Master’s in Business Analytics vs. MBA

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In the early 20th century, the United States was undergoing an industrial revolution. Colleges and universities had already been educating students on subjects such as accounting and bookkeeping, but the need to develop more advanced coursework began to emerge. The first Master of Business Administration (MBA) program was established in 1908 in response to the demand for employees with enhanced management skills.

MBA programs have changed substantially since that time. For example, today’s students can complete coursework in a full-time, on-campus environment, or they can complete their studies online. They can also complete more technologically focused programs designed to meet the needs of modern businesses, such as a Master of Science in Business Analytics (MSBA) from the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.

Those wondering about the differences between master’s in business analytics vs. MBA programs should note that both are designed to help students develop business and management acumen. However, MSBA programs also provide students with the expertise they need to perform research, analyze data and interpret their findings for the companies where they work.

What is an MBA?

MBA programs focus on helping students develop aptitudes that can help them become better managers. Today, this means coursework focused on data-driven decision-making and on managing both the people and financials of a business. Students often find that completing an MBA leads to the development of both hard and soft skills, such as a broader understanding of the effect of the economy on their business’ market and a better understanding of the relationship between employee satisfaction and productivity. Additionally, because MBA students learn about the developing needs of the business world, companies hire them to fill their immediate needs, giving graduates additional career opportunities and higher earning potential.

Coursework Examples

Core MBA curriculum is designed to cover business issues commonly encountered by managers at companies. For example, coursework in the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business Online MBA program includes Supply Chain Management, which focuses on the development and management of domestic and international supply chains, and Decision Modeling, which focuses on the use of data sets to bolster company strategy. These courses aim to prepare graduates to serve as immediate assets to the companies that hire them.

Intended Outcomes and Expectations for Students and Graduates

Professionals hoping to advance in their careers often seek out an MBA. MBA graduates enjoy broader access to management and leadership opportunities at various companies, including in the science, technology, health care and finance industries. These workers also enjoy higher earning potential than workers with only a bachelor’s degree. At the time of writing, PayScale reports that the average annual salary for MBA degree holders is $86,000, which is 26% higher than those with a bachelor’s degree

Skills and Competencies Gained in an MBA Program

Students who complete an MBA program often develop skills and competencies that can help them succeed in the business world. These skills include:

  • Leadership: MBA programs highlight the importance of providing employees with direction, clarifying company strategies, and taking ownership of product quality and deadlines.
  • Communication: Managers and leaders need to serve as liaisons between company stakeholders and employees. An MBA program exposes students to the types of communications occurring in companies and requires students to practice both their oral and written communication skills.
  • Decision-Making: Students completing an MBA program recognize the importance of making decisions based on data. Being a leader includes more than just providing the company with direction; it requires the development of strategies based on evidence.
  • Technical Proficiency: From new software programs to the development and application of new technologies such as blockchain, MBA students receive exposure to the growing technological demands of the business world.

Developing these skills is essential to professionals hoping to advance to managerial or C-level positions, as companies seek out leaders able to motivate employees, knowledgeable about their markets and efficient at seeing projects through completion.

What Is an MSBA?

An MSBA is designed for professionals who want to work with data. MSBA graduates develop an understanding of how to collect, sort and analyze the data that helps improve the strategies companies employ for business success. When used effectively, data analytics can help organizations understand who buys their products or services, when they are likely to buy and which customer demographic is most profitable.

Coursework Examples

MSBA coursework focuses on the technologies used to provide businesses with data for decision-making. For example, the curriculum within the Maryland Smith online MSBA program includes data mining and analytics coursework focused on the collection, organization and application of large sets of data. Class titles include Data Mining and Predictive Analytics and Data Processing and Analysis in Python. While the former course serves as a hands-on, general approach to classifying and using data in forecasting, the later focuses specifically on using the Python programming language to gather and use data.

Intended Outcomes and Expectations for Students and Graduates

While completing either an MBA or an MSBA degree can lead to additional job opportunities, employment opportunities for MSBA graduates will be more specialized and data-oriented. For example, sample job titles for MSBA graduates may include market research analyst, operations research analyst, management analyst and data scientist. While the work and decisions these employees provide their companies are essential, they focus less on the management of personnel and more and the technological aspects of business strategy.

Completing an MSBA can also lead to increased earning potential. At the time of writing, PayScale reports that the average annual salary for MSBA graduates is $72,000; earners in the top 10 percent earn approximately $110,000.

Skills and Competencies Gained in an MSBA Program

MSBA graduates often develop the advanced skills needed to thrive in their workplace. Skills developed include:

  • Critical Thinking: Coursework in an MSBA exposes students to a variety of challenges that test their ability to work through challenges in a logical way. Through practice, graduates typically enter the workforce prepared to provide their employers with insightful and creative solutions to business problems.
  • Technical Knowledge: MSBA programs concentrate on developing a student’s ability to manage data mining, infrastructure management and quantitative modeling. These are the skills that companies look for when hiring these types of workers.
  • Communication: Knowing how to perform the duties of, for example, a data analyst and knowing how to communicate how that business function produces ROI to colleagues and executives are fundamentally different challenges. MSBA programs ensure that these professionals adopt a vocabulary and communication method that accurately and easily reflects the purpose and importance of their work to other employees and to stakeholders.

Developing these skills enables MSBA graduates to secure employment at companies interested in hiring applicants with the experience, technical acumen and professionalism needed to help their business.

Learn More About the Benefits of a Master’s in Business Analytics vs. MBA

Professionals interested in taking the next step in their careers may find that an MBA degree, such as the Online MBA program at Maryland Smith, can help them gain the knowledge and skills they need to lead fearlessly.

Likewise, professionals who enjoy working with data, and with an affinity for analysis and statistics, may find that the skills and experience they gain by completing the Smith Online MSBA program better aligns with their goals. Discover how an online MSBA from the University of Maryland can help you toward a career in data analytics.


Recommended Reading

Is Business Analytics a Good Career?

Examining the Importance of Business Analytics

Learn Why a Master’s in Business Analytics Is Worth It



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Investopedia, Business Analyst: Career Path and Qualifications

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PayScale, Master of Business Administration (MBA) Degree

PayScale, Master of Science (MS), Business Analysis Degree

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