North Carolina State University Analytics Interview

Valerie Schwartz Portrait
Valerie Schwartz, Head of Admissions, Institute for Advanced Analytics at North Carolina State University, joins us today to discuss their analytics degree program.

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The Head of Admissions offers a fantastic insight into their Master of Science in Analytics (MSA) degree program.

1. Can you tell us about the business analytics program offered at North Carolina State University?*

NC State University’s Institute for Advanced Analytics, home to the nation’s first Master of Science in Analytics (MSA), prepares data-savvy individuals for leadership in a digital world. Our mission is to produce the world’s finest analytical practitioners — data scientists, analysts, and consultants — who have mastered complex methods for large-scale data modeling, who have a passion for solving challenging problems through teamwork, who are guided by intellectual curiosity, honesty and integrity, and who strive to attain the highest level of professionalism through continuous self-improvement.

2. Is the GMAT & GRE required for acceptance into the program? Do international students have the same requirement?*

GRE/GMAT scores are not required of any applicant, nor will they be considered as part of the admissions process. We have found that there is no correlation between students’ scores on these exams and their success in our program. Most international applicants are required to provide official TOEFL or IELTS scores. (Please refer to the English proficiency requirement for details:

3. How long does a typical business analytics program take at North Carolina State University? What is the maximum and minimum time of completion?*

NC State’s MSA is an intensive, 10-month, cohort-based learning experience offered only as a full-time program on campus. MSA students complete a 2.5-year degree in 10 months (late June – early May) because they’re here learning and working from 9 am – 5 pm every weekday, plus spending time studying during evenings and weekends. This full immersion in the material allows students to soak in more information at a quicker pace than a traditional graduate program.

4. What do you think makes the North Carolina State University analytics program stand out from other programs offered by similar schools in your region?*

NC State’s MSA was founded in 2007, with our first cohort graduating in 2008. Representatives from many universities nationwide have come to us for insight when developing their own analytics and data science degrees. Ours is distinctive in its fully integrated — and continuously evolving — curriculum, which is a carefully calibrated mix of applied mathematics, statistics, computer science, and business disciplines. Our MSA is housed not within a particular school/college but in the university’s Institute for Advanced Analytics, which allows our program to be both truly interdisciplinary and nimble in its ability to meet industry needs. The MSA is a cohort-based learning experience structured entirely around teamwork, with personalized coaching and communications training to improve performance. Our students learn by tackling real-world analytics problems with data provided (under confidentiality) by industry and government sponsors. Our students’ job placement rates have exceeded 90% at graduation in each of the last twelve consecutive years.

5. How important would you say accreditation is when choosing a business analytics program?*

While accreditation is an important criterion to consider when exploring graduate programs, it is one of many factors. Your first consideration when researching a program should be its structure and curriculum. If a full-time, residential program is simply not an option for you given financial or other personal circumstances, then an online program might be a better fit. Take a look at the classes and material taught within the program to better understand what skills you can expect to acquire/refine. Once you’ve narrowed your preferences in terms of a program’s format and content, consider factors such as student body composition and return on investment. How selective is the program in admitting students? Are the program’s published graduate outcomes (job placements, starting salaries, etc.) worth the time and money you’ll spend completing it?

6. What are the advantages of earning a business analytics degree in general and where are you seeing employer demand with this degree?*

The advantages of earning a master’s degree in analytics or data science include increased depth and breadth of knowledge, access to the program’s professional/alumni networks, and increased employability and earning potential. We at NC State’s Institute for Advanced Analytics believe in the fundamental importance of understanding the job market when making a decision to pursue graduate education. To that end, we carefully and continuously monitor the local and national job markets for data scientists and provide this information publicly to aid prospective applicants in making a data-driven decision about enrolling in an analytics or data science degree program. For insight into industry’s demand for data scientists, visit the live data science job tracker on our website:

7. Does the North Carolina State University offer job placement for students who graduate with a business analytics degree?*

Yes. NC State’s Institute for Advanced Analytics benefits from having cultivated longstanding relationships with many companies interested in hiring our graduates, as well as from a robust network of alumni (which will be nearly 1,000 members strong when our current cohort graduates in May 2020) who are eager to hire fellow MSA grads. We provide dedicated career services to all MSA students throughout the program, including extensive resume review, interview coaching, exposure to dozens of companies through guest lectures and networking receptions, and on-site interviews with 40+ companies annually. Nearly all of our students secure employment by graduation and the handful who don’t typically secure jobs within 1-2 months of graduation. Of course, we always remind students that the fewer restrictions they place on their job search, the more opportunities they are likely to yield.

8. What type of financial aid packages are available for students in business analytics? Are there any fellowships, grants, and scholarships available?*

NC State’s MSA students are typically self-financed through personal savings or educational loans. We encourage students to apply for federal subsidized and unsubsidized direct loans, and if qualified, for fellowships and other awards offered through NC State’s Graduate School (see As a 10-month intensive program, the tuition and fees (see for the MSA are considerably lower than master’s degrees requiring registration for four or more semesters. High starting salaries, modest tuition, and short time-to-completion translates into a 23-month average payback period for MSA students — that is half the average of what is realized in comparable two-year professional degree programs. For more information about the return on investment of the MSA, see

9. Do you have any advice for students enrolling in a business analytics program at North Carolina State University?*

We ask our incoming MSA students to keep open minds and trust the process. While the rigorous nature of the MSA can be stressful, the program was designed with our students’ success in mind. Those who are receptive to constructive feedback and seize the opportunity to learn as much as they can in the classroom and from everyone with whom they interact (faculty, staff, peers, alumni and other industry professionals, etc.) throughout the program will see positive results.

10. What do you enjoy most about your position at North Carolina State University?*

I’m fortunate to have an incredibly interesting and rewarding position on a high-performing team of people who walk the talk and are passionate about the work we all do. As Head of Admissions, I get to shape each cohort of MSA students on the front end and then watch from the sidelines as they progress through the 10-month program and emerge as successful graduates. One of the highlights of my role is when alumni volunteer to come back and assist in the recruitment and selection of future MSA students. They’re excited to speak about their experiences during and after the program, and there’s no better or more authentic spokesperson than someone who’s seen the MSA and its outcomes firsthand.

For more information on the Master of Science in Analytics (MSA) program offered at North Carolina State University, visit them online.

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That concludes our interview!

Author: Valeri Schwartz

Head of Admissions for NC State's Institute for Advanced Analytics