are not familiar with the role, to determine if a candidate has minimum knowledge of the subject before passing a resume along to the hiring manager.
As you mention the CBAP is not widely known therefore I don’t believe really differentiates one candidate from another. As a hiring manager I often ignore certificates since it usually translates into the candidate was capable of studying for an exam. I am more interested in the candidates work experience and product.

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Nik

Certifications are benchmarks of knowledge.

They do not supplement experience, however they do compliment experience.

You wouldn’t visit a Doctor or Lawyer with unrecognised credentials irrespective of the experience so why should it be different for other industries.
A Doctor who has studied from another country may be taught out-dated procedures.
Having the appropriate credentials ensures you are all on the same page.
My observation is that those who argue against certification/degrees are people who don’t have the piece of paper or those who never understood what they were studying in the first palce and just memorised to pass the exam.

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Paula Maychruk

While I may beg to differ with a few of the things you’ve stated, I think you raise a very valid point when you say that: “Right now, the CBAP is not as widely recognized or required by employers as, say, the PMP.” What I would be interested in hearing, would be your take on how we could improve the take-up of the CBAP designation, and our overall value to Business Analysts world-wide. If you were in my shoes, as VP of Certification for IIBA, what would you recommend?

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Brad Botz

Paula,

I was hoping to shake things up a bit with this post, and I’m glad you posted a comment.

First, I think there is going to be a natural, time-based, component to the wider acceptance of the CBAP that I’m not sure you can do anything to speed up. I think the IIBA is doing a great job of being the leader in promoting the BA career though it’s certification and the BABOK.

Second, I think the new Corporate Membership option is probably the IIBAs best vehicle to position the CBAP as THE choice for Business Analyst Certification. The more larger, media visible companies you can get to sign on for the Corporate Membership, the better. Many of the smaller companies I have worked for will follow the lead of GE. IBM, or Microsoft. It’s the “if it works for them, it can work for us” mentality.

Third, the IIBA should consider sponsoring some academic research to help provide the “proof” that certified and highly trained Business Analysts can make a tangible difference to a company. There is a lot of anecdotal evidence, but nothing really concrete in the academic literature. I think some solid research could translate into implementable metrics to show the BA value. Once you have the value proposition, executive management will be much more likely to accept the costs associated with things like training and the Corporate Membership.

I could go on-and-on, but I’ll leave it there for this post.

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Tia

I landed in business analysis in the DC after first starting writing specs in Oklahoma and then as a product manager in Philadelphia. I found that “business analyst” is actually a rather regional term. But, I digress… nothing irritates me more than certification for certification sake. Yes, if it helps you get a job… I suppose that is fine but I have interviewed many prospective analysts in my still very young career and I must say that being certified was the last thing I looked for or cared about.

It’s hard for me to understand the argument that certification helps our field. Frankly, I think what helps our field is staying relevant. Middlemen and translators are always the first to go, and just added “Certified” to those descriptions doesn’t really help if the role is seen as costly and inefficient.

Ultimately, there is simply no substitute for common sense. I’d take a junior BA with an open mind and common sense into a project with me over an over-educated, “certified” BA any day of the week!

Thanks for getting us all riled up! :-)

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Michelle

Thanks for your comments, Tia.

This is probably the most positive and hopeful text I’ve read online to date regarding what it takes to be a BA. I’ve been working in the capacity of a “BA” in my current company for 9+ years because a BA was needed on several projects I’ve been assigned to, yet one was not formally assigned who could dedicate the time and subject-matter expertise necessary to get the tasks done. Although I know my work experience has taught me more than an online course geared toward a specific BA certification ever will, every BA position available that I consider applying for has to be eliminated as an option for me because certifications are minimum requirements.

Regardless, thanks for the tiny ray of hope and best of luck to you in your search for ideal BA candidates.

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BA Master

Michelle,

Thanks for commenting.

There has been a disturbing trend in companies over the years. They look for the ‘perfect’ candidate, whether BA or any other position, and will not even consider anything less. There are numerous articles covering the subject on the interwebs :)

In my reply to Tom on this post, I did a nationwide search on four major job boards and found very little mention of BA Cert requirements. Although I didn’t mention it in that reply, I imagine that there are various locations that have a higher concentration of ‘requiring’ a Business Analyst Certification.

In my, often not-so-humble opinion, I don’t think Certs should be a minimum requirement – ever, preferred requirement – yes, but never minimum. The minimum requirements should always come down to the level of experience utilizing the knowledge and techniques that the company feels is necessary to get the job done.

Keep looking, the jobs are out there for experienced BAs without Certs.

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Johan

Interesting take Brad.

I would tend to agree with the sentiments that no one is really asking for this certification on job boards. I suppose when the time comes that some are asking for it, then I will consider it.

Secondly I am reluctant to apply because of the “double dipping” of experience on the application. Asking for non-BA hours then removing experience off of your application because of certain tasks not aligning. That seems a little too subjective and arbitrary to me. Until I get told what tasks do not align or they are removed from the application I will hold off.

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Josh Nankivel

This post is awesome Brad!

I’m a project manager and not a business analyst, but I think your assessment is right on. I especially enjoyed this sentence, which could just have easily come from my loud mouth:

“If you do decide to get the certificate anyway, just make sure you are doing it to get the training to develop experience and NOT just for the piece of paper.”

I can’t remember how many times I’ve written or talked on that exact sentiment.

Cheers!

-Josh, pmStudent.com

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Yaaqub Mohamed

Hey Brad! Nice article! I had recently participated in a LinkedIn discussion, and stated that CBAP will not make you a better BA! It all essence its just a piece of paper. I have met a couple CBAPs that lacked some basic BA approach to solving a real business problem. (This is for sure an exception rather than a norm)

However, having said that I am still a big proponent of the CBAP certification. For a couple reasons:
>> This is a starting point for the BA community to have one convergence point to discuss BA related terms, and approaches. A lot of peripheral activities of IIBA is helping bring all the BAs together (Chapters, Events, Conferences, etc) – this hasn’t happened before.
>> This should help a BA (and is helping) to reassess their level of skills, and knowledge; facilitating any knowledge gaps.

IIBA certainly has a long road ahead to make the certification process more smooth, bring in some automation for the approval / application process, and propagate their agenda more strongly to the corporates! Unless a strong leadership drives this at their end, they can potentially be abating their progress! [someone should suggest the leadership team at IIBA to read - "The tipping point" :) ]

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Randy Otten

As someone who is actively in pursuit of the CBAP I am very excited about this certification. I have only been in the traditional IT Business Analyst role for 2 years now, but with my ancillary business analysis experience both as a certified Lean Six Sigma black belt with 5000 practice hours and as a small business owner (www.drylandockey.com) with 3000 practice hours I greatly appreciated learning there is a framework a professional BA should follow. I would venture to say today some non-certified BA’s consider themselves well suited for the job because they can create documents with bullet points and fancy numbering. To me this is not business analysis; this is administration. In my opinion the BABOK and the CBAP journey do a great job of confirming there is so much more to business analysis and room for growth. Maybe sometime soon BA’s will be considered experts at analyzing the business for gaps and opportunities for improvement, assemblers of great communication albeit written or verbal, purveyors of entrepreneurialism and less as secretarial admins drafting documents few ever read. I want to be part of the movement that makes this happen, so CBAP here I come! Thanks for reading my post and I look forward to your comments.

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BA Master

Well said Randy.

It’s important that CBAPs (and really all BAs) push the idea that BAs can do so much more than just documentation.

Good luck in your pursuit of the CBAP.

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Apoorva

Nice article Brad.

Well I am quite eager to take the CBAP certification because I am really interested in the Business Analyst role.

Currently I am working as a Technical Documentation/Usability Analyst lead and want to get into the business analyst role as I think the areas of technical documentation and a BA overlaps to some extent. I know the transition won’t be a cake walk, but the CBAP certification might be a stepping stone towards my goal.

What is your take on this?

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BA Master

Thank you for the comment.

To address your question:

Yes, I believe pursuing the CBAP can help you in your endeavors to become a Business Analyst. Depending on the company, there can be a lot of overlap between Technical Documentation/Usability Analyst and the BA role.

I think you can do a lot to prepare yourself for a BA role prior to attaining the CBAP. First, you can join the IIBA. It is relatively inexpensive for a year, and you get access to the BABOK plus their online library. That online library is a great source of information if you are a reader/self directed learner. If you haven’t already, talk to the BAs where you work. Find out the extent of their role in your company. I’ve worked a lot of places and none of them defined the BA role exactly the same way. As soon as you are aware of the duties, start learning the skills they require to do their job. This will help guide your skills education so that you are not trying to learning everything all at once. If you are not interested in being a BA at your current company, find a way to network with BAs at companies you would like to work at and do the same thing.

Finally, studying towards the CBAP will help, but it is not necessary to become a BA. You need to learn the skills and apply them to real world problems. You should be able to apply many of the BA skills in your current role to gain experience.

A little long winded, but I hope my reply helps.

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Arpit Jain

This particular reply Brad, cemented what was hovering on top of my head. After reading various documentation available on IIBA and then some comments here on this blog post (some of them are very insightful) the value of membership seems to come across healthy. Thanks!

I have the same thought that I would rather take the membership and dive in the pool of information that is there, instead targeting for the cert in first place. I, for one, am more interested in process oriented methods that would help perform the team rather more efficiently. I hope there are some good discussions around that in the community :)

Thanks
Arpit

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Apoorva

Well Brad, thanks for the quick revert on this Brad, really appreciate this :) .

I have a total 7 years of IT experience and I am handling a team of 4-5 people in my current profile. Now, when I’ll be starting off as a Business Analyst, will I be offered an entry level positon in my current or any other different organization? Or will I be able to retain my position of lead and I’ll be aligned to a Business Analyst who will help me learn the tricks of the trade before I start to gathering the requirements and manage a team, in a dilemma on this?

Your advise will really help me on this.

My sincere apologies to you if I am sounding too much inqusitve, but I wanted to hear straight from the horse’s mouth.

Best Regards,
Apoorva

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BA Master

Apoorva,

No need to apologize, I’m happy to help. I’m sure other people will find this thread interesting as well.

The question is tricky to answer as many companies approach the BA role in so many different ways. However, I’ll give you my opinion.

Unless you can position your previous experience to show how it would relate to a lead BA role, you are likely to not be offered a lead position right away. Probably not what you want to hear, but without specific BA experience, it is likely.

Ok, with that said, here is the good news. You have the leadership and IT experience, and I think you should be looking for a position in a company that will allow you to advance quickly. This is something I have always looked for in my career. Also, I don’t think you will be offered an ‘entry level’ position, per se. In government/public sector type organizations, you see a lengthy career progression: BA I, BA II, BA III, Senior BA/BA Lead, etc….. In the private sector, you tend to see only two options: BA and Senior BA. You will need to read the specific job requirements to be able to tell if the ‘BA’ position is entry level or not (more skills needed = not entry level).

If you are applying for government type of position, apply at the BA II or III level, but your best option will probably be with a company as a BA with opportunity for advancement to Senior/Lead BA.

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Raul

Hey Brad
My question is along the same lines as Apoorva since I was looking into a BA Certification, but i’m not anymore… What you say makes me realize is that I may be getting the cert for the sake of bragging about it, or something to add to my resume. The reason I say this is because I already have a Bachelor and my MBA. I’ve also been a BA for about 3.5 years (currently as BAIII). I can see my ceiling as Senior BA soon and I feel I haven’t yet reached my potential. Given my education, I do not wish to stay as a BA for more than 3 more years, I actually want to be in management and or higher wages (above 100K). So I what I’m looking for is to ask “What is a logical direction to follow after being a BA?”

Project Manager and Product Manager seem logical
But 1) I don’t want to take a pay cut to start in either one
and 2) if I do go PMI route, would I land an entry level PjM or can I get something in the middle with a nice raise?

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BA Master

Raul,

I understand how you feel. Given your experience, education and goals, what’s next? This is a tough question, but I will give you my opinion.

First – It is very common for Senior BA to be the ceiling. If you are a member of the IIBA (I recommend it), you have access to the Competency Model. The Competency Model identifies several ‘advanced’ opportunities for BAs, things like: Strategic Consultant, Enterprise Architect, Process Architect, etc…. In my experience, some companies have these positions and some do not. If you want one of these positions, which could easily pay the wage you are looking for, then you will have to do the research to find which companies have the desired position.

Second – I wouldn’t recommend the PMI route. Getting the PMP and moving into project management is, at best, a lateral transfer. You might make a bit more, depending on the organization, but you won’t necessarily move up any faster. Get the PM knowledge, but skip the cert.

My recommendation is to look at the IIBA’s Competency Model to get an idea of what it might take to reach the next level. Focus on looking for organizations that value those skills, learn those skills if you need to, gain more experience managing, and start looking for opportunities within your company or with others.

Again, this is just my opinion, and you should do what will make you happy. I hope it helps.

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New BA

Apoorva resonates my situation and BA Master’s response gives me some respite.

Even I moved to a BA role recently (6 months ago) after having led a testing team of around 8 people. Having known the domain for more than 3 years , I moved to the BA role in the same team.
However , its a completely different ball game on this side of the fence. I have moved to a sort of entry level BA , but that helps me absorb as much as I can and want , and not having too much expectations riding on me initially. So, I can learn at my pace, perform and deliver to the best of my abilities. So far so good.
Even I am grappling with the questions about a steady career graph , but I think BA is more about the breadth of your knowledge than the depth , as then your remain relevant to a broad range of domains and industries and can help solve problems in a wide arena.
So I am positive about the growth and in fact quite eager to open up new chapters.
Studying for the certification and ultimately gaining one would be cards for me but in due course of time.

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CBAP_EA

CBAP_EA

Similar to Randy, after discovering that there is a framework a professional BA should follow, my mentor suggested to join IIBA, and we started the local chapter in 2006. We got advice from the Atlanta chapter and put together the CBAP study group. Together, we studied for the exam, and took it on paper… and we all passed. In reality, you must prove 7500 hours of documented business analysis practitioner time to qualify for the exam. Filling out the application is no joke, and tracking your time becomes even more important later, when you have to do that to maintain your certification, or it goes away…

My career evolved from Jr. BA to BA to Team Lead, and last three years, my work has been all Enterprise Architecture. My Enterprise Analysis skills, business analysis planning, requirements elicitation and documentation, current and future state and gap analysis skills are all utilized daily.

Similar to others who contributed to this post, my personal experience interviewing a CBAP, who did not know the difference between a functional and a non-functional requirement, was quite disappointing. However, do not give up on the framework and the BABOK is a great source of tasks and activities to help you work smarter, not harder, as analyst.

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BA Master

Thanks for the comment. I’m glad to see a BA rise to the Enterprise level. It doesn’t happen often enough, in my opinion.

Jody

I have had previous roles as a BA. I would like to get certified as a BA, but I am struggling to make a decision.

1) Should I attend an expensive university (over 6K) to take courses that are aligned w/ CBAP and IIBA, and then study for the CBAP?
2) Should I attend a cheaper college (approx 2k) to take courses to be certified as a BA (not a CBAP certification and not aligned with IIBA)?

Please advise as I cannot make a decision. I don’t want to dish out extra money and especially time (even though it will be paid for by work) since I’m not sure having a CBAP is as valuable as being a PMP.

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BA Master

Jody,

I’m not a big fan of paying a lot of money to get BA (or anything else) certified. So to answer your questions 1 & 2, no. This is my opinion.

I do recommend you become a member of the IIBA, however. It’s not very expensive and it gives you access to a lot of tools including the BABOK, the Agile extension to the BABOK, the Competency Model, their online library, etc…

A Business Analysis Certification is not a requirement for a job yet, but a glance at the job boards will show that experience in the role seems to be the primary requirement. I will be posting a resources page on this site with links to programs I recommend that are lower cost to get BA and PM certified, if that is something you want to do. Keep checking back, or better yet, sign up for the newsletter to find out when that is live.

As for whether or not CBAP is as valuable as PMP, I don’t think there is yes or no answer to that. It depends on the region, company, etc… The PMP has been around a lot longer and is better recognized, so that may be better for you. It really depends on where you want your career to go. If you like the PM aspect, I would recommend the PMP as it will give you greater flexibility in job searches, at this time.

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Tom Saltsman

The title of this blog is provocative –
1. If you think it’s worthless, then why do you accept adverts from ccba/cbap courses.
2. Do you think the teaching certs you advertise are any better.
3. I just did a cursory check on indeed, dice, monster, and jobs.com I invite you to do the same. The statement you made about no one posting jobs with this cred even as a “nice to have” is….just…not…true.
4. You’re right about the cbap cert being in it’s infancy, just like the pmp was at one time.
Best regards, just another side of the argument.

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BA Master

Tom,

Thanks for the comment. Yes, the blog title was intentionally provocative. My responses to your points are as follows:

1. Although the title uses the term ‘worthless’, the text of the article paints a slightly greater than worthless point of view. I still don’t think it is worth spending thousands of dollars on, and you can have a good career without being certified, for now.

2. The vast majority of advertisements on my site are served up by Google. I have no control over the content of those ads. Unfortunately, the only real BA adverts are for prep courses or online degree/cert programs. Simply, it was the easiest way to help me pay for the upkeep of this site. I don’t make any explicit endorsements for those products, and I hope to have a resources page with programs I do endorse on the site soon.

3. Challenge Accepted!!!a (bonus points for anyone that gets the reference) I searched all four job boards you mentioned. I picked the first 10 BA listings on each board (minus report writing, SQL only or BI specific roles) and found exactly 1 listing mentioning CBAP out of 40 listings. A further advanced search using the terms Business Analyst and CBAP on each board indicated that less than 1% of BA listings include the term CBAP. Not scientific by any means, but I stand by my comment. FYI – I created this blog post 3 years ago and not much has changed.

4. I like being right :) But seriously, I think things are improving and the CBAP is becoming more recognized.

Thanks again for the comment. By bringing these points up, you help me re-evaluate my position, which is needed from time to time, and is good for discussion in general.

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Senior BA and PM

I think your comments about the current need for certiification are right on. The only thing I will add is that the PMP is not the nirvana that we all like to think. Too many positions demand the PMP but I have met a plethora of certified PMPs that couldn’t manage a project successfully if their lives depended on it. Certification should not be deemed so important that it is the ONLY or EXCLUDING criteria.

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Tony

Well, I agree..and I don’t. While I certainly agree with your initial post and the follow-up comments by many, I think you’ve forgotten to consider those of who work for large companies, rather than consulting for them. At a certain point, it is expected (and I’d say “required”) to achieve some form of certification. Otherwise, there is virtually no way to demonstrate “growth” in your role. When I say “growth” I mean a method to show you have attained a level of proficiency by some outside organization. Much a Project Management was considered an “organizer” then a manager to finally a integral and vital component to success, so has Business Analyst (and its permutations). Not all BA’s work for or report to executive management that understand what it is we do. If you want to get promoted or increase your salary, you need to have some letters after your name in the directory; sad but true.

My personal feelings are such I can take or leave the organizations and see them as more as self-congratulatory money pits (including PMI, ASQ, IIBA, etc) , but if the corporate world wants to see their letters, we’re going to march along. Sure I’m jaded; I’ve been doing this for 30 years and for all the hard-working people who do their job and do it well, nothing helps the salary or career ladder until you get those letters. Pursuing another degree, MBA, PhD is even more time-consuming and expensive, so these certifications are another, and usually more expedient and less-costly, alternative.

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BA Master

Very good point concerning promotion and large companies. I’ve worked for a number of them over the years. The biggest reason companies fall back on the cert for promotion purposes is that they don’t develop an actual career path for PMs and BAs. There are usually just a couple steps, then nothing. I’m speaking from personal experience, which I concede is not unlimited. Also, the cert does indeed fill the gap that exists between experienced beginner and advanced degree. It is certainly not uncommon for a person or organization to identify a gap and create a product to fill it in the marketplace. In fact, I’m working on two right now.

Thanks for your comment.

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Tony

“Challenge accepted!” is the Barney Stinson retort from “How I Met Your Mother” television show.

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BA Master

Your bonus points have been documented :)

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Sequin

Interesting, I’ve been pursing some of the comments. There seem to be a lot of consensus from hiring managers saying that they look more for experience than certification. I am a senior in the field and am trying to transition to an analyst position from a more tech oriented role. I am finding the reverse to be true. Even though my experience involves heavy analysis, I am finding it hard to break into a BA role. Many of the posting I have come across have asked for certification. I was looking to find an online certification course that would enhance my experience. But I agree, a lot of the courses are not worth the money. I am not sure which avenue to take. Perhaps the PM certification would be best.

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BA Master

The PM and BA roles are quite different in a lot of respects. So if you truly enjoy being a PM, go for it. If you really want a BA cert, my buddy Yamo at thebacoach.com offers a certification study course for the IIBA certification (you still have to meet the IIBA qualifications and take their test, which costs). There is an advert on the homepage of this site for his course (NOTE: That link is an affiliate link, if you sign up for his course by clicking that link, I will receive a commission) If you are looking for the ‘college’ type certificate in Business Analysis, there are not any really affordable options. They seem to be all priced roughly the same.

I have looked, nationwide not location specific, but I don’t find a lot of job postings asking for BA cert. It sounds like it’s different in your location. You may still apply for these positions, of course. You also want to make sure your resume reflects more of the ‘analysis’ side of your technical work. If you can use the BA jargon to describe you experience, it will go a long way.

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marwan

reading all the above threads has been some what of an eye opener for me. I have recently decided to pursue a career as a business analyst. I currently work as an account executive / sales – providing IT departments with their software and hardware needs. I have a bachelors in graphic design and a minor in marketing. I was thinking about attending a certification program to learn about BA and also help me put my foot in the door. I would really appreciate it if you can please guide me on how i should go about in becoming a business analyst ?

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BA Master

There are certainly certification programs out there that are designed to teach you the BA role. I’m thinking mostly college type courses that offer a ‘certificate’ in Business Analysis. I find these to be prohibitively expensive, but you may not. A certification like the ones offered by the IIBA are, in my opinion, not the way to learn the role of a BA. Getting an entry level position, to gain experience, would be my recommendation. Of course, take as many free courses online (if they exist) and read some books as well.

The sad fact is that there really are not any low cost BA training programs out there. However, if you keep an eye on this site (maybe sign up for the newsletter), I am working on a project to bring affordable training to the BA masses.

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Dan Townsend

I’ve been looking into getting a certification for the BA role that I have been performing for 23 years but now see that this cost and effort is simply not worth it. I have both a BS and MS in computer science and was a developer before being a BA. My question is if I did get a CBAP certification, which I feel I could ace w/ all of the experience I have, does that cert open any doors to other more advanced certifications that are available? I’m talking about certifications that really mean something to a company I’d be interviewing with.

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BA Master

The CBAP is really the ‘top-end’ certification for BAs. There are other certifications out there, but the IIBA, in my opinion, is much like the PMI for Project Management certification. There are college courses that offer a ‘certificate in Business Analysis’, but I just don’t think the value is there compared to the CBAP, as far as a cert a company may want in an employee. I don’t think the CBAP would be a problem for you, but if I were in your shoes, I would only pursue it if the companies in your area are asking for it on job postings. As far as I am aware, there are no other ‘advanced’ certifications. There is always an MBA, but the cost and effort is even higher, and it is not BA specific (just better options if a company values the degree).

However, given your background, your value to a company could be greatly increased if you’re good at SQL, data mining, etc…. Big Data is all the rage, and people that are good with extracting data and presenting it in a format that adds value are getting very good offers.

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Wayne Vermillion

Invaluable advice for me as I ponder translating my analytical and writing skills from instructional design to business analysis. I also have my PMP cert, and have contributed as a training specialist to tech certifications, and so I especially appreciate the experience on display in this discussion.

Regarding success factors for BA, I was surprised to learn in a recent interview with a municipal utility that writing skills are the prime shortfall. This particular utility has solicited “BA Help Wanted” for at least a couple of years now, with high turnover, and they complained that they can’t get good writers. I was prepared to talk up interviewing skills, synthesis of complex concepts, quick grasp of business processes, vision for best practices, and other aspects, but those were distant factors compared to writing. Sadly, despite my punctilious technical writing skills proven in years of courseware development, the BA hiring manager proved to be much more of an “English teacher pedant” and Microsoft Word know-it-all for me, so I declined further consideration. Talk about overlooking the forest for the bark!

The hammer blow that finished driving the nail into my CBAP decision was the Google search result immediately above the link to this site. That listing advertised business analysis certification “100% online” for just one hundred dollars ($100.00.) Until the promulgating body (IIBA) does indeed take advice such as offered above, and drives to enhance the value of the CBAP, those sorts of garbage certs are just that, and will poison the well for BA certifications in general.

Good site, good contributions here. Keep up the good work.

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BA Master

Punctilious indeed!!!!

Your recent interview experience brings to my mind the disconnect between the IIBA and hiring managers in relation to the BA role. I know the IIBA is trying hard to provide ‘THE’ definition, much like the PMI(PMP cert) with the PM role. People may follow and espouse the virtue of the IIBA definition, but until hiring managers are educated, industry lacks an agreed upon ‘general’ definition, set of skills/competencies, etc…. I guess if enough people get the CBAP cert, ultimately we should have hiring managers with CBAPs. However, I think many of us know that’s often not how it works. In my experience, most companies fail to provide a career path for a BA that leads to management.

Thanks for the comment Wayne.

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Meenu

I am glad that I landed on this site while researching on “the value of CBAP”. A friend recently told me about this certification as he is pursuing it at a private institute. He gave me the pitch that his instructor gave him and to me it sounded too good to be true! Since then I have been looking out for BA job postings. So far I didn’t come across any job posting that requires CBAP as a must or even “nice to have” certification. If anything, then PMP is “nice to have” certification listed on the job postings. My initial plan was to do PMP and after my research and reading this interactive forum i am convinced that a whole lot of common sense, true real world experience, a pinch of knowledge of official terminology used in professional project world and potentially a PMP cert is far more valuable then a certification just focused on BA.

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BA Master

I think for a lot of people, and companies, the PMP is valued higher right now. Some of the larger companies are putting a premium on the CBAP cert, and I know some BA consultants/contract employees are finding it useful when applying for positions.

Thanks for the comment.

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Tiamo

I found the boundaries of where BA ends and PM starts very grey. This caused my only hesitation to pursue the CBAP. I would have to count all my experience in managing/analysing and then take out my managing part just to say that I do analysis too! Might as well get a PMP and say I can do both worlds.

In my opinion, I’m finding CBAP certification is redundant to PMP and not complimenting, yet the ability to gain that certificate appears more complicated.

In a world where companies are seeking multi-tasking skills, doing BA work is no longer an asset. We are often required from to perform the job as a whole. Thus, I can only imagine very few people (in terms of industry percentage) do perform 7500 hours of actual BA work. Who keeps track of their career projects, and then from that who keeps track what each bit and piece was associate with? BA or PM, difference faces for the same coin

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Susan Owyoung

Dear Author,

I find the entire premise of your article to be flawed. Why pose the question as “either / or”? When given the choice of obtaining a college degree versus getting a business analyst certification, then isn’t it a ‘no brainer’? Of course a college degree is going to be more valuable in this very competitive, or any, job market.

Most people I know, myself included, have already been doing business analysis work AND they generally already have college degrees (otherwise they probably wouldn’t have been hired in the first place as analysts)! At least that my personal experience, so take it with a grain of salt!

So, in short, the CBAP is simply a ‘supplemental’ verification of one’s experience in the field; another way to set yourself apart from others in the market. And, as you mentioned, the IIBA is, in my opinion, the best industry association (the only?) out there for business analyst career pathe/profession.

Susan

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Tony

It’s good to see this thread is alive and (mostly) well. I’ve done some additional searching and consideration regarding the whole topic of CBAP and have reached the conclusion it is a wholesale waste of time and effort.

If you are a professional Business Analyst, the letters behind your name are meaningless. As mentioned here repeatedly, hiring managers are blissfully unaware and most companies have no career path for BA’s, so what’s the point? Personal pride? CBAP from the IIBA is barely known and by all accounts noted here, apparently worthless.

This brings up my disagreement with Wayne Vermillion regarding the “garbage certs’ he references arising from his Google search. They are certainly as valuable as the IIBA’s CBAP is now, so what’s the difference? Because they were inexpensive, not in a classroom, virtual or otherwise or some other reason?

In reality, while studying for the PMP, it became, like the United State’s Dept. of Education has promulgated, about teaching to the test. I was rather annoyed during the class, concepts that were likely never put into practical use, outside of a very narrow group of positions or industries were being belabored because “this will be on the test.” There were numerous examples during the class where those of us who were/are Project Managers disagreed with the approach or the concept as it wasn’t likely a “real world” scenario but arcane ephemera was going to be included in the test, more of a way to bruise students than ensure absorption of skills.

Those “garbage certs” are every bit as valuable as the IIBA CBAP is and for those already doing the BA role, serve a purpose – a piece of paper from some arbitrary outside body stating you passed a test about a specific topic.

There is NO love lost between me and the IIBA and my experience with them has been miserable and I’ve told them so and what they could do, but they seem glacial in their response and confused in their approach. If they want to get serious about promoting CBAP as the “PMP for Business Analysts” they need to get their house in order. I’ll likely not renew my membership; so far there has been no benefit and a loss of money.

I’ve been searching and many of the Endorsed Education Providers were not ready for prime time. Just getting through their websites was difficult. Did anyone from the IIBA and their providers use a BA in their approach to marketing, web page functionality or communications??

As for Susan Owyoung’s remark about IIBA is ‘the best industry association out there for the business analyst” your alternate point was more correct; it’s likely the only one out there, which is a shame. Well, it and those that Mr. Vermillion doesn’t care for. No offense meant to either of you; I was only referencing your posts

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BA Master

Tony,

Well, people do keep stumbling upon this post, and by far, it is the most commented post on the site.

I appreciate that you commented again with updates and further thoughts. Even though the original post is a few years old, it’s still relevant and something that should be discussed.

By the way, ‘arcane ephemera’, very nice. :)

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mise

Thank you for your replies… Im still new in this industry and I believe being a BA or any other career for that matter depends on the passion you have for… Soething like leaders are not born leaders but earn the leadership role… Currently Im still seeking employment, and from what I see most companies focus on the paper work rather than the services…. haw does a person do what she knows she is capable of doing when not given the chance to prove herself…

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Barry B. Begault

Very interesting discussion! I have been doing BA work for over 30 years. I have, since the beginning of my career, been a programmer /analyst for AS4000 or i5 shops. In almost all of the companies I have worked for, the programmer/analysts were just that; BA’s that programmed; or programmers that functioned as BAs. Anyway, I am going through and studying the BABOK and just thinking about getting certified.
Studying the BABOK, to me, gives me the common language that can be used in talking to other BAs and it gives the format on how to discuss with the business the process that a BA does. You tell someone you’re a Business Analysis and you get a blank stare.
I have over the past five years practiced more in BA roles than programming roles. In fact, on ALL of my letters of recommendation my BA problem solving abilities and being able to work with the business on problems have outshined my programming abilities. Most of my coworkers considered me a BA that could program.
I come from a background and have extensive IT credentials and three years ago finished my Business Admin. Bachelors degree. (The company I worked for paid FULL tuition reimbursement!)
Having both an IT background, a developer’s background, and a Business Analyst background is what one recruiter said was “the perfect storm” for a desirable BA.
I will admit that being CBAP certified will most likely the norm of the future, but there are just too many BAs like me in the mix that have the years of practical experience.

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Tony M

I am considering a career change into the BA field. I have an accounting degree, but worked in banking for many years until the recession hit and I was laid off. Now I work in grocery and trying to repair my life. I want information on where to begin to become successful in the BA field and what steps to take to get there.

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GMisra

The need for certification or lack thereof is subjective depending on the hiring manager or the functional manager who is in a position to hire or promote. There are many organizations who provide incentive to get certified as part of your career track because there’s no blueprint for a PM’s or BA’s career track as well. I’m a cautionary tale as far as degree/certification is concerned, because I jumped in thinking it was going to juice up my marketability. I am currently a (non-certified) BA, but earned my PMP last year. It was a good decision in terms of being able to translate project information into the PMBOK terminology, but in a practical sense that’s really all it does. Similar to BA – if you understand the concepts and can phrase them in the language of Business Analysis as specified by BABOK/IIBA, you don’t need certification because you’ll be able to communicate your work experience in those terms as well. I’m sure PMP looks good on a resume and I’ve gotten a few hits in my (admittedly, currently passive) search for opportunities – I am working in a contract BA position currently – that said, there is a large chunk of PM’s in the field who don’t have certification, correlating to the fact that being certified is really no indicator of your actual competence and experience in Project Management. I imagine it’s much the same or even more so for BA’s at this time.

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The True BA Master

Obviously when you get a BA certification, you are learning techniques and methodologies on business analysis. When someone has a BA certification, from let’s say Duke University, it obviously is not a substitute for experience, but it does say that they have a methodology for eliciting, documentation, and prioritizing requirements. That being said, if I were hiring a business analyst and I saw the job applicant had both experience and a training via a certificate, this applicant would stand out. It would not only tell me that they grasp concepts and have techniques, but they also are passionate about being a business analyst.

I have interviewed many business analysts with a lot of experience, but I turned many of them down because they really were just winging it. They had no idea what they were talking about. Many years doing something wrong doesn’t make someone magically a great BA. I guess what I am saying here is that you need both training (that can be proven, not just saying you read a book) and experience.

Other comments:

1.) Why do you compare a certificate do a degree? You can’t. Certificates are supplemental to a degree and are typically meant to get a higher salary, get training, make your resume stand out.
2.) Right now, the CBAP is not as widely recognized or required by employers as, say, the PMP. A quick search for CBAP on the major job boards will validate this. This is not an intelligent way to validate your statement. It is typical for an employer that really means business and expects a great business analyst to require a CBAP. Having a CBAP makes a BA resume look really great.
3.) People going after a BA certification, I would think, are passionate about their job. They love it. Encouraging them to pursue something technical really doesn’t make any sense. Likewise, telling them to pursue a PMP is ridiculous. Project Managers and BA’s have two different mindsets (typically). One is a multitasker, managing people and tasks, and not getting too into the details. The other is very detail oriented. Anyway, I’m digressing…

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bob orlando

I’m glad I found this site.

I am a PMP and do a lot of BA work as part of the job. I heard there was a cert for BAs but IIBA seems to be the only one around … and it appears that they’ve copied EVERYTHING from PMI with the exception of specifics related to BA; even the pricing is (almost) identical. It appears some people got together and decided they could rake in a few bucks.,

The PMP is the only cert I have left. I’ve had my fill of spending money constantly to educate myself on numerous MS crap (and it IS “crap”). Yes, spend a few more grand for this “exam” and that exam. Yes, go take a “boot camp” class and we’ll teach you the test. It is such a scam it’s pathetic.

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Bruno

Likewise, a bachelors degree is worthless without experience. However, it demonstrates your ability to complete an academic program, whether you learned anything or not.

The PMI doesn’t provide certification for business and system analysis, so I applaud the IIBA. I have no desire to be a project manager, so the PMP is of no value to me. However, I am dead serious my career as a business/systems analyst so the effort that I put into a CBAP is not worthless and employers are starting to recognize it. It standardizes practices and allows businesses to identify the skills and behaviors for which they are seeking.

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Darrin

I am always baffled by the continued separation of duties.
I have been a pc tech., a programmer, a network admin., a SQL DBA, an Institutional Research person, a Director, and a CIO. Doing some at the same time.

My point being; over the past few years, these tasks have been split into so many areas it amuses me.
When I was a programmer, I meet with clients, did the requirement write-ups, wrote an entire project out (including scope, risk matrix, budget, timeframe, milestones, etc.), then went and wrote code. Yes, the entire SDLC….yet, today, if I look for work, I don’t have “experience” as a project manager or a business analysis.

I am assuming the next certificate will be a presentation professional, or a professional email composer.

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Bruno

I also remember a time when programmers did everything, unfortunately, most results were not spectacular. In fact there were a multitude of spectacular failures.

The point is that (in the case of software, anyway) it is still an infant field. We are in an empirical process, seeing what does and what doesn’t work. Maybe we don’t need all of those separate functions. But clearly what we were doing resulted in unacceptable failure rates. Some programmers are excellent at programming but don’t have a clue or even care about the in’s and outs of requirements management. Fine, that’s my passion and people like me. That’s why learning as much as I can about business and systems analysis techniques (and obtaining a CBAP) is important to me.

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Samantha

I have been a “real world” business analyst for over 10 years and have over 30 years of business and systems management, and government systems analysis experience. I have hired many analysts and project managers. Unfortunately, the PMP and CBAP are not the best way to determine if an analyster or pm has the right stuff. Experience and successful track record, with solid, positive, verifiable, references is the only way to select a good analyst. It is too bad our industry has become a place where someone who can memorize terms and pass a test can be considered qualified to manage million dollar projects.

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Randy O'

I just passed my CBAP® Certification Exam and I am feeling great about it! There is a significant requirement of analysis experience one has to prove they have to take the exam plus you have to provide references, so I not sure why some still choose to label the cert as lame-o. I also challenge all to consider how doing anything to learn more and better yourself should be considered bad?

7,500 hours of hockey camp doesn’t guarantee you’ll make the A Team and likewise 7,500 hours of business analysis experience and a Cert won’t guarantee your spot on the A Team either. To find success one needs a lot of tools in their toolbox and the CBAP® could be one of them.

I would love to write more, but I have to go to the bank to get some cash that I earned from being an experienced and Certified Business Analysis Professional™ (CBAP®).

Cheers All and Happy Holidays from MN!

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DrPDG

Folks, since 2010, I have been benchmarking all the major global PM credentials against the US Professional Engineer (PE) license as well as Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000 hour” rule and this research provides empirical evidence that many of these credentials, including the PMP, PRINCE2, ITIL and IIBA credentials are more fluff than substance.

http://pmworldjournal.net/article/project-management-credentials-compared-2014-update/

The truly CREDIBLE, professional level credentials are not exam based but experience based.

Common sense writ large….

BR,
Dr. PDG, Jakarta, Indonesia

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jaya mohan

Dear Brad,

I have about 7.5 years of Functional Consultant/Business Analyst experience working on erp products related to the verticals of 3PL and Liner Management. i have gone through the contents of the cbap certification, the knowledge areas specified are the activities which i do, however they are really in a unorganized fashion. will the cbap certification help for better job propsects and does it add value to my current role.

Your suggestion would be really helpfult to make a decision to go with the certification or not.

Thanks and regards,
Jaya

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Bridget Bellett

I’m a CBAP with 2 bachelor’s degrees and a master’s. I don’t, and have never believed, that my certification replaces the 12+ years I’ve worked in the tech space as a BA, or my educational credentials. In fact, it would not have been possible for me to even apply for the CBAP credential without at least 7 years of (documented) experience. Believe me, even with my existing credentials and experience, the CBAP certification is NOT a given! This exam is difficult! I also believe that there is a lack of consistency and role definition of ‘Business Analyst’ in the tech space. But, as the BABoK says, no matter what they are calling you (VP, Director, SME, Systems Analyst, engineer), if you are doing the functions of Business Analyst, than that is what you are. If you want hiring managers to understand that you have the foundational knowledge for a Business Analyst role, then the CBAP is one of the best ways to get that interview (and probably the job). I can also tell you that, within the BA role, you are being challenged every day as methodology and technology change. I review resumes, select interviewees, and weigh in on hiring decisions. I look for CBAPs! I want credentialed people in my work environment…

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Sheila Smith-Clark

I am not sure how old this post is, but I came across when looking into PMP v CBAP. I have been a BA for the past 7 years in 2 different deparments of education. After researching, and looking at requirements for BA at other companies it seems that CBAP is never really required, mainly at least 5 years of experience. Currently there are only just over 3500 CBAP certified worldwide!! You can either look at that as being so hard not many people can get it, or its not really important to have in the professional world.

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