Why a business analysis certification is worth your time


Are you interested in earning your CBAP® but not sure where to get started? CBAP® stands for Certified Business Analysis Professional™ and is the International Institute of Business Analysis™ (IIBA®) Level 3 certification.

While there is no one path to becoming a CBAP® and the path you take depends heavily on the time you wish to invest, your budget, and your timeline for becoming certified, there are some general phases of preparation that each individual seems to pass through. For some, all of this happens in a week or two with a Boot Camp type class. For others, this process is spread out over a year or two as they use their CBAP® preparation time to become a better business analyst.

Myself? Well, I sat on step 1 for a long, long time before making the commitment to go for it. And, on I have trained over 20 people in which 3 has successfully passed the exam, putting a “C” to their “BAP”, so to speak.

Step 1: Become intimately familiar with the BABOK® Guide 3.0

First things first. Becoming a CBAP® represents that you are a senior business analyst professional, as IIBA® defines it through A Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge® (BABOK® Guide). That means preparing for the CBAP® starts with understanding the content of the BABOK® Guide. The BABOK® Guide is a dense text. It’s likely that several readings will be required to fully appreciate the information contained within it.

Many business analysts report enhanced experience at this stage from joining a BABOK® Guide study group. Study groups can be informal, and focused mostly on reading and discussing the BABOK® Guide contents, or more formal, and focused on exam preparation. Study groups can be hosted by an employer, an IIBA® chapter, or anyone who wishes to coordinate one.

Step 2: Do You Meet the Business Analysis Experience Requirements?

Applying for the CBAP® requires 5 years (7,500 hours) of business analysis experience, as defined by the BABOK® Guide. You must also demonstrate 900 hours of experience across at least 4 of the 6 knowledge areas.

Many professionals that have been working in a business analyst capacity for a long time, but have not been aware of the BA profession are surprised to learn that they can apply to sit for the CBAP®. Others find their previous roles have such a mix of non-BA responsibilities or are limited in some fashion, that even though they have held the BA title for years, they have not accumulated the appropriate experience.

My experience was similar – through the process of finishing the dreaded work history section, you become more self-aware of yourself as a business analyst professional. I was surprised to find I could document 8,000 BA hours. And, once I got started recounting projects, it was difficult to stop.

Documenting your experience, in and of itself, builds confidence. Many professionals exploring the profession start by researching the CBAP® only to get this step and realize they don’t meet the experience requirements. Instead, you may want to consider the IIBA® Certification of Competency in Business Analysis™ (CCBA®) (Level 2 certification) or Entry Level Certificate in Business Analysis™ (ECBA™) (Level 1 Certificate). Another option is the Professional in Business Analysis (PMI-PBA)℠ certification offered by Project Management Institute (PMI)®.

If you are looking to start a business analyst career, there are alternative paths you can follow that do not involve certification. 

Step 3: Decide If the CBAP® is Right for You

While all business analysts will benefit from a deep understanding of the BABOK® Guide, not all will necessarily benefit from certification. This might seem like an extra, maybe even unnecessary step. But let me tell you that as you get knee-deep into the preparation process, it’s extremely important to have clear internal motivations to keep you going.

Step 4: Earn Appropriate Professional Development Hours (PDs)

To submit your CBAP® application, you must have 35 documented professional development hours. Our business analysis training course  qualify you for professional development credits.

Step 5: Submit Your CBAP® Application

Applications are submitted to IIBA® and they have a full page on their website listing the entire CBAP® certification process. In addition to work experience and professional development hours, you must meet the minimum education requirement (high school or equivalent) and have two references.

Step 6: Schedule your CBAP® exam

Once your application is approved, schedule an exam for 2-3 months out. The CBAP Exam Fee is $325 and you can always reschedule the exam or if you take the exam and do not pass, you can schedule to take it again within one calendar year of your application approval. Scheduling an exam promptly helps keep you motivated through the home stretch. 

Step 7: Prepare for the CBAP® Exam

As you prepare to sit for the exam, you need to ensure your knowledge of the BABOK® Guide can be recalled effectively. There are a variety of ways to assimilate the information, from study guides to prep courses.

  • If you study best independently, then a study guide or workbook might be a useful part of your prep process.

  • Exam simulations and flash cards can help confirm your assimilation of the knowledge.

  • CBAP® prep courses can walk you through the BABOK® Guide and provide a forum for addressing any doubts and concerns you have.

Step 8: Pass the CBAP® Exam

Sit for the exam and do your best. If you do not pass the exam the first time,

Take a few days and celebrate your success. You have earned it! Stay involved in the profession and in your own professional development. Recertification is necessary every 3 years to stay a CBAP®.