computer screen with lines of code

Our Guide to Master’s in Business Analytics Programs

It’s increasingly clear that data skills will be essential if you want to make an impact in the business world of the future. McKinsey, a leading consultancy, paints a picture of this future in their new report on data-driven enterprise. In 2025, the authors of the report write, “[n]early all employees naturally and regularly leverage data to support their work. Rather than defaulting to solving problems by developing lengthy — sometimes multiyear — road maps, they’re empowered to ask how innovative data techniques could resolve challenges in hours, days, or weeks.”

Given this outlook, it’s no surprise that many are rushing to add data management and data analytics skills to their arsenals or build on the skills they already have. Those holding bachelor’s degrees are increasingly turning to specialized business analytics master’s programs being offered by colleges and universities both online and in person to do so.

Would a business analytics master’s get you where you want to go? In this article, we help you make a decision by diving deep into what exactly business analytics is, the reasons for pursuing a business analytics master’s degree, and what you can expect to learn from one, plus some tips for what to look for in a program. If you find you’re interested, at the end we provide some tips for what to look for in a business analytics master’s program and present our favorite programs to get you started in your research.

But first thing’s first: what exactly is business analytics?

What is business analytics?

At its core, business analytics is data analytics enhanced with business know-how and applied to business decision-making and intelligence. Data analytics itself involves collecting, organizing, preparing, and storing data, and analyzing it with statistical methods to extract valuable insights. There are four main types of analytics that can be useful: descriptive analytics, diagnostic analytics, predictive analytics, and prescriptive analytics.

Descriptive analytics involves analyzing data to determine what happened in the past. Usually only rudimentary statistical software like Excel is required to manipulate and visualize data so that key performance indicators (KPIs) can be assessed and trends can be identified.

In ecommerce, descriptive analytics might allow a business to calculate year-over-year growth in sales, which can help it quantify its performance and identify patterns and trends in consumer demand that can inform future decisions.

Diagnostic analytics involves analyzing data — often multiple data sets — to understand why certain events happened in the past. Accordingly, this type of analytics is often called root-cause analytics. To understand causes of trends identified in descriptive analytics, diagnostic analytics will look deeper in internal data sets or turn to external data sets that might illuminate correlations between a business’ performance and environmental factors. In the latter case, data mining might be employed, in which machine learning algorithms search big data sets for patterns and associations.

In manufacturing, diagnostic analytics might be used to narrow down the reasons for production shortfalls or inefficiencies, analyzing production data alongside data about employee sentiment, environmental conditions, or supply-chain concerns.

Predictive analytics involves analyzing data to predict what might happen in the future. Predictive analytics makes extensive use of machine learning and other statistical techniques to build models that output forecasts from inputs of historical data. In business, predictive analytics can be used to assess risk and identify new areas of opportunity among other things.

A beverage conglomerate might use predictive analytics to determine whether to enter a new market, such as hard seltzer or non-alcoholic malt beverages.

Prescriptive analytics involves analyzing data, again with the help of machine learning algorithms and models and tools like decision trees, not to predict what might happen in the future, but rather to prescribe future action.

Advanced prescriptive analytics are employed by high-frequency traders to automate trades based on certain market conditions.

Why pursue a master’s in business analytics?

Business analytics master’s degrees are great options both for those who are already working in business looking to advance their careers and those working in another field who are looking to transition into a business analytics career.

Career advancement

A business analytics master’s is an excellent way for someone already working in a particular industry to improve their data skills and learn the latest industry-leading practices in order to be a more attractive candidate for promotion at their current company or for a more senior role elsewhere. For many more-senior roles, companies will often actually list a master’s degree as either a required or a preferred qualification in job postings.

Career transition

For someone holding a bachelor’s degree either just out of college or working in a different field, a master’s in data analytics can provide the skills, expertise, and experience needed to land a job as a business analyst. Some programs require that graduate students arrive with some basic experience in programming, statistics, or business, but many will provide summer bootcamps or introductory courses to get students up to speed quickly, provided they demonstrate aptitude for the course of study.

What kinds of jobs are available to those with master’s degrees in data analytics?

Whether they entered their programs for career advancement or career transition, those holding a data analytics master’s degree usually find employment in one of four roles: data analyst, business analyst, business intelligence analyst, or data scientist. We’ll give brief summaries of each below, and you can also check out our article on analytics jobs to see some real-world job descriptions.

Data analyst

A data analyst is typically responsible for gathering and preparing data for analysis and analyzing it to extract insights related to operations, specific products, or other initiatives and communicate their findings with various business stakeholders. estimates the average data analyst salary in the US to be $81,719.

Business analyst

A business analyst is typically responsible for collecting, preparing, and analyzing data to yield business insights to inform future business actions. That said, there is often significant overlap between the work of a data analyst and the work of a business analyst. estimates the average business analyst salary in the US to be $79,770.

Business intelligence analyst

While a business analyst is responsible for preparing insights with a focus on future action, a business intelligence analyst focuses more squarely on providing informational tools such as reports and dashboards on markets, industries, or business performance. estimates the average business intelligence analyst salary in the US to be $85,278.

Data scientist

While a data scientist’s responsibilities overlap with those of a data analyst — they also collect, prepare, and analyze data — a data scientist is also responsible for designing, developing, and executing new approaches to data analysis of big data sets, often with the help of machine learning. estimates the average data scientist salary in the US to be $139,631. If you’re particularly interested in becoming a data scientist, check out our guide on data science master’s programs, and assessment of salary outcomes for a master's in data science, and our explainer on the typical data science career path for more.

Should you get a master’s in business analytics or data analytics?

For someone holding a bachelor’s degree looking into graduate school options that would help them become a data analyst, business analyst, business intelligence analyst, or data scientist, it can be difficult to decide between business analytics and data analytics programs. As we noted above, there can be significant overlap in the responsibilities of a business analyst and a data analyst, and similarly there can be significant overlap between the fields of business analytics and data analytics.

In our eyes, deciding between business analytics and data analytics programs comes down to curriculum — and the kinds of students that different curricula will attract. Unsurprisingly, there’s also overlap here, but business analytics programs often have business-geared emphases and opportunities that many data analytics programs don’t. We’ll detail these in the next section.

What’s the basic curriculum of a master’s in business analytics program?

The core of a business analytics master’s curriculum doesn’t differ much from a data analytics program. Students can expect to cover the following: 

Computer science skills, including programming with programming languages like SQL, Python, or R. (For more on these check out our programming language deep dive.)

Statistical methods for data analysis, including regression, optimization, and decision trees, as well as certain machine learning techniques

Data collection, preparation, and processing policies and procedures, including data mining for big data and data cleaning

Data visualization practices and tools

Often however, these topics will be taught in business-oriented courses (e.g. “Optimization and its Business Applications) and/or supplemented by business focused courses (e.g. “Financial Accounting,” “Business Communication,” “Decision Strategies,” etc.).

Master’s in business analytics programs might also feature one or more of the following opportunities:

  • An internship, practicum, or immersion program at a local business

  • Business- or industry-specific tracks or concentrations

  • Business- or industry-focused student interest groups

  • Case competitions centered around using analytics to solve business problems

What are the prerequisites for master’s-level study in business analytics?

Exact prerequisites will differ for each program. Some programs require that candidates enter with some experience in programming, statistics, or business, while others are open to candidates starting from zero. It’s best to check a program’s website or contact their admissions office prior to beginning an application to ensure that your application will be welcome.

Having acknowledged that there’ll be variation, there are some important commonalities. Since these are master’s programs, applicants are required to hold a bachelor’s degree at the time of matriculation and submit transcripts and their GPA. International students are required to show proof of English fluency. Many programs also still require applicants to submit GRE scores, though since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic school have begun relaxing this requirement. Common application components in addition to these typically include a statement of purpose and a personal statement.

What should you look for in a master’s in business analytics program?

Choosing which master’s in business analytics programs to apply to and, if you’re admitted, which one to attend, is a big decision. We recommend you focus on the following factors as you consider your options:


Traditionally, the only way to get a master’s was on campus. Increasingly, however, aspiring business analysts have the option to pursue a master’s degree online. In many graduate programs, students also have the option to study part-time instead of full-time. 

Online and/or part-time study can help improve the financial calculation of whether to pursue graduate study by allowing an interested student to continue working or taking care of familial obligations at the same time as they study, reducing lost income potential and relocations and housing expenditures at the same time as they are investing in their future. 

Program profile

Many programs will have similar curricula focusing on programming, analytical methods, data management techniques, and business application, but programs won’t all emphasize these components in the same way. Different programs will often also have different philosophies about how they teach the information. Some will start with first principles and work towards specific use-cases, while others will foreground these cases and encourage students to induce principles from what they observe.

As you research, you want to make sure that a program’s strengths match up with what you want to focus on and where you want to go with your career, and that their teaching philosophy corresponds with how you learn best.


When researching schools, it’s tempting to focus on big-name, elite private institutions. There’s some sense in this: name recognition is important for many recruiters, and the names of these schools are recognized because graduates have historically been successful.

At the same time, a big name comes with a price, even while you can get a similar level of instruction elsewhere. State schools offer extraordinarily competitive programs for considerably less, especially if a student can take advantage of in-state tuition discounts.

As you research, you’ll need to decide for yourself on a case-by-case basis whether the value of a school’s reputation justifies increased cost, and whether both correspond to a higher quality of instruction. As you determine this, it can help to get a better understanding of where graduates of these schools are ending up by researching them with LinkedIn or other social networks.


Like all higher education, master’s study is usually pricey, but it doesn’t need to be exorbitant. In discussing reputation, we’ve already touched on the many public schools that are offering great programs for a fraction of the price of the elite private universities. As you factor cost into your decision-making, consider also any scholarships or grants you might qualify for, lost potential income, increased earning potential from your education, as well as potential interest if you take out loans to fund your education. Check out our guide on what salary you can expect with a master's in business analytics.

Career support

An education will help you gain the skills, expertise, and experience needed to begin or move forward as a business analyst, but you still need to get the job. When deciding on programs, it’s a good idea to pay attention to what kind of career support that program can provide, such as internship opportunities, career offices offering resume and interview advice, alumni networks, or private job boards. You should also check to see if they can provide student outcome information, as this data can provide the best picture of whether the degree offers a worthwhile return on investment.

Industry connections

Whether through internships, guest lecturers or speakers, or job placements, a program’s industry connections can pay serious dividends. Often, these connections are determined by geography. As you are researching programs, pay attention to the industries booming around the school — like tech for Bay Area schools — and check to see if the program lists any industry partnerships. Even if there aren’t any formal partnerships, there’s a good chance that at least some graduates of the program remained nearby if the program was offered on campus. This can offer great networking opportunities down the road.

Our picks for best master’s in business analytics programs

Because of the diverse backgrounds, motivations, and goals of aspiring business analysts, it makes no sense to single out any one “best” master’s in business analytics program, or even rank programs according to some abstract criteria from best to worst. In putting together our picks, we instead focused on presenting great programs that could appeal to a wide variety of future learners. In making our decisions, we paid attention to the same factors we suggest you do:

Reputation: How valuable is a school or program’s reputation?

Curriculum: Does a program’s business analytics curriculum stand out against the mean? Are there interesting emphases? Does the quality of instruction seem high?

Career support: Does the program offer sufficient career services and other resources to help its students find a job after graduating? How easily are graduates finding high-paying jobs?

Modality: Do the different modalities offered provide options so that aspiring business analysts from a variety of different backgrounds have the opportunity to pursue a master’s degree?

Cost: Does a school offer good value for money? Is there a high likelihood of a substantial return on the initial investment?

Industry connections: Does the program have valuable formal or informal industry connections that can yield internships, or job placements?

With that in mind, here are our recommendations:

MIT seal

MIT Sloan’s Master of Business Analytics

Cambridge, MA

MIT Sloan’s Master of Business Analytics (MBAn) program offers students a rigorous 12-month business analytics degree taught by field-leading faculty covering tools for data science, optimization, and machine learning, all with an emphasis on real-world business application.

In addition to 8 required courses and 3–6 electives, students have the opportunity to complete a capstone project. They can also compete against a diverse group of peers to win a research assistantship to conduct further research alongside MIT faculty.

100% of job-seeking graduates of MIT’s business analytics program received full-time job offers within 6 months, with an average base salary of $128k.

Selected Courses:

  • Optimization

  • Analytics Lab: Action Learning Seminar on Analytics, Machine Learning, and the Digital Economy

  • From Analytics to Action

Program Length & Modality: 12 months, in person

Tuition: $64,300 (student responsibility for 2022-2023 academic year)

university of michigan seal

The University of Michigan’s Master of Business Analytics

Ann Arbor, MI

The University of Michigan’s Master of Business Analytics program offers high-achieving students an accelerated, on-campus course of study covering the basics of data analytics and data management paired with foundational courses in business. At the program’s close, students attend the Business Analytics Consulting Studio, an immersive capstone experience that gives students access to partner companies for site visits and final presentations.

In addition to their studies, students have a host of co-curricular opportunities available to them to support their professional development, including leadership, communication, and business problem-solving skills. Students are also able to join a number of student-run clubs such as the Asia Business Conference, the Private Equity Club, and the Design+Business Club.

Selected Courses: 

  • Data Architecture & Acquisition

  • Unsupervised Learning

  • Software Teams and Project Management

Program Length & Modality: 10 months, on-campus

Tuition: $59,063 (in-state); $64,063 (out-of-state)

johns hopkins university seal

Johns Hopkins’ Masters of Science in Business Analytics and Risk Management

Baltimore, MD

Johns Hopkins’ Masters of Science in Business Analytics and Risk Management program, offered by its Carey Business School, allows students to hone their quantitative skill-sets and build business foundations through part-time online and full-time in-person options.

In addition to core courses, students have the opportunity to explore machine learning and big data as well as business topics like corporate governance and cybersecurity. Students can also take advantage of co-curricular activities like impact sprints, case competitions, a student startup lab, and a community consulting challenge.

Johns Hopkins also provides substantial career services, including industry connections and internship and job preparation. Graduates have gone on to work at places like Google, Deloitte, and UBS.

Selected Courses: 

  • Corporate Finance

  • Python for Data Analysis

  • Deep Learning with Unstructured Data

Program Length & Modality: 1 year full-time in-person in Washington, DC; 2 years part-time online

Tuition: $79,800 (in-person); $62,280 (online)

university of illinois seal

The University of Illinois’ Urbana-Champaign’s Masters of Science in Business Analytics

Champaign, IL

The University of Illinois’ Urbana-Champaign’s Masters of Science in Business Analytics program offers students accelerated core and elective instruction and hands-on training along one of four specialized tracks: marketing analytics, algorithms in analytics, financial analytics, or accounting analytics.

With the bulk of the curriculum distributed among electives, not core courses, students have substantial freedom to craft their own program of study. Students also have the opportunity to complete a business practicum.

In their career-search, students are supported by on-campus recruitment and comprehensive career resources through the Office of Career and Professional Development. 2022 graduates received offers from companies such as Amazon, Ernst & Young,  and State Farm.

Selected Courses:

  • Enterprise Data Management

  • Data Analytics for Management Accounting

  • Advanced Data Science and Python for Finance

Program Length & Modality: 9 months, in-person

Tuition: $40,946 (in-state); $54,272 (out-of-state)

What’s next?

In this guide, we’ve gone over the basics of business analytics, looked at some of the reasons to pursue a business analytics master’s degree and some of the potential job outcomes, provided tips for what to look for in a program, and presented some of our favorites. So what are the next steps? If a program interests you, we recommend you click through to the program’s website to learn more.

If you aren’t sure you’re ready to pursue master’s-level study and want to learn more, you can check out our deep dive on whether a data analytics master’s is worth it, which contains applicable information to business analytics master’s.

Finally, if you are interested in learning more about online opportunities, their benefits, and drawbacks, head to our online-exclusive guide to business analytics master’s programs, which similarly has applicable information.