A Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree can help your career prospects in many ways. As with any degree earned in graduate school, the MBA imparts skills and knowledge that augment your capabilities and increase your value to potential employers. It also boosts your income potential substantially. No wonder the MBA has been the most popular graduate degree in the United States since 2010.
Many students choose to earn an MBA in general management. Many others opt to specialize in a business discipline. Finance, marketing, strategy, and entrepreneurship are among the most popular choices. Another option growing in popularity with the ascent of big data is business analytics, the application of big data collection and interpretation to drive strategy and develop projection models.
Not all analytics MBA programs are the same. Which one should you attend? Which one is best for your life circumstances and career goals? This article discusses top MBA business analytics programs and answers the questions:
As an MBA in business analytics, you will use data-based decision-making to solve business problems. Where will you work? Anywhere that data is used, including:
Naturally, marketing analytics will be quite a different career from one in human resources, even though you'll use the same basic principles.
While every MBA program is unique, most share several basics in common. All should help increase your business intelligence capabilities by teaching skills like data mining and data visualization. The Georgia Institute of Technology - Main Campus website puts it succinctly, saying that the program "develops student creativity and helps students develop a good understanding of analytical tools and techniques to define important business problems and to derive insight from the data needed to solve the problems they analyze."
Programs often differ most in their focus and/or strengths. For instance, the New York University MBA in business analytics specialization teaches students "how to model such relationships as the impact of advertising on sales, how historical data predict stock returns, and how changes in task characteristics can influence time to completion."
In contrast, the The University of Texas at Austin program embraces the use of business analytics to "solve business, social, and economic problems." Its broader approach "provides a foundation in analytics by bringing together deep expertise in applied statistics, optimization, and decision theory."
Coursework offerings from these programs include:
In addition to your analytics coursework, you will complete core courses covering:
Most programs also require a capstone project or thesis to graduate.
Most schools do not require a specific bachelor's degree to qualify for an MBA degree program. However, they do prefer students with relevant work experience. Maybe you are already working in data analytics or big data in a lower-level position, or have business experience that can lead to a position in analytics. Applicants can have as much as a decade of professional work experience before applying to an MBA program.
Some of the most common undergraduate tracks for current business analytics MBAs include:
When you are ready to return to school, you will first need to take the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT). Anything above 700 is considered a very good GMAT score. Some schools might accept Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) scores, but that test is designed more for a Master of Science (MS) or Master of Arts (MA) degree.
The University of Texas at Austin offers numerous recommendations for applicants to their program—things like how to approach the application essay, crafting a resume to highlight the right work experience, and dealing with being on the waiting list.
Though the McCombs School of Business program is just one example, it nonetheless highlights some fundamental truths of applying to an MBA. There are often limited spaces available in highly competitive programs, meaning that qualified applicants may not gain admission. You also need the kind of experience that the school is looking for, which often means crafting your resume to appeal to a specific program rather than just hurling the same document around to different institutions. According to one of the articles, McCombs suggests that students "take every opportunity on your application to illustrate just WHAT about your job made your experience rich and rewarding."
Many programs are designed with the working professional in mind—offering online MBA programs and part-time options. MBA students can often choose flexible plans that allow for time to meet work and familial duties. An on-campus program may be appealing to those who learn better in a traditional setting, but you don't need to physically be in class to make the most of a master's program.
An MBA isn't the only way to get a graduate education. You might also consider a Master of Science in Business Administration (MSBA). Though these programs often address the same concepts, the focus is different. MBAs are management-driven, while master's degrees often focus on technical skills.
A more likely option is the Master of Science in Business Analytics. If you are more interested in taking a deep dive into analytics than in framing it within a broader business context, the MS may better suit your goals and skill set. In it, you'll study:
Where the MBA will prepare you for a role in management, the MS will better prepare you for a career as a data scientist. To put it pithily: the MS focuses on the project, the MBA on project management.
Numerous factors go into deciding where to get your MBA—where you get accepted being a huge one. Sometimes attending an accessible online master's program is going to be a deciding factor. Or, you may choose a state university because it's less expensive and/or close to home.
Class offerings can be a factor, as well. You may select your top choice because it has specific elective courses that nowhere else does—even if it is ranked just a couple of places lower.
One thing you should look at is whether a program is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), a respected independent agency. Accreditation confirms that the program meets baseline requirements and assures that other schools—should you later decide to pursue a PhD or DBA—will accept your degree.
With those qualifications in mind, some of the top MBA business analytics programs, according to US News & World Report are:
It's been established that MBAs can work in pretty much any business sector. There are also many specific job titles that you will qualify for. The Wharton school says its graduates "are ideally suited for the growing set of careers broadly defined under the header of 'data science' with responsibilities for managing and analyzing data."
Remember, a data scientist often holds a Master of Science degree. However, a data science manager may have an MBA. According to Glassdoor, the average data science manager's base pay is over $140,000 per year. Data management can be an extremely lucrative career—especially when considering that data scientists make an average of just over $113,000, which is also quite lucrative.
It's almost counterproductive to list all the jobs MBAs can have. However, one place that MBAs can aim for is the C-suite. A chief technology officer (CTO), who is responsible for running the engineering and information technology sector and ensuring that those departments meet business needs, can earn a lofty average salary of over $160,000, according to PayScale.
Perhaps the best way to figure out how much you'll earn after completing an MBA program is by looking at school-published statistics. Many programs provide numbers about the success of their MBA students within a year after graduation—including what the average salary of the class is. For instance, Purdue graduates earn an average base salary of nearly $92,000 per year, while George Tech alumni make an average of just over $117,000 per year. At another top school, Stanford, graduates earn a base salary of $150,000.
Keep in mind, these numbers are for MBA programs as a whole, and not just those who complete a business analytics concentration. However, they do show a vital truth: attending a top program often leads to a top salary.
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