Big Data and Business: An MBA vs. Masters in Business Analytics

Big Data

2016 was the “Year of the Data Analyst.” According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job market for various data analyst positions is growing far faster than average—around 27 percent annually. In fact, 85 percent of Fortune 500 companies have either launched big data projects or are planning to do so.

Big data, which refers to the practice of analyzing extremely large data sets to reveal trends and patterns, is reshaping the business world—and it’s here to stay. Companies like Google and Amazon have dedicated significant resources to big data, and a report by PWC estimates that the big data market for financial services is expected to increase to $53.4 billion in 2017.

As for the job market for data analysts, the McKinsey Global Institute estimates that by 2018, the U.S. could face a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 workers with “deep analytical skills,” and 1.5 million managers and analyst with the necessary “know-how” to interpret and apply big data.

In sum, the increasing emphasis on big data in business translates to a growing need for workers who are able to analyze data and communicate the results effectively. Because employers want graduates who can do this work, many business schools are rethinking their curricula and integrating data science.

Big Data and Business School: the MS in Business Analytics

Ninety-eight percent of companies believe that business school grads need to know how to use data to drive decisions. As big data has become a standard of business, it has also become a desirable part of a business education.

Beyond adding a business analytics concentration or a few big data electives, some business schools are making big data part of their core offerings. For example, UCLA Anderson is the latest of several leading business schools to offer a Master of Science in Business Analytics

In February, Anderson launched its newest academic degree program, the Master of Science in Business Analytics (MSBA). It’s a 13-month long program that prepares students for a career in big data analysis with a combination of theory and application in a number of critical areas. The curriculum delves into mathematics, statistics, programming and data management as well as specific applications of business analytics including customer analytics, operations analytics and competitive analytics.

Associate Professor of Decisions, Operations and Technology Management Felipe Caro, the faculty director of the new degree program, had this to say:

“Our MSBA program provides students with a first-rate academic experience that meshes a technically focused and rigorous experience with action learning, internships and field study projects. Those who graduate from the program will be ready to take on the urgent challenges companies face when attempting to exploit the implications of their data.”

MBA Programs and Big Data

An MS in Business Analytics is typically a one-year program. The courses are largely focused on data analysis and interpretation, translating to a fairly narrow set of job outcomes after graduation.

For prospective students who are interested in a generalist experience, many MBA programs have begun to increase the emphasis on data in their curricula. For example, Cornell University’s Johnson School of Management offers a “re-engineered” MBA for the digital tech world: the Johnson Cornell Tech MBA. The program sits at the intersection of business, information science and technology. And when listing topics covered in the program, data science is one of the first mentioned, with courses such as Data Analytics & Modeling and Designing Data Products.

Meanwhile, the University of Chicago Booth School of Business offers an MBA concentration in Analytical Management. Courses within the concentration include Data-Driven Marketing, which delves into actual market behavior of consumers, and Data Mining, which covers topics such as graphics, cluster analysis, multidimensional scaling, discriminant analysis, logic models, regression and classification trees, neural networks and issues in data collection and management.

MBAs who graduate with a focus on data analytics have the ability to work in a wide range of industries and functions. For example, graduates can work in marketing, given their ability to use data to understand advertising and consumer behavior. Or they can work for a firm like KPMG or Deloitte, using their skills to analyze risk and incorporated uncertainty to identify profitable customers and determine optimal pricing policies.

With the demand for business data analytics skills growing, there’s no doubt that we’ll continue to see business schools broadening their big data offerings in more unique ways over the coming years.

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One Comment

  1. An interesting article with insightful information on current programs in the States. In my mind, business analytics is quite distinct from data science. A complete program needs to help the students understand the quality and the quantity of the data at hand, the nature (simple, complex, deterministic, stochastic) of the business problems to be solved, the appropriate methodologies for each type of problem, and most importantly how to transform individual choices into collective action. This is the focus on our Summer School in Bayonne, France (http://baisummer.com) and our Executive Masters Programs. Dr. Lee SCHLENKER

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