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Our Guide to Business Intelligence Master’s Programs

Business intelligence continues to play a key role in the big data economy: the global business intelligence market alone is expected to grow at a rate of nearly 8% to $33.3 billion dollars in 2025, with corporations big and small increasingly relying on data insights and information pathways to improve decision-making, increase efficiency, and boost performance.

This demand is translating into above-average salaries for professions like business intelligence analyst, which, at almost $89,000 per year, is nearly double the average American’s annual wages. Given this earning potential, it’s no surprise that many are seeking opportunities to break into or move up in the field, with master’s study being a particularly appealing prospect. 

But if you’re interested in business intelligence, it can be difficult to find a graduate program that will work for you. Most master's programs are geared towards data analytics, data science, or business analytics, so the task becomes understanding which of these adjacent programs will provide you with the most relevant education to further your business intelligence career.

Lucky for you, we’ve started your research for you: in this guide, we’ll dive deeper into business intelligence, the skills needed, and the kinds of master’s programs out there. At the end, we’ll suggest some great graduate programs that emphasize business intelligence to get you started on your search.

What is business intelligence?

Before we begin, let’s clarify something: what exactly is business intelligence? According to CIO, business intelligence (BI) is: 

“a set of strategies and technologies enterprises use to analyze information and transform it into actionable insights that inform strategic and tactical business decisions. BI tools access and analyze data sets and present analytical findings in reports, summaries, dashboards, graphs, charts, and maps to provide users with detailed intelligence about the state of the business.”

In other words, business intelligence is the software-heavy practice of extracting usable information from big data sets and putting this information in easy-to-understand formats. While this has immediately obvious benefits, CIO, citing software manufacturer Tableau, emphasizes in particular how business intelligence can:

  • Streamline and speed up analysis and decision making.

  • Provide criteria and measurements that executives and managers can use to improve the efficiency of their organization.

  • Improve the satisfaction and experience not only of an organization’s customers, but of its employees, the latter crucial for retention.

  • Remain nimble and secure in the face of changing or adverse conditions.

What kinds of jobs are out there in business intelligence?

Alongside more general analytics jobs like data analyst, data scientist, and business analyst, the main business intelligence roles are business intelligence analyst and business intelligence engineer. Here’s how they differ:

Business intelligence analyst

A business intelligence analyst collects, prepares, and analyzes data and designs dissemination media such as dashboards and reports to ensure findings are understandable and usable for diverse stakeholders.

Business intelligence analyst salary

In the US, as we noted above, the average business intelligence analyst earns around $89,000.

Business intelligence analyst skills

To succeed as a business intelligence analyst, a person needs the following skillset:

  • Computer science and information technology: proficiency in SQL and Tableau, Microsoft Excel, Python or R programming language, IBM’s Power BI, and similar software

  • Mathematics: probability, statistics, and potentially linear algebra for machine learning

  • Data management: data pipeline management, cloud computing with AWS, and data visualization

  • Business: basic understanding of business fundamental

Business intelligence engineer 

A business intelligence engineer specializes in designing, implementing. and maintaining data pipelines, data systems, and other operations relevant to business intelligence.

Business intelligence engineer salary

In the US, the average business intelligence engineer earns $125,756.

Business intelligence engineer skills

A business intelligence engineer needs the same basic skill set as a business intelligence analyst, but they also need more advanced computer science and data management skills.

  • Computer science: advanced scripting with SQL, coding with Python, advanced abilities with data visualization using Tableau or similar software, experience with software development

  • Data management: database management with tools like Apache Hadoop, data mining, data warehousing, advanced knowledge of cloud computing with AWS

What kinds of master’s programs are out there for someone interested in business intelligence?

For someone interested in pursuing a master’s degree to become a business intelligence engineer or business intelligence analyst, there are myriad options out there. In addition to more traditional master’s programs in computer science and applied mathematics, there has recently been a surge in master’s programs in data analytics, business analytics, and data science that are specifically geared towards those who want to upskill to enter or more forward in the data economy. Here and below we’ll focus on these more specialized degrees. Throughout, we will emphasize the following nice-to-haves if you’re interested in pursuing business intelligence: data engineering, data visualization, and business fundamentals and business analytics, among others.

Studying business intelligence in a master’s in data analytics program

A master’s in data analytics program focuses on providing students with computer science basics such as database querying with SQL, as well as advanced training in data analysis (regressions, optimization, decision trees, etc.) and data management practices such as data mining, cloud computing, and data cleaning. Oftentimes these programs will allow students to specialize in a particular area like business analytics, data analytics for social good, or analytical tools.

Check out our full guide to master’s in data analytics programs.

If you’re looking into data analytics master’s programs to ultimately become a business intelligence analyst or business intelligence engineer, you want to look for a program that emphasizes data visualization and/or Tableau, data engineering, cloud computing, advanced skills in SQL and Python, and/or business analytics.

Here are some programs we think will fit the bill:

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The University of Chicago’s Master of Science in Analytics

Chicago, IL

The University of Chicago’s Master of Science in Analytics program offers students flexibility to study full-time or part-time, online or in person as they skill up with courses in advanced programming, data engineering & architecture, machine learning, big data and cloud computing.

UChicago designed their MS in Analytics program for students with backgrounds in technical fields who have at least 2 years of work experience. With the part-time option, students are able to continue working full-time.

Students in the program can make use of a variety of career services, including career fairs, company info sessions, alumni networking events, and help with everything from resumes to interviewing. According to a quarterly survey administered by UChicago, 75% of students found a new job while completing the program.

Selected Courses:

  • Data Mining Principles

  • Statistical Analysis

  • Linear and Nonlinear Models for Business Application

Program Length & Modality: 12-18 months (full-time); 18 months (part-time); online or in-person

Tuition: $62,556

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Georgia Tech’s Master’s of Science in Analytics

Atlanta, GA

Georgia Tech’s Master’s of Science in Analytics program offers foundational and advanced training in computing, statistics, operations research, and business along one of three tracks: analytical tools, business analytics, or computational data analysis.

Prior to enrolling, students of the program are expected to have demonstrated interest in data analytics, have a basic mathematics and computing background, and hold a bachelor’s degree. After taking core and elective courses, students have the opportunity to take an applied analytics practicum.

For students who are looking for a flexible alternative to Tech’s in-person program, there is a self-paced, online version of the MS Analytics degree offered.

Selected Courses:

  • Data Analytics in Business

  • Deep Learning

  • Data Science for Social Networks

Program Length & Modality: 2 years (in-person); self-paced (online)

Tuition: $9,900

Studying business intelligence in a master’s in business analytics program

The curriculum of a master’s in business analytics (MSBA) program overlaps significantly with that of a data analytics master’s program: in both, students learn fundamental techniques of data analysis and data management, as well as key computer science skills. Where they differ comes in the application of these skills: a MSBA program has a much higher baseline of instruction in business fundamentals. In fact, many business analytics programs are more closely aligned with university business schools than math, engineering, or computer science departments.

Check out our full guide to master’s in business analytics programs.

If you’re looking into business analytics MS programs to ultimately become a business intelligence analyst or business intelligence engineer, you obviously won’t need to worry as much about the emphasis placed on business analytics and business fundamentals, but you’ll still want to ensure you’ll gain ample training in data visualization, cloud computing, SQL, Python, and potentially even data engineering if you are interested in becoming a business intelligence engineer. Here are a few programs to get your research started:

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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)

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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)

Studying business intelligence in a master’s in data science program

A master’s in data science program offers advanced instruction not just in analytics, but in machine learning, software design and development, and data science principles such as research design and data science ethics. Many programs also offer industry-specific electives such as marketing analytics or healthcare analytics.

Check out our full guide to master’s in data science programs.

While we wouldn’t necessarily suggest a master’s in data science for someone looking to become a business intelligence analyst — with a data science master’s you have the opportunity to earn more by landing a data scientist position — the emphasis of these programs on data engineering, data architecture, and, occasionally, software development can make them a great way to pursue a career in business intelligence engineering.

Here are three programs to consider:

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The University of Washington

Seattle, WA

The University of Washington's MS in Data Science (MSDS) program offers students training in statistical modeling, data management, machine learning, software engineering, research design, and much more, with a focus on practical application in non-profit and for-profit industries through a two-semester capstone project.

Alumni have gone on to work at Amazon, Boeing, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, T-Mobile, Zillow, and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. The average salary for an alumnus or alumna is $124,000.

UW’s data science program is committed to diversity: the incoming cohort is 58% women and 59% international students from countries like Argentina, Chile, China, Ethiopia, India, Pakistan, Taiwan, and South Korea.

Selected Courses:

  • Software Design for Data Science

  • Applied Statistics & Experimental Design

  • Statistical Machine Learning for Data Science

Program Length & Modality:

  • Full Time: 1.5 years, 2 course per quarter, 40 hours per week in Seattle

  • Part Time: 2.5 years, 1 course per quarter, 20 hours per week in Seattle

Tuition: ~$17,000/year (resident) / ~$32,000/year (non-resident)

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Northwestern University

Evanston, IL

Northwestern’s Master’s in Data Science program focuses on teaching students how to use programming languages and environments like R, Python, Go, TensorFlow, and Keras for deep learning applications to drive business growth. 

Students choose one of five specializations: Analytics and Modeling, Analytics Management, Artificial Intelligence, Data Engineering, or Technology Entrepreneurship.

Selected Courses:

  • Data Science and Digital Transformation

  • Foundations of Data Engineering

  • Artificial Intelligence and Deep Learning

  • Database Systems and Data Preparation

Program Length & Modality: Self-paced online or one-year hybrid (2 on-campus and 1 online course per semester)

Tuition: $58,860 for entire program

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Columbia University

New York, NY

Columbia’s MS in Data Science offers students the chance to undertake their own research, complete a capstone project, and learn from Columbia’s stellar faculty.

Graduates from Columbia’s masters degree program work at Amazon, Goldman Sachs, Google, J.P. Morgan, LinkedIn, McKinsey, NBC Universal, Roku, Starbucks, and Walmart.

Selected Courses:

  • Exploratory Data Analysis and Visualization

  • Computer Systems for Data Science

  • Big Data in Finance

  • Natural Language Processing: Computational Models of Social Meaning

Program Length & Modality: Generally 2 year, on campus

Tuition: ~$71,000 for entire program

What’s next?

In this article, we’ve covered what business intelligence is, the kinds of job opportunities in the field, and the master’s programs that can get you there. As you continue your research, we’ll leave you with some considerations to keep in mind as you do.


Before you apply to a program, make sure your application will be welcome. Many master’s programs in analytics and data science will accept students from a wide variety of backgrounds, but often applicants need to be able to demonstrate existing interest in the field or aptitude or ability in computer science or applied mathematics. Other programs don’t require any prior experience, but will require new students to undergo in-house coding and math “bootcamps” before their program begins.


Like all higher education, a master’s program can be pricey. That said, it doesn’t need to be exorbitant. To keep costs down, consider state schools, especially if you can take advantage of in-state tuition breaks. Make sure also to take advantage of any scholarships, grants, or any other financial aid you qualify for.


Increasingly, master’s programs are being offered online, such as the programs offered by Northwestern, Georgia Tech, and University of Chicago above. Online study offers extraordinary flexibility to continue working or taking care of other responsibilities while you attend classes. It also helps you avoid costly relocation and high cost-of-living in college towns. For these reasons, an online master’s can be a great way to make a career shift or advance your existing career while keeping costs down. For more on online master’s programs see the following articles: