Biz Degree Faceoff: MBA vs Master’s in Business Analytics

Business Analytics

Before you head back to business school to improve your career options in big data, there’s one major question you have to answer, “Do I want an MBA or a Master’s in Business Analytics?” The differences are subtle, but they can make a big difference in your life after graduation. It all depends on what you want out of your program.

Analytics is a booming business. Big data is something that every business encounters and they need employers who know how to handle it. According to a 2013 poll by the Graduate Management Admission Council, 98% of companies believe that business school grads need to know how to use data to drive decisions. So, no matter if you get an MBA or a Master’s in Business Analytics knowing how to interpret and analyze data is critical.

So, which program should you choose?

What is a Master’s in Business Analytics?

A Master’s of Science in Business Analytics teaches students the role of evidence-based data in decision-making and how to use that data for strategy. It’s the intersection of business strategy and data science. The program is designed to focus solely on gaining knowledge in quantitative and technical data collection methods while also helping students develop their strategic and business management skills.

Jobs for a Master’s in Business Analytics Graduate

According to U.S. News and Srinivas Prasad, the Director of M.S. in Business Analytics Program at George Washington University, graduates can go on to careers as:

  • Business Intelligence Analysts: Design and develop enterprise-wide data analysis and reporting solutions.
  • Quantitative Analysts: Specializes in the application of mathematical and statistical methods to solve financial and risk management problems.
  • Pricing and Revenue Optimization Analysts: Responsible for developing pricing and revenue optimization recommendations by facilitating the effective deployment of company revenue management tactics.

MBA vs Master’s in Business Analytics

Many schools such as the MIT Sloan School of Management and NYU’s Stern School of Business offer both MBA programs as well as a Master of Science degree in Business Analytics. However, other schools such as the Booth School of Business and Rutgers Business School offer a concentration in analytics for the MBA, so that students can earn their MBA while also specializing in big data.

When it comes down to it, there are a few key differences.

Time Commitment 

Unless you take an Accelerated MBA program for one-year, an MBA will typically double the time commitment required. Most business master’s degrees only require a single year of study, so if you want to get in and get out quickly, a Master’s is the right move.

  • MBA: An MBA requires at least two years to complete full-time. The Full-Time MBA at Stern is two years in length, including summer, and the Part-Time program is between two to six years in length.
  • Master’s: Most Master’s programs are one year in length. The Stern program is one year long and part-time, requiring only five weeks on campus over the course of a year.


The fundamental difference between an MBA and a Master’s in Business Analytics is the breadth of your education. An MBA will give you a broad range of experience and skills, covering everything from marketing to accounting and management. On the other hand, a Master’s in Business Analytics is narrowed down to big data and decision-making, and that’s it; providing you with a very in-depth and specialized education.

  • MBA: MBA courses at Sloan focus on a broad range of subjects. Core courses cover topics such as Data, Models, and Decisions and Financial Accounting while electives can focus on anything from Enterprise Management to Entrepreneurship.
  • Master’s: At Sloan, courses focus on subjects such as Optimization Methods, Data Wrangling, Linear Optimization, and Applied Probability. All classes are focused specifically on modern data science.


It’s hard to determine the exact ROI of an MBA over a Master’s in Business Analytics, but we’ll do the best we can. First, it’s important to compare the cost of the programs.

  • MBA Cost: At Stern, an MBA costs $31,350 per 15-credit semester. Over two years and four semesters, the cost is $124,400. If you take summer courses, the cost will increase even more.
  • Master’s Cost: For the Master’s in Business Analytics at Stern, the cost of the program is $70,800.

To make it simple, assume that the MBA costs twice as much as a Master’s degree. Unfortunately, according to Payscale, the difference in pay between a Business Intelligence Analyst with an MBA and one without isn’t that large. An MBA earned an average salary of $77,419 as a BI analyst. Compared to the median salary for the position, $65,785, that’s only a $12,000 a year difference in pay. That means it would take about six years to make up the difference in the cost of an MBA vs a Master’s degree.

However, it’s not quite that simple. MBA graduates may find it easier to move up more quickly within the company and to switch positions to different departments for better pay or benefits. In the end, it comes down to what you want. An MBA opens up more doors, but it has a greater cost.

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About the Author

Kelly Vo    

Kelly Vo is a writer who specializes in covering MBA programs, digital marketing, and personal development.

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