Data Science

Is a Master’s Degree in Data Analytics Right For You?

Is a Master’s Degree in Data Analytics Right For You?
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Noodle Staff May 10, 2018

Considering pursuing a master's degree in data analytics? Noodle will break down everything you need to know to make an informed decision.

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Is a master’s in data analytics right for you?

Are you thinking about pursuing a master’s in data analytics but aren’t sure whether it’s the right degree or career path for you? Don’t get stuck in analysis paralysis. In this comprehensive article, Noodle will break down everything you need to know to make an informed decision.


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Is a master’s in data analytics worth it?

Making things bigger, better, and faster used to be the only competitive advantage needed to survive in the global marketplace. However, thanks to tech improvements over the last decade and a half — and the ability to measure, store, analyze, and extract insights from data generated from billions of people across the world —data science and data analytics have become a new source of competitive advantage for businesses. From Facebook and Google to Amazon, Uber, and Airbnb, the multinational juggernauts of today rely on data analytics professionals to create product and service offerings that are truly unique and personalized to individual consumers.

As a result, there has been considerable growth and interest in data analytics, not just as a career choice but as a university major and an area for future research and development. In many occupations and industries, background knowledge of, and skills in, basic data analytics are considered to be a major advantage, and in some, it is a requirement for work in that field. Based on historical trends, we can only assume that this growth and growing interest will continue over the years to come. The opportunities are out there for qualified data analysts.

Decisions of what to study and what kind of career to pursue are highly personal.

Everyone’s personal goals, aspirations, finances, and family situations are different. With that in mind, we’re presenting a thorough and unbiased breakdown of what data analytics is all about. This includes: the kind of people who generally pursue a master of science in data analytics; what success in a data analytics program looks like; the kinds of jobs you can land with a data analytics degree; and the scope a degree in data analytics will give you in terms of earnings, promotions, and professional exposure.

What is a master’s in data analytics?

Master’s programs in data analytics are generally designed to produce highly skilled data analysts who can analyze large bodies of data — generated by industries as varied as healthcare, advertising, marketing, and manufacturing — to extract meaningful insights based on which business decisions can be made.

In order to master all of this, you will take courses covering:

  • real-life applications of data analytics
  • data extraction and polishing techniques
  • statistics
  • machine learning
  • predictive modeling
  • data variation and validation
  • linear and quadratic analysis

You will also learn how to

  • apply problem-solving skills
  • identify and use the appropriate analytical tools
  • classify data
  • apply predictive analytics
  • synthesize it all to drive strategic decision-making

Through labs and lots of assignments, you’ll acqure plenty of hands-on experience.

On-campus programs for part-time students tend to follow a four-year structure, although there are many online graduate degrees that offer two-year options (full-time students can complete the degree in as little as one year). In both formats, you will undergo rigorous training in mathematics and statistics and learn how to use a wide variety of data management tools. Upon graduation, you will be able to take unstructured data, clean it, refine it, analyze it, and extract useful information such as trends and informational relationships.

Who typically gets a master’s in data analytics?

Data analytics master’s programs, including jobs and careers that require the degree, are very quant-heavy. With the amount of math and programming involved, the ability to be able to handle numbers and calculations is imperative.

If this sounds like you, or if learning these things is something you would like to pursue, then a data analytics master’s would suit you well.

In addition to this, the applications of data analysis include everything from healthcare to marketing. Anyone who wants to work specifically in data mining or business intelligence would benefit from a data analytics degree.

Finally, with a master’s in data analytics, it’s very likely that the kind of work you do will be scalable across different industries and settings. If you can take one set of statistical insights that you extract from a body of data or one correlation you identify between seemingly disparate data inputs and apply them in a different setting or a different industry, you can make a remarkable impact. If you are someone who wants to learn more about how different things interact with each other and want to work on improving things at scale — whether it is something as diverse as the implementation of a new medical procedure or learning how farmers can leverage information technology to produce better crops — data analytics techniques will prove useful.

What can I do with a data analytics master’s?

Math, statistics, and quantitative analysis are widely used in a range of business and professional settings. This means that people with a master’s in data analytics are well-suited to work in any industry that requires such skills. Here are a few jobs, industries, and locations where you can expect to land rewarding work with a data analytics degree.

  • Statistician: Professional statisticians are hired in droves by the government, local/state authorities and organizations, consulting companies, market research organizations, and research institutions.
  • Business Intelligence and Data Mining Professional: Tech and financial companies are two major destinations for data analytics grads, not to mention consultancies and lean manufacturing companies. Curious to learn the more about the difference between business analytics and business intelligence?

In terms of figures, the highest numbers of data analytics job postings open – at the time of this writing – were found in:

  • New York (roughly 7,000 jobs)
  • San Francisco (roughly 4,000 jobs)
  • Chicago, Seattle, and Washington, DC (roughly 2,000 jobs per city)

Here are a few sample jobs:

  • Systems Analyst, Santa Clara, CA: This position requires a tech-savvy person that has a passion for creating or enhancing database tools that are used in business intelligence and analytics. The ability to communicate technical concepts to non-technical personnel and the ability to conceptualize long-term strategies are required.
  • Business Analytics Specialist, Redmond, WA: This profession requires manipulation of large data sets, creating new and improved techniques and/or solutions for data collection, management and usage, and identifying important metrics that can be used to determine the health of systems.
  • Remote Data Analyst: This role requires someone that has familiarity with different types of data quality issues as well as approaches to their resolution. Additional requirements are experience using common data analyst support tools, data mapping, communication and presentation skills, a demonstrated track record of making a difference and adding value, an ability to think creatively, work independently, and develop relationships across the organization.

A Master’s in Data Analytics will give you the tools you need to draw insights from data wherever it is collected. There are vast amounts of data generated and used by virtually every industry under the sun. With your master’s in hand, you should be able to meaningfully help whatever business or company setting you find yourself in. From streamlining the operations of a large logistics company such as FedEx to helping local businesses scale their services, there is a lot you can do to help in each setting if you have a data analytics background.

Which school or program should I attend?

This one depends on a few different variables. There are many great programs out there, and each program is unique. You need to consider things such as your finances, your ability to land a scholarship or work-study, and perhaps the proximity of your school to your home.

Beyond operational decisions such as these, getting into a school that is known for its program is important, so here are a few of the Master’s in Data Analytics programs in the United States to consider:

  • MIT: MIT has a very focused analytics program that blends business and cutting-edge research to help graduates and career changers build a life in data science. Candidates should have a strong math, computer science, and/or statistical background.
  • Carnegie Mellon: The program at this school is actually a blended program for people who are interested in the intersection of data analytics, management, strategy, and IT. Program highlights include working on real-world, interdisciplinary projects, a team-based capstone in the third semester, and entrepreneurship competitions and exchange programs.
  • UT Austin: This program trains students in applied statistics, math, consumer behavior, decision theory, risk management, and more. Students can choose electives from a wide variety of fields such as supply chain, quantitative trading, and social network analytics to add depth to their portfolio before graduating and hitting the job market.
  • University of Chicago: At this university, students have the option to take workshops and short courses in subjects such as R, Hadoop, and Python, and graduates often land jobs as data scientists, senior analysts, and strategy directors.
  • Columbia University: This program is geared at making decision-makers and favors reasoning with data over pure stats and data science. Students learn how to define analytical problems and collaborate with teammates to identify solutions and are allowed to choose electives that are centered on their industry of choice.

What is the average master’s in data analytics salary range?

Depending on the job level, data analytics jobs pay salaries of between roughly $60,000 and $130,000, with the weighted average hitting right at the $70,000 per year figure. The biggest employers of data analysts are:

  • Amazon
  • JP Morgan Chase
  • Microsoft
  • KPMG
  • Booz Allen Hamilton

Job types vary from full-time and contract placements to internships, part-time jobs, temporary work, and commission-based employment. There are generally more mid-level job postings (close to 40,000 at the time of writing) across all locations in the US, versus about 15,000 each for entry-level and senior-level positions. This would suggest that to have a successful data analytics career, you might have to start out in the trenches and get some experience before you are able to make a switch to a better-paying or higher-end job.

What’s the bottom line?

As mentioned, decisions regarding career, job, work location, and salary are very personal and should be made after thorough consideration of the pros and cons of your chosen field of study and the goals and expectations you have for yourself. A master’s in data analytics can open up a whole new world of opportunity for you and with it you can land a job in a wide range of industries in many large cities across the country. However, the work that data analytics entails requires a high level of precision and working with an abundance of data that might not always be a walk in the park to deal with.

If you are looking for some variety in your work, then you might want to consider another career path. However, if you want to be able to learn from data and help companies and organizations use and benefit from their data while making a career out of it for yourself and learning a lot along the way, then a master’s in data analytics is a great option to go for.

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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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