In today’s technologically driven world, big data has become big business. The ability to leverage information such as consumer, business operations, and sales data means improved company performance, better marketing strategies, more effective internal operations, and more dollars on the bottom line. That means a wide range of opportunities for individuals who have the skills to manage and analyze complex data sets for different business purposes. A master’s in business analytics can be the next step in preparing professionals for positions in this burgeoning career area.
It is important to note the master’s in business analytics is not the same as a Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a specialization in business analytics. The MBA broadly develops management knowledge in areas such as finance and accounting, while offering students the ability to take business analytics courses as electives. Business analytics programs, on the other hand, focus on how to leverage data in different fields (e.g., accounting, marketing, finance) and provide students with hands-on, applied experience with statistical analysis, programming, and related tools.
Classification of Master’s in Business Analytics
Graduate programs in business analytics teach students how to become effective problem solvers, able to transform data into actionable business intelligence. These programs are typically offered as a Master of Science (M.S.) degree and found in schools of business or management. However, some may be offered by departments of technology or mathematics and statistics, depending on the university.
Examples of business analytics master’s programs can be found at the following institutions:
- Carnegie Mellon University: Master of Science in Business Analytics
- Boston University: Master of Science in Business Analytics
- Arizona State University: Master of Science in Business Analytics
- Syracuse University: Master of Science in Business Analytics
Online Master’s in Business Analytics Programs
As the need for data analytics professionals continues to increase, so has the number of schools offering graduate programs in the field, including fully online Master’s in Business Analytics degree tracks. Today, students can pursue their master’s without having to commute to campus on a weekly basis to attend lectures or relocate to live within commuting distance of a university that offers a business analytics program. This is especially helpful for students who plan to continue in their current job or otherwise work full-time while pursuing their degree.
When considering an online program, students should be sure to review the instructional methods used in the program. In general, online programs utilize either entirely asynchronous instruction or a combination of asynchronous and synchronous instruction. Asynchronous instruction is geared toward the independent learner, as students are not required to attend course lectures at specific times. Assignments must still be completed according to an established schedule (syllabus), which typically includes routine posts to discussion forums or other interactive elements, however students can watch or listen to recorded lectures and review class materials according to their own personal schedule.
This type of learning format can be particularly beneficial for students who need a greater level of flexibility, such as those pursuing an education while handling family, work, or other personal responsibilities. However, programs that use asynchronous instruction require self-motivation and dedication to keep up with course readings and assignments. Some programs that primarily use asynchronous instruction may also have a limited number of required real-time sessions, or optional real-time sessions that are recorded for students who could not attend live.
Synchronous-based instruction is more aligned to traditional, in-person learning experiences. Students are required to log onto an online learning management system at scheduled times to participate in live class lectures and discussions with their instructors and peers. For students who desire more interaction and structure to their graduate education, this type of instruction may be a better option. Online programs that have synchronous components typically also require students to view course materials, post to discussion forums, and complete assignments on their own time similar to programs that mainly use asynchronous instruction. The combination of instructions methods used may even vary depending on the professor and/or course.
Curriculum Details for Master’s in Business Analytics Programs
The business analytics curriculum helps students develop proficiencies working with large-scale data sets, learning how to develop statistical and analytical models to isolate patterns and extract insights, then transform those into strategies that can be applied across industries, from marketing to human resources.
A master’s degree in business analytics typically requires between 18 and 24 months to complete, consisting of anywhere from 30 to 36 credit hours (10 to 12 classes). In general, these programs have an established curriculum that includes core (required) courses, electives, and a culminating applied project or capstone experience. Core coursework introduces students to foundational concepts in business analytics, covering topics such as applied decision making, data mining, programming languages, probability, and statistics.
After completing their core classes, students generally transition into a selection of electives. Electives vary by graduate program, giving students the opportunity to select courses that best align with their professional development needs in areas such as technical skills or business management. Some examples of potential elective subjects include big data analytics, managerial finance, agile software development, web analytics, or enterprise risk analysis. Some programs emphasize electives heavily (15 to 18 credits), while others have a more set curriculum where students only take a limited number of electives (three to six credits).
Depending on the program, students may be required to complete a final project or capstone experience, which requires the student to demonstrate what they have learned in an applied setting or practicum course. For example, these culminating experiences may include a class with a project that requires students to analyze executive management issues and develop dynamic solutions for a real-world case study. Some online programs also require students to travel to campus for multi-day, immersive in-person learning events, which may include elements such as lectures, professional networking, or face-to-face teacher/student discussion sessions.
Below is an example list of courses students might take while completing a master’s degree in business analytics:
- Introduction to Probability and Statistics: Introduces students to the core principles of probability theory, as well as the decision-making tools and statistical models used for data analysis.
- Programming in R and Python: An overview of programming in Python and R, two of the most common languages used in data analytics, teaching students about programming concepts such as data input, data structures, and algorithms.
- Statistical Foundations of Business Analytics: A course that provides students with a background in data analysis (e.g., applied statistical analysis for business decision making), covering topics such as A/B testing, multivariate analysis, and probability.
- Quantitative and Qualitative Decision Making: Explores how decision making is shaped in organizations through policy development, examining policy creation through subjects such as outcome prediction, goal planning, risk assessment, and cost-benefit analysis.
- Data Mining for Business Analytics: An overview of how data is collected, extracted, stored, visualized, and used within enterprise business organizations, familiarizing students with hands-on technical tools used in data mining.
- Enterprise Risk Management: A basic overview of enterprise risk in both business organizations and government agencies/institutions, focusing on central concepts in financial risk management, operational risk management, and strategic risk management.
Through this blend of coursework in statistics, managerial science, and marketing analytics, graduate programs in business analytics help students build a multifaceted skill set in areas such as:
- Data organization, collection, and interpretation
- Data visualization and pattern identification
- Statistical analysis and data mining
- Project management
- Strategic decision making
The table below includes an example curriculum plan for a 12-course, 36-credit master’s in business analytics program with an emphasis in marketing research, that can be completed in 18 months and culminates with an applied project:
|Term||Course 1||Course 2|
|1||Introduction to Business Analytics||Big Data Analytics|
|2||Marketing Analytics||Project Management|
|3||Introduction to Data Science||Object Oriented Programming in C++|
|4||Marketing Research||Database Management Systems|
|5||Advanced Data Analytics||Information Visualization|
|6||Strategic Management||Applied Project|
Master’s in Business Analytics vs. Master’s in Marketing Analytics Programs
Business and marketing analytics are related fields that overlap in many aspects; however, there are several key differences between them. For one, marketing analytics is much more specialized, focused specifically on data involved in advertising, marketing, sales, and brand strategy. Business analytics, on the other hand, encompasses a broad range of strategies and applications that can be used to derive insights for any part of an organization. While this may include marketing, it also applies to intelligence related to general business operations, product development, financial services, supply chain management, employee performance, and more.
Master’s degree programs in either field can help prepare students to work in similar positions involving data collection and analysis in nearly any industry. However, due to their more narrow focus, marketing analytics majors typically stick to roles directly related to marketing, such as marketing strategist, digital marketing analyst, market researcher, marketing analytics manager, or product marketing manager, while those with a degree in business analytics have a wider range of options to choose from, depending on their professional experience. For a closer look at the different career paths one might pursue with a master’s in business analytics, see below.
Career Paths for Graduates with a Master’s in Business Analytics
In today’s technology-driven economy, the ability to collect, analyze and, leverage data provides businesses both large and small with a competitive edge. Increasingly, companies are adopting business analytics software to create usable business intelligence to attract customers, develop new market opportunities, and improve internal efficiencies. The need for this data is transforming the career landscape and creating a range of opportunities for individuals with a background in data analytics.
Whether data from social media or a credit card swipe, companies, educational institutions, government agencies, and more are hungry for professionals who have the ability to make meaningful sense of the data deluge. With skills in areas such as data mining, statistical analysis, and data visualization, graduates of master’s programs in business analytics can pursue careers in diverse professional areas, including information technology, retail and trade, finance and insurance, technical services, media, and marketing.
Below is a sample list of career paths for individuals with a degree in business analytics.
- Business Analytics Specialist: These professionals use a variety of tools to collect and analyze data related to various business functions, then leverage those findings to make improvements or advise management on new business strategies.
- Director of Business Analytics: Business analytics managers coordinate data mining efforts for an entire organization, collaborating with other executives to deliver key insights or formulate new initiatives to help company performance.
- Management Analyst: Management analysts helps companies find ways to operate more effectively by conducting internal studies and evaluations that measure worker efficiencies and company procedures and policies.
- Director of Market Intelligence: Directors of market intelligence have knowledge about their business vertical’s landscape and are skilled in collecting and analyzing competitive research, creating actionable insights for their company.
- Business Acquisition Manager: Business acquisition managers analyze consumer and market data to develop strategic sales strategies that leverage a company’s technology platforms to attract new customers and retain current customers.
- Director of Marketing Revenue Optimization: Directors of marketing revenue optimization have a deep understanding of data analytics and web development, and use customer segmentation and acquisition data to improve marketing and sales strategies.
- Procurement Data Analyst: Procurement data analysts work in supply chain management, supporting procurement strategies by analyzing large data sets to identify opportunities to reduce shipping costs, improve vendor selection, and determine the best market benchmarks for products.