Master’s in business analytics vs MBA: Which degree is right for you? | TopMBA.com

Master’s in business analytics vs MBA: Which degree is right for you?

By Aisha K

Updated October 7, 2022 Updated October 7, 2022

In today’s data-driven landscape, an increasing number of businesses are recognising the necessity for analytical and quantitative skills to drive forward organisational success. To put this into perspective, a report published by the UK government in May 2021 quantifies the level of demand, with UK companies recruiting for 178,000 to 234,000 roles requiring hard data skills. Additionally, 46 percent of businesses have struggled to recruit for those roles over the last two years.  

Traditional subject choices such as computer science and mathematics can pave the way towards data-rich roles, but it isn’t always obvious which type of postgraduate degree to choose – particularly if you’re looking to approach your studies from a business lens.  

We’ve compared two popular routes: a master’s in business analytics and an MBA with specialisation in technology to help you figure out which degree will help you land your dream job.  

Course curriculum 

As the degree titles suggest, the difference between both is the overall focus. A master’s in business analytics is more technical in nature and covers a broad range of analytical tools and methods. As an example, the curriculum at Imperial College London Business School (ranked fifth in the QS Business Master’s Rankings 2023: Business Analytics) consists of eight core modules, including topics such as machine learning, data structures and algorithms, optimisation, decision models and visualisation.  

In terms of business knowledge, the programme offers a work placement or consulting project for a real client, where students will bring together their theoretical learning with practical experience. Examples of past clients include Burberry and Expedia.  

In comparison, an MBA specialisation in technology will have similar modules on quantitative analysis and data management, but within a multidisciplinary programme looking at all areas of business (operations, leadership skills, supply chain, financial management).  

The MBA programme at Harvard Business School (ranked sixth in the QS MBA by Career Specialisation Rankings 2023: Technology) provides a track in operations and technology for students looking to continue their careers at tech companies. Courses such as Data Science for Managers allow students to build a deeper understanding of how data and analytics can complement judgment for managerial decision making. 

In other words, if you’re hoping to focus on the theoretical and technical aspects of business analytics in order to launch your career, a master’s in business analytics might be the best option for you. Alternatively, students with prior professional experience who are open to data-focused managerial positions and fields outside of data science may want to consider an MBA specialisation in technology.  

Entry requirements 

Due to the technical nature of the programme, applying for a master’s in business analytics will require students to normally have an upper second-class (2.1) degree in quantitative disciplines such as statistics, engineering and computer science.  

Entry to MBA programmes typically places less emphasis on subject choice. Although an undergraduate degree is required, the GMAT and GRE exam, essays and evidence of your professional experience will carry more weighting in the admissions process.  

Whilst the GMAT or GRE exam isn’t always necessary for a master’s programme, a result in the 90th percentile or higher can give you a competitive edge when applying to top-ranked institutions.  

Another important distinction is that most MBA programmes will require at least two years of work history before being able to apply (unless you can demonstrate evidence of outstanding leadership).  

Career outcomes 

According to the UK government report on data skills gap, the top role companies are recruiting for is data analyst, in addition to data scientist being the seventh most sought-after position – meaning that career prospects continue to look promising for business analytics graduates. 

Aside from the above, other common career paths are business consultant, analyst associate, machine learning engineer & AI consultant, data solutions architect and chief data officer.  

Despite not having as much earning potential compared to an MBA degree, graduates can still expect well-compensated salaries. The 2022 employment report from the Marshall School of Business (ranked ninth in the QS Business Master’s Rankings 2023: Business Analytics), reported that base salaries for graduates ranged from $85,000 (£74,683) to $145,000 (£127,516).  

MBA graduates can also expect similar opportunities when entering the job market, in addition to leadership positions at tech companies. Some examples of potential roles include management analysts, IT managers and software project managers.  

The world’s top-ranked institution for an MBA specialisation in technology, Stanford Graduate School of Business, found that 28 percent of their graduates work in the tech sector, earning a median salary of $144,500 (£127,168).  

So, master’s or MBA? 

Here’s a quick summary of what to consider before making your decision: 

MBA  

  • Higher ROI  

  • More work experience required  

  • May need to sit GMAT/GRE  

  • Curriculum covers other aspects of business  

  • Wider range of careers outside of data science 

Master’s  

  • Less work experience needed  

  • Higher academic requirement for competitive schools 

  • Careers limited to data science/analytics 

  • GMAT/GRE less important   

  • More focused curriculum 

This article was originally published in October 2022 .

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Written by

Aisha is Content Editor for TopUniversities.com and TopMBA.com, creating and publishing a wide range of articles for an international student audience. A native Londoner, Aisha graduated from the London School of Economics with a degree in Philosophy and has previously worked in the civil service. 

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