Business Intelligence & Analytics

Is a Master of Science in Business Analytics Worth It?

Is a Master of Science in Business Analytics Worth It?
Business analysts are needed everywhere, and an MSBA should provide the necessary credentials to pivot from one industry to another throughout your career. Image from Unsplash
Christa Terry profile
Christa Terry October 23, 2019

Business analysts who can transform business intelligence into business insights are in demand. If you want to join their ranks, consider the Master of Science in Business Analytics.

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In this age of Big Data, business analytics and data science experts who use data to tackle challenges have become the go-to problem solvers in the business world. They mine and interpret data for instructive trends to solve a range of programs, including how to:

  • Increase profitability
  • Find and eliminate cost inefficiencies
  • Identify customer bases
  • Improve the efficiency of operations
  • Maximize the value of employees
  • Predict future trends

Not every company is properly utilizing the power of data, and those that are have a distinct advantage over the competition. Companies that take a more data-driven approach enjoy significant cost savings and increased revenue.

When you earn a Master of Science in Business Analytics (MSBA) degree, you’ll have the skills and knowledge you need to make a measurable difference to your employer’s bottom line.

In this guide to a Master of Science in Business Analytics degree, we’ll cover:

  • What is business analytics?
  • Possible fields and career paths for a Master of Science in Business Analytics
  • Prerequisites for a Master of Science in Business Analytics
  • Commitment required for a Master of Science in Business Analytics
  • Business analytics degrees versus business intelligence degrees
  • Is a Master of Science in Business Analytics worth it?

What is business analytics?

Analytics is crucial to success in business. Companies increasingly collect as much data (known as business intelligence) as possible, but information in its rawest form isn’t particularly useful. Business analytics turns raw data into a valuable asset for making decisions and developing strategies. Business analytics professionals __ make sense of all the raw information companies collect using various statistical methods, software applications, and techniques. They help companies to use data to do things like:

  • Optimize supply chain management
  • Reduce production costs
  • Measure performance
  • Market to fresh audiences
  • Predict how well a new product will sell
  • Determine how to price goods and services
  • Identify influencers who can be brought in as marketing partners
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Possible fields and career paths for a Master of Science in Business Analytics

A number of career paths will open to you when you earn a Master of Science in Business Analytics should open a number of career paths to you. Among them:

Data scientist

These analytics professionals look at the big picture of any business. In this highly technical role, which pays $91,060 per year on average, you’ll:

  • Write code
  • Develop algorithms
  • Build custom models
  • Tell stories through data (i.e. do a lot of math)

Earning a Master of Science in Business Analytics is probably not the fastest way to become a data scientist (a Master of Science in Data Science might be a more direct route), but it is one way. Look for schools with MSBAs that have programming courses in the core curriculum.

Data analyst

The biggest difference between data scientists and data analysts is that data analysts are more likely to apply existing applications, algorithms, and models to approach a problem. Data scientists, in contrast, are more likely to develop new applications, algorithms, and models in solving a problem. Data analytics usually pays about $59,559 per year (increasing to about $80,000 for a more senior role), you’ll be responsible for gathering data from different sources and:

  • Organizing
  • Analyzing
  • Interpreting
  • Identifying patterns and trends
  • Showcasing that data for shareholders and executives

To enter this field, look for business analytics programs that teach database querying languages like SQL, statistical programming languages like R, and data visualization tools.

Management Analyst

As a management analyst, you will use data to improve organizations’ efficiency and performance. It’s a good career choice for MSBAs who enjoy travel because management analysts (who earn about $83,610 per year on average) are often sent from site to site or work independently as consultants.

Operations Research Analyst/Operations Research Manager

Operations research analysts use advanced data analysis and mathematical modeling to solve such complex problems las how to dispatch police officers more efficiently, or how to price goods higher without losing sales in the process.
In this role, you might work in:

  • Transportation
  • Business
  • Manufacturing
  • Banking
  • Government
  • Retail

The average salary for operations research analysts is about $75,772 per year on average. In a management role, you’ll make upwards of $120,000 per year.

Marketing Analyst/Marketing Analytics Manager

Also known as market research analysts, marketing analysts are responsible for:

  • Identifying market segments
  • Analyzing market research
  • Studying the competition
  • Developing sales plans
  • Predicting consumer behavior and market trends

Analysts earn about $55,000 per year, while managers make $126,318 per year on average.

How much money you earn with a master’s degree will depend mainly on your work history, location, and your level of seniority. In addition to the roles above, MSBA holders work as:

  • Logisticians
  • Mathematicians
  • Business intelligence analysts
  • Program managers
  • Pricing analysts
  • Revenue optimization analysts

Prerequisites for a Master of Science in Business Analytics

The most important prerequisite for aspiring MSBA students is a bachelor’s degree. A bachelor’s with a focus on business analytics will serve you well. Two notable option:

Most master’s programs don’t require applicants to have earned a specific degree or to have completed specific courses, although a few do. Many others simply prefer students whose undergraduate degrees demonstrate preparation for this quant-heavy, computer-science-heavy discipline. They favor applicants with bachelor’s degrees in science, math, computer science, statistics, or engineering.

If you’re currently working toward a bachelor’s but are not majoring in a quantitative discipline, you can still become a more attractive MSBA candidate by taking math, statistics, and programming classes.

Because the MSBA is a business degree, many universities require applicants to submit GMAT or GRE scores. A few, including Iowa State University‘s Debbie and Jerry Ivy College of Business, don’t require either exam. Some schools allow applicants with significant work experience or another graduate degree to request a test waiver. Always read graduate program admissions descriptions carefully.

Commitment required for a Master of Science in Business Analytics

Most master’s degree programs take about two years to complete as a full-time student, three to four years as a part-time student. Accelerated programs can reduce this time somewhat.

In most Master of Science in Business Analytics programs, you’ll study:

  • Business analytics foundations
  • Analytics tools
  • Business intelligence
  • Big data
  • Statistics
  • Machine learning
  • Mathematical optimization
  • Business
  • Communications

You may also take computer science and information theory courses, along with coding classes in R, Python, SAS, and SQL. In most programs, you will complete a capstone project.

You’ll learn how to:

  • Deal with unstructured data
  • Identify data trends
  • Share data effectively

You’ll also get to network with people in the analytics and business worlds.

That said, MSBA curricula vary depending on their curricular focus. Some emphasize business skills and principles; others stress quant skills; others still highlight computer science. Study the curricula for each program you seriously consider. The program description on each school’s website should reveal its program’s emphases.

__Some of the best MS in business analytics programs can be found at:__

Business analytics degrees versus business intelligence degrees

The MS in business analytics and the MS in business intelligence both serve aspiring data professionals and, at first glance, they look rather similar. There are key differences you should be aware of, however. Business analytics emphasizes predictive models, with a focus on anticipating emerging trends. Business intelligence is much more concerned with mining data to analyze and solve existing problems.

Is a Master of Science in Business Analytics worth it?

No guide to a Master of Science in Business Analytics would be complete without a look at the pros and cons. Getting any master’s degree represents a significant commitment in both time and money. Think carefully about whether you can afford not just the price tag of a master’s degree, but also the loss of income, the cost of extras like housing and books, and the time expenditure.

If your goal is to work as an analyst or to manage other business analysts, then earning your Master of Science in Business Analytics is a good idea (assuming that the numbers add up). There are plenty of jobs for analysts and data scientists — job openings in data science and analytics tend to remain open for at least 45 days — but you’ll still need to develop the credentials and résumé to earn those positions.

The best thing about getting a master’s degree in business analytics is that you can apply the knowledge across many industries. You can work in:

  • Manufacturing
  • Insurance
  • Real estate
  • Banking
  • Sports
  • Entertainment
  • Education

Business analysts are needed everywhere, and an MSBA should provide the necessary credentials to pivot from one industry to another throughout your career. In today’s fast-changing business climate, that’s a huge plus.

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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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