Why US Business Schools Dominate the QS Masters in Business Analytics Rankings 2018

Find out why US business schools feature prominently in the QS Masters in Business Analytics Rankings 2018

The QS Masters in Business Analytics Rankings 2018, represents the first time a major ranking has been compiled for global MSBA programs. When it comes to offering solid masters in business analytics (MSBA) programs, US business schools are ahead of the curve.


In fact, six of the top 10 programs, including the top four, are in the United States. Of the top 20 MSBA programs, 14 are based in the US. MIT Sloan School of Management, University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business, University of Southern California Marshall School of Business, and University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management take the top spots on the global list.

A scan of the list suggests Americans are putting a priority on MSBA coursework in a way others are not. The conclusion is that there is a requirement, demonstrated by recruiters, for hires that posess business analytical skills. US business schools, in particular, are trying to fulfill this requirement.  

The top program in the world, at MIT Sloan, is a one-year, early career, advanced masters in data science. Michelle Li, director of the Master of Business Analytics Program within the MIT Operations Research Center at Sloan says that the program was created, and launched in 2016, for two key reasons. First, companies were asking for graduates with the skillsets associated with an MSBA degree. And, secondly, the students themselves, looking to meet recruiter needs were demanding it.

Europe is still lagging behind, but it will catch up, says Li. “Our culture values engineering and technology and pharma, which are naturally geared toward tons of data, so there’s a great need in the US,” she adds. “Companies are drowning in data.” 

Certainly, business analytics is still the next big thing in the workplace. It has been this way for a few years now, with the hype continuing to grow. And with good reason. The cable news channel CNBC once referred to “data analyst” as the sexiest job of the 21st century. IBM recently predicted that by 2020 the number of annual job openings for data professionals in the United States will increase by 364,000 to 2,720,000, according to the report “The Quant Crunch: Demand for data science skills is disrupting the job market.”

Most programs are still relatively young. The third class of the Sloan MSBA is entering now. But the metrics demonstrate how strong the degree coursework already is. Sloan has a perfect score of 100 for employability, alumni outcomes, and thought leadership respectively. In comparison, runner-up McCombs has an employability score of 64.1.

What sets the Sloan program apart is its rigor, says Li. Students, who have little to no work experience, immerse themselves in probability, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and more. They can take electives to address analytics in their industry of choice, such as healthcare. The analytics capstone course has students participating in a summer internship opportunity with a company, such as McKinsey & Company or BMW. Some end up working in these positions full-time after graduation.

Another unique aspect of the program is the ability students have to lower the price. There is a $20,000 offset to tuition from company sponsorship, and students can earn additional money by conducting research, says Li. As a result, students could pay a final tuition of $40,000.

Recruiters are willing to pay hefty salaries for those who can conduct data analysis. Data science analyst jobs advertise average salaries of more than $80,000, according to the IBM report, a very respectable return on investment.

Today’s executives are looking for number crunchers, who can understand the data, communicate the findings, and help leaders make more informed decisions, says Michael Hasler, program director of the MSBA program and senior lecturer in Information, Risk, and Operations Management at McCombs.

Businesses in Europe have as much data at their fingertips as do those in the US, yet the proliferation of programs has not reached the continent’s shores. It’s just a matter of time before Europe catches up, says Hasler.

“I can’t imagine that the need for analytic decision making is different in Europe or anywhere else,” he adds. “Historically, the US has been a few paces ahead when it comes to graduate education.”

McCombs puts an emphasis on teaching students how to tell a story based on the data they unearth. More specifically, they teach them the need for brevity when sharing results, says Hasler. In fact, he ensures students know how to explain their findings in one minute or less, in response to what recruiters say they need.

Another highlight of the McCombs program is the number of women in a STEM program such as this. Most of the classes have women representing 40 to 50% of the class. The most recent graduating class had a female majority, says Hasler. The school has made an effort to recruit women, and its first class had strong female representation, he adds.

Like Sloan, McComb’s connection with recruiters both led to the creation of the program and distinguishes it from others. Students work with sponsoring companies solving real problems. It gives them the chance to apply everything they have learned, says Ramesh Rajagopalan, associate director of the Business Analytics Program at McCombs.

Indeed, Rajagopalan believes that could be what separates American programs from European ones at this time.

“Part of the reason our program is so successful is we have our eyes and ears close to industry,” he adds. “Having that close collaboration, we are forced to listen to industry. When we see a trend in growth of data and the need to harness that data, we know what they need, and it trickles down to the next step.”

Even though the United States has a stronger presence on the list of best MSBA programs for now, Europe and others are picking up the pace. Australia’s Melbourne Business School (fifth) the UK’s Alliance Manchester Business School (sixth) and Warwick Business School (seventh), along with Spain’s IE Business School (10th) all hold prominent positions in the Masters in Business Analytics Rankings 2018. While the sheer number of programs might not be comparable to the US, the quality certainly is.


All indicators point toward a proliferation of big data needs in business, which means a growth in MSBA programs at business school. The future will include more programs across the world, with more competition among schools and in the job market alike.      

Francesca Di Meglio

Francesca Di Meglio has written about higher education for two decades. She covered business schools and all aspects of management education for what became Bloomberg Businessweek from May 2004 to December 2013. Di Meglio was the consultant editor for the book Admitted: An Interactive Workbook for Getting into a Top MBA Program (85 Broads Publishing, 2011), which was written by admissions consultant Betsy Massar. In addition, she is a family travel and parenting blogger at the Italian Mamma website

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