Business Intelligence Career Path: Comprehensive Guide

business intelligence career path

Opportunities abound in the business intelligence career path, whether you are starting with entry-level roles or transitioning to mid-level. The more you specialize and gather experience, the better suited you are for advanced BI roles. Business intelligence involves deploying specific tools and procedures to gain insights and value from data for business growth and development. 

Business Intelligence Career Path: Breaking In

Internships are the quickest route into the business intelligence career path. If you just obtained your degree or relevant certification, seek out business intelligence internship opportunities in your area of interest to get your foot in the door. Internships also provide practical experience in a real working environment so you know the area you want to focus on and the things that do not interest you about the business intelligence career path. You can also find great mentors to follow as you build up your career in this field.

If you currently occupy a role that is not related to business intelligence, but there are BI roles in the same organization and you want to transition into one of such, you can get your foot in the door by working on data-related projects. If that will be outside your scope and inaccessible to you, then you can start small by developing a rapport with those on the data team and joining their meetings.

If the company has a custom BI tool for data work, you can conduct a data analysis project from start to finish. The goal is to get experiential knowledge as much as possible while searching for BI roles that your skills are suited for within and outside your organization. 

As much as possible, the way to get a firm understanding of business intelligence is to learn by doing. Don’t limit yourself to merely knowing about tools and concepts. Put the things you learn into practice. For example., you need to know SQL to kickstart most business intelligence careers but there is more to that than knowing SQL command prompts and what they do. It is not recommended to cram these things.

When it comes to technological tools and applications in general, your knowledge grows with your usage, not only your study. So build projects that will allow you to deploy the things you are learning. Fortunately, the projects you build can make up your portfolio which will serve as a reference to prove your experience and expertise. 

Since employers want to know what you can do, not only what you have learned about specific tools, find datasets that interest you and analyze them. It could be about math performance, skating boards, or weather patterns. Once you have datasets to work with, learn how to run specific queries and then analyze the results. This is a more fruitful and sustainable way to start your journey on the business intelligence career path.

Business Intelligence Career Path: Job Roles

Entry-level Roles

Examples of entry-level business intelligence jobs include data analyst, BI developer, junior consultant, and more. Their roles aim at gathering and analyzing data and coming up with reports for stakeholders. Professionals working in these roles also develop data models and database design. BI entry-level roles often involve designing and implementing BI solutions such as data warehousing, ETL processing, and more.

BI entry-level professionals integrate data and ensure the quality assurance of data. As consultants, they interact with clients to define business requirements and develop necessary solutions. These roles sometimes include project management and staff training.

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Mid-level Roles

Mid-level business intelligence roles are for senior analysts, BI managers, and senior consultants. These professionals often oversee data analysis projects and create presentation slides containing insights for the senior management and stakeholders. They sometimes mentor those working in entry-level roles and help to successfully develop and execute an organization’s comprehensive business intelligence strategy.

Mid-level BI roles managers lead the team by helping them set and achieve their goals and strategy. Their goal is to ensure that the solutions provided by the team cater to business needs. Sometimes, the managers oversee hiring, onboarding, training, and budgeting. BI mid-level consultants help to develop and execute BI solutions for clients. They may also be responsible for project management, training, and business process analysis.

Advanced Roles

Advanced business intelligence roles are for professionals that have specialized and gathered years of experience in their areas of specialization. The roles include the director of BI, chief data officer, and executive consultant. The professionals working in this role lead BI strategy development and implementation for their organizations. They also govern the organization’s data assets. They create policies and standard operating procedures around data and also ensure compliance with data regulations. As consultants, they work with mid-level BI professionals to create and execute BI solutions that meet business requirements. 

Business Intelligence Career Path: Job Titles and Functions

BI Developer

Business intelligence developers focus on business requirements, trends, and growth. While their roles are centered on data and analysis similar to data analysts and data scientists, their overview is on how to use data to generate growth and expansion for businesses. They create and monitor KPI metrics using thorough analytical BI tools. This business intelligence job often involves building a business intelligence dashboard for their organizations.

They encourage self-service analytics for anyone on the data team to curate necessary data insight for their reports and presentations. They aim to make the dashboards useful for generating and updating reports. They also optimize the company’s data warehouse to create analytical tools. 

BI developers are required to be highly knowledgeable in SQL or other relevant programming and analytical tools. They need to have a strong understanding of database technologies to be able to run complex queries. They need to balance this knowledge with a general overview of their colleagues’ data requirements for business needs. So BI developers need strong business acumen to get their jobs done right. They should be able to predict their organization’s needs and how data intelligence can help to generate desirable results.

BI Analyst

Business intelligence (BI) analysts analyze data with the aim of transforming it into insights that can be practically applied to create business value. BI analysts provide the data and necessary information for relevant stakeholders to make sound business decisions. Their roles involve breaking down important business data, interpreting the data, and sharing their findings with business analysts, executives, and managers. 

They use data analytics, data visualization, and data modeling techniques to identify trends that can be useful for other departments to improve processes in the organization. BI analysts need a good understanding of financial and business knowledge to design and implement data warehouse strategies, determine KPIs, and identify other data-based business-critical opportunities and priorities.

Data Scientist

Data scientists can work in the business intelligence career path if they have strong business acumen. Data scientists work on data modeling and prescribe analytics for their organizations. In the business intelligence field, they assess an organization’s historical data and build machine-learning models around that data. They also run prescriptive analyses on the products and processes in their organizations to forecast future trends in demands, consumer demography, external attacks, and more.

Data scientists should know SQL and have a firm grasp of data visualization tools. It is also good if they understand programming languages like Python or R. The role of data scientists in business intelligence heavily relies on predictive models, so it is good if they have a background in mathematics or statistics. They also need soft skills like communication and interpersonal skills since they will likely work with various teams on different projects in and around the organization.

Data Analyst

Another job function on the business intelligence career path is to work as a data analyst. Data analysts collect, process, and evaluate data in an organization. They obtain useful insights from the evaluation, create reports and present them to relevant stakeholders or departments. They make their key findings known to relevant stakeholders and collaborate with product managers to drive the product in an agreed direction. Data analysts need strong business acumen because their submissions are often used to set goals and review processes within the organization.

Data analysts need a strong knowledge of SQL to get their jobs done. They also need to be able to visualize data. They should be familiar with programming languages like Python and R. A background in mathematics or statistics is a plus, but is not compulsory to become a data analyst. They need critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, and storytelling skills to interact with others in the company.

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Analytics Engineer

In business intelligence, analytics engineers model data. They also extract, transform and load the data curated from different sources. They prepare the data by making it usable by data analysts and data scientists. They clean the data and ensure the framework for the datasets is set up properly. They contribute towards building self-service analytics for their organizations. Analytics engineers work with the end users in mind. As such, they understand how end users interact with data and they use this knowledge to prepare the datasets. 

Analytics engineers need to be able to use coding and non-coding tools to set up data. They are often highly proficient in SQL and data transformation tools like Tableau and Power BI. They often know programming languages like Python and R. Analytics engineers often have a background in computer science, software engineering, and other related fields. To function effectively in the business intelligence career path, analytics engineers should have communication and organizational skills.

Data Engineer

Data engineers integrate raw data from different sources and convert the same useful information. Data scientists and business analysts access the data from a data warehouse where they are stored by data engineers. Data engineers often intimately understand how their organization’s data pipelines and infrastructure are set up. They ensure the end-users of warehoused data can access it with the company’s business intelligence tools. Data engineers ensure the availability of the data needed to keep businesses functional and efficient. They work with other engineers to sift through the quality of stored data. 

Data engineers need strong programming skills, especially in Python, SQL, and Java languages. They need to understand big data technologies like Spark and Kafka. They should be familiar with database systems and have hands-on experience even for entry-level roles. A background in computer science, computer engineering, mathematics, statistics, physics, or related fields is necessary but not required to work as a data engineer in an organization. Data engineers also need to have communication, critical thinking, problem-solving, and leadership skills.

Business Intelligence Career Path: Skills and Qualifications

In most cases, you will need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree to qualify for an entry-level job in the business intelligence career path. Some careers favor master’s or doctoral degree holders, even if the job requirement does not explicitly ask for it. So, the more advanced your degree, especially in a related field, the better for you as you will stand out in the business intelligence job market. However, hands-on experience is also necessary in this field, so it is good to opt for internship positions if you do not yet have the relevant experience to get a full-time position.


A lot of business intelligence jobs attract people from STEM backgrounds.  Also, people from other educational backgrounds still stand a chance if they can hone their skill set to fit those required for specific business intelligence careers. The education pathway still has to be combined with other relevant technical skills, certifications, and real-life experience to land BI jobs. Educational backgrounds that have made it into business intelligence include; data science, statistics, mathematics, physics, computer science, business engineering, humanities, and communication. 

Certifications / Licensure

Certifications and licenses authenticate certain skills and are useful for career advancement. The business intelligence field is constantly changing with new technologies being deployed regularly. Professionals need to be able to prove that they are up-to-date on the latest industry trends and certifications are one of the best tools to make this statement. Certifications provide additional training that keeps professionals relevant in the business intelligence world. 

Do your research on the certification options that will advance your business intelligence career path. Some certifications are location-specific while some may focus on the job function. 

Certifications help business intelligence consultants in particular. To run a business intelligence company, you may need certain licenses in your state of residence. 


  • Data analysis: Ability to gather, manipulate, and interpret data.
  • Database management: This includes data design, management and modeling, ETL processes, and data integration.
  • Programming: A basic to strong knowledge of programming languages like Python, SQL, or R for data extraction and analytics purposes.
  • Data visualization: Ability to communicate complex insights through reports, dashboards, and visualizations.
  • Communication: Excellent verbal and written communication skills
  • Problem-solving: Ability to recognize problems and develop needed solutions from organizational data
  • Critical thinking: Ability to evaluate data and generate meaningful insights for successful business outcomes
  • Teamwork: Ability to collaborate with cross-functional teams like IT, finance, marketing, and operations. 

Final Words

Business intelligence involves creating, collating, and analyzing data to generate insights that help key decision-makers in an organization understand and identify business assets, prospects, and challenges. As more companies and organizations rely on data to make crucial decisions, the demand for business intelligence analysts will increase. This demand makes business intelligence an exciting career path that provides job security and growth opportunities.

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