Is an Advanced Business Analytics Degree Worth It?
In a business environment marked by rapid, ongoing change and disruption, executives recognize that data-driven business decisions are critical to corporate success.
A report published by the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) and KPMG revealed that 72% of CEOs believe the next three years will be more critical than the last 50 years in their industry. Yet it also found that 86% of CEOs say they lack the time to think strategically about the forces of innovation and disruption that are shaping their organization’s future.
As a result, professionals who know how to leverage “big data” and business intelligence to support strategic decision-making are likely to find their skills in high demand in the coming years. An MBA with a concentration in business analytics can provide the foundation needed to excel in this field, equipping graduates with an understanding of core business disciplines while helping them develop proficiency in data analytics.
What Is Business or Data Analytics?
According to the IIBA/KPMG report, survey respondents value business analysis for its role in supporting a range of positive outcomes:
- Identifying and prioritizing new opportunities (72%)
- Enabling more efficient use of time/resources (72%)
- Improving understanding, acquisition and retention of customers (63%)
- Increasing project success rates (63%)
When questioned as to where business analysis capabilities reside in their organizations, many business analysts cited IT (61%) and operations (34%). However, a majority of business leaders equate those skills with strategy groups (81%) and C-level roles (68%), suggesting data analytics expertise can help pave the way for senior management and executive roles.
Demand for Analytics Skills, Degrees, and Job Candidates Is Rising
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) includes business analysis careers under operations research analysts in its Occupational Outlook Handbook. Following are some of the key takeaways from the latest BLS research:
The job outlook in this field is particularly strong; from 2016 to 2026, BLS projections indicate a 27% increase in employment, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. In fact, the BLS cites operations research analysts among its top 20 fastest-growing occupations. While a bachelor’s degree can lead to entry-level roles, the BLS notes that opportunities should be better for graduates with a master’s degree in a related field and for those with business experience and strong analytical skills.
Professionals in this field typically have high salaries that reflect the value they bring to their organizations. As of May 2017, the median annual wage for operations research analysts was $81,390, with the top 10% earning more than $134,470 per year. Those who are promoted into executive-level roles can expect even greater earnings; as of May 2017, chief executives earned a median annual salary of $183,270, with the top 10% earning in excess of $208,000.
Professionals in this field can hold a variety of job titles, such as business analyst, business intelligence analyst, data analytics specialist and operations research analyst. The BLS site O*NET OnLine lists a number of other job titles associated with this role, including analytical strategist, advanced analytics associate, decision analyst, optimization analyst, business insight and analytics manager, business analytics director and operations research director.
Advantages of Earning an MBA or Masters in Business Analytics
If you’re interested in learning how to leverage big data and business intelligence to support data-driven business decisions, an MBA with a concentration in business analytics can provide the formal education and competitive edge you need to optimize your job opportunities. This type of degree helps students develop many of the key skill sets identified by the BLS as important qualities for operations research analysts:
Analytical and Critical-Thinking Skills
Business Analytics MBA are designed to help students hone their analytical and critical-thinking skills through core courses such as Macroeconomics Analysis, Market Analysis and Management Science. However, a specialization in business analytics offers in-depth insights into how to organize, manipulate, assess and visualize information. As students progress from introductory-level to advanced topics, they’ll discover how to use data-mining techniques, cluster detection, forecasting and other business analytics tools.
Math and Problem-Solving Skills
Business analysts’ work usually involves “number crunching,” and they frequently examine data from multiple business areas such as accounting, finance, IT and marketing. MBA programs are particularly useful in this field as they cover a range of essential business and math topics such as Accounting for Business Managers, Corporate Financial Decision Making, Applied Business Statistics and Strategic Information Systems.
Communication and Interpersonal Skills
Most business analysts work closely with other departments in identifying key metrics and collecting data, and then present their findings and recommendations to managers and executives. Core MBA courses such as Organizational Behavior and Negotiation in the Workplace can help nurture the necessary “people skills” required in this role, while concentration classes such Data Analytics and Visualization cover how to effectively convey information for improved comprehension and decision-making.
Professionals who are considering an MBA or Master’s in Business Analytics can expand their qualifications with a specialization. An MBA with a concentration in business analytics prepares graduates to leverage business intelligence and support data-driven business decisions. Those who master in-demand data analytics skills should benefit from a strong job outlook and growing career opportunities for the next decade and beyond.
Sources/URLs for hyperlinks:
MBA in Bus. Analytics: http://onlinemba.montclair.edu/mba-business-analytics
BLS–Ops. Res. Analyst: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/math/operations-research-analysts.htm
Fastest-Growing Jobs: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/fastest-growing.htm
Chief Exec Salary: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/top-executives.htm#tab-5
O*NET Job Titles: https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/15-2031.00
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