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Why You Should Consider an MBA in Business Analytics in 2023

Business-minded professionals have long pursued Master’s of Business Administration programs (MBAs) as a ticket to both prestige and high earnings. And who can blame them: according to data gathered by Payscale for industry e-rag Poets&Quants, an MBA from a prestigious institution can lead to high seven-figure lifetime income. Findings from the Graduate Management Admission Council juxtapose MBAs’ earnings to those without the degree: on average, those who complete an MBA report earning around 50% more than before they entered their program.

While there’s been some recent press attention devoted to the crucial soft skills a master’s in business administration education can provide, in the era of big data many still seek out MBAs to gain data analytics training in a business-forward context. This aligns with recent predictions made by leading consultancy McKinsey. By 2025, they believe “chief data officers and their teams [will] function as a business unit with profit-and-loss responsibilities.” Analytics wonks with business acumen, it follows, will find themselves ahead of the curve.

What is business analytics?

But let’s back up: what exactly is data analytics? Essentially, it concerns leveraging statistical analysis, data management, and, often, machine learning to transform raw data into actionable information — or “insights,” in the corporate parlance — that can help guide decision making, broader organizational behavior, operations management, you name it.

Data analytics is commonly considered to have four primary subsets, each serving a different purpose. Descriptive analytics allows businesses to identify historical trends. Diagnostic analytics helps businesses understand the root causes of these trends. Predictive analytics centers on using data to look into the future and predict future events to inform business decisions, while prescriptive analytics allows managers to plot, or even automate, future actions. You can find more on these subsets in our article “What is business analytics?

How can you study business analytics in an MBA program?

While those interested in business analytics can informally emphasize the discipline during their MBA by simply loading up on analytics electives, many MBA programs offer a business analytics or data analytics specialization, concentration, or other track.

University of Pennsylvania’s prestigious Wharton School, for example, offers a business analytics major focusing on areas like marketing analytics, data mining, and machine learning. The University of Chicago’s Booth School offers instead a business analytics concentration that combines coursework in data science, decision modeling, artificial intelligence, and more.

There are also options for the MBA student who wants to pursue business analytics online. The University of North Dakota’s online MBA program, accredited by AACSB International, offers a business analytics specialization where students can learn more about large dataset management, econometrics, and much more. Boston University’s Online Master of Business Administration, while not offering a specific business analytics concentration, nevertheless emphasizes data analytics for managing performance and assessing and managing risks.

What kinds of jobs can you get with an MBA in business analytics?

MBAs report earning higher average salaries because their expertise in business and management opens the door to a variety of leadership roles. If you also have business analytics experience, you can leverage this in-demand skill set not only to provide value (and extract higher compensation) as an analytics practitioner, but as someone with the know-how to lead analytics operations.

This means that graduating with your MBA in business analytics can open the door not only to traditional business analytics roles such as business analyst, data analyst, business intelligence analyst, financial analyst, and data science positions, but roles where you would be managing teams of these kinds of professionals. What’s more, going to business school also gives you the opportunity to take a quant-heavy and lucrative role serving clients as a senior management analyst or management consultant.

But just how high can salaries be? Given the wide-variety of roles business analytics MBAs are qualified for, it can be difficult to say with exactitude, but gives an estimate for a Business Analytics Manager with a master’s degree or MBA that is likely indicative of your earning potential: between $129,574 and $137,924. Graduate from a prestigious business school, perform well and get promoted, or land a job at a big-name company, however, and your earning potential could easily surpass this range. The average salary for a newly minted Stanford MBA grad, for example, was over $180,000 in 2022.

These high salaries mean that, while an MBA can be expensive — averaging $61,800 according to Education Data Initiative — many students see a high return on investment. If you can finance your education responsibly, an MBA can set you on a path to financial stability.

What’s the difference between an MBA in business analytics and a master’s in business analytics?

For someone seeking graduate education in business analytics, it’s easy to get a MBA in business analytics and a master’s in business analytics confused — after all, they’re both master’s degrees and they both focus on business analytics. The difference, you’ll see, comes in the emphasis they place on analytics and business respectively.

What’s the typical curriculum for a master’s in business analytics?

Usually lasting one to two years, a master’s in business analytics focuses squarely on equipping students with the skills needed to succeed as an analytics professional. These skills include:

Computer science skills, including Excel spreadsheets, querying databases with SQL, and programming with R or Python.

Statistical analysis, including optimization, regression, decision trees, and certain machine learning techniques

Data management, including data collection, data preparation, and data processing

Data visualization

Generally, this curriculum is complemented by courses aimed at giving students a handle on business fundamentals such as finance, economics, and accounting. These business courses are intended to allow students to more effectively ideate, plan, and execute analytics initiatives and effectively communicate findings to relevant stakeholders.

What’s the typical curriculum for an MBA in business analytics?

Traditionally two-years long, the curriculum for an MBA with a business analytics concentration is more variable than a business analytics MS, as it depends both on the particular structure of the concentration and whether the school offering the concentration is a quant-heavy business school like MIT, Penn’s Wharton, Columbia, or Chicago’s Booth.

What is likely constant, however, is the focus of the program: while a business analytics MS is intended primarily to produce analysts, an MBA focuses on producing managers, administrators, and entrepreneurs. This means that while there might be emphasis on analytics, MBA students will also gain extensive training in core business principles such as accounting, finance, marketing, not to mention leadership, negotiating, and strategic thinking. While these might be touched over the course of a business analytics MS program, it likely won’t be nearly to the same extent.

So why should you pursue an MBA in business analytics?

In this article so far, we’ve covered the basics of business analytics, explained the opportunities to study business analytics in an MBA program, introduced potential career paths for MBAs with business analytics skills, and dived into the differences between an MS in business analytics and an MBA in business analytics. What’s the upshot? Is an MBA in business analytics right for you? While ultimately you’ll have to decide for yourself, as you’re considering your next move keep the following guidelines in mind:

An MBA in business analytics is a great option:

  • If you’re interested in pursuing a career as a manager, entrepreneur, or administrator.

  • If you’re interested in business analytics and want to lead data initiatives or cross-functional teams that include data analysts.

  • If you’re looking for a more comprehensive business education that provides significant training in accounting, economics, and finance.

  • If you have the aptitude to succeed in an MBA program and be able to take advantage of the significant boost in compensation an MBA brings.

A master’s in business analytics is a great option:

  • If your ultimate career goal is to work as a business analyst, data analyst, business intelligence analyst, or data scientist.

  • If you want to work closely with data on a daily basis, overseeing analytics projects from end-to-end and spending much of your time coding.

  • If you’re interested in learning practical machine learning skills.

  • If you feel confident in your ability to succeed in a business analytics master’s program and take advantage of the above-average salaries enjoyed by graduates.

While we’ve spent most of this article discussing MBAs, if you have more questions about business analytics MS programs, we have tons of resources for you to explore: