Business analytics education programs have been popping up at colleges and universities across the country to meet the rising demand for data scientists and other analytics specialists.
Among the fastest growing degree paths at both private and state schools are graduate MSBA (Master of Science in business analytics) programs. MSBA degrees are lending standardization to what has been a fairly amorphous educational area.
More demand, more programs
Careers in analytics and data science are hot right now, and finance and tech companies appear particularly eager to hire candidates with backgrounds in either field. In fact, even as more higher education institutions offer relevant degrees, employers have faced talent shortages.
Still, the rising demand for business analytics education programs has spawned a slew of new MSBA and similar programs at top-tier schools across the country, according to admissions advice publication Clear Admit.
Among the elite colleges and universities jumping into business analytics education in recent years are Columbia University, the MIT Sloan School of Management, the University of Virginia Darden School of Business and Harvard Business School.
A survey conducted by the nonprofit Graduate Management Admission Council noted a high overall demand for employees with graduate degrees and a tendency for employers to put new hires into analytics roles.
The profusion of graduates with business analytics degrees could have a substantial effect on smaller organizations looking for analytics expertise, said Jeff Camm, associate dean of business analytics at the Wake Forest University School of Business.
Learning at Wake Forest
After starting two years ago, Wake Forest's new MSBA program has already graduated about 100 students, a high number for a new program, according to Camm.
So many students wanted to enroll that, a few months ago, the university also started an online MSBA program specifically aimed at people already working in the field who want to further their skills and education. That, too, Camm noted, has been successful so far; more evidence of the high demand for business analytics specialists.
"What we're seeing in our graduates already is that they're going into a lot of different types of traditions," Camm said.
The business analytics education program at Wake Forest pumps out graduates who are educated in a variety of business management and analytics skills. Students learn not only how to use coding languages, like Python and R, and various analytics platforms, but they also learn the fundamentals of financial and HR analytics, leadership, and business metrics.
The small business effect
Camm said business analytics degree holders can have a positive effect on small and medium-sized organizations by introducing new skills and new ways to look at data.
"There's so much opportunity in even understanding what data those companies need to start collecting so they can start making better business decisions," he said.
Blake LeBaronMSBA program director, Brandeis International Business School
At bigger enterprises that are likely to be better versed in analytics, the impact of analytics graduates won't be quite as big, Camm said. However, he said he hopes graduates will be able to sniff out opportunities in those organizations.
Most graduates are finding jobs at consulting, technology and financial organizations, Camm said, but that might change as analytics become more prevalent in everyday life and the demand for business analytics expertise remains vigorous.
"We're just starting to see a little bit in healthcare, but we think eventually that will be a big draw in hiring our graduates," he said.
An MSBA at Brandeis
Brandeis is another university that is moving into the business analytics education market.
Last year, the Brandeis International Business School introduced a new MSBA program, which is set to officially launch in September 2018.
Blake LeBaron, MSBA program director at Brandeis International Business School, said the goal of the graduate program is to have students "versatile in both tech and business," which is important today.
"It's clear that the business world is really moving in this direction," he said. "The demands for the skills of people savvy in data analytics are huge."
Like the Wake Forest business analytics education program, the Brandeis MSBA track will offer students courses in Python and R. It also is expected to teach students forecasting in R and machine learning in Python, LeBaron said.
Also similarly to Wake Forest, the program will offer a broader array of business courses in fields such as finance, marketing and business dynamics, he said.
LeBaron also noted the positive effect graduates could have on small or medium-sized organizations that are dealing with larger volumes of data than in the past.
"There's big growth there," he said. "Business analytics is a viable entity. There's a very robust demand."