Is It Really Possible For A Business Analyst To Earn 100k+ A Year?

Jun 03, 2022

You might not think that bringing home some fish from a foreign land could cause a nationwide disaster...

When the Crown Prince of Akihito visited Chicago, the Mayor gave him a gift of eighteen bluegill fish. Returning to Japan he intended to stock these exotic fish in the moat around his palace.

The future emperor decided to introduce them into the wild as game fish (in his honour). They were bred for some time in Japan's freshwater ecosystems, and then the breeding stopped.

But behind the scenes, the bluegills aggressively expanded and began to eat wider foods than their normal diet.

In only three decades they'd become so widespread they began to decimate entire species of other fish. 

The situation was so out of control, and there was no means of controlling the fish. The Japanese government certified bluegill as an invasive threat.

At the beginning you’d have thought that a handful of harmless fish leading to a national takeover would be impossible.

In a similar way, we could look at what we earn today and think that reaching a salary over 100k is impossible. Let’s explore how that’s a mental limitation.

What Do You Do To Convert The Seemingly Impossible To A Reality?

It’s easy to stay in our pond and not see there are bigger ponds out there. To manifest the impossible you need a burning desire which acts as a catalyst. Because from the desire, you start noticing possibilities (it’s called a ‘frequency bias’). For example, you’re on a job board for business analysts and start noticing £500 a day contracts. You then look at the job requirements and think ‘I could do that’.

6 months ago you might not have even have thought about it. So somewhere a shift has happened. We need that shift.

What Would It Take To Get Into Contracting?

The prospect of contracting seems daunting. But if you’ve amassed enough experience and can demonstrate a mature understanding of project delivery and where business analysis fits in then it’s more of a mental thing.

But in order to present yourself properly and convince the hiring manager you know what you’re doing, you do need to have some essential items in place:

  1. A clear framework - because you’ll be more autonomous, you need to show you’re a self starter and systematically explain how you’ll approach assignments at each of the project stages. You need a system that is so robust that you never need worry about failing to perform - regardless of what stage you’re brought in at
  2. Relevant anecdotes - voluntarily speaking about your own experiences in relation to the questions asked will show your proficiency and maturity
  3. An appetite for risk - if you go contracting, you’re more disposable but you believe in yourself and know how to manage risk properly

Can A Permanent Position Attract A 100k Salary?

This will depend on your industry and the type of role, but the short answer is - yes. I’ve seen countless colleagues in excess of this figure. So if you prefer the security of a permanent role then you’ll be pleased to know that hitting that magic figure is possible.

It might take a little longer to achieve compared to contracting, so it all depends on your Career Plan and personal timeframe.

The Industry I’m In Won’t Pay That Sort Of Money

I hear this a lot - because pay does vary from industry to industry, and also based on the type of business analyst role you’re playing. However, you can change industry, you can even change country. Finding the need is what to focus on - and filling that.

Your core business analyst skillset should be transferrable anywhere. People aren’t paying you for as much for your industry knowledge as they are for your masterful facilitation in getting change delivered, communicating strongly and solving problems that others don’t know how to.

That’s value right there - and worth paying for.

The Biggest Single Mistake We All Make

During a conversation with my first ever boss, at one point he looked at me and said “Why are you comparing yourself to others.” I’ll never forget how profound that was.

If you aren’t fully confident in yourself, and perhaps look at how peers (or even seniors) perform, the tendency is to benchmark your worth against them - but you might be undervaluing yourself in the process. You can even start to see what skills you lack, and think you need to learn all this other stuff (which is not necessary for a business analyst).

That’s ok in the beginning, but in time confidence should be rock solid, based on a deeply refined core business analyst skillset. In our courses, we always emphasise this principle of going deep.

There are many people who are broad and not deep and this dilutes value, which translates to what others will pay.

How I Got Into Financial Services And Attained A 6 Figure Salary

I don’t like writing these kind of things because I see them as bragging (isn’t that what everyone says?). But a writer should stand by their words, and if they write to inspire then it should have be based on something that affected their own life.

I would write goals of how much I wanted to earn as part of my career plan.

I went deep into business analysis, found the secret to playing a pivotal role on projects and being head hunted. And very simply, organisations paid me to play a critical role on their projects - at a contracting rate that amounted to a 6-figure salary.

In some instances I didn’t have deep domain knowledge, but what mattered more to them was the ability to facilitate, provide structure, and clearly articulate - skills they needed to stop their projects spiralling out of control.

Let’s summarise what we’ve learned so far

  • A mindset shift is required to realise that what you want to earn is not impossible as a business analyst
  • When this happens, we start to notice the pathway to attain this - it’s called ‘frequency bias’
  • Contracting as a business analyst is a fast way to reach your goal of 100k+
  • But also as a permanent employee you can reach this - it just might take a bit longer
  • If you see those opportunities don’t exist in your industry, you can always change industry - because your business analysis skillset tends to carry more value than industry knowledge
  • Don’t worry what others are doing and being paid if it’s going to impose limiting beliefs. Comparing ourselves to others is a mistake because we all have unique value
  • In my own experience, attaining a 6-figure salary has worked because of writing down goals, developing depth in my skillset and getting highly valued for it
  • So having a career plan is important to get to the goal faster
  • Because organisations will pay top dollar for your ability to facilitate, provide structure and clearly articulate - it’s often what saves projects from descending into chaos

One Day You Wake Up And See The Impossible Made Possible

Usually hindsight is understood to be the process of looking back and seeing how you could avoid the mistakes.

But imagine the hindsight of seeing how you achieved something you once thought impossible.

That’s empowering.

What now?

  1. Read the “Life As A Business Analyst Report” and get your free 1-Page Business Analysis Career Plan
  2. Book in a strategy call to get help with your Business Analysis career plan
  3. If you’re not ready to have a call just yet, just sign up to the newsletter to receive regular updates

James Compton is the Director of Professional Development for the IIBA. He is a Business Analyst Consultant and Trainer with over 20 years experience, and is on a mission to raise the profile of Business Analysts as highly valued members of any good project team.