How to choose the right BA Certification?

6 min read
9/11/18 12:00 AM

There are two types of business analysts. One who believes that business analysis certifications add value. There are others who believe certifications are mere marketing gimmicks. If you happen to be the second type, we would urge you to read the blog that we wrote some time back on value certification and then decide for yourself.

If you have made up your mind to go for a business analysis certification, the next level of the challenge comes, which one? There are multiple certification bodies offering different levels of certifications.

Which one would be appropriate for me?

There are four most popular business analysis certification bodies worldwide.


4 Popular BA Certification Bodies

First one is IIBA Canada which has been very active in the business analysis professional for almost two decades now and is probably the number one certification body in terms of recognition. BCS, the British Computer Society which is again a very established institution with a long history. Then we have the German body, IREB. Although the focus for IREB is requirements engineering, a large part of the work that we do as business analysts happen to be requirements engineering and hence it is a certification worth considering.

The newest entrant to the business analysis certification interestingly is from the largest project management certification body, PMI USA. PMI recognized the fact that business analysis plays a significant role in the success of a project and they came up with a new certification for project business analyst.

Sometimes people ask us if it is good or bad if there are multiple business analysis certification bodies?

This, in fact, is a good thing to happen to the business analysis profession. With multiple international institutions talking about business analysis, it improves the organizational understanding about business analysis, how for business analyst add value to the organization the project and overall demand for business analyst skills will synoptic because of entry of multiple Institutions into this area.

Aspects to consider while choosing the certification body

If you are planning to choose a certification, first it's good to understand how the certification bodies perform in different parts of the world and what is, therefore, its focus.  This is described in the image below.

What’s the focus of the certification body?

This is because the focus determines how active the body will be with respect to spearheading business analysis activities. If it has 20+ focus areas, Business Analysis gets a very little attention.

Now if you look at the focus for the certification body the focus can be quiet for example IIBA only focuses on business analysis. IREB focuses on requirements engineering and please understand that requirements engineering is a large part of business analysis.

so I really certifications are still valuable for business analyst role is UK a very old organization has many certifications under its belt including project management business analysis Agile technical architect and a whole lot of certification is primarily focused on project management Agile and business analysis.

Which certification is recognized in your part of the world?

All certification bodies are not equally popular across the world. Their sphere of influence seems to be heavily influenced by from where they originate. Since IIBA originated in North America it has a very strong influence in US and Canada it also has a very strong influence in Australia, India and Southeast Asia, and the Middle East and Africa.

IREB being from Germany has a strong influence in mainland Europe which is Germany, Netherlands Switzerland, and strangely another country Malaysia and then South Africa

BCS is the undisputed leader in the UK.

PMI PBA is popular in USA, India and the Middle East.

What kind of knowledge base the certification body provides?

Another aspect one should look for when choosing a certification body is the amount of knowledge base that it provides in this aspect IIBF provides tremendous knowledge base the IIBA online library has more than 300 books on business analysis many audio podcasts and other resources others are behind in terms of content. If you look at IREB, PMI or BCS, hardly any business analysis content is available from these certification bodies.

How active is the certification body?

Another aspect one could look at is how active is the community within the certification organization and from what perspective. IIBA has many local chapters and has many local events happening throughout the world as compared to any other certification body.

How big is the alumni network and where they work?

IREB occupies #1 position with 25,000+ certified professionals. Next comes IIBA with 12000+ certifications. PMI is relatively younger, so they have very a smaller number of certified BA professionals now. BCS does not provide this data in the public forum, so there was no way for us to get the numbers for BCS.

Does the Certification body offer multiple levels of competency assessment?

Another aspect you should consider is whether the certification body offers multiple levels of certification currently other than PMI others to offer multiple certification levels for example for I'll be there are currently 3 certification levels which are ECBA, CCBA, and CBAP and forth one is proposed which is CBATL. Similarly, IREB offers fundamental and advanced levels currently and plan to offer Expert level. BCA also has multiple levels available. PMI has only one Level now.


Table with details of Certification bodies


Entry level BA certifications

Now let's look at the certification schemes available for professionals at the entry level the three certifications one can Aspire for ECBA from IIBA, CPRE-FL from IREB Germany and Business analysis fundamentals from BCS UK. The certification fees are mentioned in the following diagram and if you can see BCS is a bit more expensive than comes IIBA and then comes IREB.

The good part about the entry-level certification is they do not require renewal. So once you are certified in the entry-level certification, it stays with you.

The recommended guidebooks for each of the certifications are issued by the respective certification body. So ECBA is based on the Business analysis body of knowledge (BABoK from IIBA). CPRE is based on Software requirements Engineering by Rupp and Kohl, and BCS certification examination is by Business analysis fundamentals by Deborah Paul and others. ECBA is conducted in a proctored model whereas you can appear CPRE and BCS in paper format or by going to Pearson Vue examination centers.

All these certifications would require anywhere between 60 to 100 hours of preparation depending on your own understanding of the subject. A word of caution here, although IREB says there is no work experience needed for the CPRE-FL certification, it is quite unlikely that one would be able to complete CPRE without any business analysis experience. CPRE examination format is quite tough and we wouldn't recommend anybody less than a one and a half years of experience to attend CPRE.

Here is the summary

Details about exams from each certification body


Mid-level BA certifications

Coming to the middle-level options, it's mostly CCBA and there is hardly any choice there. CCBA requires about two and a half years of business analysis experience before you can go for the test.

Advanced level BA certifications

Coming to the advanced level BA examinations, there are two major ones, CBAP from IIBA and PMI PBA from PMI. CBAP requires you to have 7500 hours of business analysis experience in the last 10 years. PMI PBA requires a minimum of 2000 hours of business analysis experience in the last 8 years Plus 2500 years of business project management experience.

Coming to the educational expectations, IIBA does not have any educational expectation whereas PMI-PBA expects you to be at least a high school graduate.

Both certifications require you to go for a 35-hour instructor-led training.

PMI-PBA does not require you to provide any reference where is CBAP expects you to provide two references with respect to your BA work experience.

Exam fees are little different, for CBAP it varies from $505 to $575 depending on which part of the world you live in and for PMI-PBA it’s about $400.

Here is the summary

Details and requirements for CBAP and PMI-PBA

Hope this blog gives you a good idea of the best certification scheme that you can consider for yourself. We would be glad to hear from you. Please leave your comments below and our team would reach out to you soon.


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