Business Intelligence Master’s Degree Programs

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masters of analytics x300by Jelani Harper

Business Intelligence (BI) is emerging as a formal collegiate discipline. According to Daniel Connolly, the interim Senior Advisor of the Department of Business Information and Analytics at the University of Denver’s Daniels College of Business, “McKinsey projects a shortfall of 1.5 million BI analysts by 2018.”

An ever increasing number of technical schools and universities are offering degree programs in BI and Analytics to help meet that demand, which is projected to grow since Gartner estimates that the advent of Big Data will result in nearly 4.4 million IT jobs worldwide in 2015.

Although educational institutions are offering undergraduate degrees and certificates in this subject, some of the most detailed training preparing professionals for careers in Big Data, BI and Analytics occur at the graduate level. Many of these programs are aimed at professionals and can be completed in a year or two. Programs involve either classroom or distance learning, while curriculums span IT and database knowledge to ethics and communication skills.

This article provides an overview of the focus of Master’s Degree programs in BI and Analytics, as well as the particulars of some of the more eminent programs.  Although individuals may be able to gain the necessary knowledge and training of such programs via an undergraduate degree and on the job experience, North Carolina State’s Institute for Advanced Analytics founding director Michael Rappa maintains that, “undergraduate students do need to continue on to an advanced degree. The good news is you don’t need a PhD. We’ve had great success at the master’s level addressing the immediate need in the workplace.”

Curriculum Overview

Many institutions offering graduate degrees in BI and Analytics base their curriculum on employers’ needs. As such, students not only learn fundamentals such as business and predictive analytics, database management theory, and tools such as data mining, but also topics related to the successful implementation of these subjects related to business and communication needs. Programs generally include a set of core requirements and options for electives which enabling students to study specific business facets such as finance or information systems.

At the graduate level most programs are cognizant of giving students the training that will enable them to succeed in the IT and business realm, thereby helping to bridge the traditional gap between the two. More programs are beginning to incorporate formal elements of statistics, particularly those focused on analytics. Prerequisites include an undergraduate degree in an increasingly widening bevy of majors including those pertaining to science, math, information systems, and computers. Some analytics degree programs require advanced subjects in statistics and math such as matrix algebra and statistical programming.

Career Prospects

Job opportunities for those who earn a Master’s Degree in BI or Analytics are fairly good – especially considering the turbulent economy. The Institute for Advanced Analytics, which offers a Master of Science in Analytics, has had over 90 percent of its students complete its program with job placements for the past three graduating classes, with an average base salary in excess of $80,000 per year during the same period. Professionals earning degrees in these subjects have a variety of options for career possibilities, including BI analysts, management analysts, data warehousing experts, and others. These positions are found in a variety of industries including financial, healthcare, marketing, agriculture, and more.

Professional Involvement

Some of the more reputable Master’s Degrees in Analytics and BI involve curriculum that is directly related to industry purveyors in this field. SAS played a fundamental role in founding the Institute of Advanced Analytics and provides integral components of curriculum, tools, and expertise at many such programs across the country. Colleges such as the Erivan K. Haub School of Business at St. Joseph’s University, which offers a Master of Science in Business Intelligence, enables graduating students to also receive a professional certification from SAS. The relationship between professional vendors and master’s degree programs is another benefit that makes program attendance one of the preferred ways to ascertain a formal education in BI and analytics.

St. Joseph’s University

In addition to offering a Master’s Degree in BI, St. Joseph’s also offers professional certification and undergraduate degrees in BI. The curriculum focuses on managerial and communications issues with business professionals (students are required to write a thesis on the subject in the final class, “Management Issues in Business Intelligence”) as well as core competencies including modeling, mining, and predictive analytics. Faculty members are required to maintain an academic presence in conducting and publishing original research and include Decision & Systems Science Department Chairman Richard Herschel, Editor in Chief of the International Journal of Business Intelligence Research.  The 30-credit program generally takes two years of online study to complete; prerequisites include an undergraduate degree in any field and a successful score on the GMAT which may be waived for certified candidates or those who hold a master’s degree in a related field.

Stevens Institute of Technology

The Howe School of Technology Management at Stevens offers a 12-course, 36-credit Master of Science in Business Intelligence and Analytics for classroom (the primary campus is in Hoboken, NJ) and distance learning. In addition to earning a SAS certificate in Business Analytics, graduates will also complete an industry specific capstone course designed to give them exposure (and a possible introduction) to organizations in their industry of choice. Curriculum objectives pertain to statistics, risk analysis, Data Management, and analytics for social networks; while electives include subjects in finance and information systems. Requirements include a bachelor’s degree in a field related to math, science, engineering, or computer science, in addition to a year of collegiate calculus and probability.

North Carolina State

Touted as the first institution offering a Master of Science in Analytics (since 2007), NC’s Institute for Advanced Analytics is one of the most prestigious, as the recent announcement of the National Security Agency’s multimillion dollar Laboratory of Analytic Sciences located on the school’s Centennial Campus proves. Students partake in a rigorous 10 month curriculum spanning three semesters that is focused on the practical application of analytics, teamwork, and communication. A major component of the program is a team-based practicum in which students will conduct research for and make presentations to a variety of sponsor including the Houston Astros, Baltimore Ravens, United Airlines, and others. Specific classes include the fundamentals of Data Management such as visualization and exploratory data analysis, as well as linear algebra, teamwork and conflict resolution, legal issues, and consulting skills. The school’s acceptance rate is approximately 1 in 5 and requires students to have previous scholastic experience in programming, statistics, business, or some related subject.

Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge

The School of Business at LSU is the nation’s second institution to procure SAS sponsorship for a Master of Science in Analytics program. Its materials and structure is based on those at North Carolina State. Students focus on core analytics’ topics pertaining to data such as customer segmentation, forecasting, and design of experiments while also learning facets of communication and partnership with fellow employees. The curriculum includes SAS training for subjects in SAS 9 and SAS Enterprise Miner 6, which students can choose to take exams for while participating in this intensive 12 month course. Classes will involve training in technologies such as R, SQL and MySQL, with specific courses geared towards advanced statistics, supply chain management, and BI. Students will prepare for a practicum project by working on in-class projects.

University of Denver

University of Denver’s Daniels College of Business has a Master of Science in Business Intelligence with opportunities for combination degrees in business administration, accounting, real estate, and more. The 58 course curriculum can be completed in 12 months for full-time students or take as long as three years for part-time students. In addition to standard BI courses in various aspects of modeling and databases, students will also take classes in ethics, information technology, and marketing. There is an emphasis on statistics to provide a background in analytics. The program culminates in a practicum in which students will perform research for organizations within the area. Additional benefits include opportunities for international and nationwide travel to assist professional organizations with BI and analytics issues, roundtables with some of the leading professionals in supply chain management, marketing, and Wall Street.


Other universities (among the many) offering Masters of Science degrees in Analytics include:

Additional master’s degree programs may be in specific areas of Analytics, such as Business Analytics, or offer concentrations in BI, Analytics, and Data Science. Regardless, it is becoming considerably easier – and becoming equally more viable – to earn a formal degree in BI and Analytics.

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