A way for Business Analysts to demonstrate proficiency in different aspects of the profession is to pursue one of the BA-related certifications that are available from different organizations. However, different certifications may be more appropriate to you depending on several factors, including:
This page will list the certifications I am aware of that are (or might be) related to the business analysis profession. The list is broken into “core” and “non-core” certifications. The section after will include some considerations to think about when selecting a certification to pursue. Finally, there area few links to a few additional resources at the bottom.
These are certifications that directly relate to the Business Analysis profession and its core skills.
ABPMP – International Association of Business Process Management Professionals
International Qualification Board for Business Analysis - (CAVEAT: I have never heard of this group or certification, but am including for now. Feedback would be appreciated)
OCEB – OMG Certified Expert in BPM (now updated to BPMN 2, certification consists of 2 tracks with 3 exams each)
OCUP – OMG Certified UML Professional (3 separate exams for each of the 3 levels below)
OCSMP – OMG Certified Systems Modeling Professional (4 separate exams for each of the 4 levels below)
Project Management Institute
These are certifications that not necessarily related to the core BA skills. Note that there may be some disagreement on whether these are “core” or not depending on how the Business Analyst role is defined by your employer.
Project Management Institute
TOGAF 9 Enterprise Architecture (Certification through The Open Group)
Business Architecture Guild
The Data Warehousing Institute
International Software Product Management Association
American Society for Quality (ASQ)
Society of Manufacturing Engineers
International Software Testing Qualifications Board
IT Service Management
Management of Value – (UK initiative related to the PRINCE2 Project Management process)
When considering to pursue a certification, the following are some factors to consider:
Depending on where you are currently working, or want to work in the future, different certifications may be more valuable to you.
Different certifications are driven by different factors. Among the “core” BA certifications, the main factors are experience, knowledge, and proficiency. The difference between a knowledge and proficiency focus is that in a knowledge driven certification you have to demonstrate knowledge such as “what are the parts / elements of a BPMN diagram” while a proficiency-driven certification will ask you to actually create a BPMN diagram based on information provided.
An experience-driven certification is one where the critical factor of the certification is experience of the sort defined by the certification body. This is usually experience with a specific skill or set of skills or in a particular role. You may have to pass a knowledge or skill-based exam in addition to showing your experience, but that is secondary to the experience requirement. These certifications are thus only appropriate to BA’s who can demonstrate a sufficient level of experience per the certification body’s requirements. Examples of experience-based certifications include:
An knowledge-driven certification is one where the critical factor of the certification is the demonstration of knowledge at the time the certification is granted. This is usually done in the form of passing a test of some sort. These certifications do not have any experience criteria, and usually do not involve the demonstration of skills of some sort. These certifications are the ones most appropriate for someone who wants to be a business analyst, or who is a junior analyst looking to develop and demonstrate their knowledge. Examples of knowledge-based certifications include:
A proficiency-driven certification is one where the critical factor is one or more demonstrations of proficiency in the application of knowledge or a skill. As stated above, an example would be the actual creation of a UML model, BPMN diagram, business analysis plan, or other artifact that can be evaluated to prove the candidates proficiency. These certifications are most appropriate for mid-level and experience business analysts. Examples of proficiency-driven certifications include:
Another important consideration is what skills are valued by your current or desired employer, and whether a certification with that focus is available. For example, if your employer is beginning a transition to using Agile methods more then a SCRUM certification could be valuable. Is your work more process focused? Then maybe the CBPP certification would be more valuable. Or perhaps the Six Sigma or Lean options would suit your needs better? Be aware of that even getting certified in an area your employer values may not benefit you if the employer does not recognize or value the certification, or if their emphasis is on experience. This is especially true if the certification is knowledge based and you don’t have as much experience as the employer wants. The MoV certification might be a good example of this as it seems to be largely valued in the UK, and even there it seems to be considered a sub-set of project management.
Make sure you consider your career goals in the certifications your pursue. Are you a Senior BA looking for options to move into management? Then maybe certification in Change Management or TRIZ may be a good option. Or maybe you are more IT-focused, in which case the ITIL path may be a better option. Or if you are senior BA who does not want to move into management, but prefers a more advisory role to management. Then you might consider TOGAF, Six Sigma, or Lean certifications.
In the end, given the cost and time commitment of certifications, make sure you carefully consider what your goals are for the certification and be realistic about what it may accomplish for you. From nearly everyone I have talked to, experience trumps certification nearly every time. But certification can be that extra bonus when candidates have similar levels of experience. Just don’t count on it putting a rocket under your career path.
© 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 by David Olson