Business Administration

What Is a Business Intelligence MBA?

What Is a Business Intelligence MBA?
Small and large companies alike need qualified business intelligence professionals to interpret big data using analytics methodology. Image from Unsplash
Lucien Formichella profile
Lucien Formichella November 30, 2020

Modern hiring managers are always looking for candidates with excellent leadership and analytics skills. A business intelligence MBA delivers both.

MBA/Business Programs You Should Consider

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Business intelligence (BI) is how companies utilize data to make better decisions. In 2019, the worldwide BI sector was worth over $20 billion. By 2025, it is projected to be worth over $40 billion.

This steadily growing field offers plenty of opportunities for those with the right skills and training. Small and large companies alike need qualified BI professionals to interpret big data using analytics methodology.

A Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Business Intelligence situates graduates at the intersection of business leadership and analytics, two of the most in-demand skills among hiring managers in 2020. Those with business leadership and analytics backgrounds can stay at the forefront of their fields for decades to come.

So, what is a business intelligence MBA? This article covers:

  • What is a business intelligence MBA?
  • Who should earn a business intelligence MBA?
  • Which schools offer a business intelligence MBA?
  • What jobs does a business intelligence MBA qualify you for?
  • How much can you make with a business intelligence MBA?

What is a business intelligence MBA?

It’s important to understand what differentiates BI, data analytics, and business analytics.

  • Data analytics describes data management techniques, such as predictive modeling and data mining
  • Business intelligence uses data analytics to show past and current trends, allowing business leaders to make better decisions
  • Business analytics identifies future trends through predictive analytics

Because these terms are relatively new, not everyone agrees on these definitions. In some sources, you may see these terms used differently than as described above.

It’s common for BI MBA programs to combine one or more of these focuses as part of a concentration, rather than offer a program that’s specifically BI-related. For example, the Heider College of Business at Creighton University offers an MBA in Business Intelligence and Analytics.

Similarly, University of South Florida – Main Campus offers a Graduate Certificate in Analytics & Business Intelligence, which students earn as part of the MBA program. The certificate program includes the following courses:

  • Big Data and E-Commerce
  • Data Mining
  • Data Warehousing
  • Statistical Programming for Business Analytics

Though the program doesn’t specifically focus on business intelligence, Northwestern University‘s MBAi program can prepare graduates to become business intelligence developer or find roles in data analysis, product and digital marketing, tech entrepreneurship, or consulting.

Finally, some schools—Villanova University is one—offer classes in business intelligence and analytics as part of a single program that also includes marketing research and data mining courses. In the end, there are several ways to advance a career in business intelligence—even if you do not complete a strictly BI-focused MBA program.


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Who should earn a business intelligence MBA?

There are two questions you should answer before deciding to complete a business intelligence MBA. The first is: are you ready for a management position? All MBAs are primarily business management degrees—usually offered through the university’s college of business. They are designed mainly for those who feel like their current education level has taken them as far as it can in the business world. That’s why admissions requirements frequently include two or more—sometimes several more—years of relevant work experience, such as in a data analyst role.

MBA programs, no matter which concentration you choose, include core courses designed to improve business decision-making. Practically any MBA covers all of the following:

  • Accounting
  • Business analytics
  • Economics
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Ethics
  • Finance
  • Leadership
  • Marketing

MBA curricula typically consist of core coursework, completed during the first year of study, followed by elective courses during the second year. Most of your specialization work occurs during that second year, although some programs incorporate specialization perspectives into their core courses. Most MBA programs require students to complete a thesis or capstone project.

The second question is: do you want to earn an MBA? Again, the degree teaches students to solve business problems, regardless of concentration. Those who really want to dig deep into data science may benefit more from a Master of Science in Business Intelligence master’s program than a business degree program. You can think of the MBA as the degree for those who formulate business strategy and the MS as the degree for those who implement it.

Still, the decision to earn any graduate degree isn’t simple. You may get somebody else to pay for your graduate degree—either through a scholarship or employer funding—but the substantial time commitment is your responsibility.

MBA admission requirements typically include GMAT scores (the GRE is reserved for other master’s degree), your bachelor’s degree transcript, and letters of recommendation. You may also need to write a statement of purpose, a short essay in which you explain why you are pursuing an MBA or choosing a particular school or program. Plus, you’ll potentially need to fill out a financial aid application.

Top schools usually set an undergraduate degree GPA of at least 3.0 as an admission prerequisite, though it’s possible to make up for lesser performance with excellent work experience. No one job prepares you for a BI MBA, though it’s certainly easier to get into a program with a background in data, software, or even project management.

Which schools offer a business intelligence MBA?

Remember, business intelligence is a niche MBA specialization, and it’s far more likely you’ll find BI classes within a larger analytics concentration. However, some schools offer a business intelligence focus—either as a stand-alone program or with analytics education.

Some of these schools, which include a mix of on-campus and online programs, are:

Although each school on this list is respectable and meets accreditation standards, you won’t find them on any list of the most elite business schools. For those looking to earn a competitive advantage in the field of data, it might be worth applying to a top MBA program that offers an analytics concentration.

What jobs does a business intelligence MBA qualify you for?

Graduates of business intelligence MBA programs can work in virtually any field, including healthcare, government, and international business. It’s possible to return to the data or business analyst position you held before completing an MBA, though at a higher salary and with more responsibility. Still, MBA-holders are more likely to take on a management or consulting role.

According to Suffolk University, some positions BI MBA-holders qualify for include:

  • Business and engineering manager
  • Business application developer
  • Business consultant
  • Project manager

There are also jobs that an MBA can qualify you for—regardless of concentration. According to US News & World Report, “MBA grads who tend to receive the best job offers have technical expertise that can be applied in multiple business sectors and who simultaneously demonstrate strong people skills such as teamwork and the ability to get along with others.” Some top jobs for MBA-holders are:

  • Business operations manager
  • Chief data officer
  • Database administrator
  • Financial manager
  • Marketing manager
  • Medical and health services manager

Keep in mind these are highly competitive jobs. It likely takes a strong data background and real-world people skills to qualify for one of those positions.

How much can you make with a business intelligence MBA?

Your earnings, naturally, depend on the job that you get after graduation. According to PayScale, the average data analyst salary is a little more than $60,000 annually. However, a mid-career analyst (generally around ten years of experience) earns over $65,000, with the top ten percent earning $90,000. Having an MBA is an excellent way to increase your earning potential.

If you manage to land one of the top jobs for MBA-holders, you’re likely to command a six-figure salary. According to US News & World Report, the median annual wage for database administrators is around $90,000, while business operations managers earn nearly $101,000. Still, it depends on where you work—both company and geographic location. Those who live in major cities like New York or San Francisco often earn salaries well above the national averages for the profession, though they also need to deal with a higher living cost.

Executives and other decision makers frequently hold an MBA degree. An MBA in BI can qualify you for the vaunted c-suite position of chief data officer. These professionals pull information from data like diamonds from coal. They are compensated well for their work, earning an average salary of over $178,000 annually.

Finally, where you complete your degree can have a huge impact on your earnings. For instance, University of Pennsylvania and Stanford University produce graduates that earn the highest average annual salaries (plus bonuses) at over $180,000. Graduates from the lowest-ranked schools earned an average of just over $50,000, according to US News & World Report.

So, should you earn an MBA in Business Intelligence? It really depends. Those who set out to make as much money as possible should look into attending one of the very top business schools—none of which offer a strictly business intelligence concentration but do offer opportunities to focus on data as a whole. Still, a BI MBA is a worthwhile degree because of its focus on widely applicable data and business management skills. If you’re looking to make a splash in the world of data analytics and information technology, an MBA in Business Intelligence can help you reach your goal.

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About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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