Business Analysts spend a lot of time pouring over spreadsheets and putting together slide presentations. But these roles are evolving as more complex data streams and advanced analysis, like data analytics, become more common.
That’s why it’s helpful to have some background programming knowledge. As a Business Analyst, strong programming skills can help you leverage powerful tools that streamline day-to-day tasks and set yourself apart in a competitive job market.
Ahead, we’ll explore five programming languages that you might want to consider learning if you want to be a Business Analyst. And if you want a more comprehensive walkthrough of all the skills you need to start your career, check out our Business Intelligence Data Analyst career path.
Structured Query Language (SQL) is a programming language used to manage relational databases. And since Business Analysts spend so much time searching through databases, SQL should be the first addition to your toolkit.
With SQL, you can easily query and extract data from databases to analyze in a spreadsheet program or with one of the other programming languages noted below. Plus, its simplicity and easy-to-understand syntax make it relatively easy to learn.
You also might want to consider learning Python. Business analytics involves working with increasingly larger datasets that are beyond the capabilities of traditional spreadsheet programs, and Python makes it easier to process and analyze big data.
It also has statistical modeling capabilities that allow Business Analysts to make much more sophisticated demand and price forecasts. Python even makes data collection faster by easily integrating with SQL databases and automating tasks like web scraping — and its powerful machine learning libraries, like scikit-learn and TensorFlow, help detect trends and patterns from big data. And libraries like seaborn help communicate data insights and results with data visualization tools. Check out our free course Learn Data Visualization with Python to learn more.
Like Python, R is an excellent tool for working with big data, and it can also be used for machine learning and complex statistical analysis. It also offers thousands of libraries that give Business Analysts access to tools for time-series analysis, forecasting, and advanced data visualization.
In fact, one of R’s biggest advantages is its sophisticated data visualization tools, which allow you to easily create interactive graphs for websites, report-ready panels of multiple graphs with comments, or customized PDFs.
Not every Business Analyst needs to learn VBA (Visual Basic for Applications), but it can be helpful. Imagine how many monthly, weekly, or daily reports you might need to prepare as a Business Analyst. Sure, they all have different information, but you can save yourself a lot of time with VBA when they’re formatted in the same way.
Business Analysts use VBA to generate custom summary tables in Excel, periodic reports in Word, or slide decks in PowerPoint. And since everything in Microsoft Office is integrated, it’s easy to combine everything — for example, creating a monthly report based on data in Excel, then using the contents of that report to automatically generate slides with bullet points in PowerPoint. Business Analysts who know VBA can save themselves a lot of time in their daily tasks.
5. The language of your team
While Business Analysts aren’t expected to get into software development, it does help to learn a bit about the language your company or team uses every day.
Are you working for a start-up game developer? Learn the basics of C++. Applying to an Android app developer? Pick up some Go or Kotlin. If you already know one or more of the programming languages above, it’ll be easier for you to pick up on some of the other languages used in software development.
When you can grasp the fundamentals of the code your team uses, it’s easier to understand the impact of business decisions on the technical side of things. It also helps build a better relationship with your colleagues and teammates when you’re willing to “speak” their language — literally.
When it comes to learning programming languages for Business Analysts, some languages are more in-demand than others.
SQL is at the top of the list. In fact, most hiring managers will rank your SQL knowledge higher than any other language.
After mastering SQL, we recommend learning Python or R. These languages will round out your Business Analyst technical skills by allowing you to do more in-depth statistical analysis and generate sophisticated data visualizations.
Finally, learning VBA can potentially be a great way to work more efficiently with creating spreadsheet summaries, reports, and other administrative tasks if your team uses the Microsoft suite.
Learn the programming skills you need to become a Business Analyst
Ready to learn the skills you’ll need to become a Business Analyst? Pick any of the courses below to get started:
Once you’ve mastered the basics, check out our Analyze Business Data With SQL and Analyze Financial Data With Python skill paths to learn how to analyze large datasets and communicate your findings. Then take Learn Data Visualization with Python to learn more about some of the most popular kinds of visualizations and when to use them.
Or, sign up for our Business Intelligence Data Analyst career path and learn everything you need to know all at once, build a portfolio, and prepare for interviews.