Which Schools Have the Best Online Analytics MBA Programs?
March 10, 2021
In selecting the top online analytics MBA programs, we prioritized three factors: the quality of the MBA program overall; the quality and depth of its analytics concentration; and the quality of online delivery.
Business schools are by nature conservative, favoring traditional approaches over the latest-flavor trend-chasing. When business programs across the board incorporate a new discipline into their curricula, it signals a significant change in the business landscape.
That's been the case with data-related disciplines like quantitative finance, business intelligence, and business analytics. The last, in particular, has become ubiquitous; according to Poets & Quants, nearly every top 100 MBA program in the United States has added an analytics concentration to its on-campus offerings in recent years. Some schools have added a Master of Science (MS) in business analytics, either in addition to or in lieu of the MBA concentration.
Business analysts mine and interpret Big Data sets to identify inefficiencies, anticipate challenges, project the results of various strategic shifts, and predict upcoming opportunities to solve business problems and drive business decisions. Nearly every aspect of modern business generates mountains of potentially useful business data, waiting only for a business analyst to come and mine the gold hidden within. Unsurprisingly, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts faster than average growth in all business analytics-related job markets over the next seven years.
The best analytics jobs require training beyond what one typically receives through a bachelor's degree program. A graduate-level degree is the obvious next step, but which degree: the MBA, or the MS?
So, __ Master of Business Administration (MBA) or Master of Science (MS)?__ Both the MBA degree and the MS are graduate programs that help advance your career in business analytics. The question is one of balance: do you want a general business degree with a business analytics specialization (MBA) or a degree more singularly focused on analytic theory and applications (MS)?
If you're looking for a deep dive into computer science, programming languages, database mining strategies, and advanced mathematics, a master's degree program is probably the better choice. Note that Master of Science programs typically require a thesis or capstone project, a valuable yet challenging experience. If you're more interested in understanding how all parts of a business work and seeing how analytics fits into the big picture, the MBA is for you. You can usually escape an MBA program without completing a capstone project.
If you feel both are essential, consider a program that offers the option of a combined general MBA/MS in business analytics. Be aware that this alternative requires a bigger investment of both time and money.
If you decide that the MBA is the better option, the next question is: on-campus or online?
On campus or online?
The benefits of online study are numerous and significant. Since most online programs are part-time (some, but not all, programs allow full-time study as well), you can continue working (and earning) while you pursue your degree. With no geographic limitation, you can attend any program in the world that offers its degree online; you're not limited to the nearest state university, nor do you need to relocate to attend that bigger-name school. Asynchronous coursework delivery makes online MBAs convenient and flexible: you needn't attend a lecture on a particular day at a particular time, because it is archived and available for viewing 24/7.
An on-campus program will afford greater opportunities to interact and network with faculty and other MBA students, but online programs are making strides in that direction through the inclusion of live online classes, student meetings, and office hours via apps like Adobe Connect or Zoom.
While there are many more on-campus MBA programs offering analytics concentrations than there are online programs, that gap is narrowing as more universities take their MBAs online. Less than a decade ago, there were only a few great online MBAs; today, as you'll see below, there are many, with more on their way: Southern Methodist University, for example, recently announced that it will launch an analytics-focused online MBA in May 2019.
To be considered for admission to an online MBA program in analytics, you will need:
- An undergraduate degree
- Letters of recommendation
- A personal statement or essay
- GMAT scores (optional or not required at some schools)
- Proof of work experience (not required at all schools)
The best online MBAs in analytics
In selecting the analytics MBA programs below, we prioritized three factors:
- The quality of the MBA program overall
- The quality and depth of its analytics concentration
- The quality of online delivery.
For the purposes of this article, we considered only schools that offer an MBA with a concentration in analytics. Schools that offer only analytics certificates or a combined general MBA/MS are not included. All selections are accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). The schools below are listed in alphabetical order.
Creighton's online MBA relies heavily on bulletin boards and written assignments, supplemented by recorded lectures, video conferencing, and podcasts. Online students can pursue a concentration in business intelligence and analytics by completing three electives in the area. Coursework includes data visualization, machine learning, and database management.
Ohio University offers a hybrid, mostly-online MBA; some classes require occasional synchronous online participation and students must attend at least one weekend-long professional development workshop on the school's Athens campus.
The program's business analytics concentration consists of two core courses (data analysis for decision making, strategic use of information) and three electives: predictive analytics; prescriptive analytics; and data management, business intelligence, & analytics. Content is delivered asynchronously, with text (i.e. discussion boards) the primary means of interaction; live interaction occurs through Adobe Connect. The program can be completed in as little as two years. No GMAT is required to apply to this program.
_Pennsylvania State University—World Campus_
Offered through the Smeal College of Business, the Penn State Online MBA offers a three-course concentration in business analytics (business strategies for data analytics; predictive analytics for business; prescriptive analytics for business). The program requires one five-day residency in University Park but can otherwise be completed entirely online. Content is delivered asynchronously, primarily in a text-based format (discussion boards, chat, social media).
_University of Delaware_
University of Delaware offers a 100 percent online MBA with an area of emphasis in business analytics; students may combine this with a second area of emphasis in finance, healthcare management, strategic leadership, or international business. All content is delivered asynchronously, with supplemental live interaction for group projects (case studies, seminars) and for one-on-one conferences with faculty.
_University of Maryland-College Park_
The Smith School of Business Online MBA is largely asynchronous but incorporates more live and interactive apps than do many other programs: audio and video messaging, collaborative online workspaces, and integrated video are all part of the mix here. The 54 credit-hour program is not entirely asynchronous, as "a small number of live online classes" are delivered via Adobe Connect, allowing remote students to interact with on-campus faculty and peers in real time. Three electives (data mining and predictive analytics; managing digital businesses and platforms; social media and web analytics) constitute the program's concentration in information systems and business analytics.
_University of Massachusetts-Amherst_
The Isenberg Online MBA Program is 100 percent online, although students also have the option of attending classes live on one of the school's three satellite campus locations. Content is delivered through a blend of streaming video, interactive apps, and text. Where most programs offer only a fixed three-course sequence to complete their business analytics concentrations, Isenberg actually offers choices: its ten electives in the field include ecommerce logistics, quality analytics, six sigma for management practice series, supply chain analytics, global business, and web analytics for digital marketing.
_University of Nebraska_
MBA@Nebraska Online is a 100 percent online program; no campus visits are required. Students seeking a specialization in business analytics must complete three required courses (business analytics; introduction to econometrics; strategic database marketing) plus up to three elective courses: choices include project management, strategic management, advanced marketing analytics, risk and simulation modeling, data mining applications, predictive analytics, and advanced descriptive analytics. Content is delivered through recorded lectures and optional live classes held in Zoom.
_University of North Carolina Chapel Hill_
US News & World Report ranks UNC's online MBA the second-best in the country, right behind KelleyDirect at Indiana University (which offers an MS in analytics but not an MBA concentration in the field). The program is not entirely online; students are required to attend two weekend-long immersions. High production values, small weekly live classes led by adjunct faculty, and aggressive career placement services are the hallmarks of MBA@UNC. The program includes one core course in analytics and seven elective courses (options include: business modeling; data analytics; negotiations; pricing; project management; introduction to Python). Students also have the option of enrolling in pre-approved courses offered by partner programs.
_University of Texas at Dallas_
The Professional MBA Online at UT-Dallas is offered through the Naveen Jindal School of Management. This 100 percent online program, which can be completed in 16 to 72 months, delivers content primarily through prerecorded video and text-based web pages. The program offers 15 concentration options, including business analytics; students may use electives to concentrate in up to two different areas. Elective courses include: Big Data; applied machine learning; programming for data science; advanced business analytics with R; data visualization.
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