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Which Business Analysis Certification is Right for Me? Five Crucial Questions to ask Yourself

If you are a business analyst interested in certification, you are likely wondering which one would be the best for you.

The CBAP® from IIBA is perhaps the best known, but the newer PMI-PBA® from PMI is growing in popularity. They require 7500 and 4500 hours of experience respectively, which may be more than you have accumulated in your career. Even if you have less experience, there are other certifications and certificates requiring fewer hours to qualify that would be good alternatives until you get enough hours for your preferred credential.

The choice of which BA certification to pursue can be a difficult one. We present here a review of the top choices and offer some thoughts about which ones to consider. The list is not exhaustive, but we aimed to include the ones with the broadest international appeal. These choices are in alphabetical order with links to the provider’s website:

Here are the questions to ask yourself before deciding which certification is best for you:

1. What is my typical role on projects?

The first question you need to ask yourself is what business analysis role you play on projects.

  • Maybe you don’t have a role yet or are just getting started in the field. If you have no real business analysis experience, a certificate like the ECBA or CPRE would be best in those cases. As Table 1 below shows, no BA experience is necessary, although some BA training is required. The ECBA is a single certificate, while the CPRE has three levels to allow you to accumulate additional certificates as your career progresses.
  • Likewise, if you don’t have a BA role but work with BAs, want to learn more, and add a certification, then choose an ECBA or CPRE. Examples are managers, product owners, developers, testers, and even domain subject matter experts.
  • Are you a part-time business analyst? Are you splitting time with between other roles such as project management or tester? You might be called a “hybrid BA.” The two credentials to consider are CCBA and PMI-PBA. They require less experience than a full-time BA and, in the case of the PBA, are based in part on sources such as the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK®).
  • Are you a full-time BA? We recommend the CBAP for you if you have enough hours to qualify. If not, then the CCBA or PMI-PBA are bridges to getting your CBAP.
  • Do you do business analysis work but have another title? There are many roles that require business analysis skills. We often are asked questions like this one: “I was a business analyst for many years, but that was a long time ago. Now I’m an account manager doing mainly sales work. A credential would give me more credibility. What do you suggest?” There are many roles that require business analysis skills. For example, salespeople working with customers to understand their business need and recommend solutions are doing business analysis work. Our advice is to read the BABOK® Guide from IIBA to really understand all the ways you are doing business analysis work and use those tasks and hours on your application. The important thing is the work, not the title.

2. How much experience do I have doing business analysis work?

  • As stated earlier, people with either little or no business analysis experience would qualify for the ECBA or CPRE.
  • If you have 2-3 years of experience and/or 3750 hours or more of BA work you have performed, then the CCBA is right for you. It is the only certification of the ones we are reviewing designed for beginning-to-moderate level business analysts. The PMI-PBA has close to the same experience requirements as the CCBA, but we classify it differently due to its higher number of hours needed.
  • If you have 4500+ hours of BA experience, the PMI-PBA is suitable for you if you have a college degree. If you don’t, then you need 7500+ hours, in which case you may want to aim for the CBAP.
  • What if I have 6-7000 hours or so? Should I wait? Perhaps. It depends on some of the other factors mentioned here and what is your motivation for getting your certification. If you have the 7500+ hours or are very close to it, we usually recommend the CBAP, particularly if you’ve done business analysis work, even if that was not your title.

3. What is your employment situation?

Do you work for an organization or as a consultant? Are you between BA jobs? Trying to break into the field?

  • If you are currently employed as a BA, whether in that role full-time or not, your motivation for gaining a certification may be different from others. Like many of your peers, you would likely be happiest with the CBAP or PMI-PBA. That might even include waiting until have enough hours to qualify.
  • On the other hand, are you a consultant, trainer, or unemployed and want a certification to help get your next job? You should get the highest certification you qualify for today, and “upgrade” to a higher-level certification when you qualify.
  • If you are trying to enter the BA field, the ECBA or CPRE are your best choices.

4. How aware is your organization of the various certifying bodies?

  • It makes sense to seek financial and other support from your organization for whichever institute your organization is most aligned with. PMI and IIBA are the most widely-known certifying bodies in North America, but it makes the most sense to get the certification that helps with your current and future jobs.
  • The CPRE is better-recognized in Europe and India, so organizations in those areas may be more receptive to it than others.

5. What are your future career goals?

  • If you plan to stay in the BA field and focus on the BA role, then the CBAP makes the most sense (assuming you have organization support – see #4).
  • Alternatively, let’s say your goal is to move into other jobs, with project management being an obvious choice for some. Or, maybe you are focusing on Agile and want a certification to help your career. In these cases, the PMI-PBA is the better choice given it can help you work toward your PMP or PMI-ACP.
Type Name and Link Issued by BA Experience Needed BA Training Needed Exam
 CBAP  Certified Business Analysis Professional  IIBA® (International Institute of Business Analysis)  7500+ hours in the past 10 years  35 hours  120 question, multiple choice exam, with basic, scenario, and case study questions
 CCBA  Certification of Capability in Business Analysis  IIBA  3750+ hours in the past 7 years  21 hours  130 question, multiple choice exam, with basic and scenario questions
 CPRE  Certified Professional for Requirements Engineering  IREB® (International Requirements Engineering Board)  None  Exams after 3 levels of courses – Foundation, Advanced, Expert  Varies – True/False and Multiple Choice, using basic and scenario questions.
 ECBA  Entry Certificate in Business Analysis  IIBA  None  21 hours  50 question, multiple choice exam, with knowledge-based questions
 PMI-PBA  Professional in Business Analysis   PMI® (Project Management Institute)  4500+ hrs (Bachelor’s) or 7500+ hrs (High School) in the past 8 years  35 hours
 200 question, multiple choice exam, with basic and scenario questions
Table 1: Summary of BA Certifications
About the Authors
Richard Larson, PMP, CBAP, PMI-PBA, President and Founder of Watermark Learning, is a successful entrepreneur with over 30 years of experience in business analysis, project management, training, and consulting. He has presented workshops and seminars on business analysis and project management topics to over 10,000 participants on five different continents.
Rich loves to combine industry best practices with a practical approach and has contributed to those practices through numerous speaking sessions around the world. He has also worked on the BA Body of Knowledge versions 1.6-3.0, the PMI BA Practice Guide, and the PM Body of Knowledge, 4th edition. He and his wife Elizabeth Larson have co-authored five books on business analysis and certification preparation.
Elizabeth Larson, PMP, CBAP, CSM, PMI-PBA is Co-Principal and CEO of Watermark Learning and has over 30 years of experience in project management and business analysis. Elizabeth’s speaking history includes repeat presentations for national and international conferences on five continents.
Elizabeth has co-authored five books on business analysis and certification preparation. She has also co-authored chapters published in four separate books. Elizabeth was a lead author on several standards including the PMBOK® Guide, BABOK® Guide, and PMI’s Business Analysis for Practitioners – A Practice Guide.

Richard Larson

With over a decade of experience in working for GoPromotional UK, Richard Larson has been an integral part of marketing GoPromo’s award-winning brand. Richard’s skillset varies from a deep understanding of product strategy to his consistent ability to design, analyze, and execute team-based marketing projects. Richard’s team leadership at GoPromo is complemented by a love for data-driven results and his ability to connect with audiences."