What to Do with an MBA in Business Analytics

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Man in a suit comparing charts and graphs.

Big data analytics can open doors to significant patterns and prominent insights that, when applied to business processes, can represent a critical, strategic advantage. Enterprises in every industry vertical today are boosting their investments in this area. When one considers the rising amount of big data and how much of it will be accessible to businesses, it isn’t difficult to understand the piqued interest.

According to an IDC white paper, the total amount of digital data created across the globe will reach 163 zettabytes by 2025. For context, one zettabyte is the equivalent of 1 billion terabytes, or 1 trillion gigabytes. Much of this data – about 95% overall – will be created in real time, and about 60% of this trillion gigabytes of data will be created, owned and managed by enterprises.

This nearly unthinkable amount of data equates to considerable opportunities for analysis by businesses across the globe. However, to capitalize on this information and apply it to enterprise decision-making and process improvement, companies need professionals trained in both business administration and data analytics.

Enter the MBA in Business Analytics degree

For these big data analysis enterprise needs, there are few degrees that will better position professionals than the Master of Business Administration with a concentration in business analytics. An MBA program that includes a keen focus on business analytics can prepare students for a number of engaging and in-demand career paths that revolve around the use of data-driven analytics for business decision-making.


Before we delve into the possible career paths, it’s important for professionals and prospective students to understand what this type of degree covers and how it helps prepare individuals for employment in areas like data science and business analytics.

Some of the nation’s top online MBA programs include specific concentration or specialization areas that align with leading career paths. The Online MBA program at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business is no different. It offers students five highly relevant and professional employment-aligned specialization areas, as well as a general track that provides a broader MBA experience.

Of the available specializations, the University of Maryland’s Online MBA program includes a concentration in business analytics and information systems. Within this program specialization, students learn critical skills related not only to data science and information analysis, but also the underlying technological platforms used to support these analytical processes. After completing the program, students will have the skills and expertise to organize, manage and maintain considerable volumes of digital data, analyze this information for relevant insights and takeaways and apply these lessons to business administration and corporate decisions.

Students will not only learn various analytical techniques – including those related to descriptive, predictive and prescriptive analytics – but will also understand how to leverage these processes efficiently. This efficiency and timeliness are crucial to big data business analysis, particularly as much of the data companies analyze comes in near-real time. To make the best use of these insights, analysis must be prompt and streamlined so insights are as timely and relevant as possible.

MBA in Business Analytics curriculum: A brief overview

Students enrolled in the Online MBA program at Maryland Smith take part in key foundational courses, teaching them skills and expertise in key areas like:

  • Data analysis
  • Decision modeling
  • Operations management
  • Organizational change
  • Strategic management

In this way, students are educated not only in analysis and data science concepts, but broaden their skills in business administration as well. Students will also take courses aligned with their business analytics specialization, and bolster their understanding of topics including:

  • Data mining
  • Predictive analytics
  • Managing digital business platforms
  • Web analytics

These concentration-specific courses explore the concepts critical for business analytics professionals. They help ensure that, upon graduation, students have the skills and knowledge to pursue high-level career paths.

An MBA in Business Analytics can be a somewhat challenging higher education program, as students not only explore big data and analysis, but business administration areas as well. Graduates of these types of programs, however, note that this mix of analysis, technical and business-focused skills represents a significant competitive advantage.

“I found that if I wanted to move up the business ladder, I’d better get business knowledge,” Tim Chan, who completed a degree in computing mathematics before pursuing and graduating from an MBA program, told BusinessBecause. “I was a really technical guy, but an MBA could help me know how to ensure work I’d done could actually help a business.”

MBA specialization in business analytics: top career paths

An Online MBA program like the University of Maryland’s specialization in information systems and business analytics is a varied degree that provides students with skills and expertise in several key areas. This includes not only working with large volumes of digital data and the underlying technology required to achieve this, but analysis strategies like predictive and prescriptive analytics as well.

With such an in-depth and varied skill set, graduates can aim to pursue several in-demand and exciting career opportunities:

Management Analyst

This employment role includes responsibilities like data analysis and decision-making, with the goal of improving the efficiency and operational effectiveness of an organization, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Management analysts engage in gathering, organizing and analyzing enterprise data, particularly related to organizational pain points and other operational challenges. These professionals will also home in on financial, employment, revenue and expenditure data to help in their analysis and decision-making. Using data analysis strategies, management analysts look to pinpoint areas in need of improvement, and use the data accessible to them to recommend and establish new working procedures to address these challenges.

In some cases, management analysts will work internally for an organization, such as within the finance industry or government agencies. In other cases, these professionals work for external professional services that help audit and guide their enterprise clients. According to the BLS, about 30% of all management analysts were employed by professional, scientific and technical service businesses last year; 18% were self-employed, and another combined 27% worked in either government organizations or finance and insurance firms.

In the case of external consulting, some management analysts will come in and help guide enterprise project management for a single initiative. In other cases, business’s needs will be broader and require work in several departments or areas. The BLS noted that some management analysts elect to specialize in areas like inventory control or corporate structure, where other professionals might concentrate on a particular industry or type of agency.

Although some employers will consider candidates with a bachelor’s degree, most prefer those who hold an MBA. This makes an MBA with a specialization in business analytics an ideal higher education path to prepare students for this type of career.

Currently, management analyst roles are highly in-demand, with an expected 14% job growth rate through 2028. This will result in more than 118,000 positions. On average, management analysts earned a median annual wage of $85,260 as of May 2019, with the highest 10% of professionals earning $154,310.

Operations Research Analyst

The operations research analyst role is somewhat similar to the management analyst position, in that both focus on identifying and solving complex issues in businesses. However, where the management analyst will more often focus on a single initiative or area, operations research analysts will look into all aspects of a company to help management forge improvements, the BLS explains.

Operations research analysts leverage a considerable volume of business data – including information sourced from internal databases, sales platforms, customer reviews and feedback, and more – to recognize the root cause of a business’s challenge. Once identified, in-depth and advanced analysis, data modeling and other analytics practices come into play to help operational research analysts identify the best way to resolve the issue through practical and realistic means.

As the BLS points out, operations research analysts may assist business leaders through their analysis in areas like:

  • Resource allocation
  • Product development
  • Manufacturing and production timetables
  • Supply chain management
  • Decisions around product prices
  • Shipping and distribution

In addition to gathering data from the business’s internal databases and records, operation research analysts will also conduct interviews with key personnel, including department managers and even the company’s clients. These analysts will also engage in what-if analysis models to help demonstrate to business leaders the results of taking certain actions in response to a critical need or problem. In this way, the decisions that executives make are data-backed and fully investigated.

Besides having an in-depth understanding and ability to apply analysis strategies and data modeling, operational research analysts must also have technology and information systems skills. These professionals regularly leverage advanced software, statistical modeling programs and other technology to support their analysis and problem solving. Knowledge and expertise in information systems is crucial, making an MBA in business administration an ideal degree program to prepare for employment.

The work of operational research analysts can be very broad, but their process to resolve problems and improve operations typically involves breaking an issue down into its various parts and investigating each individually. For instance, a problem with resource allocation may include several departments and business partners within the supply chain, requiring the operational research analyst to look into and apply analysis to each process and vendor involved.

Once their analysis and recommended actions are complete, operational research analysts must prepare reports that document and explain their research results. These professionals must have strong communication skills and detail their findings to executives in a meaningful and understandable way that avoids analysis jargon.

Currently, most operational research analysts are employed in the finance and insurance industry, but these professionals may also find employment with professional, scientific and technical service providers, enterprises, manufacturing firms and government agencies.

The compensation for this role is attractive as well, with a median annual wage of $84,810 as of May 2019. The highest earners took home more than $140,000 during the same period, and often worked in federal government roles.

Market Research Analyst

Another well-suited career for MBA graduates specializing in business analytics to pursue is the market research analyst role. Again, this position requires that candidates have experience not only in data gathering, organization and analysis, but business-focused areas like marketing as well.

According to the BLS, market research analysts focus their efforts on different industries, and look to analyze and forecast the marketing and sales trends that will emerge in these verticals. These analysts will also investigate and evaluate the effectiveness of the marketing techniques and programs in place, and identify areas that require improvement.

Market research analysts deal with data related to the market in which their employer or client operates in, as well as information associated with the company’s target consumers and top industry competitors. It is the responsibility of market research analysts to establish the best ways to gather this data, including through methods like consumer or industry professional surveys, polls and other techniques. After gathering this data, these professionals will use information systems like statistical software to highlight patterns and trends and help illuminate actionable insights to drive the business’s marketing strategy.

It is also up to market research analysts to distill their often-complex findings into realistic and reasonable guidance and reports, which can be grasped and understood by the company’s marketing team and other executives.

While the analysis that an operational research analyst engages in is focused on problem solving and efficiency, the market research analyst aims to uncover insights that can support and further a business’s marketing efforts. Consumer surveys help analysts learn the opinions of a brand’s target customers, and competitor analysis can show the strategies that have worked well for similar business models and products.

Market research analysts will also determine a company’s value and standing within its current marketplace, in relation to competitors, through analysis of competing brands’ product lines, prices, sales numbers and other data. Using these findings, market research analysts can advise businesses on potential new markets to target, product demand levels the brand should aim to meet and ideal pricing models.

The BLS notes that while some entry-level positions may only require a bachelor’s level degree, many market research employment roles now specify that candidates hold a master’s degree. Some employers will accept master’s level education and experience in areas like statistics and marketing, but an MBA with a specialization in business analytics provides ideal skills and knowledge for professionals looking to pursue this role.

Many market research analysts work in scientific and technical consulting services, while others work in fields including finance and insurance, wholesale trade, enterprises and publishing industries.

Overall, the average median wage for market research analysts was $63,790 as of May 2019. The highest 10% of earners in this field reported wages of $122,630 or more, and those working in the publishing industry tend to be higher earners.

Pursuing an MBA in Business Analytics

One common element of all the roles discussed here is the above-average job growth outlook. These are highly in-demand career positions, and require professionals with the right specialized skills and experience.

A leading Online Master of Business Administration program like that provided by the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland is ideal for preparing students. The Online MBA curriculum – and particularly its Information Systems and Business Analytics specialization – maps directly to the types of skills that professionals will need to earn to help further their careers. Similarly, the Master of Science in Business Analytics can support this type of professional skill set.

To find out more about the Online MBA and the Information Systems and Business Analytics specialization, check out our website and connect with one of our expert enrollment advisors today.



Recommended Readings:

Comparing Analytics Careers: Business Analyst vs. Data Analyst

What you can learn about data mining and predictive analytics



IDC, The Digitization of the World from Edge to Core

BusinessBecause, How My MBA Kick-Started My Career In Big Data Analytics

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Management Analyst

BLS, Operations Research Analyst

BLS, Market Research Analyst