Skip to content

Big Data: Big Deal for B-Schools, but the Market Is Maturing

Two years ago Eduvantis reported how the Master of Science in Business Analytics (MSBA) degree was gaining traction as a new product offer in business schools.  Today, the majority of top-50 b-schools offer an MSBA.  Seemingly overnight, a program in business analytics has become a “must-do” for every institution.

But when such rapid market adoption occurs, the competitive advantage to be gained by what just yesterday seemed like a product innovation can shrink rapidly.  Following is our analysis on what’s happening now, to help you plan your next strategic step.

Pervasive: At 16 of the top 25 business schools, prospective students can pursue an MSBA (or a closely related kin of a different name, such as MS Analytics, MS Data Science), either at their school/college or within the broader university. Among the mid-tier schools (ranked 26-50 and 51-100), penetration rates are 46% and 33%, respectively. Within their parent institutions, b-schools are stepping-up to the plate, offering 44 of the 99 programs currently available (including the majority of those entitled MSBA) as well as supporting cross-campus collaborations for at least four additional programs hosted in conjunction with the schools of engineering, mathematics, or science. The degree is so prevalent that we have identified six institutions with two or more MSBA-like degree programs, usually housing one in the school of business and another in a science or engineering school. We’ve also observed a wave of tech-based program innovation as schools look to serve the overall “big data” market.

In demand: Using Google search volume as a proxy for market demand, interest in “business analytics” continues to surge. When comparing the trailing twelve months to the prior year, average monthly searches have increased by over 22%, which means nearly 40,000 more searches are taking place annually. Increasing demand for business analytics is also supported anecdotally in our correspondences with individuals running these degree programs. Many are reporting increased (or in some cases, doubled) class sizes, with one New England institution reporting that applications to their program “increased by 500% in one year without doing any marketing.” These institutions also continue to report high job placement rates, typically within the 95-100% range.

The Opportunity May Fade

But not all the data paints a rosy picture of the market.  Our analysis of Google Trends suggests interest in “business analytics” will level off over the next year.  Further, our analysis of relevant job postings around the subject shows that the term “business analytics” peaked in 2012-2013.

Furthermore, in its “Big Data” report from 2011, McKinsey Global Institute identified several analytics-heavy job categories and used figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to help predict growth in the industry. Four years of data have been released by the BLS since then, and their employment projections for those occupational categories have been updated. The results are a mixed bag: although growth is accelerating in the updated ten-year projections for five of the nine occupational categories, when looking at those categories as a whole, the ten-year growth projections have become less optimistic over time. In essence, although “big data” is more robust than overall labor market, we are beginning to see signs of that growth slowing, an early indicator of maturity.

Pricey, but worth it? Front-runners (programs which began in 2007-2013) appear to have been more premium priced, with new entrants (those which began in 2014-2015) averaging 11% lower. Overall, price currently only has a low correlation with enrollment, and outcomes are not yet widely publicized as so many programs are new to the market. As one would expect, top brands (in terms of ranking) appear to command a price premium, with all programs by schools in the top 10 costing students well above average.

FTMBA Ranking Chart

Relatively undifferentiated: Truly differentiated programs are few and far between. The majority of programs are positioned similarly in terms of format (length, number of credit hours, curriculum descriptions, admission requirements) as well as benefits (“drive better decisions”; “leverage data to help organizations operate better”; “address problems and create opportunities”). Programs that can be completed in one year or less are the most common, with a few following a more MBA-like duration of 20+ months.

That said, more flexible delivery options are pervasive:

  • 29% of the programs have some form of online options, with 17 programs offering completely online programs.
  • Approximately 1/3 of the programs are full-time, with the other 2/3 being either purely part-time/online, or full-time with online or part-time options.
  • Most schools offering these degrees, such as Indiana University Bloomington and SMU, have also begun to offer 12-credit certificates at a fraction of the price.  Overall, at least 59 U.S. institutions offer graduate certificate programs in this field.

What’s next?

We expect the macro trends facing b-schools to continue to influence MSBA programs: increasing flexibility and/or customization, increased expectations for proof of student outcomes, continued incorporation of experiential learning… and downward pressure on price for schools who erroneously think they’re immune to these pressures. Considering developing or revamping an MSBA program? Contact us to help ensure you’re best positioned to meet your particular market’s needs.