Each year sees the introduction of new masters degree programs in specialized areas. In recent years, the focus on “Big Data” in and across enterprise organizations has led to an increase in the number of specialized masters programs in business analytics and data science.
The current shortage of highly trained data analysts has led to intense competition in hiring. Graduates of specialized masters programs that focus on data and analytics will continue to be in high demand for the foreseeable future.
Whether you’re completing your undergraduate degree or are already in the workforce, it’s important to understand how the right master’s program can train you to help a business use data for competitive advantage, while providing you with long term career opportunities.
Academic programs that provide specialized training in data analytics have become increasingly of interest for those who majored in science, engineering or mathematics as undergraduates and are interested in more technical positions in the business world than those typically filled by graduates of traditional MBA programs.
As you decide whether a graduate degree in data analytics is right for you, consider the following questions:
Who are these programs designed for?
Some programs are designed for applicants with a strong background in science, statistics and math. Others only expect that applicants have a strong liberal arts education with some exposure to math and statistics. Foreign students with an F-1 visa may find that on campus master’s programs in data analytics will qualify them for a STEM OPT extension. Do your research to understand which programs are the best fit for someone with your educational background and long-term goals.
What are your long-term goals?
A graduate program in data analytics will prepare you to gain useful insights from massive data sets by developing complex analytic models. Today, data analytics has become a critical success factor across organizations and across industries. The ability to identify actionable alternatives using Big Data can help you add value to your employer while advancing your career. With the proper training, you’ll find yourself not only analyzing data but also making business decisions based on the analysis.
When do I plan to attend classes?
Is a full-time, part-time or online option the best fit for you? If you are confident that analytics is the appropriate path for you, you can afford to be in school full time, and you value career guidance and recruiting support, a full time program such as Booth, CMU, Columbia, MIT and UT Austin might be appropriate. If you already work in analytics and want to broaden your skill set and gain a formal credential, you may prefer to keep working and add new skills through part-time or online options at schools such as Syracuse, UC Berkeley and GWU.
Where will I work after graduation?
Data analytics is broadly applicable in for-profit, nonprofit and government organizations. While the specific type of problems you address will differ, opportunities are wide ranging. Some organizations may have a dedicated analytics team, while in others you would work within a marketing, sales or finance organization. Since it is difficult if not impossible to know in advance the specific role or organization you might find yourself in upon graduation with a Masters in Data Analytics, it’s best to develop broadly applicable skills and interests. Unless you’re sure of the exact type of role you plan to fill in the future, ensure that the programs to which you apply provide sufficiently broad skill set development to adequately prepare you to fill a wide range of roles.
Why would I pursue a Masters in Data Analytics instead of an MBA?
An MBA and a Masters in Data Analytics are not mutually exclusive. After working as a business or data analyst, you may want to broaden your focus and move into managerial and leadership roles. Many graduates of specialized master’s programs work for several years at an accelerated pace-thanks to their additional training-and then become successful applicants at top MBA programs. Others may find ample career growth without further academic training. There are also options to combine both the specialized master’s program with an MBA program. Mendoza’s MBA-MSBA allows you to obtain both an MBA and a Master of Science in Business Analytics in two years.
Deciding whether to pursue a master’s degree in data analytics is an important career decision that could pay-off substantially in both the short and long term. Understanding the process and which programs are best for you are the first steps towards a successful application, a solid education, and a rewarding career.