Is a Master’s in Business Analytics Worth It?

Industry Advice Analytics

If you are considering a career in business, you know that earning a graduate business degree will teach you the specialized skills that can help further your career. But which degree is the right one for you and your goals? 

One option you may want to consider is a Master of Science in Business Analytics, also known as an MSBA. But what exactly is business analytics? What’s an MSBA? How does it compare to other degrees you may have been considering? These questions are important to ask; the answers to them will help you determine whether earning the degree is worth it for you.

Below, we answer these and other questions so that you can feel confident that you are making an informed decision about your education.

What is business analytics?

Broadly speaking, business analytics refers to the processes in which a business engages in various analytical activities to understand, predict, and improve its performance. 

Business analytics can be leveraged by companies in several different ways, depending on the specific scenario. Often, these use cases are split into the following buckets:

  • Descriptive analytics, which summarizes data to describe something that has already happened (or is currently happening)
  • Diagnostic analytics, which evaluates data to determine why something happened
  • Predictive analytics, which leverages data and statistical modeling to predict various likely outcomes
  • Prescriptive analytics, which leverages data to provide recommendations that the business should follow

In practice, businesses leverage analytics to gain insights that can be used to predict demand for a product or service, chart a path for growth, and otherwise adjust business planning. 

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What can you do with a master’s in business analytics?

MSBA degree holders can work in a variety of jobs in countless industries. Some of the most common job titles held by MSBA graduates include:

  • Business analysts, who compile, evaluate, and analyze data to advise an organization how best to reach its goals and initiatives. They earn an average of $85,260 per year. 
  • Senior data analysts, who have more experience and, therefore, more responsibility than entry-level business analysts. They earn an average of $100,739 per year. 
  • Analytics managers, who manage a broader team of analysts within an organization and oversee the department’s performance and contribution to business objectives. They earn an average of $109,188 per year. 
  • Project managers with a focus on data and analysis, who perform project management duties as related to data projects. They earn an average of $109,762 per year. 
  • Principal data analysts, who operate in a leadership capacity within an organization’s data team and are often responsible for designing and implementing complex data systems for the organization. They earn an average of $117,321 per year. 
  • Analytics directors, who supervise their organization’s team of business analysts and manage various processes and initiatives. They earn an average of $150,000 per year. 

MSBA vs. MBA vs. MS in Data Science

To understand if an MSBA is the right degree for you, it can be helpful to compare it to related degrees like an MBA or master’s degree in data science. Here’s a brief overview of the learning objectives for these similar degree programs.

  • A Master of Business Administration (MBA) is designed to teach students the basics of business management, including entrepreneurship, economic theory, leadership, accounting, marketing, and other skills necessary to manage and grow a business. 
  • A Master of Science in Data Science (MSDS) is designed to teach students the technical aspects and frameworks necessary to process, model, analyze, and reason using data. This discipline is leveraged across industries, not only in a business environment. 
  • A Master of Science in Business Analytics (MSBA) is designed to teach students analytical skills and frameworks that can be applied in a business setting. As such, it is often viewed as a combination of both an MBA and an MS in Data Science.

If you’re unsure which degree is right for you, Kwong Chan, an Academic Specialist in Marketing at the D’Amore-McKim School of Business and Executive Director of Northeastern’s DATA Initiative, says the answer ultimately depends on your personal and professional goals.

“If you want to work in a technical capacity, then you might choose an MS in data science,” he says. “If you want to work in a more strategic and managerial capacity, then you might choose to earn an MBA. But if you’d like to work somewhere in the middle, then an MSBA can be an excellent choice.”

Is a master’s in business analytics worth it?

Whether or not earning a master’s degree in business analytics will make sense to you personally will depend on several factors. In making the decision, consider the following benefits that the degree typically offers.

1. Working in the field comes with a high salary and job security. 

As noted above, many of the positions commonly held by MSBA graduates come with generous compensation. Even at the entry-level, the average business analyst earns more than $85,000 per year. This is $20,000 more than the average bachelor’s degree holder earns and $7,156 more than the average master’s degree holder earns.

The biggest driver of these competitive salaries is the demand for skilled analytics professionals. Regardless of the industry they’re in, all businesses can benefit from the skills that business analysts bring to the table. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that the number of business analysts is expected to grow by 14 percent between 2018 and 2028—much faster than average.

“When Big Data started emerging at the turn of the decade, businesses had these great teams of data scientists and statisticians who were generating all of this data,” Chan says. “But people couldn’t use those insights. The role of the business analyst is to make these insights actionable and to apply them strategically. This is the main force driving the demand for skilled professionals in the area.

2. Earning the degree will help you advance your career.

Most organizations that employ business analysts require applicants to hold at least a bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as business administration, analytics, or data science. 

However, earning an advanced degree, like a master of science in business analytics, can help you stand out from other applicants, increasing the likelihood of being called back for an interview. Earning an advanced degree can also prove instrumental in advancing within the field—for example, into one of the leadership positions discussed above.

Chan emphasizes that business analysts must understand not just the technical language of data science, but also the implications and impacts of those insights. In this way, he says, business analysts act as bridge builders within an organization. The MSBA is designed to facilitate this specific need.

3. You can gain real-world, hands-on experience.

Hiring managers value an applicant’s credentials and educational attainments—but they also value experience. As in any field, the more experience you have and can demonstrate in the domain, the easier you are likely to find landing a job. Quality MSBA programs will facilitate this in the form of experiential learning (e.g. internships or co-ops) that will allow you to put your education into practice while gaining the experience that employers want to see. 

“Through the analytics research lab at Northeastern, for example, students are able to work with companies in a very intense way in order to solve problems that those companies might not otherwise be able to solve,” says Chan. “This helps those students build their skills, yes, but also important relationships with potential employers like HubSpot, DraftKings, and Schneider Electric, among others.”

Choosing the Right Degree for Your Goals

In choosing an MSBA program, Chan emphasizes the importance of scrutinizing both the program’s curriculum and structure to ensure you are building the expertise and skills necessary for a successful career. A high-quality program should include not only technical courses focused on analytics and data science, but also courses focused on management, marketing, and customer research.

If you think you might one day like to pursue an MBA in addition to a master’s of business analytics, it can be wise to choose an MSBA program that will help you achieve that goal. At Northeastern, for example, MSBA graduates can “stack” their MSBA credits toward earning their MBA, making it faster, easier, and less expensive to earn your MBA.

Are you ready to take the next step in your business analytics career? Explore our master’s in business analytics program and learn about the curriculum, experiential learning opportunities, and world-class faculty that define Northeastern’s program.


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