Business Intelligence & Analytics

Best Online Master’s in Business Analytics

Best Online Master’s in Business Analytics
Using data properly is an essential component of analytics. Image from Unsplash
Lucien Formichella profile
Lucien Formichella July 13, 2020

The advent of the big data era has created numerous opportunities for number-crunchers to advance in the business world. With an online master's in business analytics, you can join the ranks of analysts and managers turning big data into big profits.

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Business analytics is the way companies utilize data to improve and advance business practices. It’s not a new field—even if the term itself is fairly modern. The first time a hunter-gatherer tried to figure out which locations yielded the most productive food searches, business analytics was born. Today nearly every successful company—in every industry—employs analytics in some form. And the field just keeps growing.

Using data properly is an essential component of analytics. “A lot of people can crunch numbers, but I think they’ll be in very limited positions unless they can help interpret those analyses in the context in which the business is competing,” explains Harvard University professor Jan Hammond.

Analytics has come a long way since the Paleolithic period. Data collection methods improve at a seemingly exponential rate, as does the pedagogy surrounding them. This is a profession you can learn, and, with increasing availability, learn online. Distance learning options allow you to study on a flexible schedule and, often, continue working while you learn, all from the convenience of your home, and without sacrificing educational quality.

Learn why you should consider earning an online master’s degree in business analytics. We will cover:

  • What is a master’s degree in business analytics?
  • Who should earn an online master’s degree in business analytics?
  • What are the top online master’s degrees in business analytics?
  • What can you do with a master’s degree in business analytics?

What is a master’s degree in business analytics?

The term master’s degree encompasses several different programs. If most often means a Master of Science in Business Analytics (MSBS); that’s the degree this article focuses on. However, you can also earn a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Business Analytics. That, too, is a master’s degree.

Which option is better for you? The MBA prepares graduates for management roles. It devotes substantial class time to general business study in economics, finance, marketing, accounting, operations, and strategy. In contrast, the MS is a more technically focused degree that prepares students for hands-on data careers. In an MS program, you’ll spend less time on general business principles and more time deep-diving into business analytics. Both programs are usually offered through a university’s college of business.

The average business analytics degree program focuses on using data analytics techniques to interpret big data and improve decision-making. For instance, the Villanova University‘s program is “designed to expose students to the whole analytics continuum from data collection through analysis through implementation and use.” Their business analytics program includes coursework titles like:

  • Analytical Methods for Data Mining
  • Business Intelligence
  • Enterprise Data Management
  • Introduction to Business Analytics
  • Multivariate Data Analysis

Through a combination of core courses and electives, students learn such skills as:

  • Data visualization
  • Interpreting data sets
  • Marketing analytics
  • Modeling
  • Predictive analytics
  • Prescriptive analytics

These techniques help analytics professionals make more informed business decisions. Earning a graduate degree will likely also require completing a capstone project or thesis in your chosen subject.

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What are the top online master’s degrees in business analytics?

According to US News & World Report rankings, top online master’s degrees in business programs that offer a business analytics concentration include:

As you consider programs, make sure to look closely at the individual courses and focus areas each offers. Are you interested in machine learning? The University of Texas program is especially strong in this area. Not all programs cover all aspects of business analytics. Do your research.

Also, look to see whether the program you’re considering is accredited. Organizations like the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) confer accreditation on programs that meet minimum academic and performance standards. A school of business can offer a worthwhile program that isn’t accredited, but you’re definitely taking a chance. If you plan on pursuing another advanced degree after your master’s (e.g., a PhD), know that most programs require you to hold your master’s from an accredited institution.

The typical master of science in business analytics requires students to submit Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) scores. Alternatively, you may provide Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) scores.

Online Master of Science programs can be completed on a full-time or part-time basis, just like traditional programs. Most online students attend part-time, as most continue working while they study. That’s not universally true, but it is generally how things work. Full-time students can complete this master’s program in 12 to 18 months; part-timers take longer.

Some online programs deliver content entirely asynchronously, i.e., all materials are available 24/7, with no required live sessions. Others deliver most material asynchronously but require some live online class meetings, typically once a week, for an hour or more. There are benefits to both approaches: the former is more convenient, the latter offers more individualized instruction.

Tuition rates for online programs typically match those of their on-campus counterparts. Occasionally, business schools offer a discount to online students; nearly as often, they add charges, such as a technology fee, that make online study slightly more expensive. One thing’s for sure: when you study online, you will save on transportation and relocation costs. Like on-campus programs, online programs usually offer qualifying students financial aid.

Who should earn an online master’s degree in business analytics?

Many of the top programs (e.g.,Villanova) are designed for “mid-career” professionals, whom the US Office of Personnel Management defines as having at least ten years of work experience. Villanova also targets those “who are interested in changing or developing an area of focus or are interested in changing careers completely.”

It’s possible to gain admission to a business analytics master’s program straight out of college, although the more competitive the program, the tougher that gets. Students with a bachelor’s degree in one of the following areas are a good fit business analytics programs:

  • Engineering
  • Computer science
  • Math (specifically those with technical knowledge)
  • Business

What can you do with a master’s degree in business analytics?

Completing a business analytics program prepares you to work in the field of data science, which often means using business data to find a competitive advantage for your company. You may not necessarily have the job title of “business analyst,” which can often be an information technology-focused job. Other business analytics careers include:
Business intelligence and analytics consultant

Pay for these careers can vary greatly based on your location, experience level, and job title. For instance, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says that management analysts earned a median income of just over $85,000 in 2019. The top 10 percent of management analysts earn salaries over $150,000.

Chief information officers (CIO) and chief operating officers (COO) likely focus more on business problems than technical ones. According to the BLS, the 2019 median pay for computer and information systems managers, which is the umbrella that CIOs fit into, was just over $146,000. CIOs are often in charge of running the information technology department at a company and ensuring that data and technology are being used effectively. The COO, who ensures that a company is able to function day-to-day, earns slightly less. These professionals make an average of just over $142,000 per year. You can do either job with a degree in business analytics, but a CIO is likely going to be more technically inclined.

Many factors can impact your salary, including geography. For instance, living in a city with a high cost of living, like New York, will pretty much always correspond to a higher salary.

Questions or feedback? Email editor@noodle.com

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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