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Big Data: Big Opportunity for Business Schools?

A 2011 McKinsey and Company Big Data report estimated that over the next decade there would be a shortage of between 140,000 – 190,000 analytics professionals in the United States.  The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says the demand for business analytics specialists is expected to reach 1.5 million by 2018.

Not surprisingly, we’ve seen the growth of programs designed to exploit this demand.  By our count, in the past three years there have been more than fifteen new master’s level degree programs centered on data analytics launched in North America.  As business schools seek to adapt and differentiate their offerings in the increasingly competitive management education sector, developing programs that have an explicit market need is an important step.

But what is actually going on?  Eduvantis analyzed 25 master’s degree programs focused on data analytics with the most market visibility.  In some cases, these programs have recently launched or are set to launch in the near future.  We focused our analysis on identifying the dimensions on which such programs are developed at an institution.

It’s too early to answer the deeper questions behind our inquiry:

  • What model works best for recruiting students and why?
  • Which model does industry like best and why?
  • Which model is most financially sustainable?
  • Does the market most want a degree or does a certificate do the trick?
  • What will it take to become the “brand name” in the field?

We’ll be answering these questions as we continue our ongoing efforts to understand innovation and how market advantage is achieved in management education, but for now here are some interesting observations.

  • Of the 25 programs we analyzed, 14 were within a business school and 11 were underneath a department outside of a business school – under a wide variety of departments including the engineering, computer science, statistics, and digital media departments. The common thread between programs offered at the business school is that they are all focused on using data to create value across multiple industries, whereas most programs outside of the business schools have a more specialized focus around computer science or engineering.
  • A majority of the programs (21 of 25) are positioned using the same language with very little differentiation – “using statistics and data to drive better business decisions.”  In many instances the institutions offering these programs don’t compete in the same markets, but product differentiation is critical, as more institutions will inevitably develop similar programs in the future.
  • Interdisciplinary is a driving force in most programs and allow institutions to re-purpose and leverage existing resources/partnerships across a number of departments on a campus. These types of programs that create new value from existing resources represent an important institutional shift – where product development is driven an explicit market need.
    • Ex: University of San Francisco MS in Analytics (Math, Computer Science, Engineering, and Economics)
    • Ex: Fordham University MS in Business Analytics (Economics, Computer Science, Engineering, and Statistics)
  • Program formats vary significantly, from 9 months full-time (Arizona State University’s WP Carey MS in Business Analytics and University of Maryland’s Robert H Smith’s MS in Marketing Analytics), to 3.5 years part-time (University of Connecticut’s MS in Business Analytics and Project Management). As more prospective students question the value of going to school full-time for two years, programs that can be completed quickly or accommodate busy schedules (part-time) have a competitive advantage.
  • 11 of the 25 programs can be completed in between 1 and 1. 5 years when a student is attending full-time, which is the standard time for most master’s level programs.  At 6 of these institutions student’s had the option to enroll part-time, extending the completion time to between 2.5 and 3.5 years.
  • Industry partnerships with corporations add substance and real world application opportunities.Many of the programs offered focus on experiential learning, where students are able to interact directly with top professionals and corporations to solve complex business challenges using data.
    • Ex: Louisiana State University’s E.J. Ourso College of Business MS in Analytics partners with SAS
    • Ex: Michigan State University’s Broad College of Business MS in Business Analytics partners with IBM

Ex: DePaul’s MS in Predictive Analytics partnered with IBM to launch their center for Data Mining and Predictive Analytics

  • Only two of the programs we analyzed offer graduate certificates.Flexible product offerings, like certificates, are attractive because they don’t require a significant time commitment, are comparatively inexpensive, and can provide enough baseline knowledge to provide significant value to a consumer.
  • DePaul’s MS in Predictive Analytics (offered within the College of Computing and Digital Media) is the only program that has an entirely online option. Only 7 of the 25 programs offered a hybrid option (mix of online and in-person classes). We were surprised to only find one online only option. As institutions evolve to offer products with more flexibility, online courses present a cost-effective option for course delivery. Offering an online only program also eliminates geographic constraints and increases the market opportunity outside an institution’s traditional service area.


Some of the data analytics programs offered at business schools include:

New York University’s Stern School of Business

MS in Business Analytics, Part-Time (5 global modules)

MBA with a specialization in Business Analytics, Full-Time or Part-Time

“The NYU Stern Master of Science in Business Analytics, an advanced business degree program, teaches students both to understand the role of evidence-based data in decision making and to leverage data as a strategic asset.”


Bentley University Graduate School of Business

MS in Marketing Analytics, Full-Time, Part-Time or Certificate

“The Master of Science in Marketing Analytics program teaches students how to become more engaged with consumers, how to design and deliver robust statistical analysis, and how to effectively communicate the resulting insights.”


Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business

MS in Business Analytics, Full-Time or Part-Time

“Designed for students who have an interest in quantitative methods, exploring and uncovering relationships through data analysis, using the data to solve business problems, and want to enter or advance in a career in business analytics. The M.S. in Business analytics is also ideal for MBA students seeking a quantitative second degree.”


Louisiana State University’s E.J. Ourso College of Business

MS in Analytics, Full-Time

“The MSA curriculum emphasizes the use of advanced data management tools and applied statistical and operations research techniques to analyze large real-world data sets to increase return on investment, improve customer retention, reduce fraud and improve decision making.”


University of Cincinnati’s Lindner College of Business

MS in Business Analytics, Full-Time or Part-Time

“The MS – Business Analytics is a Master of Science degree combining operations research and applied statistics, using applied mathematics and computer applications, in a business environment; the program was formerly known as MS – Quantitative Analysis (MSQA).”


Michigan State University’s Broad College of Business

MS in Business Analytics, Full-Time or Part-Time

“The curriculum includes courses in business strategy, data mining, applied statistics, project management, marketing technologies, communications and ethics taught by leading MSU faculty.”


University of Connecticut’s School of Business

MS in Business Analytics and Project Management, Full-Time or Part-Time (hybrid face to face and online)

“UConn’s MS in Business Analytics and Project Management is designed to meet the growing demand for professionals who can harness advanced business analytics and project management skills – get the critical skills to address existing business problems and create new opportunities for small to global enterprises in information-rich environments.”


University of Tennessee’s College of Business

MS in Business Analytics, Full-Time

“Masters students in our program develop an understanding of business; they develop the skills needed to work effectively in a business environment, and they learn the analytic skills to solve business problems.”


Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business

MS in Business Analytics, Full-Time

“Deepen your quantitative and analytical skills, and learn to derive value from data, lead data-driven analyses, and create a business advantage across markets and industries.”


Fordham University’s Graduate School of Business

MS in Business Analytics, Full-Time or Part-Time

“Fordham’s MSBA program integrates analytic techniques, data management, IT, modeling, and statistics to train students to become effective analysts and informed users of business data. MSBA Students develop the skills required to succeed in data-driven industries such as banking, consumer products, energy, government, health care, insurance, manufacturing and pharmaceuticals.”


University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business

MS in Business: Marketing Analytics, Full-Time

“Launching in fall 2013, the M.S. in Business for Marketing Analytics will give you the cutting-edge knowledge and skills you need to apply marketing analytics to daily business practice. The program will provide you with an in-depth understanding of the mathematical and statistical models and tools needed for customer analysis in the context of marketing problems.”


University of San Francisco School of Management

MS in Analytics

“An innovative, multidisciplinary program offered jointly by the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Management, the Analytics Program delivers rigorous training in the mathematical and computational techniques of Big Data. It provides mastery of the analytics tied to strategic decisions — and the skills to effectively communicate these results in business settings.”