MBA vs. Master’s in Business Analytics: What’s the Difference?

16 March, 2022

With an estimated daily production of 2.5 quintillion bytes of data, we’ve all become accustomed to leaving behind traces of our activities in every virtual corner. These trails can prove invaluable to organizations: Hospitals use analytics-powered tools to monitor hygiene and identify patients who are at heightened risk for infections . Meanwhile, businesses strive to boost profits and improve relationships with customers by personalizing content, deploying precision-targeted marketing campaigns, and streamlining operations.

As organizations invest in the future of a data-driven global economy, they need experts who are able to make decisions rooted in rigorous analysis. A thorough knowledge of business fundamentals — as well as skills in leadership, collaboration, and communication — also remains crucial to success.

So if you’re pursuing graduate education in this professional landscape, what’s the best path forward?

This article will discuss the opportunities that come from earning a Master of Business Administration vs. a Master of Science in Business Analytics. See how you can build in-demand skills in either program, and learn about some key distinctions to help you decide which degree is best suited for your goals.

What Can You Do With a Master of Business Administration?

An MBA explores advanced business concepts and best practices across areas including marketing, operations management, entrepreneurship, and finance. Students prepare to strategize for global markets as they expand their professional networks. For employers, this degree indicates that a graduate has developed skills in leadership, communication, and analysis that are vital for management roles.
While a business administration curriculum doesn’t focus primarily on data analytics, course offerings continue to evolve based on business needs. An MBA program that prioritizes business technology and analytics tools gives students a robust introduction to the professional applications for data. With this degree, professionals have the widely applicable knowledge they need to progress into leadership positions or pursue entrepreneurial ventures in fields including finance, technology, communications, operations, and marketing.

Master of Business Administration Careers

Preparing for careers with a master’s in business administration can be an excellent investment. A Wall Street Journal analysis showed that, on average, graduates from 98% of universities that offer MBAs made more money than they borrowed to pay for their education within two years of graduation. For example, the median debt for MBA alumni from Worcester Polytechnic Institute was about one third their average earnings. By expanding your skills as a leader and problem solver, you’ll be ready to make consequential decisions and keep teams on track toward their goals. The following are just a few of the paths you might consider:

MBA Careers Median Salary
(for all educational levels)
Director of Operations $92,363
Financial Analyst $83,660
Marketing Manager $142,170
Project Manager $78,106
Supply Chain Director $99,395

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and Burning Glass Labor Insight

Director of Operations

The field of operations encompasses the whole range of everyday activities that keep a business functioning efficiently and profitably. That means leaders in this area work across departments to align teams, improve processes, and accomplish organization-wide goals. A director of operations may oversee global supply chains, manage financial policies, create budgets, address stock losses, and generate detailed reports.
Operations directors must be strong communicators with experience in budgeting, project management, and staff supervision. An analysis of job postings from Burning Glass showed that operations leaders are in highest demand in the finance and insurance industry, followed by manufacturing. Some of the distinguishing skills that those employers are looking for include managing finances, employees, and business strategies, which are all important aspects of an MBA curriculum.

Financial Analyst

Investment decisions determine whether an organization can cultivate crucial resources and thrive over the years. By thinking strategically about how these choices contribute to meet the overall needs of a business, financial analysts are able to make informed recommendations that lead to long-term growth. Professionals in this role may be responsible for examining financial statements, applying mathematical models to predict future performance, and suggesting changes to make a company more profitable.
Finance experts specialize in areas like risk management, securities, business valuation, and fund management. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), analysts can advance their careers by keeping up with the latest array of financial products and local opportunities in emerging markets.

Marketing Manager

It takes careful planning and powerful communication to bring an organization’s products successfully to market. A marketing manager guides these efforts by collecting information about the existing demand, identifying possibilities to grow a customer base, and setting prices.
Marketing leaders may be responsible for supervising product development based on research into the preferences or changing needs of consumers. The role involves close collaboration with advertising and promotions managers to execute strategies for communicating with the public and boosting sales. This position therefore requires a combination of creativity and forward-looking analysis of complex business and finance problems.

Project Manager

Project management includes planning company initiatives — such as product development, marketing campaigns, or internal process improvement — and overseeing them to completion. A project manager sets timelines, manages budgets, identifies needed resources, and communicates with employees on multiple teams to achieve organizational goals.
Project managers are involved in maximizing efficiency and improving results in fields ranging from IT to construction. In any setting, these professionals should be highly capable of systematically working through problems and collaborating with others. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, specialists in this field may also need a variety of skills in using technology such as project management tools and enterprise resource planning software.

Supply Chain Director

Disruptions to the global economy have made abundantly clear how important it is to think proactively about supply chain operations: In a 2021 survey of CEOs, 12% identified risks associated with the supply chain as the greatest threat to their organizations’ ability to grow. Supply chain directors address these challenges by taking charge of logistics, materials, production, purchasing, warehousing, distribution and inventory management.
Through analyzing relevant data, these leaders find the means to increase their organizations’ efficiency and establish resilient systems. A Burning Glass analysis of job postings showed that the manufacturing industry is the top employer for supply chain directors, and higher salaries in this field are associated with skills in managing business processes, project management, using enterprise resource planning software, and budgeting.

What Can You Do With a Master’s in Business Analytics?

An MSBA curriculum covers a wide range of topics that bring together business strategy and data. Students learn to gather business intelligence, create machine learning models, visualize quantitative findings, evaluate performance, and mine insights from text or data. Courses may focus on harnessing data to make decisions that drive business goals in finance, marketing, and operations.

While MSBAs are relatively new credentials compared to MBAs, employers understand the value of analytics expertise. In fact, many organizations are actively seeking applicants who can use their deep understanding of data to inform strategy. For example, the BLS projected that employment opportunities for operations research analysts will grow 25% between 2020 and 2030, more than three times the average rate of 8% for all occupations.

If you’re weighing an MBA vs. MSBA, keep in mind that an analytics program provides more advanced technical skills. This curriculum equips you to generate actionable business insights and succeed in specialized roles focused on data. As a result, you’ll be prepared to help the increasing number of firms that strive to achieve sustainable growth by synthesizing powerful analytics with creative ideas and an overall sense of purpose.

Master’s in Business Analytics Careers

Careers with a master’s in business analytics can include roles at firms from tech giants to nonprofits. All types of organizations are seeking experts who understand how to make the best use of data in daily operations and strategic planning. Analytics is at the heart of operations for some of the most influential players in today’s marketplace, enabling Airbnb to help renters set appropriate prices, shipping carriers to , and streaming platforms to serve up appealing suggestions for what to watch or listen to next.
The following is a sampling of the jobs you could pursue with an MSBA:

Master’s in Business Analytics Jobs Median Salary
(for all educational levels)
Business Intelligence Analyst $87,867
Chief Data Officer $136,585
Data Analyst $71,900
Data Architect $107,902
Data Scientist $113,048

Source: Burning Glass Labor Insight

Business Intelligence Analyst

A business intelligence analyst advises a company on how to increase efficiency and profits by identifying relevant trends throughout the marketplace. Experts in this field may work in house or be brought in as consultants, with Burning Glass reporting that scientific and technical services are the top employers for this role. Analysts must be detail-oriented problem solvers with specialized skills in project management and data analysis.
Business intelligence can help businesses discover opportunities for improvement in finance, marketing, sales, or operations. Professionals apply their extensive knowledge of analytics strategies and tools to identify crucial developments in the marketplace, account for emerging shifts in economic conditions, and pinpoint a firm’s best course of action.
These findings can be harnessed to augment business processes even for the longest standing corporate giants. For example, a business intelligence team helped automate Coca Cola’s reporting process and saved the company over 260 hours of manual work per year.

Chief Data Officer

A chief data officer is a top executive responsible for the retrieval, management, and archiving of all the data within an organization. They interpret quantitative information to determine strategies for growth and warn of pitfalls ahead. This position also involves overseeing the development and testing of new initiatives to gather, store, and analyze data that’s specifically relevant to their firms.
Chief data officers are highly experienced leaders who combine a deep knowledge of business functions with an exceptional grasp of analytics. Success in this role requires advanced skills in problem solving, communication, cross-team collaboration, staff supervision, information security, and project management.
Data leaders can also use what they learn from analytics to make a difference in communities. In her role working for the city of Los Angeles, Sari Ladin-Sienne created a homelessness data hub. This platform offers a new perspective on census findings and social indicators, helping the city narrow down where to place new shelters and services for the homeless.

Data Analyst

Data analysts help organizations understand problems and areas for transformation by collecting and presenting valuable information. They develop programs and algorithms that facilitate marketing decisions, fraud detection, cybersecurity, and research into new investments.
WPI MSBA graduate Brandon Fox is a junior analyst at Aquanima Inc, a Santander Bank partner, where he conducts research and analysis that inform his negotiations with vendors of technology products and services.
“The main mental model I apply from business analytics is understanding and bridging the gap between the technical and senior management sides of the company,” Fox said. “I use a framework that involves first understanding the goal for the data, then extracting, translating and loading it, and ultimately using some problem-solving approaches to try and find a connection that is both novel and accurate.”
Burning Glass projected that data analyst positions will increase by 11.8% over the next 10 years.
To excel in these roles, professionals must be detail-oriented thinkers and strong collaborators who are skilled in SQL, Python, and data visualization.

Data Architect

Data architects design structures for different types of processed information and integrate the resulting frameworks with an organization’s existing systems. They apply a range of programming tools to store and protect information such as financial records, marketing information, contracts, and sensitive client details. Becoming a data architect requires a thorough knowledge of current processes and tools related to processing and streaming data, integration with cloud storage solutions, and real-time analytics.
Data architecture enables a nuanced understanding of the information stored in a firm’s databases with perspectives on past trends, new developments, and potential future outcomes. These experts can shape a firm’s relationship with customers by developing the systems that customize checkout suggestions or marketing messages based on a shopper’s interactions with their site.

Data Scientist

While analysts work with structured data to make valuable discoveries and run operations, data scientists seek out new sources of unstructured information. Mining data involves using tools such as algorithms, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. Based on their analyses of these findings, data scientists establish new processes for processing information and provide actionable recommendations for business operations.
Data science is increasingly crucial in areas such as airline route planning, search engines, and targeted advertising. But the work of these experts also has the potential to save lives and address the problems caused by changing climate. For example, real-time data modeling and integration can lead to more accurate wildfire forecasting and proactive responses.
Data scientists find employment in IT departments, retail, healthcare services, and government institutions. Burning Glass projects growth of 14.5% for the occupation over the next 10 years. These professionals are creative problem solvers with outstanding research skills who have cultivated a deep understanding of methods for analysis, working with artificial intelligence, and building predictive models.

MBA vs. MSBA: Choosing the Right Business Education for You

Every consumer leaves behind a trail of digital breadcrumbs whether we’re sending emails, scrolling a social network news feed, ordering groceries, or tracking our health and finances. Business leaders need to understand the importance of the resulting information and how to capture its value.

You can make the best decision about your graduate education by considering what role you want to play in this high-speed, data-powered global marketplace. An MBA and an MSBA both have the potential to set you on the path to success with versatile skills that are in high demand at organizations across all industries — what path do you want to take?

About Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s Online Master of Business Administration

The online MBA from WPI’s Business School draws on our 40 years of experience in distance education to produce leaders at the intersection of business and technology. This program provides an education that blends theory with practice — students learn the essentials and then put that knowledge to work in a STEM-focused, project-based curriculum taught by world-class faculty.
With fully online and asynchronous programs, you can take classes at your own pace and on your own schedule. One of 5% of business schools in the world accredited by the AACSB, The Business School at WPI also offers students the advantage of the school’s strong relationship with technology-intensive organizations around the world. Our graduates are ready to solve complex business problems and make a real impact in their communities.