Business Administration

Your Guide to Online Analytics MBA Programs: Admissions, Curriculum, Jobs, Salary, and More

Your Guide to Online Analytics MBA Programs: Admissions, Curriculum, Jobs, Salary, and More
With the rise of information technology, private and public organizations have access to endless amounts of data. Refining this data and using it to grow a company takes a highly trained team of experts. Image from Unsplash
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Ginny Bartolone June 30, 2021

An MBA in business analytics prepares you for a management role in nearly every business function because data is integral to every aspect of modern business.

MBA/Business Programs You Should Consider

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From social media to productivity trackers, businesses depend on data to make big decisions every step of the way. Looking to make your mark in business? Earning an online MBA in analytics will not only increase your earning potential but also prepare you for a quickly changing world.

Gone are the days when statistics and data management classes took a backseat to other MBA coursework. Big data now sits at the heart of business intelligence and key decision-making. Students are onto the trend: grad school applications for data analytics programs increased by an impressive 34% in 2020, according to a recent article in Fortune.

The cost of an MBA can be significant, sometimes exceeding $100,000 for the full program. However, graduates typically earn significantly higher salaries with an MBA in data analytics. Many see a substantial return on investment with this degree. Online MBA programs help reduce the financial strain because they’re designed for students who continue working and earning while they study.

In this article, we’ll break down what to expect from an online MBA in Business Analytics by diving into some top questions:

  • What is a master’s degree?
  • What is an MBA?
  • What is business analytics?
  • How is a Master of Science in analytics different from an analytics MBA?
  • On-campus vs. online master’s in analytics MBAs
  • What can you do with an analytics MBA?
  • Is there a future in business analytics?
  • Should I get an MBA or an MS in business?

What is a master’s degree?

A master’s is an advanced degree that builds on skills acquired through undergraduate studies or professional experience. Students typically spend anywhere between one and four years completing the degree, depending on the discipline and whether they attend full-time or part-time. Online master’s programs are growing increasingly popular in a growing number of fields.

A Master of Business Administration is among the most popular graduate programs in the US. While some students jump in after earning a bachelor’s, the majority of students start an MBA when they are around 27 or 28 years old. They’ve likely spent about five years working in the field before taking the next step. Some programs require or strongly prefer students with some post-undergraduate professional experience.

In some fields, the master’s is the last degree most students earn. In others, the master’s represents a waystation en route to an academic or professional doctorate, such as a PhD or Doctor of Business Administration (DBA).

How is a master’s different from a bachelor’s degree?

A master’s is not simply an extension of your undergrad years. Bachelor’s programs provide foundational learning, even when you choose a major early on. Undergraduate curricula typically include numerous general education classes to ensure you receive a broad education.

Master’s programs focus on a particular field of study. Some master’s programs expect students to arrive having completed specific undergraduate courses. Those who have not fulfilled these prerequisites may be required to complete foundational coursework before commencing graduate studies.

As a graduate student, you will also likely take classes within a specific college or department. For an MBA, for example, you’ll probably work with a university’s school of business.

The purpose of a master’s degree is to establish mastery and expertise in a specific field. While you may take elective courses outside your area of focus as part of your master’s program, these courses will likely relate to your specialization somehow. The end result is that master’s graduates should be qualified to lead in their chosen field.

Why should you get a master’s degree?

In some careers, a master’s degree is the key to unlocking a higher salary. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that students make an average of $12,000 more after earning a postgrad degree.

Some professions, such as teaching, may require an advanced degree for certification. In business, a master’s is a way to demonstrate your proficiency across business functions. Another benefit of an MBA is that faculty and classmates substantially bolster your professional network.

There is no ‘perfect age’ at which to pursue a graduate degree. Some students undertake master’s studies in their late 20s, but you will find students from their early 20s up through their 60s in many programs. Anytime you want to develop mastery of a subject is an appropriate time to enter a master’s program.


“Should I Get A MBA?”

University and Program Name Learn More

What is an MBA?

Master of Business Administration (MBA) is a popular degree. Over the years, it has jockeyed with education master’s degrees for the most frequently conferred graduate degree. Even after 2020 threw endless challenges at companies, they are still seeking MBA graduates for six-figure positions.

The MBA provides a comprehensive yet tailored education in the topics crucial to becoming a great business leader. Specializations include:

MBA admission requirements and prerequisites

The MBA’s universal application means that schools recruit and accept students from a range of career paths. MBA students do not necessarily need a relevant bachelor’s degree for consideration. However, the admissions department will typically require:

  • Official transcripts for all post-secondary academic work
  • A minimum GPA (which varies among programs)
  • GMAT scores (optional at some schools; some schools accept the GRE)
  • Essay explaining career goals or answering a specific question
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Relevant work experience (including internships)

Highly competitive MBA programs may use a more complicated methodology to narrow down candidates. Some schools, for example, may prioritize students with experience in:

MBA curriculum

An MBA takes what an experienced business professional already knows and bumps it up to the next level. Core courses in an MBA degree typically cover:

  • Business analysis
  • Business ethics
  • Business law
  • Business strategy
  • Communication
  • Data science
  • Finance
  • Leadership skills
  • Marketing analytics
  • Operations management
  • Optimization
  • Qualitative and quantitative research methods

Graduate-level courses include elective topics specific to the student’s concentration. For example, choosing an analytics specialization means extra study in data mining, database management, and predictive analytics.

Occasionally, capstone programs, internships, or residencies may supplement classwork to allow students to put their unique concentration into practice.

Who gets an analytics MBA?

An undergraduate degree in business or IT is a clear link to an analytics MBA. But the program attracts far more than those who took a clear path from the start of their careers.

Some MBA students approach the program intending to redirect their careers toward data and analytics. Executive Associate Dean at Indiana University told U.S. News and World Report, “The students who are interested in our in-residence programs generally tend to be career switchers. They’ve been doing other things or they may be working in business, but are looking to do something different. For example, they may be in operations but are looking to go into brand management or banking.”

Analytics programs cater to professionals looking to exploit a company or organization’s business data. After graduation, candidates can make significant business decisions by analyzing the data from a new perspective.

Degree holders may head back to work with their eye on such c-suite role as Chief Technology Officer or Chief Data Officer. Others thrive in a marketing position forecasting the decisions of future customers. Even non-profit directors benefit from an analytics MBA to reach donors and optimize donations.

MBA analytics students understand the power of data and hope to solve big business problems with its guidance, specifically in a managerial role.

What is business analytics?

Data has always played a prominent role in driving business forward. Companies survey customers to understand their buying habits or measure the popularity of a project to balance out the supply chain.

With the rise of information technology, private and public organizations have access to endless amounts of data. Refining this data and using it to grow a company takes a highly trained team of experts.

Enter data analytics. Harvard Business School points out that research shows over 70% of global enterprises plan to increase their investments in analytics.

Analytics is typically broken into three categories:

  • Descriptive: finding patterns in data
  • Predictive: making predictions based on those patterns
  • Prescriptive: testing business techniques for desired future outcomes

The three stages of data analytics initially focus on what happened in the past—what customers bought after your last marketing campaign, for example. Predictive analytics use this information to predict what customers will do in the future. Prescriptive analytics predict what will happen if you change course. Alter packaging, placement, or content, and your results will vary.

Real-world applications

Not only does data analytics aim to increase a company’s profits, but it also helps them understand consumer habits as a whole. The right data can help a team work more efficiently, communicate better, and even make better decisions daily.

For example, marketing management teams use what is known as A/B email testing when checking which campaigns inspire customers more than others. An insurance company may use analytics and data visualizations to understand a client’s risk. Project management teams use data to streamline office operations. If specificdaily tasks take too long, cost too much money, or create unnecessary frustration from the staff, the data guides project managers on how to change course.

Skills needed

Many people hear the word ‘data’ and assume you have to be a tech-wiz to study the topic. But critical thinking, not math geekiness, is the key to understanding business analytics. Trained specialists can collect data and determine the best way to organize and prescribe action.

Additional top skills of business analysts include:

  • Communication
  • Collaboration and teamwork
  • Mathematics
  • Negotiation
  • Problem-solving
  • Technical proficiency

Depending on the area of business analytics work, professionals may also need a background in:

  • Financial management
  • International business and relations
  • Machine learning
  • Marketing
  • Modeling
  • Project management
  • Risk management
  • Strategic management

How is a Master of Science in analytics different from an analytics MBA?

So, you’re thinking hard about a career in business analytics. Which degree program is for you: a Master of Science in Business Analytics (MSBA) or an Analytics Master of Business Administration (MBA)?

The MBA with a business analytics concentration trains management professionals to use data to drive financial, operations, and marketing efforts forward. In short, the degree approaches analytics from the perspective of a C-level executive.

An MS in Business Analytics may be better suited for students highly adept at technology, programming, and developing algorithms. In contrast, an analytics MS delves more deeply into the data and modeling sides of the field. The MS teaches students to analyze, decipher, and communicate the data to the rest of the team. This degree can also lead to directorial and managerial positions, but with a stronger emphasis on tech than management and strategy.

How is an analytics MBA different from a generalist MBA?

While both degrees prepare students with leadership and business acumen, the generalist MBA only touches on data analytics topics in a handful of courses. The school may offer these classes in specific concentrations or as electives. A data analytics MBA, however, typically approaches generalist MBA topics from a data analytics perspective.

Additionally, the data analyst MBA sets graduates up for more specialized positions within a company highly dependent on the use of data.

On-campus vs. online master’s in analytics MBAs

Online and on-campus MBAs typically:

  • Follow the same or very similar curriculum
  • Offer the same level of respected degree
  • Require identical admissions requirements
  • Require same credit hours for graduation (though often on different schedules)
  • Provide direct access to professors and fellow students

On a professional level, a great business analytics program should mean the same in the real world, no matter how it’s delivered. With the rise in remote learning, top companies now understand the impact and effectiveness of online MBA programs.

Program structure

Quite often, deciding between the two types of programs comes down to your preferred learning style and your current life situation. Working professionals can usually keep their current jobs while completing a part-time online MBA. This is ideal for those intending to make a career shift or current business analysts hoping to move up in their company.

In-person and online degrees may also offer different start dates, allowing the online students to begin mid-year or in the spring.

Most importantly, look for clues that the school makes an effort to ensure students the online program is just as robust as its in-person option. Great online MBA in Business Analytics programs should:

  • Encourage camaraderie among class cohorts, even from afar
  • List their accreditation
  • Offer direct access to professors
  • Offer in-person classes and opportunities to meet other students
  • Provide a flexible class schedule around your work life

In some cases, an online-only program is an attractive perk for students who can’t travel to campus. In others, the occasional workshop or residency allows students to balance the independence of online learning and the collaborative experience of working on campus.

__Learning style___

Your preferred learning style is also key. The best online MBAs offer a combination of synchronous and asynchronous learning. This gives students the chance to study on their own time and connect directly with classmates and faculty.

In some cases, you may have more of a chance to build connections with an in-person program. But again, a great online business degree provides options for this as well. Some schools require in-person residencies, for example. Others connect a cohort of online students for a final capstone project.

What can you do with an analytics MBA?

When you’re on the hunt for the best graduate program for you, poke around to learn where alumni have landed. Return on investment should always play a role in pursuing an MBA.

Overall, you shouldn’t have to do a lot of snooping to figure out the effectiveness of an MBA program. Many universities advertise their programs with these stats, including salary increases, leadership opportunities, and new industry positions.

For example, the online program at Stevens Institute of Technology reports that its graduates accept job offers just three months after graduation and work at the following top companies:

  • Deloitte
  • Ernest and Young
  • iCIMS
  • Prudential
  • PwC
  • Verisk Analytics

Some programs also require an internship or professional placement during the end of the program. While this is not as common for an online program, it can open up placement opportunities after graduation.

What do business analytics MBA graduates do, and how much does the degree affect their salary? Let’s take a look at common career paths and job titles to expect after graduation.

Where do business analytics professionals work?

You’ll find business analytics specialists in a wide range of industries, including:

  • Agriculture
  • Education research
  • Finance
  • Government agencies
  • Healthcare
  • Manufacturing
  • Marketing
  • Non-profits
  • Retail management and sales
  • Technology and social media

Any industry that collects data and uses it to drive profitability has a role for a business analytics team. One professional may focus on the sales and marketing side of the business, analyzing customer data. Others streamline the work of the team in the office itself, taking on a project management role. Data analysis requires the joining of many pieces of the puzzle, so most roles are highly collaborative.

As we mentioned earlier, the MBA puts a candidate ahead of the game. Consider Steven’s program and its graduates as an example. The most common job titles for those coming out of the business school with a Business Analytics MBA include:

  • Finance analysts
  • Financial managers
  • General management
  • Management managers
  • Market research analysts
  • Operational management

Each of these positions takes the lead in utilizing data. Operational managers use big data to find ways to streamline production and day-to-day workflow. Market research analysts lead the charge on the effectiveness of each campaign.

How much do business analytics professionals make?

Let’s take a look at some of the jobs listed on Stevens’ website.

Financial manager

What do business analytics MBA graduates do, and how much does the degree affect their salary? Let’s take a look at common career paths and job titles to expect after graduation.

According to US News and World Report, financial managers make an average of $129,000 a year. Positions in New York will reach over $200,000, especially in the city.

Management analysts

These analysts provide and decipher data for the management team to increase productivity and profits. This essential operations function focuses on the leadership’s daily activities and overarching goals for the company.

While the average salary, according to Glassdoor, is about $80,000, you’ll find six-figure salaries with employers like Apple, EY, and the US Department of Veterans Affairs.

Market research analysts

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, market research analysts earn a median annual income of $65,810. This is the role typically assigned to candidates with bachelor’s degrees. To advance to the leadership role of market research manager—which, according to the BLS, pays an average of $141,490 per year—you will likely need a graduate degree.

Is there a future in business analytics?

Lucky for us, data analytics itself allows us to see that the industry isn’t going anywhere soon. In fact, it’s taking off. By 2024, the IDC predicts that the industry will surpass $500 billion.

PC Magazine also notes that the analytics industry will only continue on the trend it’s been on for the past several years—fast and steady growth. The article notes that large companies like Google and Salesforce have invested billions of dollars in the past few years to acquire major data-modeling companies.

Will workers become obsolete in business analytics?

Some professionals see the growth of AI and machine learning as a threat to careers like data analytics. If computers can process more data for us, will there be as many roles for trained humans?

A recent Forbes article offers a detailed—and encouraging—picture of how smarter technology enhances the work of a data analyst team. Forbes predicts that the future lies in prescriptive data analytics. As we mentioned earlier, this is when analysts use data to create forecasts and devise long-term plans.

The rise of machine learning directly impacts a company’s ability to play with prescriptive data. A smarter computer guided by smarter data can alter an ad’s timing, placement, and content to fit the viewer.

So, yes, we can do more and move more quickly with the help of new technology, but there is still an essential role for the human mind behind each program. Every company and its constantly changing goals will need to tailor the power of this tech to work for them. There will never be a one-size-fits-all algorithm that works for every sales or operations target.

Should I get an MBA or an MS in business?

If you’ve come to a crossroads in your business career, you may find yourself choosing between an MBA and an MS. When it comes to data analytics, the programs take you in similar but innately different directions.

An MS in Business Analytics may be better for those either making a career shift, coming right out of undergrad, or looking to master the tools that power data analytics. On the other hand, the MBA provides a management-focused curriculum that includes rigorous explorations of big data and its potential. It empowers current business professionals to understand the growing role of data in running an expanding company.

Depending on your career goals after graduation, you can access higher salaries from many industries with both degrees. The programs also take about the same length of time to complete—between two and four years—and offer online and in-person options.

The decision comes down to your preferred curriculum. Be sure to compare programs based on core courses and electives to ensure it’s your ideal path.

Overall, this investment in your education could heighten your love for the field and give you the tools to make your next career move. If so, earning a master’s is an excellent step toward growing as a passionate professional.

(Last Updated on February 26, 2024)

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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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