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.
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.
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.
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.