The Importance of Business Analytics in an MBA Program

An MBA with a business analytics focus is fantastic for career growth and higher salaries.

business analyst typing on keyboard on laptop

This blog post was originally published in July 2021, and was revised in June 2023.

Data analytics has far-reaching implications for business, now more than ever before. But you do not need to be a data scientist to make progress in the era of big data. Managers and leaders with a business degree who understand analytics and can glean important insights using data are essential for organizations across every industry.

A recent report found that 94 percent of enterprises state data analytics are important to their business growth and digital transformation and plan to increase their analytics and business intelligence spending in 2020. Research also shows that investing in big data increases profits for businesses and improves operational efficiencies.

Companies are seeking out graduates who have completed an MBA program with solid coursework in business analytics so they can gather, interpret, and provide actionable recommendations from the massive amounts of data they are generating. Additionally, businesses want data analysts to have business acumen, and be able to take broader perspectives when communicating their findings to colleagues and management.

Potential Careers for MBA Graduates with a Foundation in Business Analytics

At the SMU Cox School of Business, analytics make up one of the foundational pillars of the Cox Advantage. Obtaining an MBA with a foundation in business analytics sets graduates up for success. Whether you are pursuing the SMU Cox Online MBA program or the MBA Direct program for early-career professionals, graduates from top universities can not only expect to significantly increase their average salary, but can explore job opportunities in virtually any sector. This is because every company in every industry is relying more and more on data science. Therefore, they require business administration professionals to also understand business analytics. MBA graduates must be able to interpret and use big data to make better business decisions that improve performance.

Fields Currently Hiring New MBA’s with Fluency in Business Analytics

Employers are most enthusiastic about placing MBA graduates in positions involving strategy, finance, business intelligence, innovation, and analytics. Some of the most popular roles for graduates who have completed an MBA program include:

  • Marketing Manager
  • Medical and Health Services Manager
  • Management Consultant
  • Financial Manager
  • Database Administrator
  • Business Operations Manager

However, an MBA with a business analytics foundation could pave the way for more leadership roles in industries that are currently defining our future. For example, career options include working within the strategy departments of artificial intelligence companies, or leading a team of data scientists responsible for gleaning insights.

After graduating, MBA graduates will likely have access to more job opportunities than before and likely experience higher job satisfaction. Jobs for MBA graduates with experience in business analytics that made the top jobs in America list, according to Glassdoor, include: Strategy Manager, Business Analyst, Financial Analyst, and Data Analyst.

Salary and Career Growth Expectations

An MBA candidate stands to make tens of thousands more than their current salary upon graduation. In 2019, the total average MBA salary for U.S. graduates rose 5.8 percent from $120,603 to $134,991, but is dependent upon which business school candidates attend. MBA degree holders from the Cox School of Business at SMU stand to increase their earning potentialA survey of the SMU Cox Full-Time MBA Class of 2018 revealed, on average, that graduates are already earning 73 percent—or $43,000—more than they did prior to completing their MBA.

Obtaining an MBA degree is a fantastic business decision for your career growth. Completing an MBA with coursework in business analytics allows for students to make a career transition into another industry, or lines them up for a promotion in their current industry with their new, highly-sought-after business analytics skills.

Choosing the Right Type of Degree for Executive Leadership and Business Analytics

As executives are asked to challenge more problems internally and without the budgets to bring in high-priced consulting companies, understanding how business analytics fluency can improve the product, marketing or customer experience by using insights from data, rather than analyzing processes and functions. And there are a number of graduate programs where this skill set can be gleaned from. You could choose to complete a certificate program, which can be achieved in less time, and is more cost effective, but will not qualify you for a career in business analytics. You could also opt for a challenging PhD, which will take many years to complete and will likely lead to a career in academia; researching and testing new business analytics theories.

Therefore, the best option for executives attempting to understand business analytics is either a Master of Science In Business Analytics or an MBA grounded in the technical skill of business analytics, such as the Online MBA from the Cox School of Business at SMU.

MBA vs MS Degree in Business Analytics

The principal difference between getting an MBA or MS in Business Analytics is that an MBA graduate is taught how an entire business functions. In contrast, an MS in Business Analytics is a specialized, more technical degree. Therefore, pursuing an MBA with business analytics coursework that leads to insights and direction into a business – such as finding hidden value in a global supply chain or measuring the effectiveness of a brand marketing campaign – is a bit more helpful for executives. With an MS in Business Analytics, graduates will focus more on the technical understanding of how to apply analytics.

The MBA and MS in Business Analytics are both graduate degrees, and the coursework for each will typically range from nine months to two years. However, there are options that allow students to complete the program within a year using a concentrated timetable, or enable students to stretch their program longer to study alongside full-time work.

The requirements to enter each program are also different. An MS in Analytics often requires a bachelor’s degree in computer science, engineering, mathematics, or equivalent, while MBA programs will accept applicants with any undergraduate degree. An MBA degree focuses on business administration and gives graduates a broader understanding of how businesses work. These programs focus on providing students with the ‘big picture thinking’ sought after by companies looking to leverage the power of business analytics to improve processes.

Online versus In-Person

Choosing an MBA program can be confusing, because there are so many schools to choose from and different class formats, such as whether or not to take it online or on-campus.The average MBA student is in the midst of their career. Taking time off work to go study on a campus may not be possible or the right fit, financially or personally, for incoming candidates. Some prospective students opt for a more flexible MBA, one that will let them work full-time and maintain commitments off-campus and around the world. At SMU Cox, we offer two online MBA programs: the Online MBA for experienced professionals and the MBA Direct for early-career applicants.

One of the major factors for professionals looking to do an MBA is finding and building a strong network. MBA students build this while collaborating with other business professionals who are classmates and with business leaders who are often guest lecturers, faculty, and alumni. The online MBA programs from the Cox School of Business aim to give its online students the same experience as its on-campus students and the same career opportunities. Online MBA and MBA Direct students attain the same diploma as on-campus students, have the same access to on-campus resources and student orgs, and become an integral part of the Cox network.

In the same way it requires effort to network in face-to-face settings, it will also require effort on the side of the online MBA student. There are a multitude of opportunities to do this, such as participating in online classes, connecting with professors and fellow MBA students on LinkedIn and email, and, when you are able to, attending business networking events in person.

How the SMU Cox School of Business Develops Leaders in Business Analytics

At SMU Cox, you will learn how to leverage raw data to develop insights that enable critical problem-solving—no matter your industry. SMU Cox is one of only a handful of schools in the nation to offer substantive coursework in data analytics.

Listen as SMU Cox faculty member Ed Fox explains how you will learn to use data and statistics to move from the theoretical to the practical in this short video.

Analytics is one of the three foundational pillars of the SMU Cox MBA programs, both the Online MBA and the MBA Direct programs, along with leadership and experiential learning. The online MBA program aims to send MBA graduates out into the world as well-rounded business leaders, and SMU Cox Online MBA and MBA Direct students receive hands-on experience by examining the challenges of real companies and getting to apply their own solutions. These graduates will not only be able to manage cross functional teams and think innovatively, but also be able to apply data analytics to any part of the business, no matter the industry.

Visit the SMU Cox online programs site to discover your MBA program options and learn more about how to apply.