Being a business school professor, I often get asked for advice about applying/getting into graduate school, most often about getting a Masters in Business Administration (an MBA).
More often than not, these queries come from 22-24 year olds who have recently finished their undergrad degree, or are just about to. Many of them want to get a masters before they enter the workforce or soon thereafter. Sometimes this is out of necessity (e.g., they couldn’t find a job with their undergrad major) or they have some technical degree (e.g., engineering) but want to work in a more business-oriented or management role. My advice to them is often disappointing to hear. Students straight out of undergrad, without significant work experience, are at a disadvantage for traditional MBA programs. The most competitive students at top MBA programs not only have great academic backgrounds, but also have 4-5 years of progressively demanding work experience, sometimes at great firms or startups.
In recent years, some business schools have responded to this pent-up demand for management education by developing pre-experience generalist management masters degrees (e.g., a Masters in Management Studies) or specialized masters in a specific management area (Masters in Information Systems). Some schools, like Carnegie Mellon’s Heinz College have built highly successful programs like MISM that specifically cater to this high-talent/low-experience quadrant. Runaway successes like the MISM program in the specialized master’s category however are rare, and have historically been located outside the top business schools—e.g., the MISM was originally Carnegie Mellon’s Public Policy School—or at less prestigious business schools.
This is all beginning to change. Some of the world’s leading business schools are now coming out with their own specialized masters degrees, and for bright and enterprising recent grads, these degrees might just be the perfect option. One genre of specialized masters is especially hot today—the Masters in Business Analytics.
Why a Masters in Business Analytics?
The field of “data science” seems like it appeared out of nowhere, but now everyone wants to “get into data science.” The data science buzz is everywhere, see this recent Forbes article.
What is data science? It is basically advanced statistics applied to (usually) corporate data in order to improve firm performance in one way or an other—e.g., human resources management, strategy, advertising, product development, customer support, etc. Great data scientists have both the technical chops but also good business sense—and know how to squeeze out actionable insights from messy company data. The competition for great data scientists still appears to be quite fierce and even top tier companies struggle to find data science talent.
The Masters in Business Analytics (or other similar Data Science + Business Management) degree is an interesting option for students considering this career path. It combines the core skills from a traditional MBA with a specialization in data analytics.
Coursework in a Master of Business Analytics degree would include: learning about software such as R, Matlab or Stata, Optimization and Management Science, Probability and Statistics, Data Mining and Machine Learning. Students are often required to also take, in addition to these technical ones, courses in leadership, economics, finance, or marketing. Most programs also have a “hands on” project where students apply their skills to a real-life data science problem.
Since this is a new category for most business schools, there isn’t much data available about how hard it is to get in, nor what the placements are. But a few schools have published class profiles. UCSD’s Rady School, for instance, has a MS in Business Analytics with an enrollment of 45 and an average GMAT of 715. Just to put that in context, that GMAT score is as high as venerable full-time MBA programs such as Columbia U (717), MIT-Sloan (716) and Berkeley Haas (715). What is even more striking is that UCSD Rady is a fairly new (though its faculty are leading lights in their disciplines) and it was able to attract such high quality talent for a new program. Similarly, Carnegie Mellon’s MISM program’s Business Intelligence and and Data Analytics track has a median GMAT of 710.
Of course, getting a degree is a very personal choice. A given program might not be the right fit for everyone. If you have interest in “big data” and want a technical+management job, the other MBA might be something to explore. As is the case with any big/expensive move, I would trust programs that make available data about the incoming class, placements, and the faculty that teach these courses.
Below, I’ve gathered some links to some programs across a range of universities. I’ve probably missed some, but the list below should help you get started on your search.
(PS, I am not being paid to advertise any of these programs.)