Guide to Business & Data Analytics Programs

business data analytics degree

Business as we know it is changing rapidly. Rapidly shifting currencies necessitate careful analysis of trade agreements, pricing structures and human resources decisions.

The war for talent is tougher than ever, with the unique result that those applying for jobs often possess more control over the process than those offering the jobs. With more work models than ever – freelance, mobile, telecommute – businesses are hard-pressed to determine which models work for them and which don’t. Globalization is changing commerce in developing countries and developed alike.

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Those aren’t the only factors affecting the corporate and entrepreneurial world, of course. A vast river of data flows into the business landscape every day. From the former problem of too little information about the market and consumers, businesses now have far too much. Many have found that trying to process the data available to them from all sides is tantamount to drinking from a firehose.

Into the breach step business analysts, which provide the valuable service of making sense of all this information. With the help of precise and targeted IT (information technology) tools, analysts can help the businesses they serve make better decisions, cut waste, hire the right people and take the right approach to today’s shifting market and economy.

Luckily, it’s not just businesses that benefit from the role. Analysts themselves receive excellent pay and job security, along with the types of challenges that make jobs worth doing. Before setting sights on such a role, however, it’s prudent to consider a degree in the field carefully.

Here are some of the most important things to know.

What Does a Business Analyst Do?

According to Villanova University, business analysts span the gap between business and IT. As David Foote, president of an IT career research firm in Connecticut, said: “There are career tracks that zigzag back and forth between IT and business. Someone might start as a business analyst, then move into a project management job, then an IT management path, then go back to an innovation path … then to process management, then move up a rung to process leadership or process ownership, and then go back over to management as manager of an IT line of business.”

This is, naturally, not the only career path. But its “zigzagging” nature is characteristic of most in this world. Straddling the needs of business and of information technology can prove challenging, but most in the field find the nexus of the business world and the algorithms and technology needed to make sense of it quite fascinating.

At the end of the day, a business analyst provides a few fundamental services to the companies and people for whom they work, including:

  • Gathering, organizing and analyzing financial documents, surveys, online research, social media information or anything else that can be used to illuminate the business’s approach and success
  • Analyzing operations and finding opportunities for improvement
  • Designing, modifying and fixing IT systems
  • Testing systems to ensure they work satisfactorily, then fixing them again when they don’t
  • Providing updates to keep systems running smoothly and provide the most up-to-date information possible
  • Interacting and communicating with executives and other stakeholders for the improvement of the company
  • Interviewing subject experts to enrich their understanding of the business world
  • Staying abreast of and integrating new best-practices approaches

For many potential candidates, that’s enough of an incentive. However, there are many other reasons to get a business analytics degree.

Why Should You Get a Business Analytics Degree?

Other motivators for getting a degree in this field include:

  • Ability to make a difference in developing countries
  • Ability to help entrepreneurs and startups get their business degrees off the ground
  • Possibility of making a huge difference in a business or industry with better processes and big insights
  • Interesting career options dealing with the growing amount of technology and data today

What Can You Do with a Degree in Business Analytics?

Many different career paths open up with a business analytics degree, including:

  • Working with executives to design the direction of companies
  • Managing IT departments
  • Working as a financial or corporate consultant
  • Employing artificial intelligence for business
  • Developing software for business
  • Engineering

Many business data analytics jobs also combine the above career paths to form unique roles for companies needing specialists that match their products or services.

What Are the Course Requirements for a Business Analytics Degree?

Business analytics draws together the disciplines of math, statistics, economics, business and computer science. As such, most schools will take master’s candidates from any of those backgrounds. However, they will likely require at least some classes in the following:

  • Calculus and algebra
  • Computer science and programming
  • Business
  • Management and accounting
  • Economics
  • Global business

… and others, depending on the specific focus of the student and school.

What Are the Requirements for Application to a Business Analytics Degree Program?

Business analytics programs at the undergraduate level require the standard diploma or GED, along with transcripts, standardized tests (SAT or ACT), recommendations and essay.

At the master’s level, the requirements become a bit more complex. While each application varies by the college or university in question, most of them use the same basic outline:

  • An official application to fill out online or on paper
  • Furnish transcripts of all past schools attended, even if the student did not receive a degree (or a pertinent degree) from that institution, with proof of prerequisites completed
  • Complete standardized tests, usually the GRE as well as the TOEFL for international students, proving they have a high enough competence of the English language
  • Letters of recommendation, from one to three
  • Statement of purpose or essay letting the university know why the student is interested or is suited to the program

Note that the above list is no guarantee of what a specific program will ask for, so it’s critical to review the entire specifications for the application. Also make note of deadlines to avoid the heartbreak of submitting too late and having to wait until the following year.

What Is a Standard Business Analytics Curriculum?

A standard business analytics curriculum varies depending on the school and the length of the program. Most master’s programs offer one- or two-year tracks, with or without summers. Different schools offer different focus areas, so students should explore several programs to find the one most closely tailored to their particular interests. That said, most curricula include the following courses:

  • Economics and Marketing Strategy
  • Programming for Analytics
  • Core Statistics
  • Introduction to Business Analytics
  • Accounting and Finance
  • Predictive Analytics Using Python
  • Data Management for Analytics
  • Marketing Analytics

Many courses of study also require a practicum or internship.

What’s the Career Outlook for Business Analytics Graduates?

According to Villanova University, business analysts make varying amounts depending on a few basic career tracks. These include:

These numbers come directly from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which further reports that most of these jobs require only a bachelor’s degree to get started in the field. However, those who elect to earn a master’s degree will have an easier time reaching their salary goals. Moreover, starting at a higher salary will enable candidates to earn more over their lifetimes.

The job outlook is good as well. For instance, management analyst jobs are growing at a rate of 14 percent between 2016 and 2026. That is much faster than average, and translates to significant job security for anyone who graduates with a degree in business analytics.

Additional Resources for Business Analytics Candidates

For those who are already enrolled in a business analytics program or are considering one, it’s good to have some resources by your side. Here are some of the best for those considering the career path:

  • NG DATA: Those who are interested in Big Data and want the best tools for understanding it and improving their skills can turn to this master list, courtesy of an expert in the field of business and data analysis.
  • Oracle: This page is an excellent resource for those already working in the field, or who wish to get themselves acquainted with the real world before graduation. It’s also a great resources for interns who want to make a good impression with solid business knowledge.
  • Society of Actuaries: This resource is another roundup, but the most salient links are at the top under “Open Data Sources,” which list census data, trend resources and financial sites students can use to gather information and improve their understanding of the world as it is.
  • Pepperdine Graziadio Business School: This is an interesting piece distinguishing business analytics and business intelligence, which are often conflated. Those considering the degree would do well to read this first.

Those seeking more information about business analytics or school in general should feel free to reach out today. Otherwise, please make good use of this information and help the world by starting a strong career in business analytics today!

Business Analytics School Rankings

best business analytics rankings 2021

Our goal is to connect students with the best business analytics programs in the country. We scored each business analytics masters program on more than 15 variables across three categories and analyzed the results to give you a hand-picked list of the best. Click for more details on rankings of the best business analytics programs in the country.

Best Masters of Business Analytics Programs

1Harvard Business Analytics$51,500.0024 months
2Wharton Business Analytics$74,500.0024 months
3MIT Business Analytics$85,000.0024 months
4USC Business Analytics$6,800.0024 months
5Columbia Business Analytics$50,496.0024 months
6UCLA Business Analytics$66,790.0024 months
7Cornell Business Analytics$69,440.0024 months
8BU Business Analytics$54,720.0024 months
9UTD Business Analytics$32,000.0012-24 months
10NYU Business Analytics$79,000.0012 months
11SJSU Business Analytics$4,164/unit24 months
12ASU Business Analytics$33,608.0024 months
13UCI Business Analytics$55,000.0024 months
14UT Business Analytics$43,000.0010 months
15Duke Business Analytics$67,300.0024 months
16Drexel Business Analytics$1,139/credit24 months
17UC Davis Business Analytics$1,339/credit12 months
18UCSD Business Analytics$69,440.0024 months
19UTK Business Analytics$26,390.0024 months
20Wake Forest Business Analytics$51,000.0012-24 months
21Iowa State Business Analytics$25,000.0021 months
22University of Miami Business Analytics$65,000.0024 months
23SMU Business Analytics$42,850.0012 months