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Business Intelligence (BI) Developer Career Guide

What is a BI developer?

A business intelligence developer is a technology expert who wield tools and software to help organizations turn raw data into meaningful information. This position is integral to any organization that collects, processes, and analyzes large amounts of data. These developers’ value lies in their ability to create solutions for data-related problems and help decision-makers navigate complex business environments through data-driven insights.

Their work involves developing, deploying, and maintaining BI interfaces such as query tools, data visualization and modeling tools, and dashboards. They straddle the line between the business and IT worlds, often needing to understand both domains extensively.

Duties and responsibilities

A BI developer’s responsibilities extend across data processing, from collection to final analysis. They design, develop, and implement BI software tools and platforms to support businesses. These professionals create data models and reports, transform data into actionable insights, and work with various teams to understand and translate business needs into technical specifications. Further, they maintain and support data analytics platforms, create tools to store data, and conduct troubleshooting. Essentially, these developers turn data into knowledge to help drive business decisions.

Work environment

BI developers typically work in office environments, often in sectors such as healthcare, finance, and technology, where there is a need for data-driven decision-making. Their workspace will likely be technology-rich, equipped with the latest software tools for data analysis and business intelligence. They may work as part of a larger IT team alongside data analysts, data scientists, and other IT professionals. Although primarily office-based, the role may also involve remote working arrangements depending on the organization’s policies and the nature of the projects.

Typical work hours

Generally, BI developers adhere to the standard work week of 40 hours, Monday through Friday, during regular business hours. However, they might need to work beyond these hours when necessary, especially during project implementation or software rollout periods. The need for data-driven insights is a round-the-clock requirement for businesses, and as such, these developers may sometimes need to work on-call to troubleshoot issues or fulfill urgent requests. However, this largely depends on the specific demands and policies of the organization they are a part of.

How to become a BI developer

This career can be rewarding for individuals who enjoy working with data and have a knack for understanding business needs. To become a BI developer, one needs to follow a series of educational and professional steps, including obtaining relevant education, gaining practical experience, and developing key skills.

Step 1: Earn a bachelor’s degree

Earning a bachelor’s degree is typically the first step toward becoming a BI developer. The most relevant degrees are computer science, information technology, or data science. These programs help students gain a foundational understanding of databases, programming languages, and systems analysis.

Step 2: Gain technical proficiency

These individuals need to be proficient in a variety of technical areas, which includes mastery of SQL for handling databases, an understanding of BI tools like Power BI, Tableau, or QlikView, and knowledge of programming languages such as Python or R. These skills can be developed through coursework, online tutorials, and hands-on projects.

Here are some of our online course recommendations:

  • Google Business Intelligence Certificate offers a course on the Foundations of Business Intelligence, where you’ll discover the role of BI professionals within an organization. BI tools you can use on the job will also be explored throughout the course.
  • To become an expert at SQL, consider this Complete SQL Bootcamp course from Udemy. You’ll learn how to query a database and perform data analysis using SQL, as well as how to replicate real-world situations and query reports.
  • Power BI is a great tool to share and present data. For more information on using this product and creating your own reports, consider the Introduction to Power BI course on Skillshare. This class will teach you how to create visuals, input and edit raw data, and share your reports online.

Step 3: Acquire practical experience

Gaining practical experience in business intelligence can significantly increase your chances of securing a developer role. This experience can be obtained through internships, entry-level positions, or even significant projects in school or at a job. This stage helps you to understand how to analyze business processes and translate business needs into BI solutions.

Step 4: Earn relevant certifications

Obtaining relevant certifications can demonstrate your competence and commitment to the field. Certifications from providers like Microsoft, Tableau, or IBM validate your skills in specific BI tools and technologies. These certifications can make your resume stand out to potential employers.

Step 5: Keep up with industry trends

The world of business intelligence is constantly evolving, and successful developers keep up with the latest tools and trends. Examples include learning new programming languages, familiarizing yourself with emerging BI tools, or staying informed about the latest best practices in data analysis and visualization.

Step 6: Apply for BI developer roles

Once you’ve developed a strong foundation of education, skills, and experience, you’re ready to apply for jobs. Tailor your resume and cover letter to highlight your relevant skills, experiences, and accomplishments. If you have one, showcase your portfolio of projects to demonstrate your capabilities.

How much do BI developers make?

A BI developer’s salary can differ widely based on geographic location, years of experience, level of education, and the specific tools and technologies they are proficient. Those with a strong understanding of data modeling, database design, data mining, and proficiency in BI tools like Tableau, Power BI, and SQL generally command higher salaries. Additionally, the industry in which they work and the size of the company employing them can also significantly impact their earnings.

Highest paying industries

  • Software Publishers: $115,550
  • Financial Services: $114,220
  • Data Processing and Hosting: $112,630
  • Enterprise Management: $110,280
  • Insurance Carriers: $107,990

Highest paying states

  • Washington: $120,140
  • California: $115,780
  • New York: $113,900
  • New Jersey: $112,680
  • Virginia: $111,940

Browse BI developer salary data by market

Types of BI developers

In this section of the career guide, we highlight the various types and specializations of BI developers. Their specific roles can vary depending on the area of business they focus on and the nature of the systems they are working with.

Data warehouse BI developer

Data warehouse BI developers focus on creating and managing data warehouse solutions for organizations. They use ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) processes to collect data from multiple sources and store it in a data warehouse. This data is then used for reporting and data analysis.

Reporting BI developer

Reporting BI developers specialize in creating reports and dashboards that visualize data and make it easier to interpret. With the help of BI tools, they extract data from various sources and present it in an understandable, user-friendly format so that decision-makers can make informed decisions more quickly.

ETL BI developer

ETL BI developers primarily work on designing and implementing ETL processes, which involve extracting data from source systems, transforming it into a suitable format, and loading it into a data warehouse or other data repository. These professionals ensure data is accurately and efficiently processed and maintains its integrity and relevance.

SQL BI developer

SQL BI developers use Structured Query Language (SQL) extensively in their work. They write SQL queries to extract, manipulate, and analyze data. They also create database structures and stored procedures to support data analysis and reporting.

BI applications developer

BI applications developers build business intelligence applications. These software applications provide interactive interfaces for users to engage with business data, often allowing them to generate custom reports, conduct analyses, and visualize data in various ways.

OLAP BI developer

OLAP (Online Analytical Processing) BI developers specialize in developing and managing OLAP cubes. These data structures allow complex analysis and multi-dimensional querying, making it easier for users to explore data from multiple angles and gain deeper insights.

Business analytics developer

Business analytics developers focus more on predictive analytics and statistical analysis. They leverage machine learning algorithms and statistical models to predict future trends and provide data-driven recommendations.

BI solutions architect

BI solutions architects are responsible for designing comprehensive BI solutions. They have a broad knowledge of data warehousing, ETL processes, data visualization, and BI applications. Their role is to ensure that all these components work together seamlessly to meet the organization’s business intelligence needs.

Top skills for BI developers

Key skills needed for success as a BI developer include proficiency in BI tools, expertise in database languages, an understanding of data warehousing, strong analytical skills, and practical communication abilities.

Proficiency in BI tools is a fundamental skill, as they utilize tools such as Tableau, Power BI, QlikView, and others to create interactive dashboards and reports that present data in an understandable, visually appealing manner. Mastery of these tools allows them to extract insights from raw data and present them in ways that stakeholders can easily understand and act upon.

Expertise in database languages, particularly SQL, is another critical skill. These developers often need to retrieve, manipulate, and analyze data stored in various databases. Proficiency in SQL allows them to write efficient queries to fetch data, which can then be transformed into valuable business insights.

Understanding data warehousing is vital for these professionals, who should be well-versed in ETL processes, data modeling, and data architecture. This knowledge enables them to design and maintain data systems that support the efficient retrieval and analysis of data.

Strong analytical skills are also a must, as they are tasked with analyzing large sets of data, identifying patterns, and interpreting trends. Their analytical findings can substantially impact a company’s strategic planning and decision-making processes.

Lastly, effective communication abilities are essential to present their data findings to non-technical stakeholders. The ability to articulate complex data insights in a clear, easily digestible manner is crucial for ensuring that their analyses inform and drive business decisions.

BI developer career path

A career as a BI developer generally starts with earning a bachelor’s degree in a field such as computer science, information systems, data analytics, or a similar discipline. This foundational education provides prospective developers with the necessary programming, database management, and data analysis background.

Upon graduation, many aspiring developers begin in roles like data analyst, BI analyst, or junior BI developer. These positions provide critical hands-on experience with data manipulation and interpretation, programming languages (such as SQL), and BI tools.

Transitioning into a BI developer role often involves demonstrating proficiency in designing, developing, and maintaining BI solutions. These professionals are responsible for managing databases, data tools, and applications, transforming complex data into understandable reports, and helping to drive business decisions through data-driven insights. Familiarity with popular BI tools like Tableau, Power BI, QlikView, or Microsoft SSIS is highly valuable in this role.

Continued growth involves staying updated with the latest data trends and tools, mastering more complex coding languages (like Python or R), and gaining more profound expertise in database management and data warehousing. Certifications in specific BI tools or project management can further enhance one’s profile and competency.

With a robust portfolio of successful BI projects, they may progress into senior or lead roles, overseeing complex BI projects and mentoring junior team members. Eventually, they might aspire to strategic management roles such as a BI manager or director of business intelligence, overseeing an organization’s entire BI strategy and team.

One of the major trends in this field is the rapid adoption of cloud-based BI platforms, which enable better scalability and flexibility in handling data. Additionally, using AI and machine learning in data analysis is transforming how these professionals work, allowing for more advanced and automated insights. With businesses increasingly relying on data to inform their strategies, the demand for skilled developers will likely remain high. Those who can navigate complex data systems, leverage advanced data analysis techniques, and communicate their findings effectively will have the upper hand in this field.

Employment projections for BI developers

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) includes BI developers under the broader category of “Software Developers, Quality Assurance Analysts, and Testers.” According to the BLS, employment in this field is projected to grow 25 percent through 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations. This strong growth is primarily driven by the increasing reliance on data and the need for businesses to develop sophisticated data analysis tools and capabilities. Developers with experience in data modeling, cloud computing, machine learning, and AI should have the best job prospects.

BI developer career tips

Understand the business landscape

Your role is to interpret and analyze complex data to help businesses make strategic decisions. Understanding the technical aspects of your job and the industry your company operates in is crucial. This comprehension can help you deliver more relevant and impactful insights, making you an indispensable asset to your team.

Master different BI tools

While this might sound like a skill, it’s more of a long-term career investment. BI tools constantly evolve, and what’s popular today might differ in a few years. Stay ahead of the curve by learning and adapting to new BI tools as they come.

Work on communication skills

Although the work is mainly technical, effective communication is vital to success in this role. You’ll need to translate complex data into easily understandable insights for your colleagues who may have a different level of technical expertise.

Keep data integrity in mind

The insights you provide as a developer are only as good as the data you base them on. Maintaining data integrity should always be a priority. This means keeping data accurate, consistent, and reliable throughout its life cycle.

Stay updated with data regulations

Data privacy and security regulations are constantly changing. Staying updated with these changes is important from a compliance standpoint and can also influence how you design and develop BI solutions.

Build a professional network

Connecting with other BI developers and professionals in related fields can provide you with valuable insights, advice, and job opportunities. Here are a few associations and networks to consider:

  • The Data Warehousing Institute (TDWI)
  • Association for Information Systems (AIS)
  • Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA)
  • Data Management Association (DAMA)

Commit to continuous learning

In the fast-paced world of BI development, continuous learning is critical. Here are some specific areas to focus on:

  • Stay updated with the latest BI trends and technologies
  • Attend relevant workshops and seminars
  • Learn from industry-specific case studies
  • Pursue relevant certifications such as Certified Business Intelligence Professional or certifications in specific BI tools

Where the BI developer jobs are

Top companies

  • Microsoft
  • Amazon
  • IBM
  • Google
  • Oracle

Top states

  • California
  • Washington
  • New York
  • Texas
  • Massachusetts

Top job sites

  • zengig
  • Indeed
  • Glassdoor
  • Dice
  • Monster


What skills are crucial for a BI developer?

A business intelligence developer should understand database technology, SQL, and data analysis tools. Mastery of BI tools such as Microsoft Power BI, Oracle BI, or Tableau is often required. They should also have strong problem-solving skills and be adept at interpreting complex data. Proficiency in coding languages like Python or R can be beneficial. In addition, good communication skills are essential as they often have to explain their findings to non-technical team members.

What does a typical day look like for a BI developer?

A typical day might involve gathering and analyzing data, designing or maintaining data systems and databases; this includes fixing coding errors and other data-related problems. They might also use reporting tools to create dashboards, charts, and systems for visualizing data. Regular meetings with teams or stakeholders to understand needs or to present data findings could also be part of their daily tasks.

What type of companies hire BI developers?

Virtually any industry can employ BI developers. They’re frequently needed in sectors that rely heavily on data, like finance, healthcare, consulting, retail, and technology firms. Also, governmental organizations and non-profits often hire these professionals to make sense of their data and inform their decision-making process.

What’s the difference between a BI developer and a data analyst?

While there is some overlap between these roles, the core responsibilities differ. BI developers typically focus on designing and developing solutions, including data architecture and databases. Data analysts analyze data and provide actionable insights. They may utilize BI tools created by developers but are usually not responsible for creating them.

What are the challenges a BI developer might face?

One of the main challenges is dealing with data that needs to be completed, corrected, or in the proper format. Also, understanding the specific needs of different users, teams, or departments and translating these into effective BI tools can be complex. Another ongoing challenge is keeping up with the fast-evolving landscape of BI tools, technologies, and best practices.

How important is business knowledge for a BI developer?

Business knowledge is vital for a BI developer. While technical skills are crucial, understanding the business’s operations, objectives, and challenges helps these developers design solutions that effectively address the company’s needs. Being familiar with the industry the business operates in can also be beneficial.

What certifications can help someone become a BI developer?

Several certifications can enhance a BI developer’s credibility and skills. These include Microsoft Certified: Data Analyst Associate, Tableau Certified Data Analyst, and Oracle Business Intelligence Certification. These validate a candidate’s skills and provide them with industry-recognized credentials.

What kind of team does a BI developer typically work with?

BI developers usually work closely with a range of other professionals. This may include data architects, data scientists, data analysts, and other IT staff. They might also work directly with managerial or executive staff to understand their data needs and report findings.

How has the role of a BI developer evolved over the years?

As businesses have become more data-driven, the role has expanded and evolved. There is a greater emphasis now on real-time BI, predictive analytics, and data visualization. These developers today are expected to be more than just technical experts; they must also understand the business context and communicate effectively with stakeholders.

How does a BI developer keep their skills current?

To keep their skills current, they should stay updated with the latest trends and advancements in their field. This can be achieved through ongoing training, attending industry events, networking with peers, and obtaining relevant certifications. It’s also essential to stay informed about new software and tools available in the market, as these are continually evolving.