7 Things to Consider Before Enrolling in an MBA in Business Analytics Program

How much can earning an MBA in Business Analytics from an AACSB-accredited institution impact your career? A 2015 survey conducted by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) reveals that, on average, business professionals who invest in an MBA can expect to earn nearly $1 mil-lion in cumulative base salary within the first decade after graduation. Moreover, GMAC reports that most MBAs recover their tuition expenses within four years.

Increasingly, new concentrations within the traditional MBA degree plan are becoming popular. Busi-ness analytics is a relatively new and dynamic field. Professionals who have earned the proper busi-ness analytics credentials have many exciting opportunities to advance their careers or change their career tracks entirely. When weighing your options for an MBA in Business Analytics, all the considera-tions of a standard MBA apply. However, so do some special considerations.

1. MBA or MS?

Before institutes of higher learning began to offer certificates in business analytics or MBAs in the dis-cipline, many awarded Master of Science (MS) degrees. What distinguishes an MBA from an MS? First, students can complete most MS programs in 12 to 16 months, versus two years for an MBA. However, MS programs are typically more focused on technical skills and attract candidates with less real-world experience.

MBA programs, on the other hand, are more holistic, giving students the freedom to study all aspects of business, from a variety of perspectives. If you are looking to transition into a managerial or leader-ship role in your career, an MBA in Business Analytics may be more attractive to a prospective em-ployer. If you are interested in becoming an analyst in a specific industry or particular area of opera-tions (accounting, for example), an MS may be more likely to help you achieve your career goals.

2. Accreditation

An MBA is a credential. As Stanford Graduate School of Business professor Ed Batista notes, an MBA is “a credential that sends a signal to the marketplace.” But who backs up this credential? Colleges and universities receive accreditation from independent agencies that operate on a regional basis. These associations examine every aspect of the postsecondary educational experience, from classroom instruction to the quality of library services. Such regional accreditation remains the “gold standard” for colleges and universities in the United States.

However, individual business schools may also seek additional accreditation specific to their disciplines. Founded in 1916 for the express purpose of accrediting Ivy League business schools, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business or AACSB now issues accreditation for business schools all over the globe. AACSB is universally recognized for its high standards. If you choose to earn your MBA from an AACSB-accredited institution, it can add significant value to your degree.

3. Curriculum

The MBA in Business Analytics program you are researching may claim that it will prepare you to compete for a job in this field. But how? What will you actually be studying? How much of your MBA experience will be relevant to your desire to build a new career in big data? A strong MBA in Business Analytics program will make its degree plan obvious up front.

Before you even apply, you should have some idea of what the required courses are, which courses you can take in which order, and what electives are available to you. You should also be able to review basic course descriptions to get an idea of what the class experience will be like. Look for curriculum that aims for a balance of theory and practice. Make sure that the program will train you in the use of the specific tools and data analysis technologies, such as SAS Enterprise Miner and MS Visio, that professionals in the field rely on. If you cannot find this information on a program’s website, don’t be shy about contacting the school for assistance. Their response will also give you a good idea of how responsive the program is to student needs.

4. Faculty

One you have established what the program teaches, you should carefully assess who will be responsible for teaching it. The MBA in Business Analytics programs you are considering should all feature faculty profiles on their websites. Most profiles will tell you about the faculty member’s educational background, their areas of expertise and their publications. Remember that faculty who teach at the graduate level are also expected to conduct research and advance knowledge in their fields.

However, not all programs hire academics exclusively. Some programs understand the value of having highly seasoned business analytics professionals teach courses as well. Look for a good mix of full-time, tenured faculty and visiting instructors. Look as well for faculty who have been honored for their teaching or who engage in faculty service that enhances the student experience (for example, by sponsoring student organizations). The best faculty profiles should also give you some sense of the whole person and a glimpse of their personal interests and activities. Faculty interviews often provide just these insights.

5. Flexibility

Full-time MBA programs typically take two years to complete. However, you may not be able to take a full two years off from your job, or away from your family, to complete your degree. Which MBA in Business Analytics programs have options for self-paced and self-directed study? Can you complete a portion or all of your courses online? How customizable is the degree plan, and how well will it accommodate your professional as well as personal needs? Is the program accelerated and, if so, what are the trade-offs to weigh (the time to complete the degree versus your weekly volume of work, for ex-ample)?

If you are unsure about the quality of online instruction, or whether online instruction is compatible with your learning style, some experts recommend signing up for a free MOOC, or massive open online course. You may not receive official credit for completing a MOOC, but enrolling can give you a firsthand look at what your online MBA experience might be like.

6. Cost

Full-time MBA programs can also be expensive. Tuition averages almost $60,000 a year, and those costs continue to increase at an annual rate of about 4 percent. These costs do not take into account the price of textbooks, supplies and expenses associated with commuting to and from campus — or relocating altogether. An online MBA can be more affordable while also saving time. Other factors in-fluencing the cost of an online MBA include whether the institution is public or private, whether it awards scholarships in addition to federal financial aid, and whether the program is AACSB-accredited or not.

Beyond the actual financial assistance tendered, does the MBA program’s institution provide counsel-ing and support services for students receiving financial aid? What payment options will you have? Fi-nally, search the business school’s website for student testimonials. They can provide some sense of the ROI you can expect from the MBA program you’re researching.

7. Intangibles

According to “The 10 Most Under-Rated Reasons Why You Should Get an MBA,” things to consider be-fore enrolling in an MBA program include the following:

  • The chance to make some lifelong friends who will accomplish great things over their careers in business.
  • The chance to think about the global economy and not just your corner of it.
  • The chance to refocus your career efforts.

Jackson’s list is a useful reminder that choosing to pursue an MBA is a major commitment and that the experience will change your life in unexpected ways. Submitting to the rigors of a degree program will change your work habits. Attending classes, either in-person or online, will mean engaging with a whole new group of peers and potential colleagues. You’ll have to ponder questions you never asked yourself before. While there are practical benefits to the degree, it is still an intellectual undertaking.

Do the MBA in Business Analytics programs you are considering have a compelling story to tell? Do you have a good sense of how an MBA in Business Analytics could broaden your horizons? As long as you have a firm grasp of your own priorities, needs and goals, you should feel prepared to take ad-vantage of the unique benefits the MBA experience has to offer.

Learn more about the University of Tennessee Chattanooga online MBA with Business Analytics Concentration program.


GMAC: About Us

GMAC: Alumni Perspectives Survey

Fortune: Is Business School Worth the Money?

Harvard Business Review: Should You Get an MBA?

AACSB-Accredited Universities and Schools

U.S. News & World Report: Weigh Trying a MOOC Before an MBA

Financial Times: Is an MBA worth the cost?

Bloomberg: Elite Business Schools Hike Tuition for the Class of 2016

Free Application for Federal Student Aid

Forbes: The 10 Most Under-Rated Reasons Why You Should Get an MBA

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The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS) to award bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees. Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097; or call 404-679-4500.

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