“Information is the oil of the 21st century, and analytics is the combustion engine.”
– Peter Sondergaard
You’re probably well aware that your every mobile app usage, debit card purchase, and website visit generates data. Globally, we generate a mind-boggling quantity each day: a cool 2.5 quintillion bytes. All that data is a potential goldmine for companies. Businesses have always sought to figure out just who is using their services, how they make purchasing decisions, and how companies can better capture their business through new products and strategies.
Once upon a time, that meant looking into the company sales ledger and projecting next quarter’s performance. Nowadays, companies have massive volumes of data to work with, with today’s digital purchases tracked right down to the penny and the second. The data (both structured and unstructured) that businesses collect every day is called Big Data, and it’s as much a corporate asset as a company’s equipment or securities. But it’s one thing to gather raw data, and another thing to analyze it in order to generate actionable information. That’s where business analytics comes in.
Through business analytics, companies can uncover trends and patterns underlying their data. For instance, by sorting customers by age, location, and shopping history, companies can determine exactly what products or perks to offer in order to boost sales, or what ads to show to build brand loyalty. Business analytics requires technical skill, strategic thinking, and business acumen to turn data into insights and insights into business decisions. For those with this special blend of aptitudes, an MBA in business analytics can provide the training required for success in this fast-growing field.
What is Business Analytics?
Business analytics (BA) is defined as an iterative process of methodical exploration of data from a business or other organization. The practice relies heavily on statistical analysis, and is employed by organizations to drive informed decision-making. Business analytics helps companies get insights about their performance, which serves as a corporate asset, giving them a competitive edge. Business analytics also allows companies to optimize and even automate business processes.
Why Do Companies Need Business Analytics?
At one time, business analytics was conducted after-the-fact. Companies would measure their sales from in a given period of time and use this information to forecast sales for the same period in the future. But today, business analytics can be used to influence consumer actions in real time. For instance, a company can use business analytics to alter the selections of products presented to a consumer based on their browsing pattern as they shop. This level of personalization requires a high degree of specific information and an agile way to apply it.
All businesses want to measure their performance and make informed decisions. But large corporations that market to consumers place special value on their Big Data. Their business decisions can involve vast sums of money, slim margins of error, stiff competition, and quick turnaround. Companies in this position identify themselves as “data-driven,” and place a special emphasis on making decisions backed by solid information. Data-driven companies make a point to gather not just high-volume but high-quality data, and rely on professionals with degrees in business analytics to help them make sense of it.
Business analytics gives a company important competitive advantages, such as:
- Faster answers to business questions
- Answers based on information instead of guesswork
- Insights into customer behavior
- Discovering opportunities for cross-selling and up-selling
- On-demand business metrics reports
How Does Business Analytics Work?
Business analytics is really an umbrella term that encompasses two distinct fields of practice: Business Intelligence and Advanced Analytics. Both are valuable ways to predict future outcomes and guide decisions.
Business Intelligence is the process of reviewing historical data to understand how a department or product line within a business has performed over a certain time. Business Intelligence has been around for some time, and is a well-established practice. In fact, back when Henry Ford revolutionized manufacturing with the introduction of the assembly line, he made a point to measure the time his staff spent in each step of automobile building, and adjusted his processes accordingly.
Examples of Business Intelligence practices include:
- online analytical processing (OLAP)
Advanced Analytics is a more recent development and a more specialized practice. This involves deep statistical analysis, such as performing predictive analytics through the application of statistical algorithms to historical data in order to predict how a new service or website design will affect sales. Because advanced analysis is a specialized field that has recently begun to reshape business insights, companies are especially reliant on skilled professionals with degrees in business analytics to carry out these operations.
Examples of Advanced Analytics practices include:
- cluster analysis
- data mining
- simulation algorithms
Business Analytics can also be divided into several process types based on purpose. While there’s some variety in how these fields are seen, most professionals agree on the following categories:
- Descriptive Analytics
provides insights gleaned from historical data using scorecards, reporting, clustering, etc. Descriptive Analytics tells businesses what is going on in their companies and allows them to visualize trends. This business analytics practice answers the question, “what has happened?” The process for descriptive analytics often involves pulling out data patterns through “slicing and dicing” or “drilling down.”
- Predictive Analytics
forms predictive models through machine learning and statistical techniques. Predictive analytics helps companies project how current trends are likely to play out over time. This business analytics practice answers the question, “what is likely to happen next?” The process for predictive analytics often involves data mining and forecasting.
- Prescriptive Analytics
recommends business decisions based on simulation, optimization, etc. Prescriptive analytics help companies make critical business plans based on potential scenarios modeled off of past and current information. This business analytics practice answers the question, “what should we do now?” The process for prescriptive analytics often involves recommendations related to risk management and resource reallocation.
What is the Difference Between Business Analytics and Data Science?
Both Data Science and Business Analytics involve sorting through Big Data to find insights and make informed forecasts. Both are hot fields, with high job demand and career growth, and both command high salaries. Both data scientists and business analytics professionals must have strong statistical and computer tech skills, a flair for math and statistics, along with an analytic mindset. There’s plenty of overlap between the fields of business analytics and data science, and, in fact, may job titles involve both, such as “data scientist with analytics specialization.”
There are a few essential differences between these two fields, though, and the two terms should never be used interchangeably. The main difference is that data science is, as the name suggests, more of a broader academic field, which includes not only the gathering and analysis of data for organizations, but also academic research into topics like algorithm design. In the field, data scientists tend to work on the front end of the data analysis process, creating individualized algorithms that will collect and analyze data, and deploying them. Data scientists work deeply in math and coding, and must have a comprehensive grasp of multiple programming languages and machine learning.
Business analytics, on the other hand, is a more applied field, which is all about solving specific problems and guiding decisions for an organization. A data scientist typically sorts through raw data for a corporation, looking for patterns, and determines what’s driving those trends. A business analyst is also responsible for parsing out trends, but is more focused on leveraging that information to improve a company’s competitive ends and optimize its operations. Whereas data scientists work with large volumes of unstructured data and work extensively on writing algorithms, business analysts tend to work with more structured data and work more with business analytics software.
What is an MBA in Business Analytics?
If you have an analytic mindset, a flair for statistics, and business savvy, you may be interested in tapping into this challenging and in-demand field. An MBA in business analytics is an ideal way to launch your business analytics career, particularly if your primary interest is in the applied aspects of the field- namely, guiding business practices through data-driven decision-making.
Simply put, an MBA in Business Analytics is a traditional Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree with a concentration (major) in Business Analytics. That means that when you graduate, you’ll be a business administration professional first and foremost, but with an enhanced understanding of data analytics tools, and how to leverage data insights to make business decisions. As U.S. News and World Report states, an MBA concentration gives graduates a competitive edge over their peers, and data and tech fields are some of the hottest emerging specialties. An MBA in Business Analytics is a multidisciplinary degree, and includes training in both technical skills, business fundamentals, management practices, leadership, and communication, in addition to those skills specific to business analytics.
What Will I Learn in an MBA in Business Analytics Program?
An MBA is designed to train business leaders, including c-suite executives, and your primary area of education will be in business operations and management. Your MBA program will provide you with a solid grasp of business fundamentals, including both “hard” and “soft” business skills. These are taught through a fixed sequence of required courses, or “core classes.”
Some of the classes you may complete as part of your MBA core include:
- International Business
- Human Resources
Your Business Analytics concentration will dive into specific business analytics and data skills, and teach you to see business issues through a data-driven lens. You’ll get hands-on practice using the most up-to-date business analytics tools, complete case studies and execute projects, some of which may involve real-world data. Your business analytics classes will likely be taught by professors with field experience, who can deliver real-world insights and advice.
Some of the classes you may see offered as part of a business analytics MBA concentration include:
- Spreadsheet Modeling
- Accounting Analytics
- Marketing Analytics
- Financial Analytics
- Business Statistics
- Applied Regression
- Principles of Management Science
- Data Mining
- Forecasting and Modeling
- Business Analytics Strategy
In addition to your MBA core classes and business analytics concentration, you’ll complete an internship, practicum, or other experiential learning component. This will allow you to gain real-world experience as well as demonstrate to employers that you know how to apply your classroom learning in the field.
The curriculum for an MBA in business analytics typically takes 2 years to complete on a full-time basis. Those who are looking to launch new careers or switch professions are good candidates for full-time study. Mid-career professionals who want to advance their existing careers may want to study part-time, which can stretch out the time to completion to 3 years or longer. Accelerated programs are also available, which condense the same curriculum into a rigorous program of just 18 months.
What’s the Difference between an MBA in Business Analytics and an MS in Business Analytics?
Do a quick search for education or jobs related to the field of business analytics, and you’re likely to see two graduate-level degrees mentioned: the Business Analytics MBA and the Business Analytics MS. Both degrees include training in the gathering and analysis of data and its applications in a business environment. Both are two-year degrees with similar tuition and entrance requirements. And both include courses with titles like “data mining” and “Forecasting and Modeling.”
As the degree titles suggest, the difference between the two lies in focus: technical versus applied. An MBA in business analytics is all about business, and making data-informed business decisions. Graduates with a business analytics MBA are business leaders who know how to use data analytics software, interpret the results, and apply their findings to the choices they make as business leaders, such as setting pricing strategies or improving the efficiency of their supply chain.
A Master of Science in Business Analytics (abbreviated “MS” or “MSc”) is the inverse of an MBA in Business Analytics. The MBA is about business first and foremost, while the MS is first and foremost about data. This more technical degree goes deeper into the hard skills of business analysis, and requires students to thoroughly understand programming, algorithms, and statistics.
Can I Earn a Business Analytics MBA Online?
There are a large number of business schools offering online MBA degrees, and a growing number of these now offer online concentrations in business analytics. The curriculum for such programs tends to be the same as those offered on-campus schools, with the same class titles and instructors with similar backgrounds. In fact, many schools use the same faculty to teach both on-campus and online MBA classes. Online classes offer a number of advantages over classes held in a traditional brick-and-mortar school, especially for students who are looking to continue working while completing their MBAs. Online classes typically include both synchronous and asynchronous (on-demand) course content, which allows students to work towards their online MBA in business analytics on their own schedule.
Many prospective online students are concerned about missing out on one of the key pieces of value graduates take away from an MBA program- a professional network. That’s why almost all online MBA programs are offered in a cohort format. In this approach, students start their studies at the same time, as a class, and progress through the curriculum at the same pace, eventually graduating together. By working alongside one another, and remotely collaborating on projects and holding virtual conferences, the cohort forms a bonded group similar to that experienced by an on-campus MBA class.
What is the Job Market with a Business Analytics MBA?
As far back as 2012, an article in theHarvard Business Review named business analytics “the sexiest job of the 21st century.” And as Poets and Quants has reported, the supply of qualified business analytics graduates simply cannot keep pace with the market demand. The 2015 annual Corporate Recruiters Survey conducted by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) found that 50% of major companies found that a fill 50% planned to hire MBAs for data analytics roles. The same survey found that hiring managers named data analytics as the most popular skill sought in hiring new business school graduates. And a report by the McKinsey Global Institute found that the nation is facing a shortage of 1.5 million analysts and managers trained to leverage analytics to make data-driven business decisions.
That’s great news for graduates in an MBA in business analytics. These qualified job candidates will have a variety of roles to choose from, and can find work across a range of sectors, from healthcare to telecommunications to transportation. According to Poets and Quants, popular employers for graduates with an MBA in business analytics include large corporations and Fortune 500 companies such as Amazon, Google, and Microsoft.
What Jobs Can I Get with a Business Analytics MBA?
With an MBA in Business Analytics, you’ll be eligible for a broad range of careers, including coveted c-suite jobs. That’s because MBAs are qualified for leadership positions in a variety of business settings. Moreover, data-driven decision making is increasingly in demand across all types of business, from healthcare to manufacturing, and in every department, from marketing to supply chain management.
Because an MBA in Business Analytics is, first and foremost, a business degree, you won’t be looking at jobs in data science. Instead, you’ll be eligible for data-focused business positions. With a background in analytics, you’ll also have a special edge in competing for more general positions in business management.
Job titles associated with an MBA in Business Analytics include:
- Marketing Manager
- Personal Financial Advisor
- Financial Analyst
- Management Analyst
- Business Intelligence Analyst
- Business Analytics Specialist
- Management Consultant
- Operations Analyst
- Supply Chain Analyst
How Much Can I Make with an MBA in Business Analytics?
Because of the diversity of roles open to graduates with an MBA in business analytics,
As of 2015, the median starting salary for graduates with an MBA in Business Analytics was $100,000, according to Business Because.
A more recent estimate from 1.salary.com gives a figure of $114,743 – $122,463.
In addition to lucrative salaries and job placement rates approaching 100%, graduates with
MBAs in data science enjoy fantastic flexibility and work-life balance. A 2018 survey found that professionals who recently graduated with a business analytics MBA report working 43 hours per week, well below the 55 hours workweek reported by most MBA grads. In the notoriously demanding world of business, it’s tough to find a job that allows professionals- especially recent graduates- that much time away from the office.
Is an MBA in Business Analytics a Good Fit for Me?
It’s indisputable that careers involving Big Data are among the hottest out there, and our survey of MBAs in business analytics shows that this degree is a great way to land one of these in-demand positions. But just because this field is attractive doesn’t mean it’s the right field for you. In fact, it takes a very particular set of aptitudes and interests to succeed in business analytics. These include:
- Business acumen
- Technological aptitude
- Facility with statistics
- Decision making
- Strategic mindset
- Big picture thinking
If you find that your interests skew closer to the technical side, you may be a better fit for an MS in Business Analytics or even an MS in Data Science. If you conclude that you’re more interested in a general MBA, or an MBA with a related concentration such as Finance, Information Technology, or Risk Management. If you have strengths in both business and analysis, however, this MBA concentration may be a good fit for your future career.