Friday, April 21, 2017

Big Data and Business: An MBA vs. Master in Business Analytics

2016 was the “Year of the Data Analyst.” According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job market for various data analyst positions is growing far faster than average—around 27 percent annually. In fact, 85 percent of Fortune 500 companies have either launched big data projects or are planning to do so.

Big data, which refers to the practice of analyzing extremely large data sets to reveal trends and patterns, is reshaping the business world—and it’s here to stay. Companies like Google and Amazon have dedicated significant resources to big data, and a report by PWC estimates that the big data market for financial services is expected to increase to $53.4 billion in 2017.

As for the job market for data analysts, the McKinsey Global Institute estimates that by 2018, the United States could face a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 workers with “deep analytical skills” and 1.5 million managers and analyst with the necessary “know-how” to interpret and apply big data.

The increasing emphasis on big data in business requires more workers who are able to analyze data and communicate the results effectively. Because employers want graduates who can do this work, many business schools are rethinking their curricula and integrating data science.

The MS in Business Analytics
Ninety-eight percent of companies believe that business school grads need to know how to use data to drive decisions. As big data has become a standard of business, it has also become a desirable part of a business education.
Beyond adding a business analytics concentration or a few big data electives, some business schools are making big data part of their core offerings. For example, UCLA Anderson School of Management is the latest of several leading business schools to offer a Master of Science in Business Analytics (MSBA).
In February, Anderson launched its newest academic degree program, the MSBA. It’s a 13-month long program that prepares students for a career in big data analysis with a combination of theory and application in a number of critical areas. The curriculum delves into mathematics, statistics, programming and data management as well as specific applications of business analytics including customer analytics, operations analytics and competitive analytics.

MBA Programs and Big Data
An MS in Business Analytics is typically a one-year program. The courses are largely focused on data analysis and interpretation, translating to a fairly narrow set of job outcomes after graduation.
For prospective students who are interested in a generalist experience, many MBA programs have begun to increase the emphasis on data in their curricula. For example, Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management offers a “re-engineered” MBA for the digital tech world: the Johnson Cornell Tech MBA. The program sits at the intersection of business, information science and technology. And when listing topics covered in the program, data science is one of the first mentioned, with courses such as “Data Analytics & Modeling” and “Designing Data Products.”

The University of Chicago Booth School of Business offers an MBA concentration in Analytical Management. Courses within the concentration include “Data-Driven Marketing,” which delves into actual market behavior of consumers, and “Data Mining,” which covers topics such as graphics, cluster analysis, multidimensional scaling, discriminant analysis, logic models, regression and classification trees, neural networks and issues in data collection and management.

MBAs who graduate with a focus on data analytics have the ability to work in a wide range of industries and functions. For example, graduates can work in marketing, given their ability to use data to understand advertising and consumer behavior. Or they can work for a firm like KPMG or Deloitte, using their skills to analyze risk and incorporated uncertainty to identify profitable customers and determine optimal pricing policies.

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