In the classic 1967 movie The Graduate, an older neighbor offers young protagonist Benjamin Braddock some brief but fervent advice on his upcoming career. “Just one word: plastics," the neighbor counsels, adding earnestly, “There’s a great future in plastics."
What advice would a well-intentioned neighbor offer a young graduate today? “Just one word: data." Like plastics in the 1960s, data analysis is a rapidly growing field that promises almost limitless integration into nearly every business function. But where plastics was a punchline in The Graduate, a signifier of a square elder’s vision of progress and modernity, data analytics truly is cutting edge. It appears poised to remain so into the indefinite future.
The reason is simple: modern businesses seek objective, quantifiable information to drive business decisions, and data analysis is a rich primary source of that information. Advances in computing have accelerated the capabilities of, and the rush toward, business analytics; the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 11 percent growth in the management analytics job market between now and 2031. That should result in over 100,000 job openings in management analytics every year.
As a business analyst with an MBA, you will mine and analyze business data to predict future trends, identify inefficiencies, and anticipate and solve business challenges in any area where data are available and useful. That includes strategy, operations, marketing, finance, technology, human resources... in fact, it’s hard to think of a function within modern business that doesn’t generate data that, in the right hands, can yield invaluable insights.
MBAs drawn to business analytics are frequently those who majored in STEM disciplines as undergraduates. Computer science, engineering, mathematics, natural sciences, and statistics feature prominently in class profiles, but business, accounting, and economics majors are also well represented. There are even some liberal arts majors among their ranks.
The field of business analytics covers a prodigious range of functions: any aspect of business that can be quantified and evaluated can benefit from an analyst’s expertise. Almost every area of business meets this qualification, and the opportunities are continually increasing as businesses become more sophisticated about data collection and data usage.
They are not isolated to any single sector of the business world: from manufacturing to services to finance to education to government to health care to pharmaceuticals to just about any other business you can think of, business analysts have a significant role to play.
According to Salary.com, a business analytics manager with either an MBA or related master's degree earns, on average, between $129,000 and $137,500 in salary. Those holding only a bachelor's earn, on average, about $3,000 per year less.
This calculation, however, almost certainly undersells the value of the degree, which will put you in position for better and higher-paying promotions, bonuses and other perquisites that will not be available to those with terminal bachelor’s degrees. The pay difference may not look huge; however, the advantage a graduate degree confers during the hiring process is.
If you have an interest in analytics and the desire and capacity to put in the hard work, this isn’t a difficult call. Business analytics is a growing and lucrative field that offers great opportunities for those with the required skills.
Which business analytics degree should you pursue? Not all schools offer an MBA in business analytics; some offer an MS in Business Analytics instead, and some offer both. Others offer certificate programs.
According to IBM, more than 40 percent of future data science jobs will require a master’s degree or higher. If you aspire to one of those jobs, a certificate program probably isn’t for you. As for the MBA vs the master’s degree, the MBA will likely provide a more general business education with a more theoretical approach to data analytics, while the master’s will be more narrowly focused on business analytics, with a stronger emphasis on practical applications (don’t worry, though, you’ll still get plenty of theory). Choose accordingly, keeping in mind other crucial factors such as cost, location, and alumni network.
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