Data is the lifeforce of the Information Age, and boy, is there a lot of it—more than 2.5 quintillion bytes (that's 2,500,000 trillion) created every day. It's a lot to wrap your brain around—or corral in a database. That's where data analytics professionals come in.
Data analytics is a subset of data science. The field of data science covers not only the interpretation of data but also data collection, the development of data structures, the creation and operation of data processing tools, the application of machine learning and artificial intelligence to data usage, and data-related cyber security issues.
Data analysts apply the tools data scientists develop to the interpretation of data sets. They determine the best way to organize huge amounts of data and interpret it to develop insights, strategies, and projections. Finally, they present their findings to stakeholders who would otherwise be unable to extract any useful insight from the data.
You might be able to build a career in data analytics with just a bachelor's degree. Even so, a master's in data analytics should improve your prospects for more responsibility and better pay. The average data analyst with a graduate degree earns over $15,000 more than an analyst without one.
Here's some good news: you can get that data analytics degree online, and from an excellent school to boot. If you're a working professional—as many master's level graduate students are—an online degree may be the right solution. You'll enjoy flexible scheduling, you won't have to relocate, and you can stay in your current job, all while earning a degree that should considerably brighten your career opportunities.
To ensure that your school search results in the right piece of paper hanging in your office, we've compiled a list of the best online master's in data analytics. In this article, we cover:
The coursework in a Master of Science (MS) in Analytics program is designed to help graduates improve their data management and data analysis skills. Most data analytics programs include many of the following subjects in their curricula:
Most programs commence with required (core) courses and proceed to electives; programs typically require students to complete 30 credit hours of coursework. At the conclusion, students usually complete an experiential learning practicum, a capstone project, or a thesis. Full-time students complete these programs in one to two years; those pursuing an online master's degree typically take longer because they attend part-time.
A master's in data analytics is distinct from a master's in data science degree. In the latter program, you'll study such subjects as project management, data visualization, data engineering, data warehousing, applied statistics, and artificial intelligence.
It's also distinct from a master's in business analytics. A business analytics program applies the principles of data analytics exclusively to business. If business is your passion, you might also consider a Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a data analytics concentration; this is a management-focused degree usually offered through a school of business. The Master of Science is the better choice for those who love digging through data; the MBA is for those who aspire to business strategy and management roles.
Regardless of the degree you pursue, you should find excellent options, both on-campus and online. Online programs typically offer most, if not all, of the same courses offered by the corresponding on-campus program (most online programs are modeled after existing on-campus programs). You can study full-time or part-time pursuing either option; most online students study part-time, as they tend to be full-time professionals as well as students.
Masters in data analytics programs rarely require applicants to hold a bachelor's degree in a specific field. Even so, students are expected to arrive in such programs with a deep reserve of knowledge and experience, because these programs require a fairly robust skill set. Those who come up short—if admitted—are typically required to complete prerequisite (i.e., foundation) courses before they can begin graduate study.
For example, the online program at Boston University—called Master of Science in Applied Data Analytics (MSADA)—is "ideal for mid-career IT professionals or students with a computer science background who seek to train their focus on analytics." Mid-career often equates to at least ten years in the work-force.
Penn State's degree program website says that it is designed for those who already are engaged in a career as a:
The program also accepts data or information analysts who can design and maintain big data and data analytics systems. These professionals must have skills in data mining, modeling, architecture, and business intelligence (BI) development.
Most schools require applicants to submit Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) scores, letters of recommendation, personal statements, and transcripts from all post-secondary schools attended.
Data analytics is a discipline within data science, typically offered through a university's computer science program. Accordingly, we've consulted US News & World Reports list of best computer science school rankings to identify some that offer data analytics programs online. Each school on this list has a top 50 data science program.
This degree is offered under a variety of designations; we've identified the designation at each school. Top schools offering this degree include:
Finally, it's worth mentioning that you can get an advanced education without earning a master's degree. The University of California - Berkeley offers a six-month executive program that covers both data science and analytics. Programs like this supplement your education without requiring such a large time or financial commitment.
A master's in data analytics qualifies you for a raft of jobs. The most appealing include data architect and director of analytics.
Architects are often charged with making huge amounts of data accessible to the people who need it. They earn an average annual salary of over $115,000. Analytics directors oversee analysts; they also participate in business decisions. They earn an average annual salary of just under $130,000.
Keep in mind that where you live can also impact your salary. Someone who resides in New York City is almost certainly going to make more than someone who does the same job in Bloomington, Indiana. As a counterbalance, that salary will go a lot farther in Bloomington.
Even if you don't get one of the highest-paying jobs in analytics, having a master's degree will improve your earning potential. You might continue working as an analyst, such as information technology analyst, operations research analyst, or (of course) data analyst, but in a leadership role thanks to your advanced education.
A senior data analyst, who typically holds a master's degree, earns an average salary of over $80,000—with top professionals making over $100,000 per year. In contrast, the average salary for a data analyst is just over $60,000, though the top 10 percent earn over $85,000.
To put it even more simply, the average bachelor's in data analytics-holder earns only around $60,000 while the average Master of Science in Analytics recipient earns closer to $80,000. Finding the right master's degree can be tough, but earning one often comes with a huge payoff.
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