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Master of Science in Analytics | Context - Context

Master of Science in Analytics

Master of Science in Analytics

Master of Science in Analytics Overview

A Master of Science in Analytics is officially classified as a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subject degree and fuses interdisciplinary topics such as computer science, statistics, business, information theory, market research, and operations research. [1] It can be used as part of an overall career strategy by those looking to gain rewarding employment analyzing vast sets of data to provide unique and invaluable insights into business strategy.

A master’s degree in analytics is a great way for those looking to excel in organizations that are highly data-driven, including major competitors in the tech, sporting, and media worlds.

The Institute for Advanced Analytics found that there are currently over 100 MS programs in analytics, business analytics, or data science at U.S. institutions; over 40 of those offered are in pure analytics, a field that has seen exponential growth since 2011. [2] As of 2016, there were at least 23 online and part-time master’s programs in data analytics. [3]

Master of Science in Analytics in Context

Why study analytics at the master’s level?

Analytics relies on the study of data to provide real-world insight into problems affecting businesses. In 2011, research by MGI and McKinsey’s Business Technology Office found that a retailer utilizing big data could improve their profit margins by over 60%. [4]

This means that a Master of Science in Analytics is already invaluable in many workplaces. In fact, the Harvard Business Review announced in 2012 that data scientists would have the “sexiest job of the 21st century,” owing to increased demand for analysts and statisticians. [5] While the wording may have been tongue-in-cheek, the demand is very real. As such, many master’s programs have been developed in response to the anticipated shortage of analysts.

The McKinsey research estimated that there would be a need for 140,000 to 190,000 people with deep analytical skills and 1.5 million managers and analysts with big data knowledge. [6] Tableau Research reported how a senior lecturer in business analytics at the University of Texas believed large firms’ “crushing need for talent” was the principal reason for the creation of their master’s in analytics program. [7]

For those who are interested in a potential lucrative salary and job security, a master’s in analytics is highly recommended.

Exploring the Master’s in Analytics Program

What will I learn during this degree program?

Students in a Master of Science in Analytics program will learn how to use data, methodology, and technical toolkits to provide vital analytical acumen into a range of deep-rooted problems. They will also learn to develop corresponding solutions to restore or enhance the competitive edge of businesses.

The master’s degree in analytics involves reviewing large sets of information and determining patterns and trends to predict future outcomes in a range of industries. Students will learn how data analysis makes up a key part of business strategy and how insights can typically help businesses and organizations make better-informed decisions. [8]

What are some common areas of study, skills, takeaways, and goals?

Different programs have different objectives. Some tracks focus on particular areas of analytics for those with considerable experience to date and can include any of the three main disciplines: [9]

– Descriptive: Descriptive analytics is used to summarize historical data regarding the performance of a business or organization. It also uses algorithms to interpret customer behavior to make predictions about future activity. Approximately 80% of business analytics is descriptive.

– Predictive: Predictive analytics utilizes methods such as statistical analysis, data mining, data modeling, game theory, and even machine learning to gain insight and make predictions about future events or trends.

– Prescriptive: Prescriptive analytics blends descriptive and predictive techniques to assess possible outcomes or steps to take. It suggests what course of action should be taken and then uses a feedback system to evaluate the outcome of that action.

All three elements combine to produce great insight and hone decision-making skills.

In general, a master’s in analytics program — whether taken online or on campus — gives you the  ability to identify key patterns and trends, including:

  • make specific and targeted recommendations based on comprehensive evaluation
  •  increase your acumen of vast quantities of data
  • effectively and confidently present your findings
  • develop your skills for practical use in the business world

Who should work toward a master’s degree in analytics, and why is it important?

Are you…

looking to apply your analytical skills and theoretical knowledge to real-world industries?

Have you…

…completed an undergraduate degree involving some statistical coursework and who already have proficiency in some computing languages, most commonly R, Python, SAS, and SQL.?

Are you…

… looking to enjoy flexible learning alongside family commitments or learning while they earn in a relevant field?

Have you…

… recently graduated in mathematics, sciences, computing, business, engineering, and economics  and are hoping to build your analytic skills?

Have you…

… built a track record of substantial experience and are looking to advance your position within the world of Big Data?

Are you…

…looking to progress beyond an entry-level career and boost their job prospects and pay scale to a senior level

Then a Master’s in Science degree may be a great fit for you

What are typical career fields?

Completing a Master of Science in Analytics degree can position you for analytics and data management positions in a range of business-related industries. These can include:

  • Financial analyst
  • Management analyst
  • Statistician
  • Operations research analyst
  • Market research analyst
  • Computer systems analyst
  • Market analyst
  • Consultant
  • Actuary
  • Database administrator
  • Budget analyst
  • Financial examiner
  • Software engineer

It can also lead to further study at a master’s or PhD level.

Why earn a master’s in analytics?

Undertaking a Master of Analytics degree provides some terrific benefits:   

Earning Potential

Undertaking a Master of Science in Analytics program can greatly increase earning potential. PayScale puts the national average salary for those with a Master of Science degree between $65,090 and $156,157, while those with a Bachelor of Science degree is between $58,712 and $151,197. [10] Other research suggests related analytics careers see an increase in salary, including: [11]

  • Software engineers: 17.57% increase
  • Database administrators: 21.06% increase
  • Web designers: 21.21%

In 2014, management analysts were the highest paying roles in the financial sector, with a median pay of $78,600 quickly followed by financial analysts earning $76,950. [12] By 2015, the median pay had risen to $81,320 [13] and $80,310, [14] respectively.


After earning a master’s in analytics, j the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports indicate that candidates are more fully equipped to advance from entry-level or junior analyst roles to more senior positions. This may also depend on practical work experience within a chosen industry.

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Many master’s programs in analytics provide SAS certification or similar industry accreditation, giving students an advantage that may set them apart in their field.

Career Change

On the other hand, some students might choose to study analytics in order to make a career change. This is usually from a related field in which data played a large role, such as business or computing.

An online Master of Analytics degree can be a practical way to achieve this for those already in employment because it allows for home learning and flexibility of class scheduling.

Job Security

Many people are choosing analytics positions because they are a fast-growing industry. This often translates to job security as organizations become  increasingly reliant on data-driven insights to respond to changing markets and behaviors.

In 2015, there was a 162% growth in demand for management analysts, and the use of big data is trickling down from large organizations to increasingly smaller firms. [15]

As technology plays an even bigger role in industry, there is an anticipated 40% growth in data generated globally per year that will require thorough, experienced, and professional analysts to manage it. [16]

Personal Satisfaction

For many, the sense of personal satisfaction from earning any degree is also a key benefit. Graduating with a Master of Science in Analytics conveys discipline, commitment, drive, great acumen, and the ability to merge theoretical knowledge with experience.

How do I choose a Master of Science in Analytics program?

When it comes to choosing a Master of Analytics program, there are several considerations to make. You’ll need to assess whether a particular institution is right for you in terms of proximity to home and family. If this is problematic, an online Master of Science in Analytics degree could be ideal.

However, you should determine if you will be required to undertake a short residency, internship, or practicum as this may still influence your decision should your chosen online institution be located in another state.

Course fees, costs of living, learning resources, and opportunities for part-time learning should also be assessed. Also consider your ultimate career goals, including your desired industry . All of these factors will help you decide whether an analytics program is right for you.

Curriculum, Specializations, and/or Opportunities

There are many pathways to explore when studying for a master’s degree in analytics. When choosing a program, ensure it matches your desired learning outcomes and specialization. For example, studying a niche area such as predictive analytics may not be practical if you’d prefer to gain a broader overview of all areas. However, not all institutions offer a comprehensive course of study, so review the curriculum closely. Courses within a Masters of Analytics program typically include:

  • Big data
  • Marketing analytics
  • Financial analytics
  • Visual analytics
  • Operations research
  • Statistical analysis
  • Database design
  • Programming
  • Data mining

You might also have the opportunity to choose elective courses as well as a . [17] [18]


There is no overall accrediting body for analytics degrees. Instead, courses will be accredited by the body that accredits the school or campus under which the program is placed.

Many Master of Science in Analytics degrees fall under a business school. Most campus and online programs residing under a school of business are accredited by either the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) or the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP).

Accreditation ensures the school adheres to recommended learning outcomes and best practices.

Accreditation means you can have faith that your program is being taught to set standards. However, it’s also important to ensure your school is authorized to teach — whether it offers a master’s of analytics degree on campus or online.

Departmental focus

The specific department that houses the Master of Analytics program might also influence your decision. This will give you an indication as to the program’s specializations, including its on-site research knowledge.

In many full-time on-campus courses, a master’s degree in analytics comes under mathematics, business, economics, or engineering colleges or is offered as part of a universitywide institute. Many flexible part time and online courses are housed under continuing or professional faculties. [19]

Although you won’t necessarily be able to choose your professors or guarantee they will be available when you go to study, it’s worthwhile to contact the institution to see if particular faculty have upcoming research trips or sabbaticals.


School Rankings

Of course, it’s wise to take into account the reputation and ranking of the school you intend to study at, as well as the success rates of previous graduates. This might involve some research reviewing league tables and student profiles.

Institutions accredited by AACSB tend to be higher-ranking MBA schools since this is considered the highest standard for business program accreditation worldwide, giving these schools a level of prestige. [20]

The U.S. Department of Education College Scorecard provides breakdowns on cost and graduate success for specific institutions and is a great research tool. [21]

Also, if an institution scores lower in overall rankings, don’t be discouraged. The school may perform better in your chosen field than other institutions, which may be a crucial factor.

Program Delivery Method

Many traditional  institutions — as well as dedicated online learning centers — also offer online versions of a Master of Science in Analytics degree. This is an ideal alternative if travel is an obstacle due to distance, personal circumstance, or cost.

The topics learned and the certification awarded upon completion of an online Master of Analytics degree is in many instances exactly the same as a campus-taught program.

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Program Length and Credit Hours

Whether it is online or on campus, the master’s degree in analytics typically takes between one and two years to complete. This usually necessitates between 30 and 52 credits, often comprised of both core and elective courses.


Costs can run high when studying on campus, so choosing a program in line with your budget may be a determining factor. Typical tuition fees for studying a Master of Science in Analytics on campus range from $500 to $1,579 per credit or $18,000 to $52,107 in total.

Online courses may be considerably cheaper, in some instances around a quarter of the cost of on-campus study. [22]

While the same study materials will be required, online programs don’t incur the costs of student housing or transportation to lectures. The part-time or flexible learning style of online Master of Analytics programs also means you can work alongside your studies.

Success of Previous Students

Looking at the success of previous students who undertook your chosen program will be crucial. Many institutions list this information on their webpages and often highlight some of the better-known organizations students have gone on to work for.

Some of the companies cited by the North Carolina State University’s Institute for Advanced Analytics include Bank of America, Deloitte, Disney, JPMorgan Chase, PwC, and United Airlines. [23] Some of these same and similar companies approach other institutions too.

A search on social media sites such as LinkedIn can also help you discover possible career pathways.

Master of Science in Analytics

Real Jobs for Analytics Professionals

As a degree offering a wide range of flexible and transferable skills, the Master of Analytics degree leads to several dynamic career tracks.

There is no shortage of demand for analytics professionals in the technological world of today and the future. As such, analytics professionals are required in a number of different industries, including:

  • Computation and database management
  •  Healthcare
  • Mathematics
  • Engineering
  • Technology and software design
  • Finance
  • Economics
  • Human resources
  • Marketing and media
  • Energy and utility services
  • Retail, leisure, culture, and sport
  • Town planning and government
  • Hospitality

With the rise in the reliance on big data, jobs in analytics are becoming more prevalent. Popular jobs with a master’s degree in analytics today include:

  • Operations research analyst
  • Management analyst
  • Financial analyst
  • Data scientist
  • Market research analyst
  • Statisticians
  • Data analyst

The History and Evolution of Analytics

Formal analytics study is a relatively new academic field, with the Master of Analytics degree only occurring in the late 2000s. However, the origin of study goes back much further than the rise of big data is merely a confluence of different analytical studies such as mathematics, statistics, computer science, and business.

With the advent of computer technology in the 1960s, data became a much more valuable resource. In 1962, John W. Tukey wrote “The Future of Data Analysis” and predicted that data science and analysis would become of “vital” importance in the decades to come. [24]

A more in-depth understanding of data and its application to everyday personal and corporate life grew as personal computers gained popularity in the 1980s and 1990s. By 1997, the journal Data Mining and Knowledge Discovery was launched, showing just how much this field had become an ingrained and much-respected area of educational research.

The term “big data” first started being used in the ’90s, showing the reliance of companies on the explosion of technology to gain insight and customer metrics, make predictions, and more. [25]

Since the turn of the century, advancements in software such as Microsoft Excel and Hadoop have made it possible to research and make sense of vast sets of highly intricate data. It has only continued to grow with the rise of personal devices, social media, digital marketing, and technology applied in a range of fields.

Now data can be used to track failures and plan for success, read customer information for better engagement and targeting, provide warnings of risk, understand patterns of usage, predict and respond to demands on resources, and provide personalized services. [26]

In short, “Business analytics is the determining winners and losers in most industries,” said Dr. Kenneth Gilbert, head of the University of Tennessee’s Statistics, Operations and Management Science department. [27]

What is a Master of Science in Analytics degree?

A Master of Science in Analytics degree allows you to learn the theory of data analysis as applied to a range of industries and develop the skills to put these theories into practice.

When it comes to undertaking a Master of Science in Analytics degree, you’ll likely study core subjects. These will vary depending on the specific program, discipline, and university you choose. At Columbia University, for example, the program features several core courses designed to develop a range of competencies. [28]

Core classes will likely cover an introduction to different kinds of analytics in various sectors, aiding the interdisciplinary approach required of analytics professionals.

Many analytics jobs are available on a contractual basis, which means you will be are required to have an overview of how data analytics applies to different industries. In your coursework, you may be able to take elective classes on analytics as applied to:

– Healthcare

– Information technology

– Engineering

– Marketing

– Retail

– Cyber security

– Financial services

– Business

– Insurance

Learning Outcomes

Graduates of this degree can expect to achieve a high level of analytics skills and techniques, which they should be able to apply to quick and thorough problem-solving of a range of issues.

They are also likely to enhance their communication skills through client challenges, case studies,  and presentations.

Career Prospects

Thanks to practical experience gained on the job, career outcomes can range from analyst jobs to researchers and statisticians at a senior level with industry-leading companies.

Other Analytics Degrees

Bachelor’s: At the bachelor’s level, a student will gain introductory experience and insight into statistical analysis and computer languages through coursework. With this knowledge, a bachelor’s graduate will be able to obtain a junior position as an analyst or associate analyst.

Master’s: A master’s degree in analytics helps a student transition to a higher performing role in an industry of their choice. They will have to study more focused courses related to their chosen discipline as well as core subjects that provide an overview of a range of different fields.

Following graduation, they will then be able to seek senior, higher-paid positions with more responsibility. The practical experience of conducting a practicum and internship will give the master’s student proven experience that will stand them in good stead for finding work.

A candidate may even use this as a springboard to further study in a specialized area, such as a Master of Science in Business Analytics degree.

PhD: A postdoctoral degree provides an opportunity to carry out more sustained and in-depth research into a specific research area or problem within an industry or organization.

Common Areas of Practice

Graduates from analytics degree programs throughout the U.S. have gone on to work for some of the most successful companies and agencies in the world, including Nike, Apple, IBM, and NASA. [29]

However, analysts are needed in all types of industries and sizes of corporations — from financial, investment and banking firms to education and health care providers, as well as media, marketing and software companies — at local and global levels.

Who is this degree for?

This program is for those looking to take their career using data to the next level. This can include management positions, such as leaders of finance and analytics teams.

Those eager to gain better and more in-depth insight into how analytics can be used for decision-making and strategy will benefit from this degree.

Following this program, students can enter the workplace or specialize in specific areas such as business analytics, predictive analytics, applied analytics, and data analytics. [30]

Considerations When Choosing a Master’s in Analytics Program

Is the structure of this program typically asynchronous or synchronous?

When considering which program to undertake, bear in mind the time frame you are able to complete the course in. If you need to study from home, around a job and/or family, then you may wish to choose an online course, as these are usually asynchronous.

Study materials are available online through digital learning tools and platforms along with podcasts and webinars. You will still receive the same degree as those studying asynchronous degree (where you attend lectures at a set time), but your tutor hours will likely be conducted online through web chat, email, and/or video call.

Are programs typically a cohort or non-cohort class system?

Another consideration is whether your program is a cohort or non-cohort system. Most campus-based degrees will include studying within a cohort, where you study with the same group of incoming students throughout the program.

Online degrees often progress at your own pace, meaning a lot of your learning is delivered through the use of internet materials and independent study. While you are unlikely to have much face-to-face contact with other students, some online providers do offer a cohort system.

An online Master of Analytics degree offering a cohort system enables distance learners to achieve the “campus experience” by allowing learners to interact, discuss, and solve problems together online.

Your preferred program provider can tell you whether they offer a cohort system.

Master’s of Science in Analytics Curriculum

Master of Science in Analytics degrees first rose to prominence in 2007. They usually comprise a mixture of applied mathematics, computer science, statistics, and business disciplines.

master’s degree in analytics curriculum is often broken down into three main parts:

  • Core courses and coursework
  • Elective courses and/or focused coursework
  • A mandatory capstone course, thesis, and/or practicum

Some course providers also arrange summer internships for students. [31]

What are the overall learning goals and outcomes?

Studying for a master’s in analytics program can endow students with a vast range of practical and theoretical skills:

  • Students will be able to apply statistical theory and methodology to real-world problems.
  • After completing the course, graduates will be on the path to a career in data analytics and be able to demonstrate industry knowledge, practical experience, and focused analytical and quantitative knowledge to recommend positive solutions in a broad range of sectors.
  • Other skills gained by the course will include clear and engaging communication, analytical database knowledge, and the tools to design, develop, and maintain these.
  • Students will also have mastered an in-depth ability for analysis, synthesis, and evaluation of statistics. [32]

What should a student look for from the curriculum when it comes to choosing a master’s degree in analytics program?

When choosing a Master of Science in Analytics program, the ranking of your university or school should be a top priority. Of course, you’ll also need to consider things such as geographical location, course fees, learning hours, and learning methods.

If you would prefer to study from home or part time, there are plenty of online Master of Analytics degrees to choose from that offer the same experience, learning outcomes, subject material, and certification as campus-based degrees.

Another major consideration should be the curriculum. Some analytics master’s degrees have focused disciplines and might revolve around any of the three areas of analytics: predictive, prescriptive, and descriptive analytics (as defined earlier).

They might even call their degree program Master of Science in Applied Analytics or Master of Science in Analytics with Data Science. Many online Master of Analytics programs also offer opportunities to study a comprehensive degree or more focused specialization.

Here is a checklist of things to consider about a program:

– Core competencies and options for specialization

– Scope of coursework

– Opportunities for practical experience/internships and how the school facilitates these

– Career ambitions

– Research knowledge within a faculty

– Learning facilities offered by the school, whether on site or online

What is the standard set of core courses?

Every program will have standard core courses intended to give you a guided overview and introduction to more focused study at an advanced degree level.

Some institutions may offer a set program — such as the University of Florida, where courses are fixed — whereas others may require you to take a certain amount of credits in elective disciplines.

If there is a particular field you are interested in, always verify that it is provided by the institution’s program before applying.

Master of Science in Analytics is a relatively new degree program, which means there is currently no standardized curriculum. Core courses will vary from program to program, school to school. However, they are generally based on the following subject structure: [33]

– Tools and techniques: data mining introduction, data querying/reporting, statistical programming tools, relational databases and data warehouses, analysis of databases

– Foundations: linear algebra, linear regression, exploratory data analysis, analysis of tables, regression diagnostics

– Analytics methods and applications: machine learning, simulation and finance, optimization, customer analytics, forecasting, advanced programming

– Analytics practicum: data security, legal issues, geospatial data, teamwork, leadership, problem-solving, technical writing, communication and presentation skills

– Advanced methods and applications: big data, advanced modeling, risk analysis, advanced data mining, web analytics, survival analysis

– Computer programming: Java, C++, Python, SAS, SQL

Are there any programs that have unique core courses?

Choosing elective fields can help you hone your specialization in a particular area. This is great if you are looking to gain employment in a certain industry or attain a specific position. Elective courses will vary from program to program but may include: [34]

– Analytical tools track

– Business analytics track

– Computational track

There is no difference in quality between a general Master of Analytics degree and those with concentrations; these options are instead provided to help students get the best experience from their chosen degree.

For those looking to hone their knowledge in a particular field or for those who already have substantial experience, a specialized track may be appropriate. Other students continuing study after a bachelor’s degree or who have minimal experience may prefer to follow a standard track.

It is also possible that you will be able to pursue your own field of study if you already have substantial experience in a certain area, meaning some credits or capstone courses may be waived. Every institution will have its own policy on this.

Are there typically prerequisite courses for entering this degree program?

Most master’s programs in analytics are suitable for those without experience as well as those with a professional background. For example, the University of Texas master’s in analytics degree does not require work experience. [35]

However, some specific programs may require previous work experience, such as Texas A&M, which requires a minimum of three years. [36]

A typical profile of a student class from Northwestern University indicates that 44% have no experience while 40% have between one and five years. The remainder have more than five years’ experience. The average amount of postgraduate work experience is 2.15 years. [37]

A bachelor’s degree that involves experience working with statistics may be a requirement for admission. At Northwestern University and the University of San Francisco, respectively, the typical breakdown of students in the Master of Science in Analytics program from undergraduate academic majors is: [38] [39]

  • Engineering and computer science (39% NU;19% USF)
  • Economics and social sciences (27% NU; 48% USF)
  • Mathematics and statistics (18% NU; 33% USF)
  • Other (10% NU; 16% USF)
  • Business and management (6% NU; N/A USF)

Other institutions will state their required Graduate Management Admission Test/Graduate Record Examination (GMAT/GRE) scores, and others may even have an entry exam to pass before an admission offer is made.

Are there other types of degree programs that are similar to this degree program or provide a similar course of study?

Those who choose to study a Master of Science in Analytics often find themselves considering other similar fields. These include:

  • Master of Science in Data Analytics
  • Master of Science in Data Science
  • Master of Science in Business Analysis
  • Master of Science in Predictive Analytics
  • Master of Science in Applied Analytics

Similarities and Differences

There are many similarities in terms of content. In fact, since the master’s degree in analytics is a relatively new degree title, many other MS programs — such as data science — closely resemble this pathway. Some graduate programs may have outdated names and may be in the process of upgrading their title to Master of Science in Analytics.

However, the Master of Business Analytics could be considered a little less technical than the Master of Analytics and is more geared toward commercial application and business planning. It may also teach mastery of a specific coding language, such as R, Python, SAS, or SQL. [40]

Those who undertake a degree in predictive analytics will also specialize in this field of analytics, rather than looking at the whole spectrum. Some institutions also offer a hybrid discipline, allowing students to study analytics with data science, for example.

Is an online program the same as a campus-based program at most universities?

Some universities offer the exact same degree online as on campus for a fraction of the cost. However, some blend a mixture of these two forms through the use of multiple digital learning platforms.

Do programs of this nature require a thesis or capstone projects?

Most master’s of analytics degrees include required capstone courses. A capstone course is a project that requires intensive independent study over one or two semesters. The student will choose the research topic and be facilitated by an adviser.

These courses often present students with the opportunity to undertake industry experience with a sponsoring organization or public body. The desired learning outcome is for the student to solve specialized problems in database design, optimization, strategy, or programming. [41]

Master’s in Analytics Areas of Focus

Not all master’s programs in analytics offer elective courses. However, the capstone project may be an area where you are able to hone your research into a specific field of analytics.

Where programs offer elective courses, they will usually be in the following areas: [42]

Business foundations: Ideal for those looking to continue to study for an MSBA or to work in business or consultancy after graduation, this elective course could cover topics such as business forecasting, risk analytics, customer relationship management, business process analysis, and design.

Cybersecurity: Of major importance to retail and software companies with the growing demand of data and technology, as well as the rise in sophisticated hacking software, cybersecurity courses will likely focus on data privacy, legal issues, forensic analysis, and review and analysis of security features and breaches.

Financial analytics: Again, more geared toward working in a business setting, financial analytics may cover topics such as review of financial markets, risk management, forecasting, and portfolio management.

Marketing analytics: With a focus on analytics as applied to the world of retail and hospitality, marketing analytics will look at customer insights, market segmentation, big data, targeted marketing via database marketing, and ROI. This is ideal for those going to work in entertainment, tourism, hospitality, media, retail, and market research sectors. Health care analytics: For those looking to specialize in analytics applied to the health care industry, topics in this elective may cover research design strategies, predictive analytics for health care, factors affecting patient care, and application of methodology to improve care.

Information systems: This elective course will likely address data visualization, applied probability, data mining, and web analytics. It is ideal for those seeking work in software and technology firms as well as consultancy roles.

Computational methods: This elective will cover areas such as predictive analytics, statistical analysis, machine learning, time series and forecasting, and database systems.

What’s the difference between a program that does not have elective or concentration options and one that has these options?

For those looking to tailor their learning to their particular interests, choosing a program that is already aligned with a desired discipline — such as market research analytics — or the ability to choose elective courses is important.

If you would rather gain a more generalized insight into all aspects of analytics, a standard analytics course might be best for you.

A detailed curriculum is usually listed on a course program’s webpage, which also provides information on different tracks available.

However, those degrees simply named “Master of Science in Analytics” will generally provide a standard track, whereas those with “descriptive,” “predictive,” or “prescriptive” in the title will be more focused in that area.

Why should I choose to focus on a particular subject or path of study over a more general path?

Elective courses offer master’s in analytics students a clear opportunity to excel in several areas. These include:

– Independent research

– Specific industry knowledge

– Developing close networks and relationships within a faculty and/or industry

– Allowing for greater depth of knowledge in key areas that may advance career success

Master of Analytics Elective Courses

Where a program offers electives courses, a student will often be required to choose an area(s) of focused study. Around 15 hours of credit hours on an elective topic is usually required per student.

Elective courses allow a student to tailor their learning to their particular career goals and can prepare them for the end-of-course practicum, internship, and/or capstone project, which may involve working closely with a business or organization to solve analytical problems.

How to Choose an Elective Course

When choosing between electives, it is important to keep your overall career aspirations and learning goals in mind. These are some questions to ask yourself which might help you choose a pathway:

– Do you want to learn a completely new topic to challenge yourself and broaden your field of knowledge?

– Do you want to work in a particular industry and know that focused research will help you gain entry?

– Is there an area that interests you and you know you would excel in?

– Do you wish to continue your graduate studies and feel that this elective would help your application?


The Master of Science in Analytics degree is a highly competitive course. In addition to offering the degree, many programs also offer students certification in a variety of specialized areas upon completion.

One of the most common of these is SAS certification, which recognizes the student’s skills in SAS software. North Carolina State University specifically prepares their students to gain certification in this skill. [43]

The University of Illinois’s online data science master’s degree helps prepare students for Coursera MOOC certification. This means each semester is comprised of two four- to six-week MOOCs. [44]

Other similar forms of certification include MCSE certification, Oracle Business Intelligence, MongoDB certification, EMC certification, CompTIA certification, and CCP:DS certification.

Certification means graduates will be able to demonstrate to prospective employers that they are qualified to a certain standard and have been rigorously assessed throughout their course of study.

Experiential Learning

Why is experiential learning important?

Experiential learning opportunities enable students to put their theoretical knowledge to practical use in an industry setting.

This is particularly essential for a Master of Science in Analytics student because their long-term objectives are to work in an in-house or consulting capacity, providing insights to businesses to forecast growth, analyze risks, and streamline resources and funds to provide a more targeted and efficient model for success.

What types of experiential learning do Master of Science in Analytics programs offer?

When it comes to Master of Science in Analytics programs, most courses offer some kind of practicum, often a six-hour credit session in the summer following the end of the course. There are usually two options to choose from or two practicum forms that must be taken. This varies between institutions and programs: [45]

– Applied analytics internship: This gives students the opportunity to work on an analytics project on site with an organization. They will acquire the knowledge and skills to do a specific job role and problem-solve an industry issue while gaining vital practical job skills and experience.

– On-campus cross-disciplinary analytics project: This option gives students the opportunity to work with other students from different pathways or tracks within the program.

The nature of this project is interdisciplinary, so students will come together on campus to work on an analytics problem presented by a company. The intended outcome is for all students to bring their own specialization to the project so that knowledge is shared.

– In some institutions, a practicum and/or industry capstone project will take part each semester, with students coming together to problem-solve industry-supplied coursework, with an internship taking place in the summer at the end of the course.

At North Carolina State University, students in this program take part in a practicum that lasts eight months. The teams consist of four to five students and the project culminates in a report and presentation to the sponsor. [46]

Sponsors of practicums at NCSU include Disney, eBay, M&T Bank, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Siemens Healthcare, and Walgreens.

Many online programs offer this kind of experiential learning, while others might offer a short-term residency instead. Others might not offer any experiential learning. If you wish to gain practical experience, ensure your institution offers some type of experiential learning.

A school will usually arrange a practicum by appealing for sponsorship from companies and organizations. These can include financial, software, engineering, and marketing companies. They will also often help arrange internships, along with input from the student.

Northwestern University noted how its 2016 class took part in internships with companies that included Amazon, Groupon, Hewlett Packard, McKinsey & Company, NASA, the New York Yankees, and the United Nations. [47]

Practicum learning is important for master’s of analytics students because it gives them the opportunity to gain real-world experience. You will work in focused teams under the supervision of a faculty member and pool your analytics knowledge, mathematical theory, and business experience. Aspects of learning will include:

  • Hypothesis
  • Data acquisition
  • Analysis of data
  • Model development
  • In-depth evaluation

You may also be required to sign a nondisclosure agreement. Technical writing and presentation skills may be assessed, and you may be given time in your schedule to work on site at the sponsoring organization. [48]

Most practicums are paid and funded by a sponsoring organization for which you will conduct in-depth analysis. For most programs, these are core aspects of your course and will count toward your final grade. These are considered invaluable in enabling a student to gain experience with the respective company.

In addition, many universities — including Northwestern — hold two recruitment sessions throughout the academic year. Each school invites company representatives on campus to meet the current cohort, facilitating networking and beginning the interview process. [49]

Licensure and Certification

On top of earning your degree, many master’s of analytics courses come with product certification. Licensure or certification can be an invaluable benefit of your course. As such, it might be one of the most important considerations when choosing a course provider.

Certification can qualify you for working with a certain system and can help when applying for jobs as it will satisfy the employer that you can meet industry standards of best practice and knowledge.

Some of the most common certifications include: [50]

  • SAS
  • SQL
  • MCSE
  • Oracle Business Intelligence
  • MongoDB
  • EMC
  • CompTIA
  • CCP:DS

SAS certification is one of the most popular forms of certification available with a Master of Analytics degree. It proves in-depth competency, knowledge, and experience working with SAS programming software.

SAS certification is defined according to strict international standards. As such, it is highly respected in the field of analytics. Not only can this globally endorsed accreditation prove you have a high proficiency in this area of programming, it can also give you and your potential workplace a competitive edge. [51]

Other courses may also lead to this certification, and it is worth checking with your institution to find out what they offer. Programs such as Master of Science in Data Science, Data Mining, and Predictive Analytics from specific institutions currently offer SAS or OSU certification. [52]

SAS and other certifications are not an industry requirement; however, research suggests they could lead to better pay. A report by MONEY and PayScale found that SAS skills, in particular, are among the most in-demand data skills and are linked with a +6.1% pay increase. [53]

If your program does not offer this certification, there are options to become self-accredited directly through SAS, for which you will need to pay a fee and take an exam.

Careers and Advancement

Students of the master’s in analytics degree typically enjoy good success rates when it comes to finding jobs in analysis. North Carolina State University reported placement of 95% of its class in 2016, with an average base salary of $93,250. [54]

Data is becoming more important to the growth and success of a range of industries and businesses. This is evident through our increasing reliance on technological advancements and a demand for adaptability to real-time global and market events.

In 2011, global business consultancy McKinsey predicted there would be a shortage of around 1.5 million managers and analysts by 2018, who could provide in-depth analytical insight for businesses. [55]

This means those holding a master’s degree in analytics will be well placed in industries where quantitative skills are a top priority, including software, technology, marketing, business, and economics.

For those looking to add to their skills, an MS in Business Analytics could further improve career success. Across the board of analyst careers, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects the growth rate to be high. This is mirrored through the increase of Master of Science in Analytics degree programs throughout America to meet industry demand.

The rate of growth for a number of key analyst roles is expected to rise much faster than the average throughout 2014–24, including:

  • Statisticians (34%) [56]
  • Operations research analysts (30%) [57]
  • Market research analysts (19%) [58]
  • Management analysts (12%) [59]
  • Financial analysts (12%) [60]

What careers are available in this field?

There are a number of career paths available to master’s program in analytics graduates in a variety of industries. All of these provide stimulating and rewarding opportunities to help improve business strategy across job sectors. Here are some of the most popular career options available to those with a Master of Science in Analytics degree:

Operations Research Analyst

Operations research analysts are often employed full time and use their expert analytical know-how to enable organizations to identify and solve difficult issues within the business or workplace and make better and more efficient decisions.

The BLS forecasts that technological advancements mean companies will seek to appoint more operations research analysts in order to improve business strategy, planning, and decision-making. They will be expected to use analytical software to turn data into practical suggestions for improvements in operations and logistics.

Areas where this demand is expected to grow include government departments and the armed forces. The median pay for an operations research analyst is $78,630 per year.

A bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement along with significant experience in business and/or related fields of industry, such as government departments or the armed forces. Those with master’s and PhD degrees will find it easier to gain access to these roles.

California, Texas, Illinois, Florida, and Virginia top the list of states with the highest levels of employment in this sector. [61]

Management Analyst

Otherwise known as management consultants, management analysts improve organizational efficiency and profitability through streamlining resources to increase revenue.

Demand for these roles — particularly in a consulting capacity — is expected to grow, especially within the health care and insurance sector as well as government departments looking to cut spending. The BLS also anticipates that markets will become fiercer, requiring more analyst roles, especially for businesses in need of a strategy to expand overseas.

The median pay for a management analyst is $81,320 per year, and it is possible to achieve this role with at least a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

Years of work experience in information technology, human resources, and management or business will also help a candidate succeed, as might the Certified Management Consultant designation.

California, Virginia, Florida, New York, and Texas all top the list of states with the highest level of employment in this sector. [62]

Financial Analyst

A financial analyst helps guide businesses when it comes to making investments. They assess the market and the performances of various types of investment including stocks, bonds, and shares. They typically have a very strong grasp of markets across geographical locations.

As investment portfolios and financial products become more complex and while opportunities for investment overseas expand, a growing number of financial analysts will be needed. These positions may arise increasingly in hedge funds and private equity groups.

Strong analytical skills are required as well as at least a bachelor’s degree and experience in a financial or business setting. For more advanced positions, a master’s degree will be required.

The median salary for a financial analyst is $80,310, and the top states for employment in this sector are New York, California, Texas, Massachusetts, and Illinois. [63]

Market Research Analyst

A market research analyst helps businesses to better understand which products and services will be successful, identify the customers who will buy them, and determine the best price for sale.

Jobs growth in this area will be driven by the increasing reliance of retail and hospitality industries on data and market research. Market research analysts will be called upon to analyze trends and identify patterns and customer insights to predict future behavior. This data will be used by companies to better target customers through marketing strategies.

A bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement for this position as well as strong skills in analytics and mathematics. A master’s degree may be required for senior positions.

The median salary for a market research analyst is $62,150, and the top states for employment in this field are California, New York, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Florida. [64]


Statisticians are required to use data to help address and solve problems in engineering, technology, health care, retail, finance, and related fields.

Data used by statisticians is gathered from digital and mobile devices, which can be used by those looking to better improve their business processes, products, and offerings, as well as marketing.

With an aging population, the BLS also forecasts that increased research into medical treatments will require a rise in clinical trials, requiring the services of statisticians.

Statisticians work closely with data analysis software, so experience with information services and computer programming may prove invaluable. A master’s degree is the minimum requirement to gain entry into this field, and candidates will need a strong background in analytics and mathematics.

The median pay of a statistician is $80,110 per year. The states topping the list for the highest levels of employment in this field are California, Maryland, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Texas. [65]

Program Details

Program Length

The Master of Science in Analytics program typically takes between one and two years to complete, full time, usually beginning in September.

It can take longer if completing part time or online through distance learning, allowing students to work at their own pace. These flexible courses may also offer different start dates throughout the year.

The master’s in analytics program is between 30 and 52 credits. It may be comprised of standard core subjects or divided into around 15 elective courses and 15 capstone courses throughout the year, split into five or six per semester, with practicums or internships accounting for further credits either at the end of the year or as part of a semester. [66]

On-campus, full-time programs usually comprise a cohort style of learning, where students will stay with the same fellow learners throughout their progression. The size of this group can vary.

At Northwestern University, the typical intake is about 35 students per cohort. [67] However, at North Carolina State University Institute for Advanced Analytics, the number of students enrolled in 2017 was 120. [68]

When choosing a program, it is wise to take all of these considerations into account, depending on how you enjoy learning and what is right for your personal circumstances.

While many online courses by nature do not include face-to-face learning with other students, discussion, problem-solving, and interaction may take place online with a similar cohort system as experienced on campus.

Tuition and Fees

Tuition costs can be high so it is worthwhile to compare programs and institutions. The average fee can vary from $500 to $1,579 per credit or between $18,000 and $52,107 in total. This usually covers tuition in the fall, winter, and spring semesters, but not summer.

Additional funds may be needed for accommodation, food, utilities, transportation, and health insurance.

Northwestern University states the following breakdown for expenses that students will need to factor in while studying on campus: [69]

– On-campus housing: $22,000

– Approximate cost for textbooks: $500-$1,000

– Miscellaneous expenditure (personal): $5,000

Of course, those studying online from home do not need to factor in many of these expenses and should also benefit from significantly reduced tuition fees.

In some instances, such as Georgia Tech University’s online Master of Science in Analytics degree, the fees for 2017 are under $10,000. [70] This makes online study a much more cost-effective option for those on a budget who may also wish to schedule their learning part time.

When it comes to working out whether your Master of Analytics degree is worth it, you will need to bear in mind the costs as well as your career goals and realistic job prospects within your area.

North Carolina State University reports that it takes, on average, less than 24 months for their analytics master’s degree students to recover the tuition and fees of their program as well as a year of lost earnings. [71]

Financial Aid

There are several types of aid available for students. These vary across institutions but can include:


Those studying for a master’s degree in analytics may be able to get access to fellowships. These vary between schools but typically cover 50% of the tuition fees for studying.

Students need to fill out an application; fellowships will be awarded on merit. However, since there are only a limited number of fellowships, competition is high.

Scholarships and Grants

Like fellowships, scholarships and grants are typically awarded based on merit or financial need. Some institutions will operate these funding avenues internally, but there are also many scholarships and grants available from private entities and charities.

They don’t need repaying and can be used to help cover the costs of tuition, accommodations, and other costs of living.

Student Loans

Student loans need to be paid back but can be used to cover the costs of everything from tuition fees to accommodation, food, and heating. These can be a better alternative than working a part-time job, which may distract you from your studies.

There are also federal loans that are needs-based and thus have a lower interest rate than those obtained through a bank. Repayment usually starts immediately after graduation so ensure you have a strategy in place should you take out a student loan. [72]

Admission Requirements

Interested in applying for a Master of Science in Analytics?

Take your time when choosing a program which best suits your needs and career goals. However, just as finding the right course for you is important, you also need to ensure that you match up to the requirements. Admission into the master’s in analytics course is often subject to high competition.

Different institutions and programs will have different requirements. Here are some core master’s in analytics admission requirements:

– A bachelor’s degree in a related quantitative field such as analytics or mathematics (some universities may waive this for equivalent experience)

– Strong interest in analytics demonstrated through prior coursework

– High competency of computer programming languages such as Python, SAS, Java, or FORTRAN (Those without this experience may still be accepted as long as the candidate proves they will undertake this learning in their own time before arrival.)

– Two to three letters of recommendation

– A minimum 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale

– Academic transcripts

– Unofficial GMAT or GRE scores (Some, such as The University of Texas, demand these to be within the past five years.) [73]

– A personal statement or professional résumé outlining your passion and suitability for the course

– A possible application fee

Some students also prefer to submit certain optional materials in order to improve their application and ensure the admissions director is able to judge them on their personality and public speaking skills as well as their grades and written application. This could be an audio recording or candidate video.

It is also important to know when the deadline for applications is. For most programs starting in the fall, the deadline will usually be in the beginning of the year (i.e., January), but some online courses also offer spring and summer enrollment.


Master of Science in Analytics programs must ensure that they meet an agreed set of standards. These are guidelines for how programs operate, the kinds of topics they teach students, and the measure of learning goals and outcomes.

While there is no one governing body for accreditation of master’s in analytics degrees, the program will be accredited by the body that accredits the school or college under which it is taught.

For example, in the U.S., there are two key accrediting bodies that govern an analytics degree at the master’s level that is taught under a school of business. These are:

– The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), which accredits degree programs in business administration and accounting at the baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral levels

– The Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP), which accredits business, accounting, and business-related programs at the associate, baccalaureate, master’s, and doctorate levels worldwide

AACSB accreditation is the highest standard of achievement for business schools to aspire to worldwide. [74]

However, all schools, colleges, and faculties have their own accrediting body. Those master’s of analytics disciplines placed under engineering and computer science schools are accredited by bodies including the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology [75] and the Association of Technology, Management and Applied Engineering. [76]

Confirm that your preferred program is authorized.

When it comes to choosing a program, it’s important not to overlook issues of legality. State authorization means the school complies with state education laws allowing them to legally admit and teach students in that state. State authorization is also required to teach students through online programs in your state too.

You can check if your state is eligible through the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (SARA). [77] If you obtain a degree from a noncompliant institution, it could be invalidated, which would be a waste of time, expense, and also mean you would not be able to obtain licensure. This is, thankfully, rare, but an important aspect not to overlook.

SARA puts together a national education standard for member states. The overarching aim is to promote a uniform and high-quality education experience for students nationwide. You can obtain a map detailing each state’s status here. [78]

What are the relevant industry associations and organizations?

There are several professional associations and organizations that students and graduates may wish to join when studying, during placement, and after securing a position. Each organization is specific to an industry or job role within which the candidate is working.

They may require an exam to be passed in order to join, which verifies the candidate’s knowledge and expertise as well as certifies them as a member of a professional body. In turn, they can provide much valuable advice, support, and new and enriching industry opportunities. Relevant analytics organizations include:

  • Certified Analytics Professional (CAP)
  • Digital Analytics Association (DAA)
  • Data Science Association (DSA)
  • American Statistical Association (ASA)
  • Data Mining Section of INFORMS
  • Association for Computing Machinery (ACM)
  • Special Interest Group on Management of Data (SIGMOD)
  • National Association of Health Data Organizations (NAHDO)

Alternative Degree Options

Similar Fields of Study

If you are pursuing a Master of Science in Analytics, then you likely already have a good concept of mathematics and computer programming and are looking to extend your skills so that they can eventually be applied in a business environment.

While a master’s degree in analytics is a relatively new degree, the uptake by students has grown over the past decade since its introduction. There are now over 40 master’s in analytics programs, a rise of 4,000% in 10 years. [79]

Of course, students may also be interested in pursuing other fields of study. For those wishing to specialize in a particular area of analytics, these courses may be of interest and will provide similar opportunities for SAS certification; some may even be better suited to a certain industry:

– Master of Science in Business Analytics: This advanced degree is ideal for those looking to enter finance or business environments, as this degree will more closely look at data with a view to how it can be applied commercially.

– Master of Science in Data Science: Individuals looking to strengthen their analytical skills in relation to their application in a range of industries, including computer programming and statistical analysis, might be better suited to this degree.

There is a lot of overlap with the master’s in analytics but this program will more closely hone interests toward scientific or web-based analysis of databases rather than taking a holistic approach covering a wide range of industries.

There are also a lot of other avenues for study available following graduation from the master’s in analytics program. Some students go on to study another master’s degree, such as in business analytics, or progress to postdoctoral study with a PhD in analytics or another related discipline.

Then again, many students prefer to obtain a graduate or professional certificate, such as Columbia University’s Certification of Professional Achievement in Data Sciences. [80]

Many of these professional certificates still require a bachelor’s degree in a related quantitative subject. However, they make advanced analytics study available online, may be much cheaper, and can be ideal for someone looking for a career change.

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Q: How much will it cost to get my Master of Science in Analytics online?

A: Tuition fees vary depending on institution, program, and method of study; however, fees for online courses can be as little as a quarter of the cost for those studying on campus — i.e., around $10,000.

Q: Are there additional costs beyond tuition for my Master of Analytics degree?

A: Yes. Besides tuition fees, you will need to make arrangements for the costs of study materials and living expenses, including textbooks, transportation, accommodation, heating, and food. These costs will vary geographically and depend on whether you study online or on campus. If you study online, you might not have to pay for student accommodations or associated bills, but you may have to factor in the costs of attending residencies.

Q: Are international students able to enroll in the Master of Science in Analytics degree?

A: Some universities accept international students while others are only currently open to residents of North America (U.S., Canada, and Mexico). Always check with the institution first.

Q: Can online Master of Science in Analytics students get access to grants or scholarships?

A: Some grants and scholarship opportunities are available for those studying an online master’s degree in analytics. Details can be found online or through the host school.

Q: How do I know whether a master’s in analytics program is worth the cost?

A: Begin by analyzing the costs and benefits of obtaining the degree. You’ll need to determine the total expenditure, including tuition fees, application fees, living costs, and other personal costs. Look closely at the expected amount you may earn based on location, jobs sector, and availability of jobs.

There are also other benefits you need to take into account, such as job satisfaction and career progression, as well as aspects such as time and family commitments.

North Carolina State University reports that the average student in the Master of Analytics program recoups their tuition and fees as well as a year of lost earnings in less than 24 months.