BA Certification – ISEB or CCBA/CBAP?


A recent study showed that 80% of UK BAs surveyed hold at least one BCS (ISEB) module.  What are you doing to differentiate yourself?


A regular topic of conversation within the BA community is one of certification, and specifically which certification route is best.  Within the UK the two qualifications that are often compared are:


Man holding stack of books 2
ISEB or CBAP/CCBA? There’s benefit in both!
  • BCS (previously ISEB) diploma in Business Analysis


There are keen advocates of both qualifications, and the debate is often framed around which qualification is best.  I take a different view and believe there is benefit in an experienced Business Analyst holding both.



The two qualifications have different structures, and they have their own strengths. Certainly the BCS (previously ISEB) diploma is most widely recognised in the UK as of 2012, with CBAP currently gaining recognition and traction.  CBAP has an advantage that the holder must demonstrate experience in a BA role, which acts as some level of assurance to any potential employer.


Here’s a quick comparison of the two:

Experience requirement Both CBAP and CCBA require evidence of the applicant having carried out a BA role.(7,500 hours for CBAP3,750 hours for CCBA) No direct requirement for the applicant to have experience.
Flexibility in material No flexibility: The BABOK is the mandatory text book. Flexible structure: There are core modules, but an applicant can choose which optional modules they want to take. Therefore study pathway can be tailored.
Self-study vs Classroom Available as both – self study is not for the feint hearted and there are real benefits from structured learning.
Examination One multiple choice exam. Modular approach.written exam per module, then a final oral exam
Recognition Up-and-coming.Gaining momentum. Well established.Well recognised.Employers ask for it.
Suitable for CBAP : Experienced BAs (5 yrs +)CCBA: BAs building their experience (2.5 -3 yrs +) Aspiring BAs.New BAs.Experienced BAs looking to formalise their knowledge.

The BCS (previously ISEB) diploma covers some useful ground. It provides a common baseline of knowledge that all BAs should have.


The CBAP and CCBA require that attendees prove their experience. As an applicant, this can seem like a painful process, but it demonstrates that the holder has hands-on experience within the BA role.


CBAP and CCBA are based on the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge (BABOK), which is split into different ‘knowledge areas’.  This provides usable framework that is supported and developed by the IIBA. It also provides a common language – it sets out the scope of areas like Enterprise Analysis, Requirements Elicitation.  This helps to ensure that BAs speak in precisely the same language from organisation to organisation. The BABOK is a dry read – I won’t lie.  BUT, having studied for CBAP, I do find myself referring back to the BABOK.


So.. the million dollar question… which should you choose?


Well, here’s my view:


If you’ve recently become a BA:

If I was a BA starting out today, I would take my BCS diploma first. However, I would also study the BABOK and understand the framework, and I’d consider taking a course to help me achieve that.


If you’re wanting to make the transition to a BA role

AspiringBAs should be aware that employers look for experience as well as the diploma.  Holding the diploma alone is unlikely to get a foot-in-the door.  If you are looking to make a transition to the BA role, then perhaps consider how you can gain experience alongside structured learning.  Look for the course that covers the right learning objectives, that will allow you to “hit the ground running” when you get your first job. Look for a course that offers practical material and make sure you leave the course with a practical, hands-on understanding of how to select and use BA tools and techniques.  Ask the training company “how will this course help me to get a BA job?”.


If you already hold the ISEB BCS diploma

But to those of you experience BAs out there who have the ISEB BCS diploma, my message is “don’t stop developing!”  I would highly recommend considering CBAP as your next qualification – I believe it’s a great way of future-proofing your career.  It’s also a way of differentiating yourself from your peers.  The recent UK IIBA survey showed that 80% of respondents held at least one BCS (ISEB) Diploma module.  By holding both qualifications, you might just give yourself the edge.


The job market can be hard, and in my view CBAP is a great investment.

So… the choice shouldn’t be ISEB or CBAP.   There is benefit in holding both!



I’d love to hear your thoughts and views.  Please feel free to add a comment below.  And if you like my blogplease subscribe.


PS — If you liked this article, you might also like to read “Tips for forming a CBAP/CCBA study group“, and you might even be interested in our CBAP/CCBA Accelerator Course.


About the author:

Adrian Reed is Principal Consultant at Blackmetric Business Solutions, an organisation that offers Business Analysis consulting and training solutions (including a CBAP/CCBA Accelerator Course). Adrian is a keen advocate of the analysis profession, and is constantly looking for ways of promoting the value that good analysis can bring.

To find out more about the training and consulting services offered at Blackmetric, please visit

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David Smith

Great article Adrian. I obtained my ISEB Diploma 12 months ago in order to ‘formalise my knowledge’. I’m just about to start a CBT CBAP course at work and hope to apply this year. Although I’ve been a BA for 8 of last 10 years, it’s been a hybrid role so documenting my hours is no easy task. Even if I don’t apply, I think taking BABOK-aligned traIning is great for my development.

Adrian Reed

Thanks Dave, I’m glad you enjoyed the article. I agree that documenting hours is a tricky task… in retrospect I would have kept a log as I went along! I’d be interested to know how effective the CBT training is — would you mind letting me know your thoughts on it?

Adrian Reed

Hi Bindu — of course I remember you 🙂

I’m glad you enjoyed the article. In the UK, I get the sense that the CBAP is still gaining momentum, but I certainly see a need for it.

Take care, hope to catch up with you soon, Adrian.

Beatrice Kilcommon

Great article. Thanks for the comparison. I hold my ISEB Diploma and do agree with you that there is a benefit in holding both. I’m a great fan of the Babok, taking the CBAP exam is something that I would definitely consider.

Adrian Reed

Fantastic – thanks Beatrice. I agree with you that the BABOK is a great resource — I find myself referring to it at work (which is something that surprised me actually). I also have a copy of the BCS “Business Analysis” book (that is the ‘set text’ for ISEB) and also a copy of “Business Analysis Techniques” by James Cadle, Paul Turner & Debbie Paul. I refer to them when needed too. All of these are great for a “refresher”!


Hi Adrian, Thanks for the article very helpful. Just some extra advice…..I am looking into being a BA but so much is out there and don’t really know where to start between the Certificate or the Diploma. Being that I want ot home study I have been advised to prep for the Certificate but from you article you seem to suggest the Dipoma is a better bet for a complete novice. I am not and have not been a BA so abit concern with the hours experience required as well.

Adrian Reed

Hi Anna, I’m glad you found the article helpful. If you are not currently a BA, then you wouldn’t be able to consider CBAP/CCBA at this time (as both require demonstrable BA experience). You could consider progression towards the BCS diploma — perhaps starting with an individual certificate. Each module has a separate exam, so you can study for them separately. In order to pass the diploma, you require a total of four modules and you are required to sit an oral exam.

For more information about the structure of the BCS diploma, take a look here:

For more information about CCBA/CBAP (in case it is of interest in future), take a look here:

I understand from your comment that you’re not currently a BA (and haven’t been a BA in the past). One additional consideration, as well as considering which certification/qualifications are most appropriate, is how to gain BA experience. If you are currently in a non-BA role, you might want to consider whether you could take up a side-project or a secondment to gain additional hands-on experience. A key factor in any case is that whilst certification is extremely useful, it is the hands-on experience that complements, completes and cements the learning cycle.

I hope this is useful. Kind regards,



Hi Adrian, Thanks for this article, great. I have written a White paper dealing with two BA/RE-Certificates which are most popular in Germany, the CBAP and the CPRE. I share your opinion that the CBAP certificate could be the second step, once you have taken the ISEB or the CPRE. On the other hand, I recommend to young BAs to go for the CCBA which is the smaller certificate offered by the IIBA. The CCBA has some advantages, it ensures that certificate holders have proven experience (3750 hours which is half of CBAP’s 7500 hours) and it is halfway to a later CBAP certificate, which can be considered to be the top one. I think that the BABOK is similar to the PMBOK something which will become the world-wide industry-standard for Business Analysis. The development of the No. 1 PM certificate “PMP” shows us how a global standard develops compared with more local certificates like ISEB (UK) or CPRE (Germany) in Business Analysis or Prince2 (UK)and GPM (Germany) in Project Management. My recommendation therefore is: Think globally, go for CCBA and CBAP, depending on your experience.

yusuf alsayeh

useful article , i was looking for such article to describe the benefits for each certification and this one is very helpful , i’m new in this field and i think i will proceed with the ISEB .

Brian Hunt

Hi Adrian. As the holder of both qualifications, you’re able to provide an informed perspective on both of these qualifications.

My own view (as a CBAP) is that the IIBA route is great for independent consultants who meet the experience criteria, but the BCS ISEB route, because of it’s greater recognition in the UK and the structured path towards it, is the best choice for organisations wanting to set up a BA community.

As we’ve discussed previously, a big problem in the UK is that there are so many views on what a BA is. These range from a relatively junior role managing requirements documentation to a more senior role such as reviewing and advising on corporate strategy.

Where I believe that the IIBA qualification has a significant edge is from the experience requirements that have to be met before even taking the exam, and then the need to keep experience current to retain the qualification. That means that all registered CCBAs or CBAPs are in current practice.

Brian Hunt

After further investigation, I’m now on route for the BCS BA Diploma. As a CBAP, I have two modules to complete: Business Analysis Practice (just completed, exam to schedule) – that one is mandatory and Modelling Business Processes as my practitioner specialism. I plan to complete both exams within the next month and then schedule the oral exam.


Thank you for this article, I have only 1 year left to complete a Bachelor in Business Administration and I am considering to obtain a BCS this year. I have no BA experience but are willing to start from scratch, and through this article I believe this may be the best way to get started.

Thank you once again

Megha Jain

I am a software engineer and was doing contracting job, but now i have left the job as i wanted to become a BA , currently i am preparing for my bcs diploma and finding it hard to pass the exam . so what advice will you give me to enter into BA ROLES . should i start with the training jobs and gain some BA experience and then again try for the diploma ?

Please advise !

Adrian Reed

Megha, it is difficult to provide advice without knowing about your background. However, if you are struggling to pass the exam, one consideration is whether you could find a local accredited training provider in your area to assist you. Certainly, having certification on your CV will be an advantage.

However, in terms of becoming a BA, this is a much bigger question. I would recommend you find people in your network who you can speak to, and who can provide you personal advice. Additionally, the general resources below may help.

Firstly, I’d highly recommend finding your local IIBA chapter. IIBA (International Institute of Business Analysis) is an excellent resource, and an excellent way of finding like-minded BAs. Engaging with IIBA is a great way of drawing on the collective experience of the BA community:

You may also want to take a look at the many useful BA web resources that are out there, for example: (a very useful website for those starting their career)

I hope this helps — Adrian.


Hi Adrian, I found your article very useful however, my situation doesn’t fit any of your examples (entry level, transition, already have ISEB), and wonder if you could help me to sing post where I can get better advice. I have been working as BA for 15 years in IT but have no ISEB or CCBA qualification. Currently I am in senior BA role. I have long and solid IT business experience and know whole life cycle of business. I’ve started to notice these certificates appear some time ago and I am keen to develop my skills. But I am not sure what is the best course of action, and I am still not clear number of things – I am under impression that recent framework of work positioned BA as stepping stone to PM (project manager), thus BA is junior role compared to PM, these certificates are more focused on people with technical background.And lastly these certificate don’t take into account person like me. Any suggestion would be appreciated.


Hi Adrian, I have less than a years experience in business analysis. but i would like to know how do i train and for and give the exam inn India

Adrian Reed

Hi Kunal,

I would recommend that you contact the exam provider, and ask them for a list of endorsed education providers/accredited training organisations in your area.
You will find further information on their website (or via Google!)

I hope that this helps, Adrian


Hi Adrian, can you advise if there are any exemptions when completing the CCBA (or any other IIBA) certification if you have already obtained the BCS (ISEB) Diploma?

Adrian Reed

Hi Jonny,

Thanks very much for your comment. The short answer is no, not at present (i.e. there are not any current exemptions for holders of the BCS Diploma). However, depending on the type of course that you took, you might find that the training that you took in order to achieve the BCS International Diploma in Business Analysis will count towards the ‘professional development’ requirement for ECBA™, CCBA®, or CBAP®. For example, to sit the CCBA® exam you need 21 hours of professional development, for CBAP® you require 35. Depending on the modules/type of training you took this might count.

Incidentally, I have recently put together a summary of the differences between CBAP®, CCBA®, ECBA™ etc, which you might find useful. Here it is:

Also there is a short video here:

You will also find IIBA’s certification handbook useful, I suspect:

I hope you find this information useful. Remember, IIBA’s website is always the ‘master’ source of information, so be sure to check that out in detail too.

Kind regards, best of luck with your studies,


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